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AnswerMy Experiences while porting a larger Application from C++ to C# Pin
Uwe Keim2-Jan-07 10:06
sitebuilderUwe Keim2-Jan-07 10:06 
(Please note, this is a long reply to this posting [^], so I intended to write a whole new posting instead)

-----------------------------

I nearly finished "converting" the approx. 300.000 lines of C++ code of our flagship product "Zeta Producer [^]" (a Windows-based CMS) from MFC/C++ to C#.

Following is a short description of the things I experiences along the road. Since I'm currently in the right mood, I want to share them here with you Smile | :) :

It roughly took me 10 month (having other smaller projects in parallel, though) to convert from C++ to C#.

My own coding experience is 15 years of C++ and maybe 5 years of C#. I strongly recommend that you really know both languages (and their libraries MFC and BCL!) very well.

I do think I still have a lot of (smaller) bugs due to the conversion, but we already do use Zeta Producer (version 8 now) internally in serveral projects and several beta testers do use them, too.

The "Porting"

The steps I did when "converting" (inside quotes, cause it was rather a rewrite than a conversion) where roughly:

  1. Re-create all MFC-present dialogs, windows, controls from scratch inside the Windows Forms designer. No functionality, just the plain GUI.

  2. Port all non-visual code by first creating all classes inside C#. This was the largest part. I did it by creating file by file (for each .h/.cpp pair, I did one .cs file), copying the content of one C++ class into the corresponding .cs file. Then I manually changed the syntax until no code editor errors are present any more. This really took looooooooooong, since it were several hundreds of files.

  3. Add the event handlers for all Windows Forms. The same way as in 2.).

  4. Build the first time (this was after 3 month or so when I first started Smile | :) . Get thousands of errors. Fix them and repeat rebuilding. Do this until no more compiler errors are present. This took half a week IIRC.

  5. Run. Get lots of runtime errors.

Finally, to sum up, I eventually get the think running. Still rather unstable, but it ran.

Then It again took a rather long time to really get things better and fixing all those little glitches.

I really saw the light at the end of the tunnel. (This was after maybe 5 or six month from start). I slightly began adding new features (since the customer doesn't care that it now is C# rather than C++; he cares about stability, easy of use and new features, to name a few) for the new version 8.

Also, in parallel I did (and still do) refactor larger portions of the code step-by-step to more .NET-centric coding- and algorithm-style (like using BackgroundWorker and all those myriads of new things that only exist in .NET Wink | ;-) ). I do read a lot in the GoF book and also other design pattern stuff to make my code better. This is much easier (in my opinion) after having ported it to C#.

Reasons to port

The reasons I did the port were:

  • Zeta Producer is our key product and "cash cow" that is one of our USP. Therefore I wanted to ensure that it is safe for the future.

  • I wanted to lower developement times. C++ tooks waaaaaaaay to long to develop, especially all those nice GUI stuff that is trivial in C#/.NET.

  • First, I tried C++/CLI. Although Nish would disagree, I think it is a total crap. At least for me, at least for the kind of product we do develop.

  • I wanted to use all those sexy .NET features like WebServices, etc.

Current state

Where we are now:

  • We are currently in beta stage, still adding some features that are not present in the original C++ version.

  • The translation still needs to be done. Thanks to Zeta Resource Editor [^] I hope this is painless (and it is not done by me either - hurra! Big Grin | :-D ).

  • Testing, testing, testing.

Lessons learned, Pros and Cons

My summary until now, how I experience the "porting":

  • Pro: What we have now really justified the hard work. It's a pleasure to work with the code, it really does compile rather fast (10 seconds for a rebuild, compared with 20-30 minutes for the C++ version).

  • Pro: We do have a strong code base to develop further version.

  • Con: I am paranoid. What if I have introduced thousands of yet-to-discover bugs during the conversion?

  • Con: Speed. Currently the C# version is slightly slower than the C++ version. This is, as far as I can tell, not caused by the CLI itself, but due to my own partially inefficient algorithms. The last two weeks during the holidays, I spent a lot of time profiling (with ANTS Profiler [^]), already gaining large performance benefits. So this is definitively accomplishable, but takes time.

  • Con: The port is done by one single developer (me). The C++ code was written by a max. of 3 developers. Seeing multi-national/-million dollar companies having huge resources of developers, I sometimes feel that I never can compete with them, both in functionality and in academically approaching such a port. I ask myself things like "Should I have done UML"? "Should I use Unit Testing"? etc. But on the other hand, the software is running and will be making money. So I cannot be that wrong Wink | ;-) .

Here, I do end, maybe someone likes what I've written here and it is a good hint for porting your own projects Smile | :) . Enjoy!

--
Try our Windows-based CMS: www.zeta-producer.com
Try our ticket helpdesk system: www.zeta-helpdesk.com
See me working: www.magerquark.com

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