This tip explains how Microsoft.NET is built from scratch to be interoperable with different languages like C, C++ and COM based software.
Whether your application is written with managed code or not, the .NET platform provides new mechanisms that make communication possible between your application and others programming language.
Java programming language is built to be a portable language, it can be deployed anywhere: ‘Run once and deploy anywhere’. This portability is due to a bytecode (portable code or intermediate code) designed for efficient execution by a compiler.
The most important thing to Java architects was the portability factor, Java was made to work alone and run on multiple platform, integrating this language with other programming languages was not simple even if there are some implementations Like CORBA which enable Java to talk with C++. The problem with CORBA was its complexity, the developer must learn a third language called IDL (intermediate description language)!
Microsoft thinks differently, .NET architects think that the most important aspect is interoperability between different applications and programming languages and that’s why .NET provides a full support of XML in its core components, for example ADO.NET and the
Dataset class which strongly support XML and XML web services introduced in 2001 based on SOAP protocol.
All .NET languages can work together easily whatever is their type:
- Object programing language (C#)
- Functional programming language (F#)
- Dynamic language like Iron Ruby or Iron python
Java architects understand that interoperability with other languages is important because companies have many applications written with different languages and we need a powerful platform that make communication between these applications very easy.
This tip may be useful for developers who have some basics in C# and .NET.
Using the Code
In the next paragraph, we will explain two different scenarios about interoperability:
- COM interoperability
Communication Between Managed Code and Com Based Software
Component Object Model (COM) is a binary-interface standard for software components introduced by Microsoft in 1993. It is used to enable inter-process communication and dynamic object creation in a large range of programming languages. COM is the basis for several other Microsoft technologies and frameworks, including OLE, OLE Automation, ActiveX, COM+, DCOM, the Windows shell, DirectX, UMDF and Windows Runtime
In simple words, COM creates a bridge between managed code and unmanaged code, for example, if we have a C# client and a C++ server, COM transfers messages between the client and the server transparently without the need of an intermediate language.
Now, let’s write some code:
- We want to consume a COM library (Office component) with managed Code (C#)
- The client is written with managed Code (VB.NET).
- The server is written with unmanaged Code (Microsoft Office Component)
Through this demonstration, we will develop a C# client that can interact with Microsoft Office Word (which is a Com software written in C++), this application allows us to integrate Office spelling correction in our .NET application.
- Open Visual Studio (I am using VS 2013).
- Choose Visual Basic and create a Windows Form application.
- Visual Studio will generate a Windows Forms project for you.
- Add a
richTextBox and a
- Right click on solution Explorer => Add reference => choose ‘Com’.
- Find a library called “
- Add a new class and call it Spelling.vb and paste this code:
Public Class Spelling
Public Function CorrectText(ByVal text As String) As String
Dim message As String = text
Dim wordApplication As Word.Application = New Word.Application
wordApplication.Visible = False
Dim range As Word.Range
range = wordApplication.ActiveDocument.Range
Dim s As Word.ProofreadingErrors
s = range.SpellingErrors
If s.Count > 0 Then
Dim incorrectWord As String
For i As Integer = 1 To s.Count
incorrectWord = s.Item(i).Text
Dim CorrectWord As String = wordApplication.GetSpellingSuggestions(incorrectWord).Item(1).Name
message = message.Replace(incorrectWord, CorrectWord)
- Double Click on the button ‘
btnSpellingCorrection’ and paste this code:
Spelling spelling = new Spelling();
Voilà :), communication between the managed client (VB.NET) and the unmanaged server (Office Word component) does not require any extra work because the CLR takes in charge the marshalling of Data between these two technologies at runtime.
There is no need to use intermediate language or anything else, we just add Reference to the COM library as if it is a managed Library.
Communication with P/Invoke
Platform Invocation Services (P/Invoke) is a feature of Common Language Infrastructure implementations that enables managed code to call native code.
We will demonstrate how we can invoke native code that is implemented in a DLL from managed code, the scenario is simple, we will consume a function found in the Windows kernel called
GetComputerName, this function exists on the Kernel32.DLL, it is written with the C language and we will call it from C# 4.0. This function returns the name of the computer machine.
- Open Visual Studio.
- Choose Visual C# and create a Windows Form application.
- Visual Studio will generate a Windows Forms project for you.
- Paste this code just after the class Definition
- The function must be declared with the
extern C# keywords.
DllImport attribute allows you to specify the name of the DLL that contains the method. The common practice is to name the C# method the same as the exported method, but you can also use a different name for the C# method.
public static extern bool GetComputerName( StringBuilder computerName, ref int size);
StringBuilder buf = new StringBuilder(255);
int size = buf.Capacity;
GetComputerName(buf, ref size);
The compiler will execute the function even if the developer has just written the signature of the function, there isn't any extra implementation of any intermediate code, the CLR takes in charge the communication between C# and C language.
Through this tip, we have seen two scenarios explaining how .NET can communicate with other technologies and programming languages:
- Communication between managed Code and Com based software (first demo)
- Communication between managed Code and native Code (second demo)
The opportunities are unlimited due to the number of languages supported by .NET, besides, there are a lot of other modern technologies like Web services, Windows Communication Foundation and Web API which introduce what we call ‘Software as services’ which will be the subject of another article.
Thank you for reading, try to download the source code and do not hesitate to leave your questions, comments and thanks if you want to.