Oh my. Has it really been *THAT* long? Obviously, yes. Some folks have asked me if I stopped blogging. No, I did not. I just took a way long break from it (which will likely resume the instant I hit the Post button), as I was busy working on other things such as How do I videos for NAV (you can look them up on MSDN and PartnerSource), working on the digital learning for NAV (which is partly available on PartnerSource already, and partly will shortly be), preparing and delivering presentations and some other things.
A month ago, I’ve delivered a session at Directions EMEA 2013 in Vienna where I’ve talked about the .NET ineteroperability and Web services tips & tricks, and presented a series of demos (13 of official ones), and then promised to make them available on my blog. The problem was – I honestly intended to make them available, I just didn’t set a deadline. I work best when I have the deadline, but even then it’s not a granted thing.
This time, in Nashville, I was a bit smarter – I’ve actually set myself a pretty demanding deadline, promising my Directions US 2013 audience to actually post this on my blog this very afternoon. So here I am, sitting at the Paisano’s pizzaria and vino terrace, enjoying the kitschy extravagance of a view of a monstrosity of a place called the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Resort, and writing this to keep up with my commitment.
If you ask me what the top addition to the NAV technology stack over the past few years is – it’s .NET interoperability. A lot of folks, maybe you as well, would disagree, and say it’s Web services. They are important. But if you are a NAV developer, Web services don’t make your life any easier. You are programming for Web services when your requirements tell you so, but that’s it. You don’t experience those moments of truth, when it dawns on you, when you go eureka, slap your forehead and say: now this is something I solve with Web services! Not quite.
But with .NET interoperability, it’s a different story. If you know how to harness its power, there is no single project you’ll ever want to go without using .NET. It opens the door to the most powerful development framework for Windows, and it makes many impossible things possible, in pure C/AL.
There are two kinds of things in this world. Those that .NET Interoperability can do, and those it can’t. Microsoft has been steadily improving it since the initial release in 2009 R2. However, there is still much to be desired. Those small things that you cut in C# in seconds, and twist your brain inside out for hours before you realize you can’t do it in C/AL. Some of them may be in a backlog somewhere in Vedbæk, but I don’t know that, so I decided to compile a list of top 10 things I believe C/SIDE should support, and it doesn’t.
.NET Framework is full of programming conceptual gems, that are now at the fingertips of us poor C/AL folks. One of those is generics. However, the C/AL support for generics at the first glance seems rather limited, and the help file says that you can’t specify data types, and that all generics will be instantiated with System.Object as their type. However, with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013, there is a very simple way which allows you to use generics with other data types, as well. So, if .NET Framework Interoperability interests you a slightest bit, here’s a solution. The example below will be for the System.Collections.Generic.Dictionary<,>, and I will show how to use instances of the Dictionary<,> object with any desired data type, without having to pull in any external assemblies. Continue reading Generics in .NET Interop for NAV 2013→