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This page includes information on how a calculator program is implemented using my CBOR library for C#. (CBOR stands for Concise Binary Object Representation.) This page shows a Windows Forms and a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) version of the same program, demonstrating how my library works well in both kinds of programs.

Windows Forms Calculator WPF Calculator

While it looks relatively simple, the calculator program demonstrates two features of that library:

These two features will be discussed in turn.

Arbitrary-Precision Arithmetic

The main purpose of the program, of course, is to do calculations. This calculator program is powered by my CBOR library's support for arbitrary-precision decimal arithmetic. While double, a 64-bit binary floating point number type, is appropriate for most purposes, it can sometimes provide unintuitive results, due to using a binary rather than a decimal system.

The CBOR library supports arbitrary precision numbers (both binary and decimal) mostly because several CBOR tags (two of which are defined in the Request For Comments that defines CBOR) support these kinds of numbers, and it was seen useful to perform arithmetic and other useful operations on these kinds of numbers.

The CalculatorState class stores the calculator's current state, such as which number is currently being displayed and which operation is currently being carried out. The following lists some of the methods of CalculatorState:

    public CalculatorState(int maxDigits);
    public string Text { get; }
    public bool DotButton();
    public bool PlusMinusButton();
    public bool EqualsButton();
    public bool DigitButton();

The CalculatorState constructor initializes a calculator state with a digit precision of maxDigits. This means that up to that many digits will be shown on the display. The calculator program sets this to 18 (at the MainForm constructor), but this can be set to any number desired (as long as it's 1 or more). CalculatorState use the CBOR library's ExtendedDecimal class for storing numbers and doing operations on them, and it uses that library's PrecisionContext class to limit their precision to the given number of digits.

The Text property gets a string showing what the calculator is currently displaying. This string is retrieved each time a button is pressed and the text box at the top is updated with that string.

The class also includes several methods ending in Button, such as DotButton and DigitButton. These methods change the calculator state so it behaves much like an ordinary calculator would with the corresponding buttons. For example, the DotButton method adds a dot to the current input if it doesn't have one already; the EqualsButton method carries out an arithmetic operation, and so on.


The CalculatorState class exists as an abstraction; it separates the calculator logic from the calculator user interface, and can be considered part of the "model" in the "model-view-controller" design pattern. Because of this abstraction, this class can be used in other programs, besides Windows Forms programs, that need the functionality of a calculator.

A second abstraction is the "controller": the CalculatorController class uses an interface to the program's main window (IWindowInfo) and contains similar methods to the CalculatorState class, except it acts more like a controller than a data model (each form implementation calls into CalculatorController rather than CalculatorState.) The Windows Forms and WPF versions of the calculator have different IWindowInfo implementations

Storing Application Settings

CBOR's compact data format suits it well for storing things such as user settings.

The calculator program demonstrates this; when the program exits, it gets the window's current position and size, stores them in a user settings object, and converts the user settings object to a CBOR file.

The ProgramConfig class is used to store user settings. It has these methods:

public ProgramConfig(string configName);
public ProgramConfig SetObject(string name, object obj);
public string GetString(string name);
public int GetInt32OrDefault(string name, int defaultValue);
public double GetDoubleOrDefault(string name, double defaultValue);
public double GetDouble(string name);

In case the program is installed in what can be a read-only location, such as the Program Files folder, the calculator stores user settings in per-user application storage. This is possible with the System.IO.IsolatedStorage namespace supported in .NET 4. (Windows Store apps use a separate concept for application storage, which isn't supported in the demo, but which can be easily added due to the nature of the implementation, as discussed below.)

Loading and Saving

The ProgramConfig constructor opens a named file from per-user storage (with the ".cbor" extension, since it loads and saves CBOR files), and generates blank user data if the file doesn't exist (which is usually the case when the program is first run) or the file contains invalid data. The calculator creates a ProgramConfig constructor on load of the form (see MainForm.cs):

private void MainForm_Load(object sender, EventArgs e) {
  // Initialize config here, rather than in the constructor;
  // the system may automatically move the window in between
  this.config = this.InitializeConfig();

private ProgramConfig InitializeConfig() {
  return new ProgramConfig("config").FormPosFromConfig(this);

On the first run, the ProgramConfig is generated and populated with default values for the window's current position as it's loaded for the first time (due to the FormPosFromConfig method).

As the program is closing, it retrieves the window's current position and saves the user data to per-user storage:

private void MainForm_FormClosing(object sender, FormClosingEventArgs e) {

private void SaveConfig() {
  if (this.config != null) {

As a result, the last used window position and size are restored if the user runs the program again.

It's also possible to save user settings while the program is running (for instance, after the user changes a program setting) or to access user settings at runtime, but these possibilities are currently not demonstrated in the calculator program.

Reading and Writing Settings

The ProgramConfig class creates a CBOR key-value map. Three of its methods, GetString, GetInt32OrDefault, and GetDouble, retrieve a value by its key. The method SetObject converts many kinds of objects (not just strings and numbers) to an appropriate format for the CBOR key-value map.

The calculator demo, though, uses only numbers (for the window position and size), so it calls GetDoubleOrDefault and sets the default value for each parameter to the current position and size of the window as its generated. (GetDoubleOrDefault uses the default if the key doesn't exist or if the existing value has the wrong type or can't be converted.)

To be more specific, the calculator demo uses the following keys in the ProgramConfig map:

There are currently only three kinds of data that ProgramConfig can "get": strings, doubles, and 32-bit unsigned integers (ints). This is often adequate for most kinds of user settings (for example, boolean values -- either true or false -- can be expressed using integers or strings), but of course, CBOR can store many other kinds of data types, such as nested arrays, nested maps, byte sequences, the undefined-value, and numbers of arbitrary precision. But for user settings, especially for the calculator demo, the three data types string, double, and int are often sufficient.

ProgramConfig implementation

I've made the ProgramConfig class general enough that it can be used in many different kinds of programs; for instance, it's also used in another demo program of mine that converts JSON to CBOR and back. This program, too, saves the last known window position and size in the same way as the calculator demo. Certain "methods" of ProgramConfig were designed as extension methods and placed in a separate class, FormConfig. (FormConfig takes an abstract object that implements the IWindowInfo interface and retrieves and sets the window position. There is a separate IWindowInfo implementation for the Windows Forms and WPF versions.)

However, while ProgramConfig is very general, it relies on isolated storage, which unfortunately isn't supported in Windows Store apps, which use a very different concept for per-user storage. (Isolated storage can be used in Windows Forms and WPF apps, as is done in this demo.) This is why ProgramConfig contains a nested class called IsolatedStream, which is designed to wrap the details of the per-user storage implementation.

If a version of per-user storage for Windows Store apps is needed, IsolatedStream can be updated to provide or call a Windows-Store-specific implementation of per-user storage. This isn't done here, since the main purpose is to demonstate the features of my CBOR library.

I should note that the CBOR library itself contains no methods to directly read and write to files; it instead reads and writes data to streams (such as the Read and WriteTo methods for CBOR data and ReadJSON and WriteJSONTo methods for JavaScript Object Notation).


That concludes my discussion on how a calculator program is implemented using my CBOR library for C#, including how its features fit into the program's design as well as tips on storing per-user settings in an application program.