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Merging DLLs into Your Main Assembly for Easier Distribution

Distributing applications with DLL dependencies can be problematic. Here we explain how to make distribution easier by combining these dependencies into the main assembly.

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Compiling .NET code often results in multiple assembly files being created, including satellite DLLs, all of which are required for the program to run. While this is a non-issue during development, when it comes to deployment it often means an unwanted stage of users having to unzip files, or manually move certain DLLs to specific places.

SmartAssembly is capable of merging the code from referenced DLLs into the main assembly, producing a single application for deployment and so greatly simplifying the process.

When merging dependencies, SmartAssembly completely integrates the dependency code into the main assembly code. Instead of making public calls (by name), the resulting assembly instead makes internal calls by Member ID. As well as making deployment easier, this also provides some level of protection against people examining and reverse-engineering sensitive code.

Merging referenced DLLs is a simple process. After adding the main assembly to a project as the input, and selecting an output destination, SmartAssembly automatically scans for dependencies and presents a list. We select the DLLs we wish to merge and click ‘Build’ to generate the output file.

Merging-DLLs/image001.png

Figure 1: Merging assemblies with dependencies in SmartAssembly

There are some limitations to what can be successfully merged. For example, some third-party DLLs will include integrity protection, which causes the DLL to fail to load as its contents will appear to have been modified.

For these instances, SmartAssembly supports dependency embedding, which allows referenced DLLs to be embedded into the main assembly as resources, instead of being merged into the main assembly’s contents. It is also capable of compressing these resources and dynamically uncompressing them at runtime, significantly reducing the distributed file size.

Merging-DLLs/image002.png

Figure 2: The difference between merging and embedding assemblies

As well as merging and embedding dependencies, SmartAssembly can apply powerful obfuscation to assemblies, preventing malicious users from decompiling them. It can also add Automated Error Reporting, a sophisticated mechanism for receiving reports of any unhandled exceptions which occur when your application is used in the wild, along with all the data needed to diagnose them.

SmartAssembly can be controlled through the command-line, so it is easily integrated into the build process, providing simple, reliable merging of dependencies on every build.

Learn more about SmartAssembly, or download your free trial.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

About the Author

Red Gate Software
Red Gate Software Ltd.
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Red Gate Software makes ingeniously simple tools used by over 650,000 Microsoft technology professionals working with .NET (incl. ASP.NET), SQL Server, Azure, and Oracle. More than 100,000 companies use our products, including 93% of the Fortune 100.

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Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionSmartAssembly Doesn't seem work perfectly. PinmemberVijayBabuM8-Jul-12 8:48 
QuestionILMerge Pinmembercrashedapp31-Jan-12 4:46 
How is this different than ILMerge?
AnswerRe: ILMerge [modified] Pinmemberslaphead993-May-12 4:31 
Questiontry .netshrink PinmemberBartosz Wojcik22-Jan-12 23:57 
AnswerRe: try .netshrink Pinmemberslaphead993-May-12 4:37 
GeneralRe: try .netshrink PinmemberBartosz Wojcik4-May-12 23:15 
GeneralRe: try .netshrink Pinmemberslaphead995-May-12 10:10 
GeneralRe: try .netshrink PinmemberBartosz Wojcik5-May-12 11:36 
GeneralRe: try .netshrink Pinmemberslaphead995-May-12 11:46 
GeneralRe: try .netshrink PinmemberBartosz Wojcik5-May-12 12:36 
GeneralRe: try .netshrink PinmemberMember 89433458-May-12 0:31 
Generalwe do it too by hand PinmemberCarelAgain13-Jan-12 5:38 
GeneralRe: we do it too by hand PinmemberMember 405342422-Jan-12 21:10 
GeneralRe: we do it too by hand Pinmemberpsmacchia22-Jan-12 21:31 
QuestionUnmanaged DLLs? PinmemberMarc Bernier12-Jan-12 7:09 
AnswerRe: Unmanaged DLLs? Pinmemberslaphead993-May-12 4:39 

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