5 minutes guide to exposing .NET components to COM clients

I occasionally write COM objects in .NET. I have to remind myself the right things to do every time. Finally, I just decide to write it up so I don’t have to do the same research again.

If you try to register a .NET component as COM using regasm tool, by default, the tool will expose all exposable public classes. The exposable mean that the class must satisfy some rules such as the type must have a public default constructor. For complete list of rules, see MSDN.

The Visual Studio template for class libraries actually turn off the COM visibility in the AssemblyInfo.cs file using the assembly attribute [assembly: ComVisible(false)]. This is a good practice as we do not want to flood the registry with all the types in our library.

Next, we need to apply ComVisible(true) attribute to all classes and interfaces that we want to expose. It is a good practice to apply the attribute [ClassInterface(ClassInterfaceType.None)] to classes and implement interfaces explicitly. Why? That is because by default .NET will automatically create a class interface to contain all exposable methods. We do not have much control of the interface. So it is a good idea to turn off the class interface and control our interfaces explicitly.

Lastly, it is a good idea to explicitly apply Guid attributes to classes and interfaces. This helps avoiding adding lots of orphan ClassId entries in the registry in our development machine.  Visual Studio has Create GUID tool right under the Tools menu.

This is just a brief discussion and is no substitution for MSDN. Adam Nathan wrote an ultimate book called .NET and COM. This book was out of print for a while so even a used one was very expensive. Fortunately, the publisher reprinted it. Adam has also some nice articles on InformIT (need to click the Articles tab).


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