Assemblies and Manifests

As we’ve just seen, types must expose their metadata to allow tools and programs to access them and benefit from their services. Metadata for types alone is not enough. To simplify software plug-and-play and configuration or installation of the component or software, we also need metadata about the component that hosts the types. In this section, we talk about .NET assemblies (deployable units) and manifests (the metadata that describes the assemblies).

Assemblies Versus Components

During the COM era, Microsoft documentation inconsistently used the term component to mean a COM class or a COM module (DLLs or EXEs), often forcing readers or developers to consider the context of the term each time they encountered it. In .NET, Microsoft has addressed this confusion by introducing a new concept, assembly, which is a software component that supports plug-and-play, much like a hardware component. Theoretically, a .NET assembly is approximately equivalent to a COM module. In practice, an assembly can contain or refer to a number of types and physical files (including bitmap files, .NET PE files, and so forth) that are needed at runtime for successful execution. In addition to hosting IL code, an assembly is a basic unit of versioning, deployment, security management, side-by-side execution, sharing, and reuse, as we discuss next.


To review: an assembly is a logical DLL or EXE, and a manifest is a detailed description (metadata) of an assembly, including its ...

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