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Merging DLLs into Your Main Assembly for Easier Distribution

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.


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.


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.

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