Announcing the launch of DotNetAttributes.Com!
DotNetAttributes is - as its name implies, a site dedicated to Attributes in .NET. In case you didn't know, attributes are little labels that you can apply to elements in .NET, like classes, assemblies, methods and more. Once attached to an element, you can retrieve and diagnose the elements at run-time to base your decision making logic on. If you're really new to attributes, be sure to check out the FAQs section of the site.
While there is documentation available in the MSDN library on most of the attributes, it's pretty much scattered throughout the library. Attributes are spread out over the framework, its assemblies and its namespaces, and so is the documentation about them in the library. To create a central location for everything you always wanted to know about attributes, I created www.DotNetAttributes.com.
Why? About one and a half year ago I ran into a blog post by Rick Strahl's about hiding ASP.NET controls from the toolbox. The solution to hide them from the toolbox was to apply a few attributes to the control's definition. In his post Rick said: "It really would be nice if there was one page that lists all the attributes that can be applied to a control, all the attributes that can be applied to a property, to events etc." I really liked that idea and it got stuck in my head for a long time, but I never had the time to actually do something with it. Until recently. I was working on a new ADO.NET Entity Framework application and all of a sudden I figured: it would be so easy to use the Entity Framework for a data model on attributes and then fill them with data that I can can gather by using reflection. It felt like I could do a bare-bones version in just a couple of hours.
And indeed, a couple of hours later I had a working model, a working - albeit very crude - reflection importer and a bare bones web site.
For a few weeks I spent some more time on the site and developed the following features:
- Import attributes from all assemblies in the Global Assembly Cache or ad-hoc DLLs
- Record assembly, namespace, and parent of each attribute
- Record attribute usage - that is, keep track of which attribute can be applied to which .NET element like classes, methods and so on
- Record visibility (scope) of each attribute, and whether they can be inherited or not
- Hook up to the MSDN documentation portal to get basic descriptions of the attributes (if available)
- Hook up to the MSDN documentation portal to get the framework versions supported (if available)
- A details page for each attribute with all the information available
- A sign up page that lets you sign up for an account so you can add your own code examples and relevant links
- An attributes page with an hierarchical view of all namespaces in .NET with their attributes
- Auto generated class diagrams (more on that in a later blog post)
- A search engine that lets you search attributes on a variety of properties, like name, namespace and usage
- A (growing) list of Frequently Asked Questions. Be sure to send in a question if you have one that's not on the list
The idea of the site is to give it to the community. This means everyone (with a valid account) can enter new code examples and relevant links for others to enjoy and learn from. I'll be adding my own descriptions, code and links as well, and I'll be moderating whatever is added to keep things focused and on-topic.
Currently, the site is in beta stadium and may be a bit flaky and buggy. I also need to fix up the design. If you find issues, or have suggestions to improve the site (design, availability of specific data, requests for namespaces), please let me know.
I'll be posting a bit more on this project in the near future, including a blog on how I auto generated the class diagrams. Stay tuned....
Where to Next?
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