.NET Framework Library Source Code now available
Published: 16 Jan 2008
Unedited - Community Contributed
Microsoft has recently released the source code of the .NET Framework Library. In this article, Scott examines how to view the code and dissect it using Visual Studio 2008 with the help of a screenshot. He wraps up the discussion with a short note about licensing aspects involved with the release of the source code.
by Scott Guthrie
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Republished with Permission - Original Article

Last October I blogged about our plan to release the source code to the .NET Framework libraries, and enable debugging support of them with Visual Studio 2008.  Today I'm happy to announce that this is now available for everyone to use. Specifically, you can now browse and debug the source code for the following .NET Framework libraries:

·         .NET Base Class Libraries (including System, System.CodeDom, System.Collections, System.ComponentModel, System.Diagnostics, System.Drawing, System.Globalization, System.IO, System.Net, System.Reflection, System.Runtime, System.Security, System.Text, System.Threading, etc).

·         ASP.NET (System.Web, System.Web.Extensions)

·         Windows Forms (System.Windows.Forms)

·         Windows Presentation Foundation (System.Windows)

·         ADO.NET and XML (System.Data and System.Xml)

We are in the process of adding additional framework libraries (including LINQ, WCF and Workflow) to the above list. I'll blog details on them as they become available in the weeks and months ahead.

Enabling Reference Source Access in Visual Studio 2008

Enabling .NET Framework source access within Visual Studio 2008 only takes a few minutes to setup. Shawn Burke has a detailed blog post that covers the exact steps on how to enable this in more depth here.

If you run into problems or have questions setting it up, please post a question in the Reference Source Forum on MSDN here.

Stepping into .NET Framework Library Source

Once you follow the configuration steps in Shawn's post above, you'll be able to dynamically load the debug symbols for .NET Framework libraries and step into the source code. VS 2008 will download both the symbols and source files on demand from the MSDN reference servers as you debug throughout the framework code:

Figure 1

Developer comments are included in the source files. Above you can see an example of one in the Dispose method for the Control base class.

Sometimes you'll see comments that reference a past bug/tracking number in our bug/work-item tracking database that provides additional history about a particular code decision. For example, the comment above calls out that a particular field shouldn't be nulled to maintain backwards compatibility with an older release of the framework, and points to a backwards compatibility bug that was fixed because of this.

Reference License

The .NET Framework source is being released under a read-only reference license. When we announced that we were releasing the source back in October, some people had concerns about the potential impact of their viewing the source. To help clarify and address these concerns, we made a small change to the license to specifically call out that the license does not apply to users developing software for a non-Windows platform that has "the same or substantially the same features or functionality" as the .NET Framework. If the software you are developing is for Windows platforms, you can look at the code, even if that software has "the same or substantially the same features or functionality" as the .NET Framework.


We think that enabling source code access and debugger integration of the .NET Framework libraries is going to be really valuable for .NET developers. Being able to step through and review the source should provide much better insight into how the .NET Framework libraries are implemented, and in turn enable you to build better applications and make even better use of them.

Hope this helps,



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