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Oleksii Nikiforov
Oleksii Nikiforov

Posted on • Originally published at nikiforovall.github.io

Use System.CommandLine to write .NET global tools. Copy-paste-driven development with copy-paster.

TL;DR

Learn how to write a well-structured CLI application and pack it as a .NET tool.

Introduction

Previously, I wrote a blog post that explains to you how to create something called "Clean CLI" - a combination of CLI application and Clean Architecture. This time I want to show you how to build .NET tool using the same techniques.

The .NET CLI lets you create a console application as a tool, which others can install and run. .NET tools are NuGet packages that could be installed from the .NET CLI.

A tool can be installed in the following ways:

  • As a global tool - The tool binaries are installed in a default directory that is added to the PATH environment variable.
  • As a local tool.
  • As a global tool in a custom location. The tool binaries are installed in a default directory. You invoke the tool from the installation directory or any of its subdirectories.

Example application - Copy-paste-driven development with copy-paster

I like to optimize little things in my developer inner-loop. Lately, I found myself copying some code from GitHub over and over again. You may call me a copy-paste-driven development practitioner. I decided to write a tool to simplify efforts of downloading files from github - copy-paster (copa for short). At first, it was a joke (a meme if you like), I just wanted to show you how to write a .NET tool by example, but now, I really use copa 😅.

Usage:

copa https://github.com/NikiforovAll/copy-paster/blob/main/LICENSE

.NET tools can be found by running dotnet tool search or simply use https://nuget.org (there is a filter for global tools).

~\dev
➜  dotnet tool search copy-paster
Package ID                   Latest Version      Authors           Downloads      Verified
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
nikiforovall.copypaster      1.0.0               nikiforovall      0
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Once discovered, a tool can be installed like this:

dotnet tool install --global NikiforovAll.CopyPaster
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Create global tool 🔨

Let's start off by creating simple console application.

dotnet new console -n copy-paster

Install main dependencies to build a .NET tool.

dotnet add package System.CommandLine # command line parsing and invocation
dotnet add package System.CommandLine.Hosting # Plug dependency injection container
dotnet add package Microsoft.Extensions.Hosting # Default DI container
dotnet add package Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection.Abstractions
dotnet add package Spectre.Console # Makes it easier to create beautiful console apps
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As mentioned, .NET tool is nothing but a console application packaged and distributed as a NuGet package. The only thing to do is to add special properties used by MSBuild to package .NET tools.

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <ToolCommandName>copa</ToolCommandName>
    <PackAsTool>True</PackAsTool>
    <OutputType>Exe</OutputType>
    <TargetFramework>net6</TargetFramework>
  </PropertyGroup>
</Project>
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Application's entry point looks like this:

using System.CommandLine;
using System.CommandLine.Builder;
using System.CommandLine.Hosting;
using System.CommandLine.Parsing;
using Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Hosting;
using NikiforovAll.CopyPaster.Commands;
using NikiforovAll.CopyPaster.Services;

var runner = new CommandLineBuilder(new DownloadFromGithub())
    .UseHost(_ => new HostBuilder(), (builder) => builder
        .ConfigureServices((_, services) =>
        {
            services.AddHttpClient<IGithubCodeDownloader, GitHubCodeDownloader>();
            services.AddSingleton(new FileSaver());
        })
        .UseCommandHandler<DownloadFromGithub, DownloadFromGithub.Handler>())
        .UseDefaults().Build();

await runner.InvokeAsync(args);
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  1. System.CommandLine.Builder.CommandLineBuilder is used to define CLI applications. It is responsible for the way your CLI looks and feels.
  2. System.CommandLine.Hosting.HostingExtensions.UseHost accepts Microsoft.Extensions.Hosting.IHostBuilder as input parameter and enables Dependency Injection configuration. For example, you can register an implementation of System.CommandLine.Invocation.ICommandHandler in DI container, so it will be automatically resolved from the DI container during command execution.
  3. System.CommandLine.Hosting.UseCommandHandler connects System.CommandLine.Command to System.CommandLine.Invocation.ICommandHandler.
  4. CommandLineBuilder.Build() returns System.CommandLine.Parsing.Parser that is used to parse arguments and to run the CLI application.

The anatomy of command is pretty simple:

public class DownloadFromGithub : RootCommand
{
    public DownloadFromGithub()
        : base("Copies file by url")
    {
        this.AddArgument(new Argument<string>("url", "url"));
        this.AddOption(new Option<string>(
            new string[] { "--output", "-o" }, "Output file path"));
    }

    public new class Handler : ICommandHandler
    {
        public string? Url { get; set; }
        public string? Output { get; set; }

        public Handler(IGithubCodeDownloader codeDownloader, FileSaver fileSaver)
        {
            //...
        }
        public async Task<int> InvokeAsync(InvocationContext context)
        {
            //...
        }
    }
}
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  1. Arguments and options are registered in a declarative manner inside the constructor.
  2. Every System.CommandLine.Command command contains associated handler with it. public ICommandHandler? Handler {get; set;} but in the DI scenario we want to let DI to do it for us. ICommandHandler can be declared anywhere in your project, but I prefer to locate it inside the Command declaration
  3. ICommandHandler.InvokeAsync is used to describe how the command should be processed. Note, in order to accept input parameters (arguments, options, etc.) you need to define public properties inside ICommandHandler, names of the properties should match the full names specified in a command declaration. E.g. "--output" option corresponds to public string? Output { get; set; }.

Publish 📢

Since every .NET tool is a NuGet package. You can specify additional build parameters to improve discoverability and overall user experience at https://nuget.org

<Project>
  <PropertyGroup Label="Authoring">
    <Company>nikiforovall</Company>
    <Authors>nikiforovall</Authors>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <PropertyGroup Label="Package">
    <Title>CopyPaster (copa)</Title>
    <Description>Enables copy-paste driven development. CopyPaster (aka copa)</Description>
    <PackageTags>global-tool;copy-paste;productivity</PackageTags>
    <PackageLicenseExpression>MIT</PackageLicenseExpression>
    <PackageProjectUrl>https://github.com/nikiforovall/copy-paster</PackageProjectUrl>
    <PackageIcon>Icon.jpg</PackageIcon>
    <PackageReleaseNotes>https://github.com/nikiforovall/copy-paster/releases</PackageReleaseNotes>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <PropertyGroup Label="Repository">
    <RepositoryUrl>https://nuget.org/packages/NikiforovAll.CopyPaster</RepositoryUrl>
    <RepositoryType>git</RepositoryType>
    <NeutralLanguage>en-US</NeutralLanguage>
  </PropertyGroup>
</Project>
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Once ready, all you need to do is to pack the NuGet package and upload it. I use Cake but it is totally fine to pack it with dotnet pack.

Task("Pack")
    .Description("Creates NuGet packages and outputs them to the artefacts directory.")
    .Does(() =>
    {
        DotNetPack(
            ".",
            new DotNetPackSettings()
            {
                Configuration = configuration,
                IncludeSymbols = true,
                MSBuildSettings = new DotNetMSBuildSettings(),
                NoBuild = false,
                NoRestore = false,
                OutputDirectory = artefactsDirectory,
            });
    });
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Before publishing, you may want to install a tool from a folder:

dotnet tool install --global --add-source ./Artefacts
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Summary

I hope this blog post motivates you to create your own .NET tools. Please feel free to contribute to copy-paster. Thanks 👋.

Reference

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