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How to: Create and Use Assemblies Using the Command Line (C# and Visual Basic)

An assembly, or a dynamic linking library (DLL), is linked to your program at run time. To demonstrate building and using a DLL, consider the following scenario:

  • MathLibrary.DLL: The library file that contains the methods to be called at run time. In this example, the DLL contains two methods, Add and Multiply.

  • Add: The source file that contains the method Add. It returns the sum of its parameters. The class AddClass that contains the method Add is a member of the namespace UtilityMethods.

  • Mult: The source code that contains the method Multiply. It returns the product of its parameters. The class MultiplyClass that contains the method Multiply is also a member of the namespace UtilityMethods.

  • TestCode: The file that contains the Main method. It uses the methods in the DLL file to calculate the sum and the product of the run-time arguments.

' File: Add.vb 
Namespace UtilityMethods
    Public Class AddClass
        Public Shared Function Add(ByVal i As Long, ByVal j As Long) As Long
            Return i + j
        End Function
    End Class
End Namespace


' File: Mult.vb
Namespace UtilityMethods
    Public Class MultiplyClass
        Public Shared Function Multiply(ByVal x As Long, ByVal y As Long) As Long
            Return x * y
        End Function
    End Class
End Namespace


' File: TestCode.vb

Imports UtilityMethods

Module Test

    Sub Main(ByVal args As String())

        System.Console.WriteLine("Calling methods from MathLibrary.DLL:")

        If args.Length <> 2 Then
            System.Console.WriteLine("Usage: TestCode <num1> <num2>")
        End If

        Dim num1 As Long = Long.Parse(args(0))
        Dim num2 As Long = Long.Parse(args(1))

        Dim sum As Long = AddClass.Add(num1, num2)
        Dim product As Long = MultiplyClass.Multiply(num1, num2)

        System.Console.WriteLine("{0} + {1} = {2}", num1, num2, sum)
        System.Console.WriteLine("{0} * {1} = {2}", num1, num2, product)

    End Sub

End Module

' Output (assuming 1234 and 5678 are entered as command-line arguments):
' Calling methods from MathLibrary.DLL:
' 1234 + 5678 = 6912
' 1234 * 5678 = 7006652        

This file contains the algorithm that uses the DLL methods, Add and Multiply. It starts with parsing the arguments entered from the command line, num1 and num2. Then it calculates the sum by using the Add method on the AddClass class, and the product by using the Multiply method on the MultiplyClass class.

Notice that the using directive (Imports in Visual Basic) at the beginning of the file enables you to use the unqualified class names to reference the DLL methods at compile time, as follows:

MultiplyClass.Multiply(num1, num2)

Otherwise, you have to use the fully qualified names, as follows:

UtilityMethods.MultiplyClass.Multiply(num1, num2)


To run the program, enter the name of the EXE file, followed by two numbers, as follows:

TestCode 1234 5678

To build the file MathLibrary.DLL, compile the two files Add and Mult by using the following command line.

vbc /target:library /out:MathLibrary.DLL Add.vb Mult.vb

The /target:library compiler option tells the compiler to output a DLL instead of an EXE file. The /out compiler option followed by a file name is used to specify the DLL file name. Otherwise, the compiler uses the first file (Add.cs) as the name of the DLL.

To build the executable file, TestCode.exe, use the following command line:

vbc /out:TestCode.exe /reference:MathLibrary.DLL TestCode.vb

The /out compiler option tells the compiler to output an EXE file and specifies the name of the output file (TestCode.exe). This compiler option is optional. The /reference compiler option specifies the DLL file or files that this program uses. For more information, see /reference for C# and /reference (Visual Basic) for Visual Basic.

For more information about building from the command line, see Command-line Building With csc.exe and Building from the Command Line (Visual Basic).