Installing in the GAC in .NET

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Installing in the GAC
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The preferred way to install shared assemblies is to register them in the GAC. You can use drag-and-drop or the GACUTIL command-line utility. Using drag-and-drop is sim ple: use Windows Explorer to navigate to the \Windows\Assembly directory, and drop the DLL on the right-hand pane. (See Figure 13-8.) Running the GACUTIL utility is also straightforward:
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gacutil /i testassembly.dll
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The advantage of using the latter method is that you can automate the installation pro cess for example, by running a batch or a script program. Even better, you can add a command to the Tools menu in Visual Studio .NET, by means of the External Tools command. The /i command overwrites any assembly in the GAC with the same identity, but doesn t remove copies of the same assembly with a different version number. (One of the goals of the GAC is to store multiple versions of the same assembly.) Each new ver sion that you install is added to the GAC, so you should periodically clear intermediate versions of the assembly from the GAC or run GACUTIL using the /u option to remove an outdated version of the assembly before installing a more recent one. You can list all the files in the GAC by means of the /l option. Adding an assembly to the GAC doesn t make your assembly visible in Visual Studio .NET s Add Reference dialog box. This dialog box never parses the GAC and just displays assemblies located in the following two directories: C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Frame work\vx.y.zzzz (the main .NET Framework main directory) and C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003\Common7\IDE\PublicAssemblies. You might save your assemblies to the latter directory to make them quickly selectable from inside Visual Studio .NET.
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13:
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Components and Assemblies
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Even better, you can add a new key under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\.NETFramework\AssemblyFolders registry key, name it MyAssem blies (or any name you like), and set the default value of this key equal to the directory that contains your assemblies (either private or shared). The next time you launch Visual Studio .NET you ll see all the assemblies in this directory in the list of selectable ones.
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Using the DEVPATH Environment Variable
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When you re developing and debugging a shared assembly, this installing and unin stalling activity is surely a nuisance. Here s a simple trick to avoid it: create an environ ment variable named DEVPATH and assign it the name of the directory where you store your shared assemblies in debug mode, for example C:\SharedAssemblies. (Notice that the directory name can t contain spaces.) Next, add these lines to the machine.config file:
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<configuration> <runtime> <developmentMode developerInstallation="true"/> </runtime> </configuration>
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You should use this setting only on your development system. The .NET Framework does no version checking on the assemblies in the directory pointed to by the DEV PATH variable, and just uses the first assembly with a given name. If no assembly with that name is found, the runtime searches the GAC. As interesting as it sounds, you rarely require this setting when you build your appli cation with Visual Studio .NET because projects under development can reference only DLLs with a specific path and never reference shared assemblies in the GAC.
The Binding Process
When the running application references a different assembly, the runtime must resolve this reference that is, it must bind the assembly of your choice to the caller application. This portion of the runtime is known as the assembly resolver. The refer ence stored in the calling assembly contains the name, version, culture, and public key token of the requested assembly if the assembly is shared. The version is ignored and the public key is missing if the assembly is private. The process that the runtime fol lows to locate the correct assembly consists of several heuristic steps: 1. Checks version policy in configuration files 2. Uses the assembly if it has been loaded previously 3. Searches the assembly in the GAC 4. Searches the assembly using codebase hints if there are any 5. Probes the application s main directory tree
Part III:
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