Autofac 3.0 Beta packages available on NuGet

Published on Thursday, November 1, 2012

Those of you that follow the Autofac Google Group will no doubt be aware that despite some changes in project leadership plenty of work has been going into the 3.0 release. With the amount of refactoring that has been done we wanted to make a Beta release available for wider testing before declaring 3.0 stable. I want to take this opportunity to give a big shout out to my partner in crime, Travis Illig, who has been in there smashing through the issues with me.

Portable Class Library

The major task that has been undertaken in 3.0 is converting the core Autofac project into a PCL (Portable Class Library) allowing the one assembly to be used in multiple framework targets. You will be able to target the following frameworks with Autofac 3.0:

  • .NET Framework 4 and higher
  • Silverlight 5
  • .NET for Windows Store apps
  • Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 7 and Silverlight 4 are not in the list of supported frameworks because they are missing many of the features that Autofac requires (such as a complete implementation of variance in generics). Those frameworks will continue to be supported using the existing 2.6 release. We wanted to make sure that we could cover as broad a base as possible without resorting to having multiple projects or preprocessor directives.

There was a point where we went down the plugin route, having platform specific assemblies that would be plugged into the core PCL at runtime, but found this to be problematic from a security perspective with issues arising in medium-trust scenarios. In the end we got everything that we wanted in the core PCL working by reducing the supported frameworks and the result is a much simpler solution to maintain.

The NuGet package for Autofac 3.0 uses the support for portable libraries added in NuGet 2.1 so remember to update your package manager.

Single Solution (Core and Extras)

In the past we had two separate solutions for the core Autofac projects and those for Autofac.Contrib. It was easy for these two solutions to get out of sync so we decided to move everything into a single solution keeping everything consistent and visible. Part of the move was to rebrand the contrib projects into “Extras” packages that are now deployed via NuGet just the same as the core packages. The division between the core and extras packages relates to whether or not the package takes a dependency on a third party library or offers fairly niche functionality.

These are the Core NuGet packages:

We did a little bit of clean up but the majority of the contrib projects have been moved across to Extras NuGet packages:

Semantic Versioning

Starting with 3.0 we will be following the Semantic Versioning specification and will utilise prerelease NuGet packages. As such, the 3.0 beta release packages are versioned 3.0.0-beta. Prerelease packages provide a great way to indicate the current stability of a package while still allowing for easy installation, and semantic versioning provides a means to quickly get a feel for the kind of changes that can be expected in a particular release.

SymbolSource Support

We are now also building symbol packages that are uploaded to SymbolSource.org allowing you to download and step through the Autofac source code. This support will be provided for all packages both core and extras. Instructions for configuring Visual Studio to work with the symbol server are available on the SymbolSource website. Being able to step through the source makes it much easier to understand what is happening under the hood and makes you feel a lot more in control.

Metadata Support

Interfaced based strongly-typed metadata was one particular feature that was difficult to port over to the PCL due to its dependency on MEF specific functionality, in particular the AttributedModelServices class, and indirectly through to the System.Reflection.Emit namespace. The PCL library does not have access to System.ComponentModel.Composition because it is not available in all of the target frameworks.

Recently, the MEF team released a lightweight version of MEF (Microsoft.Composition) that also had to address the issue of not being able to generate types for metadata interfaces; they too are targeting Windows Store apps and lost access to the System.Reflection.Emit namespace. To remove the need to dynamically generate a type at runtime they switched the interface based metadata views with a class based implementation.

Autofac 3.0 has taken the same approach to strongly-typed metadata when only the PCL is being referenced. If you are running in a Windows Store or Windows Phone 8 app you will need to use class based metadata. Following the example from my previous blog post about selectively resolving services at runtime, the metadata interface would change from:

public interface IExportMetadata
{
    ExportFormat Format { get; }
}

To a simple metadata class that has public properties with getters and setters:

public class ExportMetadata
{
    public ExportFormat Format { get; set; }
}

Registering the metadata remains exactly the same except you provide a class type as the generic type parameter for the WithMetadata method:

builder.Register(c => new PdfFormat())
    .As<IExport>()
    .WithMetadata<ExportMetadata>(m =>
        m.For(em => em.Format, ExportFormat.Pdf));

builder.Register(c => new HtmlFormat())
    .As<IExport>()
    .WithMetadata<ExportMetadata>(m =>
        m.For(em => em.Format, ExportFormat.Html));

builder.Register(c => new RtfFormat())
    .As<IExport>()
    .WithMetadata<ExportMetadata>(m =>
        m.For(em => em.Format, ExportFormat.Rtf));

You can also continue to provide default values using the DefaultValue attribute:

public class ExportMetadata
{
    [DefaultValue(ExportFormat.Html)]
    public ExportFormat Format { get; set; }
}

Another neat trick is the ability to pass the metadata dictionary into the constructor of your metadata class:

public class ExportMetadataWithDictionary
{
    public ExportMetadataWithDictionary(IDictionary<string, object> metadata)
    {
        Format = (ExportFormat)metadata["Format"];
    }

    public ExportFormat Format { get; set; }
}

If you have access to System.ComponentModel.Composition it is still possible to use interfaces for your metadata and even resolve them using Lazy<T, TMedata>. This is achieved by adding a reference to the Autofac.Mef package and calling the RegisterMetadataRegistrationSources method on the container builder before registering the metadata against the interface type.

builder.RegisterMetadataRegistrationSources();

builder.Register(c => new PdfFormat())
    .As<IExport>()
    .WithMetadata<IExportMetadata>(m =>
        m.For(em => em.Format, ExportFormat.Pdf));

builder.Register(c => new HtmlFormat())
    .As<IExport>()
    .WithMetadata<IExportMetadata>(m =>
        m.For(em => em.Format, ExportFormat.Html));

builder.Register(c => new RtfFormat())
    .As<IExport>()
    .WithMetadata<IExportMetadata>(m =>
        m.For(em => em.Format, ExportFormat.Rtf));

The final point to note is that you can use class based metadata and still resolve your types using Lazy<T, TMetadata> from System.ComponentModel.Composition. If you don’t add the Autofac.Mef package and therefore don’t call the RegisterMetadataRegistrationSources method, but have referenced System.ComponentModel.Composition, the metadata registration source in the PCL will figure out that Lazy<T, TMetadata> is available and will use that with the class based metadata.

There is a lot of confusing detail above so to summarise the important points:

  • Class based strongly-typed metadata is now available in all supported target frameworks.
  • Interface based strongly-typed metadata remains available when System.ComponentModel.Composition can be referenced and the Autofac.Mef package is installed.
  • Lazy<T, TMetadata> can be used with class based or interface based strongly-typed metadata.

XML Configuration

Those that prefer to configure their registrations without code will be pleased to know that Autofac.Configuration has been given some serious attention. To import XML configuration from an arbitrary file you can use the XmlFileReader module. It uses the same XML schema as the regular configuration settings but doesn't require the additional elements such as <configuration/> that standard .NET configuration files require.

var builder = new ContainerBuilder();
var module = new XmlFileReader("path/to/config.xml");
builder.RegisterModule(module);
var container = builder.Build();

The XmlFileReader and ConfigurationSettingsReader modules both derive from ConfigurationModule. You can control how configuration is loaded, and how that configuration is converted into registrations, through its two properties of type SectionHandler and IConfigurationRegistrar.

SectionHandler is the configuration section and now has a Deserialize method that accepts an XmlReader. This opens up the possibilities for how you store your configuration.

ConfigurationRegistrar, the default implementation of IConfigurationRegistrar, contains convenient virtual methods that allow you to control the parsing of the configuration section into registrations. The following methods can be overridden to customise the parsing behaviour:

  • RegisterConfiguredComponents
  • RegisterConfiguredModules
  • RegisterReferencedFiles
  • SetInjectProperties
  • SetComponentOwnership
  • SetLifetimeScope
  • LoadType

It is possible to set the IConfigurationRegistrar property on the XmlFileReader and ConfigurationSettingsReader directly without having to create a custom ConfigurationModule.

FindConstructorsWith

The FindConstructorsWith registration extension that took a BindingFlags parameter had to be refactor to take a Func<Type, ConstructorInfo[]>, because the BindingFlags type is not available in the PCL.

It is easy to update existing code where BindingFlags is available (such as .NET Framework 4.0) by passing a simple lambda to the method instead.

var builder = new ContainerBuilder();
builder.RegisterType<HasPrivateConstructor>()
    .FindConstructorsWith(type => type.GetConstructors(BindingFlags.Instance | BindingFlags.NonPublic));

The function parameter also allows you to use the new reflection API found in WinRT to achieve the same result.

Matching multiple lifetime scopes

It is now possible for a registration to indicate that is should be matched against multiple named/tagged lifetimes scopes.

var builder = new ContainerBuilder();

builder.Register(c => new object()).InstancePerMatchingLifetimeScope("A", 123);

var container = builder.Build();

using (var lifetimeScope = container.BeginLifetimeScope("A"))
{
    var instanceForA = lifetimeScope.Resolve<object>();
}

using (var lifetimeScope = container.BeginLifetimeScope(123))
{
    var instanceFor123 = lifetimeScope.Resolve<object>();
}

The InstancePerMatchingLifetimeScope method takes a params array of objects that will be matched against the tag provided to the lifetime scope when it was created.

MVC 4 and Web API

The NuGet packages for MVC 4 and Web API have been updated to 3.0.0-beta and are compiled against the Autofac 3.0 beta package. You can read more about the features available in these integrations (including filters without attributes) in a previous post. These two NuGet packages have “(Beta)” in their titles but they are compiled against the RTW versions of MVC 4 and Web API. Looking at my package list I realise this is confusing and that has been fixed ready for the next push.

Bug Fixes and Enhancements

Below is a list of bug fixes and enhancements available in Autofac 3.0:

  • Issue 389: Exception thrown in AutofacFilterProvider when other filter instances registered in the container
  • Issue 379: There is an errror when using Autofac.Integration.Mvc, Autofac.Integration.WebApi and Autofac.Integration.Web together
  • Issue 376: Exception while trying to throw an exception in Metro app
  • Issue 368: MVC ExtensibleActionInvoker.GetParameterValue Can't Be Disabled
  • Issue 386: Support configuration reading from XML file that is not app.config
  • Issue 271: Could not register more then one Module with the same type but with different parameters in XmlConfiguration
  • Issue 378: Make Container.Empty immutable
  • Issue 358: Portable build warnings in a Metro style app
  • Issue 352: Provide Silverlight 5 Support
  • Issue 287: Guidance for building AutofacContrib packages and moving to nuget
  • Issue 252: Single solution for Autofac + AutofacContrib

What’s next?

Hopefully we get lots of feedback on the PCL support and can quickly iron out any issues. Once that is done we can make a release version of 3.0 available. In the meantime we are going to concentrate on improving the documentation on the wiki and maybe even look at hosting a website with some “Getting Started” examples for the different types of supported applications. Finally, you can discuss all things Autofac in the Google Group and raise issues in the Issue Tracker. Happy dependency injecting!

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