Click here to Skip to main content
Click here to Skip to main content

Reflection

, 17 Mar 2005
Rate this:
Please Sign up or sign in to vote.
An article about Reflection in .NET, using C#.

Introduction

Reflection is a notable addition to the .NET Framework. Through Reflection, a program collects and manipulates its own metadata. It is a powerful mechanism to introspect the assemblies and objects at runtime. The Reflection APIs are contained in the System.Reflection namespace. Reflection allows the programmer to inspect and collect information about the type, properties, methods and events of an object and to invoke the methods of that object through the Invoke method. Reflection is a powerful tool to develop Reverse Engineering applications, class browsers and property editors.

In this article, I will provide examples for the following uses of Reflection:

  • Collecting metadata of an assembly and discovering the types of classes in it.
  • Dynamic invocation of methods and properties.

    Through late binding, the properties and methods of a dynamically instantiated object can be invoked based on type discovery.

  • Creating types at runtime using Reflection.Emit.

    This is the most usable feature of reflection. The user can create new types at runtime and use them to perform required tasks.

Reflection to find out the assemblies used by a program

using System;
using System.Reflection ;

namespace ReflectionDemoCSharp
{

    class ReferencedAssemblies
    {
        [STAThread]
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Assembly[] appAssemblies = 
              System.AppDomain.CurrentDomain.GetAssemblies ();

            foreach (Assembly assembly in appAssemblies )
            {
                Console.WriteLine (assembly.FullName );
            }
            Console.ReadLine ();
        }
    }

}

Output

mscorlib, Version=1.0.5000.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b77a5c561934e089

ReflectionDemoCSharp, Version=1.0.1882.29904, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null

The System.AppDomain class represents an application domain. AppDomain is an isolated environment where the application executes.

Assembly[] appAssemblies = System.AppDomain.CurrentDomain.GetAssemblies ();

The GetAssemblies() method returns the assemblies loaded by ReflectionDemoCSharp. It outputs mscorlib.dll and ReflectionDemoCSharp.

Reflecting on an assembly and Discovering the existing types

First of all, we load an assembly dynamically with the Assembly.Load() method.

public static Assembly.Load(AssemblyName)

We pass the MsCorLib.dll.

Assembly LoadedAssembly = Assembly.Load("mscorlib.dll");

Once the assembly is loaded, we call the GetTypes() method to get an array of Type objects.

System.Type[] ExistingTypes = LoadedAssembly.GetTypes ();

The Type returned can represent the types of classes, interfaces, or enumerators.

using System;
using System.Reflection ;

namespace ReflectionDemoCSharp
{
    class ReflectedTypes
    {
        [STAThread]
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Assembly LoadedAssembly = Assembly.Load ("mscorlib.dll");
            System.Type[] ExistingTypes = LoadedAssembly.GetTypes ();
            foreach(Type type in ExistingTypes)
                Console.WriteLine (type.ToString ());

            Console.WriteLine (ExistingTypes.Length + 
               " Types Discovered in mscorlib.dll");

            Console.ReadLine ();
        }
    }
}

Output (The actual output will fill several pages, so only few are shown.)

System.Object
System.ICloneable
System.Collections.IEnumerable
System.Collections.ICollection
System.Collections.IList
System.Array
System.Array+SorterObjectArray
System.Array+SorterGenericArray
System.Collections.IEnumerator

1480 Types Discovered in mscorlib.dll

Reflecting on a Single Type

In our next example, we will reflect on a single type and find out its members. The Type.GetType(TypeName) method takes a string argument and returns the corresponding System.Type. We query the type using the Type.GetMembers() method to return an array of members in the type.

using System;
using System.Reflection ;

namespace ReflectionDemoCSharp
{
    class ReflectedTypes
    {
        [STAThread]
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Type TypeToReflect = Type.GetType("System.Int32");
            System.Reflection.MemberInfo[] Members =type.GetMembers();

            Console.WriteLine ("Members of "+TypeToReflect.ToString ());
            Console.WriteLine();
            foreach (MemberInfo member in Members )
                Console.WriteLine(member);
            Console.ReadLine ();
        }
    }
}

Here is the output:

Members of System.Int32

Int32 MaxValue
Int32 MinValue
System.String ToString(System.IFormatProvider)
System.TypeCode GetTypeCode()
System.String ToString(System.String, System.IFormatProvider)
Int32 CompareTo(System.Object)
Int32 GetHashCode()
Boolean Equals(System.Object)
System.String ToString()
System.String ToString(System.String)
Int32 Parse(System.String)
Int32 Parse(System.String, System.Globalization.NumberStyles)
Int32 Parse(System.String, System.IFormatProvider)
Int32 Parse(System.String, System.Globalization.NumberStyles, System.IFormatProvider)
System.Type GetType()
  • System.Reflection.MemberInfo[] Members =type.GetMembers() - returns all the members of the Type being queried.
  • System.Reflection.MethodInfo[] Methods =Type.GetMethods() - returns only the methods in the Type being queried.
  • System.Reflection.FieldInfo[] Fields =Type.GetFields() - returns only the fields in the Type being queried.
  • System.Reflection.PropertyInfo[] Properties = type.GetProperties () - returns the properties in the Type being queried.
  • System.Reflection.EventInfo[] Events = type.GetEvents() - returns the events in the Type being queried.
  • System.Reflection.ConstructorInfo[] Constructors = type.GetConstructors () - returns the constructors in the Type being queried.
  • System.Type[] Interfaces = type.GetInterfaces() - returns the interfaces in the Type being queried.

Dynamic Invocation with Type.InvokeMember()

The next example demonstrates how to dynamically invoke a method using the method type.InvokeMember(). The “Equals” method of System.String, which compares two strings for equality, is invoked using the InvokeMember() method. The program passes two string arguments for comparison. The type.InvokeMember() allows us to execute methods by name.

Parameters of InvokeMember() method are:

  1. The first parameter to InvokeMember() is the name of the member we want to invoke. It is passed as a string.
  2. The second parameter is a member of the BindingFlags enumeration. BindingFlags enumeration specifies flags that control binding and the way in which to look for members and types.
  3. The third parameter is a Binder object that defines a set of properties and enables binding. Or it can be null, in which case the default Binder will be used. The Binder parameter gives the user explicit control over how the reflection selects an overloaded method and converts arguments.
  4. The fourth parameter is the object on which to invoke the specified member.
  5. The fifth parameter is an array of arguments to pass to the member to invoke.
using System;
using System.Reflection ;

namespace ReflectionDemoCSharp
{
    class ReflectedTypes
    {
        [STAThread]
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Type TypeToReflect = Type.GetType("System.String");
            object result = null;

            object[] arguments = {"abc","xyz"};
            result = TypeToReflect.InvokeMember ("Equals", 
              BindingFlags.InvokeMethod, null, result, arguments);
            Console.WriteLine (result.ToString ());
            Console.ReadLine ();
        }
    }
}

The output in this case is false.

Reflection.Emit - Creating Types Dynamically at Runtime and Invoking their Methods

Reflection.Emit supports dynamic creation of new types at runtime. You can create an assembly dynamically, and then you can define the modules, types and methods you want included in it. The assembly can run dynamically or can be saved to disk. The methods defined in the new assembly can be invoked using the Type.InvokeMember() method. Reflection.Emit also allows the compiler to emit its metadata and Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) during runtime.

Let us create a class DoMath and define a method DoSum in the assembly named Math. The first thing to do is to create an object of type AssemblyName and give it a name.

AssemblyName assemblyName = new AssemblyName();

assemblyName.Name = "Math";

Next, we use the AssemblyBuilder class to define a dynamic assembly, in the Current Domain of the application. We have to pass two parameters AssemblyName and an enumeration value of AssemblyBuilderAccess (Run, RunAndSave or Save). The value of AssemblyBuilderAccess determines whether the assembly can be run only or it can be saved to the disk.

AssemblyBuilder CreatedAssembly = 
  AppDomain.CurrentDomain.DefineDynamicAssembly(assemblyName, 
  AssemblyBuilderAccess.RunAndSave );

Now, in our dynamically created assembly, we create an assembly Module. For this, use the created AsemblyBuilder object and call its DefineDynamicModule() method, which in turn returns a ModuleBuilder object. We pass the name of the Module and the filename in which it will be saved.

ModuleBuilder AssemblyModule = 
         CreatedAssembly.DefineDynamicModule("MathModule","Math.dll");

Our next step is to create a public class in this AssemblyModule. Let’s define a public class named “DoMath”.

We use a TypeBuilder class to dynamically define a class. For this, we call the AssemblyModule.DefineType() method. The DefineType() returns a TypeBuilder object.

TypeBuilder MathType = AssemblyModule.DefineType("DoMath", 
       TypeAttributes.Public | TypeAttributes.Class);

In the “DoSum” class, we create a method “Sum” which adds two integers and returns the result. The MethodBuilder class is used to define the method, its parameter types and the return type. We call the TypeBuilder object's DefineMethod() method and pass the name of the method, its attributes, return type, and an array of types of the parameters.

System.Type [] ParamTypes = new Type[] { typeof(int),typeof(int) };

MethodBuilder SumMethod = MathType.DefineMethod("Sum", 
              MethodAttributes.Public, typeof(int), ParamTypes);

Next, we define the two parameters of the method “Sum” using the ParameterBuilder class. We call the DefineParameter() method of the MethodBuilder object, passing the position, attribute of the parameter, and an optional name for the parameter.

ParameterBuilder Param1 = 
    SumMethod.DefineParameter(1,ParameterAttributes.In ,"num1");

ParameterBuilder Param2 = 
    SumMethod.DefineParameter(2,ParameterAttributes.In ,"num2");

We then use the MethodBuilder object created earlier to get an ILGenerator object.

ILGenerator ilGenerator = SumMethod.GetILGenerator();

It is the ILGenerator object that emits the opcode or Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) instruction. These opcodes are the same opcodes generated by a C# compiler. The OpCodes class contains fields that represent MSIL instructions. We use these fields to emit the actual opcode. So we emit the opcode of the two arguments of the “Sum” method. The opcodes are pushed into the stack. Then we specify the operation – in our case, add two numbers. Now the stack will contain the sum of the two arguments. The OpCodes.Ret will return the value in the stack.

ilGenerator.Emit(OpCodes.Ldarg_1);
ilGenerator.Emit (OpCodes.Ldarg_2);

ilGenerator.Emit (OpCodes.Add );
ilGenerator.Emit(OpCodes.Ret);

Now we create the class and return the assembly.

MathType.CreateType();

return CreatedAssembly;

Here is the example code:

using System;
using System.Reflection;
using System.Reflection.Emit;

namespace ConsoleApplication1
{
    public class ReflectionEmitDemo
    {
        public Assembly CreateAssembly()
        {
            AssemblyName assemblyName = new AssemblyName();
            assemblyName.Name = "Math";

            AssemblyBuilder CreatedAssembly = 
                 AppDomain.CurrentDomain.DefineDynamicAssembly(assemblyName, 
                 AssemblyBuilderAccess.RunAndSave );

            ModuleBuilder AssemblyModule = 
               CreatedAssembly.DefineDynamicModule("MathModule","Math.dll");

            TypeBuilder MathType = 
                   AssemblyModule.DefineType("DoMath", TypeAttributes.Public | 
                   TypeAttributes.Class);

            System.Type [] ParamTypes = new Type[] { typeof(int),typeof(int) };

            MethodBuilder SumMethod = MathType.DefineMethod("Sum", 
                   MethodAttributes.Public, typeof(int), ParamTypes);

            ParameterBuilder Param1 = 
                   SumMethod.DefineParameter(1,ParameterAttributes.In, "num1");

            ParameterBuilder Param2 = 
                   SumMethod.DefineParameter(2,ParameterAttributes.In, "num2");

            ILGenerator ilGenerator = SumMethod.GetILGenerator();
            ilGenerator.Emit(OpCodes.Ldarg_1);
            ilGenerator.Emit (OpCodes.Ldarg_2);
            ilGenerator.Emit (OpCodes.Add );
            ilGenerator.Emit(OpCodes.Ret);

            MathType.CreateType();
                 
            return CreatedAssembly;
        }
    }
}

Our next aim is to invoke the “Sum” method of the dynamically created Type. Let us create an object of the ReflectionEmitDemo class and call its CreateAssembly method to return the dynamically created assembly. Then we reflect on the EmitAssembly to find out the “DoMath” type.

ReflectionEmitDemo EmitDemo = new ReflectionEmitDemo();

Assembly EmitAssembly = EmitDemo.CreateAssembly();
System.Type MathType = EmitAssembly.GetType("DoMath");

Next, we prepare the parameters for the “Sum” method, and create an instance of the “DoMath” type on which we do the Invoke. We call the Type.InvokeMember() method to invoke the “Sum” method. In the example below, we’ve passed the parameters 5 and 9.

object[] Parameters = new object [2];

Parameters[0] =  (object) (5);

Parameters[1] =  (object) (9);

object EmitObj = Activator.CreateInstance(MathType,false);

object Result = MathType.InvokeMember("Sum", 
     BindingFlags.InvokeMethod ,null,EmitObj,Parameters);

Console.WriteLine ("Sum of {0}+{1} is {2}", 
   Parameters[0],Parameters[1],Result.ToString ());

The output is:

Sum of 5+9 is 14

Here is the example code:

using System;
using System.Reflection;

namespace ConsoleApplication1
{
    public class EmitDemoTest
    {
        static void Main()
        {
            ReflectionEmitDemo EmitDemo = new ReflectionEmitDemo();
            Assembly EmitAssembly = EmitDemo.CreateAssembly();

            System.Type MathType = EmitAssembly.GetType("DoMath");
            object[] Parameters = new object [2];
            Parameters[0] = (object) (5);
            Parameters[1] = (object) (9);
            object EmitObj = Activator.CreateInstance (MathType,false);

            object Result = MathType.InvokeMember("Sum", 
                BindingFlags.InvokeMethod ,null,EmitObj,Parameters);

            Console.WriteLine("Sum of {0}+{1} is {2}", 
                 Parameters[0],Parameters[1],Result.ToString());
            Console.ReadLine();
        }
    }
}

The attached ZIP file contains a Windows application which lets you examine the assemblies and its types.

Sample Image

License

This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here

About the Author

smn-12

United States United States
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

 
Questionwhat is the main objetive the reflection in .net Pinmembersyedkhaleel8-Dec-11 1:38 
QuestionJust Instance of object type is possible ? PinmemberStuard25-Aug-09 15:09 
Questionusing with COM objects? PinmemberGreen Fuze6-Jun-09 3:33 
QuestionLoading dataset builders using reflection PinmemberRubin Boban14-Nov-07 23:09 
AnswerRe: Loading dataset builders using reflection Pinmembereapeneapen4-Dec-08 19:06 
GeneralHai can u plz help me Pinmembersiddabattini14-May-07 2:12 
QuestionHow can i set reportViewer's Report Source Property using Reflection? PinmemberJun Mar L8-Nov-06 22:54 
GeneralJust what I've been looking for PinmemberHerbrandson19-Sep-06 19:21 
GeneralNice Article Pinmemberlenininy2k18-Sep-06 1:30 
GeneralI need to find documentation about reflection Pinmembericeburnbarry3-Nov-05 10:05 
Generalhelp Pinmembersreejith ss nair18-Sep-05 21:30 
Generalloading a different dll Pinmemberpsylion30-May-05 4:23 
GeneralRe: loading a different dll PinmemberRealTimeCody30-May-07 7:19 
GeneralA good primer for Reflection Pinmemberchris lasater4-Apr-05 11:57 
Generalthis reflection example giving error for other assemblies. Pinmembernsainaveen28-Mar-05 22:45 
GeneralGreat Article But... PinmemberShardool23-Mar-05 17:27 
GeneralRe: Great Article But... PinmemberChandra Bhoga23-Mar-05 19:05 
GeneralRe: Great Article But... PinmemberShardool24-Mar-05 1:38 
GeneralRe: Great Article But... PinmemberFábio Batista24-Mar-05 19:05 
GeneralNice articles Pinmemberkadnan13-Mar-05 18:12 
QuestionWhat about Reflection.Emit? PinmemberMartin Friedrich6-Mar-05 2:00 
AnswerRe: What about Reflection.Emit? PinmemberFatFreddy6-Mar-05 22:54 
GeneralRe: What about Reflection.Emit? Pinmembereyelkin14-Mar-05 17:03 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.

| Advertise | Privacy | Mobile
Web03 | 2.8.140721.1 | Last Updated 18 Mar 2005
Article Copyright 2005 by smn-12
Everything else Copyright © CodeProject, 1999-2014
Terms of Service
Layout: fixed | fluid