.NET C# SmartCon

SmartCon – Part 1

Today I want to show you one of my tools, which helps developers to handle command line arguments in their Console apps.

How often did you write code for command line handling of your console apps? And how often do you have a Déjà-vus when typing

foreach (var argument in args)
    if (argument.StartsWith("-f")) 
      // extract filename from argument
    elseif (argument.StartsWith("-h")) 
      // show help for the console app

Ending in a big main-method cluttered up with command line processing mixed with some business logic between the argument-checks.

After the n-th implementation with slightly different but almost the same code, I decided to consolidate the command line handling stuff in a dedicated nuget package.

The basic idea

To pass external value to the app, we’ll use a consistent format, so that each value is passed in with the same syntax nomenclature. As each parameter follows the same syntax rules, we can define a generic analyzer and define a handler for each recognized value. For example:

> myapp.exe -i=data.xml -o=plaintext.txt

The myapp program is called with the two arguments -i=data.xml and -o=plaintext.txt. Both arguments follow the pattern:


Actually, we do not want to write code handling the parsing of the previous pattern. We also don’t want to take care of changing the equal character in the pattern with a colon or replacing the minus sign with a slash.

This is where SmartCon comes to the rescue 🙂

Using SmartCon

You can install the package from via

> dotnet add package SmartCon

or from the package manager via running

> Install-Package SmartCon

The basic pattern for handling command line arguments looks like this:

using SmartCon;
private static void Main(string[] args)
    var handler = new ArgumentProcessor();
    handler.RegisterArgument("h", (v) => GetHelp());
    handler.RegisterArgument("f", (n) => ReadFile(n));
private static void DoMainWork()
    // This code gets executed after all command
    // line arguments have been processed.
private static void GetHelp()
    // This code gets executed, when the user passes
    // the "-h" command line argument.
private static void ReadFile(string filename)
    // This code gets executed, when the user passes
    // the "-f" command line argument. When a string
    // value follows the "-f", it will be passed as
    // the method parameter "filename".

The compiled binary can be now called for example with the following parameters:

> MyApp.exe -f=data.csv

This will call the ReadFile method and pass the value data.csv as the filename parameter.

The default command line pattern is: -<key>=<value>. This can be changed by setting the CommandlineDescription property of the ArgumentProcessor instance. SmartCon comes with a set of patterns covering the most usual flavours:

// -f=file.txt
handler.CommandLineDescription = 

// -f:file.txt
handler.CommandLineDescription = 

// /f file.txt
handler.CommandLineDescription = 

// --f=file.txt
handler.CommandLineDescription = 

Source is available via Github, package available via

By marcus

Software developer, engineer and architect.

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