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ICustomMarshaler Interface

Provides custom wrappers for handling method calls.

Namespace:  System.Runtime.InteropServices
Assembly:  mscorlib (in mscorlib.dll)
[ComVisibleAttribute(true)]
public interface ICustomMarshaler

The ICustomMarshaler type exposes the following members.

  NameDescription
Public methodSupported by Portable Class LibraryCleanUpManagedDataPerforms necessary cleanup of the managed data when it is no longer needed.
Public methodSupported by Portable Class LibraryCleanUpNativeDataPerforms necessary cleanup of the unmanaged data when it is no longer needed.
Public methodSupported by Portable Class LibraryGetNativeDataSizeReturns the size of the native data to be marshaled.
Public methodSupported by Portable Class LibraryMarshalManagedToNativeConverts the managed data to unmanaged data.
Public methodSupported by Portable Class LibraryMarshalNativeToManagedConverts the unmanaged data to managed data.
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A marshaler provides a bridge between the functionality of old and new interfaces. Custom marshaling provides the following benefits:

  • It enables client applications that were designed to work with an old interface to also work with servers that implement a new interface.

  • It enables client applications built to work with a new interface to work with servers that implement an old interface.

If you have an interface that introduces different marshaling behavior or that is exposed to the Component Object Model (COM) in a different way, you can design a custom marshaler instead of using the interop marshaler. By using a custom marshaler, you can minimize the distinction between new .NET Framework components and existing COM components.

For example, suppose that you are developing a managed interface called INew. When this interface is exposed to COM through a standard COM callable wrapper (CCW), it has the same methods as the managed interface and uses the marshaling rules built into the interop marshaler. Now suppose that a well-known COM interface called IOld already provides the same functionality as the INew interface. By designing a custom marshaler, you can provide an unmanaged implementation of IOld that simply delegates the calls to the managed implementation of the INew interface. Therefore, the custom marshaler acts as a bridge between the managed and unmanaged interfaces.

NoteNote

Custom marshalers are not invoked when calling from managed code to unmanaged code on a dispatch-only interface.

Defining the Marshaling Type

Before you can build a custom marshaler, you must define the managed and unmanaged interfaces that will be marshaled. These interfaces commonly perform the same function but are exposed differently to managed and unmanaged objects.

A managed compiler produces a managed interface from metadata, and the resulting interface looks like any other managed interface. The following example shows a typical interface.

public interface INew
{
    void NewMethod();
}

You define the unmanaged type in Interface Definition Language (IDL) and compile it with the Microsoft Interface Definition Language (MIDL) compiler. You define the interface within a library statement and assign it an interface ID with the universal unique identifier (UUID) attribute, as the following example demonstrates.

 [uuid(9B2BAADA-0705-11D3-A0CD-00C04FA35826)]
library OldLib {
     [uuid(9B2BAADD-0705-11D3-A0CD-00C04FA35826)]
     interface IOld : IUnknown
         HRESULT OldMethod();
}

The MIDL compiler produces several output files. If the interface is defined in Old.idl, the output file Old_i.c defines a const variable with the interface identifier (IID) of the interface, as the following example demonstrates.

const IID IID_IOld = {0x9B2BAADD,0x0705,0x11D3,{0xA0,0xCD,0x00,0xC0,0x4F,0xA3,0x58,0x26}};

The Old.h file is also produced by MIDL. It contains a C++ definition of the interface that can be included in your C++ source code.

Implementing the ICustomMarshaler Interface

Your custom marshaler must implement the ICustomMarshaler interface to provide the appropriate wrappers to the runtime.

The following C# code displays the base interface that must be implemented by all custom marshalers.

public interface ICustomMarshaler
{
     Object MarshalNativeToManaged( IntPtr pNativeData );
     IntPtr MarshalManagedToNative( Object ManagedObj );
     void CleanUpNativeData( IntPtr pNativeData );
     void CleanUpManagedData( Object ManagedObj );
     int GetNativeDataSize();
}

The ICustomMarshaler interface includes methods that provide conversion support, cleanup support, and information about the data to be marshaled.

Type of operation

ICustomMarshaler method

Description

Conversion (from native to managed code)

MarshalNativeToManaged

Marshals a pointer to native data into a managed object. This method returns a custom runtime callable wrapper (RCW) that can marshal the unmanaged interface that is passed as an argument. The marshaler should return an instance of the custom RCW for that type.

Conversion (from managed to native code)

MarshalManagedToNative

Marshals a managed object into a pointer to native data. This method returns a custom COM callable wrapper (CCW) that can marshal the managed interface that is passed as an argument. The marshaler should return an instance of the custom CCW for that type.

Cleanup (of native code)

CleanUpNativeData

Enables the marshaler to clean up the native data (the CCW) that is returned by the MarshalManagedToNative method.

Cleanup (of managed code)

CleanUpManagedData

Enables the marshaler to clean up the managed data (the RCW) that is returned by the MarshalNativeToManaged method.

Information (about native code)

GetNativeDataSize

Returns the size of the unmanaged data to be marshaled.

ICustomMarshaler.MarshalNativeToManaged

Marshals a pointer to native data into a managed object. This method returns a custom runtime callable wrapper (RCW) that can marshal the unmanaged interface that is passed as an argument. The marshaler should return an instance of the custom RCW for that type.

ICustomMarshaler.MarshalManagedToNative

Marshals a managed object into a pointer to native data. This method returns a custom COM callable wrapper (CCW) that can marshal the managed interface that is passed as an argument. The marshaler should return an instance of the custom CCW for that type.

ICustomMarshaler.CleanUpNativeData

Enables the marshaler to clean up the native data (the CCW) that is returned by the MarshalManagedToNative method.

ICustomMarshaler.CleanUpManagedData

Enables the marshaler to clean up the managed data (the RCW) that is returned by the MarshalNativeToManaged method.

ICustomMarshaler.GetNativeDataSize

Returns the size of the unmanaged data to be marshaled.

Implementing the GetInstance Method

In addition to implementing the ICustomMarshaler interface, custom marshalers must implement a static method called GetInstance that accepts a String as a parameter and has a return type of ICustomMarshaler. This static method is called by the common language runtime's COM interop layer to instantiate an instance of the custom marshaler. The string that is passed to GetInstance is a cookie that the method can use to customize the returned custom marshaler.

static ICustomMarshaler *GetInstance(String *pstrCookie);

Applying MarshalAsAttribute

To use a custom marshaler, you must apply the MarshalAsAttribute attribute to the parameter or field that is being marshaled.

You must also pass the UnmanagedType.CustomMarshaler enumeration value to the MarshalAsAttribute constructor. In addition, you must specify the MarshalType field with one of the following named parameters:

  • MarshalType (required): The assembly-qualified name of the custom marshaler. The name should include the namespace and class of the custom marshaler. If the custom marshaler is not defined in the assembly it is used in, you must specify the name of the assembly in which it is defined.

    NoteNote

    You can use the MarshalTypeRef field instead of the MarshalType field. MarshalTypeRef takes a type that is easier to specify.

  • MarshalCookie (optional): A cookie that is passed to the custom marshaler. You can use the cookie to provide additional information to the marshaler. For example, if the same marshaler is used to provide a number of wrappers, the cookie identifies a specific wrapper. The cookie is passed to the GetInstance method of the marshaler.

The MarshalAsAttribute attribute identifies the custom marshaler so it can activate the appropriate wrapper. The common language runtime's interop service then examines the attribute and creates the custom marshaler the first time the argument (parameter or field) needs to be marshaled.

The runtime then calls the MarshalNativeToManaged and MarshalManagedToNative methods on the custom marshaler to activate the correct wrapper to handle the call.

Using a Custom Marshaler

When the custom marshaler is complete, you can use it as a custom wrapper for a particular type. The following example shows the definition of the IUserData managed interface:

interface IUserData
{
    void DoSomeStuff(INew pINew);
}

In the following example, the IUserData interface uses the NewOldMarshaler custom marshaler to enable unmanaged client applications to pass an IOld interface to the DoSomeStuff method. The managed description of the DoSomeStuff method takes an INew interface, as shown in the previous example, whereas the unmanaged version of DoSomeStuff takes an IOld interface pointer, as shown in the following example.

[uuid(9B2BAADA-0705-11D3-A0CD-00C04FA35826)]
library UserLib {
     [uuid(9B2BABCD-0705-11D3-A0CD-00C04FA35826)]
     interface IUserData : IUnknown
         HRESULT DoSomeStuff(IUnknown* pIOld);
}

The type library that is generated by exporting the managed definition of IUserData yields the unmanaged definition shown in this example instead of the standard definition. The MarshalAsAttribute attribute applied to the INew argument in the managed definition of the DoSomeStuff method indicates that the argument uses a custom marshaler, as the following example shows.

using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
interface IUserData
{
    void DoSomeStuff(
        [MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.CustomMarshaler,
             MarshalType="MyCompany.NewOldMarshaler")]
        INew pINew
    );
}

In the previous examples, the first parameter provided to the MarshalAsAttribute attribute is the UnmanagedType.CustomMarshaler enumeration value UnmanagedType.CustomMarshaler.

The second parameter is the MarshalType field, which provides the assembly-qualified name of the custom marshaler. This name consists of the namespace and class of the custom marshaler (MarshalType="MyCompany.NewOldMarshaler").

.NET Framework

Supported in: 4.5.1, 4.5, 4, 3.5, 3.0, 2.0, 1.1, 1.0

.NET Framework Client Profile

Supported in: 4, 3.5 SP1

Portable Class Library

Supported in: Portable Class Library

Windows Phone 8.1, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7, Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 (Server Core Role not supported), Windows Server 2008 R2 (Server Core Role supported with SP1 or later; Itanium not supported)

The .NET Framework does not support all versions of every platform. For a list of the supported versions, see .NET Framework System Requirements.

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