How to replace DotNet in AL

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A lot of us still have a ton of C/AL code sitting around in existing databases that sooner or later will have to be moved into AL. A lot of us also have a ton of AL code using DotNet that we want to be able to run in Microsoft’s cloud (that is: not on-prem). And I guess most of us don’t want to maintain a DotNet-less and DotNet-ful versions of our code.

Sooner or later, you’ll want all of DotNet out of your AL. Even if you are a seasoned .NET developer, you’ll want all DotNet out of AL.

Anyway, when you need to replace DotNet, what options do you have? Let’s take a look at all possible paths.

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State of .NET Affairs

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I said a word or two about progress last week. Apparently, VS Code is not the only place where we take a small step back to be able to make a huge leap forward; .NET might seem like another one.

You know it, right? You know that if you want to run your .NET code in D365 for Financials, you are out of luck, and you do know that this applies to as much to Microsoft .NET Framework out-of-the-box types as it does to your own, custom-built .NET assemblies. If you don’t know that yet, then let me bring you up to date: In your D365 apps built on Extensions “v2” technology, you won’t be able to use anything .NET; you simply won’t be able to compile AL code that includes a DotNet variable declaration.

This is neither fake news, nor is it news per se. It has been known at least since October last year when Microsoft first presented AL Language extension for VS Code during Directions US in Phoenix. Soon after the VS Code session there was a round table (in all honesty, I have never seen a table, let alone a round one, at any of round table sessions at any conference) on the topic of .NET future, and the mood was grim. At first everyone thought it was a bad joke, then all held hopes high that Microsoft is simply “feeling the pulse” to see how the channel would react to such a disturbing change. But soon it became obvious that .NET interoperability is on its way to be gently ushered out of the (relevant) technology stack of NAV and that we should start getting ready for the day when it’s not there anymore.

So, what is the current state of .NET in NAV, what is the future of it, and what can you do about it?

Let’s take them one by one.

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How To Update a Class Or Assembly Reference in C/AL And Retain Event Trigger Code

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When you reference a .NET class that exposes events, and you switch on the WithEvents property, C/SIDE creates the event triggers for you. If you later want to update the reference to the .NET class, for whatever reason (like, there is a newer version of the assembly), updating the reference will actually delete the event triggers with all the code in them.

To be fair to this non-feature, at least it warns you politely:

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This is not something you experience once in a geologic era. When you are developing your own assemblies, this will happen fairly often – as often as you add or remove events to/from your classes, and you want to reflect that in the Development Environment. Or as often as you increase the version of your assembly.

Unfortunately, there is no way in the Development Environment to update the reference while actually retaining the event triggers or code in them.

But still, there is a way, and a fairly easy way at that.

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