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Namespaces in Visual Basic
assemblies [Visual Basic], namespaces
name collisions
Global keyword [Visual Basic]
namespace pollution
names [Visual Basic], avoiding conflicts
naming conflicts [Visual Basic], namespaces
namespaces [Visual Basic], assemblies
Visual Basic code, namespaces
fully qualified names [Visual Basic]
naming conventions [Visual Basic], naming conflicts

Namespaces in Visual Basic

Namespaces organize the objects defined in an assembly. Assemblies can contain multiple namespaces, which can in turn contain other namespaces. Namespaces prevent ambiguity and simplify references when using large groups of objects such as class libraries.

For example, the .NET Framework defines the xref:System.Windows.Forms.ListBox class in the xref:System.Windows.Forms?displayProperty=nameWithType namespace. The following code fragment shows how to declare a variable using the fully qualified name for this class:


Avoiding Name Collisions

.NET Framework namespaces address a problem sometimes called namespace pollution, in which the developer of a class library is hampered by the use of similar names in another library. These conflicts with existing components are sometimes called name collisions.

For example, if you create a new class named ListBox, you can use it inside your project without qualification. However, if you want to use the .NET Framework xref:System.Windows.Forms.ListBox class in the same project, you must use a fully qualified reference to make the reference unique. If the reference is not unique, Visual Basic produces an error stating that the name is ambiguous. The following code example demonstrates how to declare these objects:


The following illustration shows two namespace hierarchies, both containing an object named ListBox:

Screenshot that shows two namespace hierarchies.

By default, every executable file you create with Visual Basic contains a namespace with the same name as your project. For example, if you define an object within a project named ListBoxProject, the executable file ListBoxProject.exe contains a namespace called ListBoxProject.

Multiple assemblies can use the same namespace. Visual Basic treats them as a single set of names. For example, you can define classes for a namespace called SomeNameSpace in an assembly named Assemb1, and define additional classes for the same namespace from an assembly named Assemb2.

Fully Qualified Names

Fully qualified names are object references that are prefixed with the name of the namespace in which the object is defined. You can use objects defined in other projects if you create a reference to the class (by choosing Add Reference from the Project menu) and then use the fully qualified name for the object in your code. The following code fragment shows how to use the fully qualified name for an object from another project's namespace:


Fully qualified names prevent naming conflicts because they make it possible for the compiler to determine which object is being used. However, the names themselves can get long and cumbersome. To get around this, you can use the Imports statement to define an alias—an abbreviated name you can use in place of a fully qualified name. For example, the following code example creates aliases for two fully qualified names, and uses these aliases to define two objects.



If you use the Imports statement without an alias, you can use all the names in that namespace without qualification, provided they are unique to the project. If your project contains Imports statements for namespaces that contain items with the same name, you must fully qualify that name when you use it. Suppose, for example, your project contained the following two Imports statements:


If you attempt to use Class1 without fully qualifying it, Visual Basic produces an error stating that the name Class1 is ambiguous.

Namespace Level Statements

Within a namespace, you can define items such as modules, interfaces, classes, delegates, enumerations, structures, and other namespaces. You cannot define items such as properties, procedures, variables and events at the namespace level. These items must be declared within containers such as modules, structures, or classes.

Global Keyword in Fully Qualified Names

If you have defined a nested hierarchy of namespaces, code inside that hierarchy might be blocked from accessing the xref:System?displayProperty=nameWithType namespace of the .NET Framework. The following example illustrates a hierarchy in which the SpecialSpace.System namespace blocks access to xref:System?displayProperty=nameWithType.

Namespace SpecialSpace  
    Namespace System  
        Class abc  
            Function getValue() As System.Int32  
                Dim n As System.Int32  
                Return n  
            End Function  
        End Class  
    End Namespace  
End Namespace  

As a result, the Visual Basic compiler cannot successfully resolve the reference to xref:System.Int32?displayProperty=nameWithType, because SpecialSpace.System does not define Int32. You can use the Global keyword to start the qualification chain at the outermost level of the .NET Framework class library. This allows you to specify the xref:System?displayProperty=nameWithType namespace or any other namespace in the class library. The following example illustrates this.

Namespace SpecialSpace  
    Namespace System  
        Class abc  
            Function getValue() As Global.System.Int32  
                Dim n As Global.System.Int32  
                Return n  
            End Function  
        End Class  
    End Namespace  
End Namespace  

You can use Global to access other root-level namespaces, such as xref:Microsoft.VisualBasic?displayProperty=nameWithType, and any namespace associated with your project.

Global Keyword in Namespace Statements

You can also use the Global keyword in a Namespace Statement. This lets you define a namespace out of the root namespace of your project.

All namespaces in your project are based on the root namespace for the project. Visual Studio assigns your project name as the default root namespace for all code in your project. For example, if your project is named ConsoleApplication1, its programming elements belong to namespace ConsoleApplication1. If you declare Namespace Magnetosphere, references to Magnetosphere in the project will access ConsoleApplication1.Magnetosphere.

The following examples use the Global keyword to declare a namespace out of the root namespace for the project.


In a namespace declaration, Global cannot be nested in another namespace.

You can use the Application Page, Project Designer (Visual Basic) to view and modify the Root Namespace of the project. For new projects, the Root Namespace defaults to the project name. To cause Global to be the top-level namespace, you can clear the Root Namespace entry so that the box is empty. Clearing Root Namespace removes the need for the Global keyword in namespace declarations.

If a Namespace statement declares a name that is also a namespace in the .NET Framework, the .NET Framework namespace becomes unavailable if the Global keyword is not used in a fully qualified name. To enable access to that .NET Framework namespace without using the Global keyword, you can include the Global keyword in the Namespace statement.

The following example has the Global keyword in the System.Text namespace declaration.

If the Global keyword was not present in the namespace declaration, xref:System.Text.StringBuilder could not be accessed without specifying Global.System.Text.StringBuilder. For a project named ConsoleApplication1, references to System.Text would access ConsoleApplication1.System.Text if the Global keyword was not used.


See also

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