Alternatives to .Net Reflector

Following on from the controversy in April this year of software maker Red Gate’s baffling decision to rescind the gratis (free) nature of Lutz Roeder’s tremendously popular .Net CLR Decompiler, .Net Reflector (which Red Gate acquired in 2008), a number of projects have sprung up to fill the gap in the market.

Putting aside the implications of Red Gate’s decision and subsequent actions (which is a separate discussion concerning ethics), let us move on to discuss the alternatives to this incredibly useful – and hard to replace – tool.

The initial offerings included ILSpy, a very workable replacement with a somewhat simplistic user interface, which you can see below.  The feature list is impressive for an early release from an open source project and includes:

ILSpy Features

  • Assembly browsing
  • IL Disassembly
  • Decompilation to C#
    • Supports lambdas and ‘yield return’
    • Shows XML documentation
  • Saving of resources
  • Search for types/methods/properties (substring)
  • Hyperlink-based type/method/property navigation
  • Base/Derived types navigation
  • Navigation history
  • BAML to XAML decompiler
  • Save Assembly as C# Project
  • Find usage of field/method
  • Extensibile via plugins (MEF)

ILSpy User Interface

Recently, JetBrains – the company behind the hugely successful ReSharper range – have released their offering in this space in the form of JetBrains dotPeek.  To borrow from their own description:

What’s Cool about dotPeek?
  1. Decompiling .NET 1.0-4.0 assemblies to C#
  2. Quick jump to a specific type, assembly, symbol, or type member
  3. Effortless navigation to symbol declarations, implementations, derived and base symbols, and more
  4. Accurate search for symbol usages
    with advanced presentation of search results
  5. Overview of inheritance chains
  6. Support for downloading code from source servers
  7. Syntax highlighting
  8. Complete keyboard support
  9. dotPeek is free!

Where ILSpy leaves off, dotPeek picks up – with reference dependency searching, a more articulated UI environment and the fact that it is provided for free.. what more could you ask for?  It will be interesting to witness the development of these two excellent tools.

dotPeek’s feature laden User Interface

So with more and more tools entering the marketplace, competing for the space left vacant by Lutz Roeder’s brilliant utility, the winners are clearly going to be the development community.  Stay tuned, I’ll review more as releases come to hand.

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