Introduction
I guess I need to start off with the customary, "This is my first CodeProject article, so please be nice." Now that it's been said, let's move on the the meat of this article. The sample project/application was designed to demonstrate the creation of an infrastructure within an application in order to provide some extensibility through plug-ins. This project is hosted on SourceForge. If you wish to contribute to it, provide feedback or alternative approaches, please feel free to contact me. The solution provided, Plug-in, includes five C# projects:

TaskPluginInterface: The main library.
TaskPluginTest: An application provided to test the plug-ins.
FileCopyPlugin: A plug-in created to demonstrate the implementation of ITaskPluginInterface. This plug-in copies one or more files from one directory to another.
RunCommandPlugin: A plug-in created to demonstrate the implementation of ITaskPluginInterface. This plug-in will run commands using the System.Diagnostics.Process class.
PluginShellPlugin: This plug-in provides a basic shell for implementing the ITaskPluginInterface.
Technologies used
Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0, although v1.1 could be used with some modifications.
System.configuration
System.Reflection
System.Collections.Generic
System.File.IO
System.Diagnostics
Delegates, events, and event arguments
Log4Net
Guadagno.Utilties.dll, a series of classes that provides common functionality amongst most of my projects. The key class is ConfigurationBase, which is used for the application configuration.
SchedulerTime.dll, a class library used for the scheduling. See the reference article below.
Quick and dirty: how-to
Create the plug-in host
Step 1: Include a reference to the TaskPluginInterface.dll in your solution.

Step 2: Get the folder location for the plug-ins. I use \Plugins. Call the Utilities.GetPluginFolder() method.

Step 3: Get a list of plug-ins. Call Utilities.GetPlugins(folderName).

Step 4: Call the plug-ins Execute method.

Create the plug-in
Option 1: code from scratch
Step 1: Include a reference to the TaskPluginInterface.dll in your solution.

Step 2: Create a class that inherits from ITaskPlugin.

public class RunCommand : ITaskPlugin
{
}
Step 3: If you are using Visual Studio 2005, you can use the Intellisense or SmartTag to create the stub implementation of ITaskPlugin.

Step 4: Place your code in the Execute method.

Option 2: use the PluginShellPlugin class
Step 1: Rename the class to what ever name you want.

Step 2: Change the resource file strings to accurately describe your plug-in.

Step 3: Change the code in the DoWork() method.

TaskPluginInterface namespace
ITaskPlugin interface
The ITaskPlugin interface defines the methods, events and properties that the plug-ins must implement.

Methods
Enumeration Name Description
Execute Executes the task

Properties
Enumeration Name Description
Author The author of the plug-in.
Description The description of the plug-in.
Extension The file extension(s) that this plug-in handles. This is currently not used.
Extension Description A description of the extension(s) that this plug-in handles. This is currently not used.
Name The name of the plug-in.
Schedule The schedule for the plug-in. This was created for a future project, the pluggable task scheduler.
Version The version of the plug-in.

Events
Enumeration Name Description
EventEnd This is used to notify the host about the ending of the Execute method.
EventException This is used to notify the host about any Exceptions that have occurred.
EventProcessing This is used to notify the host about the processing of the Execute method.
EventStart This is used to notify the host about the starting of the Execute method.

PluginAttribute class
The PluginAttribute class defines the class attributes which can be applied to a class that is implementing the ITaskPlugin interface. This class defines an Attribute, which is PluginType. The PluginType corresponds to the PluginType class. Syntax:

TaskPluginInterface.Plugin(PluginType.Executable)]

public class RunCommand : ITaskPlugin
{

}
Enumerations
ExecuteResult
This enumeration is used as the return value of the Execute method for the ITaskPlugin interface.

Enumeration Name Description
Cancelled Indicates that the Execute method of the plug-in was cancelled.
Exception Indicates that an exception was raised by the plug-in.
Failed Indicates that the plug-in has failed.
Ok Indicates that everything went OK with execute of the plug-in.

PluginType
This enumeration is used to indicate the type of plug-in that is being created. Applying the PluginType attribute to a class does not have an effect the functionality of the class. Its only purpose is to provide a classification of the plug-ins available for list boxes or separate functionality.

Enumeration Name Description
Executable Indicates that the plug-in is used for launching executables.
Import Indicates that the plug-in is used for importing data.
SQL Indicates that the plug-in is used for processing SQL statements.
Unknown Denotes that the type of plug-in is not known.

PluginEventArgs class
The PluginEventArgs class provides information back to the plug-in host. This information is provided back to the plug-in host via one of the four events. PluginEventArgs properties:

Name Description
Cancel Indicates if the operation should be canceled.
Message A message returned from the plug-in.
Progress Indicates the current progress of the plug-in. The Progress is returned as a struct, which is defined in the Utilities class.
RaisedException An exception raised from the plug-in.

ScheduleConfig class
The ScheduleConfig class provides functions that will load the schedule configuration. Note that this was created for a future version of the application.

Utilities class
The Utilities class provides helper functions to interact with and discover plug-ins. All of the provided methods are static, so there is no need to create an instance of the Utilities class. Utilities class methods:

Method Name Description
FileContainsPlugins Determines if the file contains at least one plug-in. There is one overload that allows you specify a PluginType.
GetPlugin Returns a plug-in of the specified class from the specified file.
GetPluginFileList Gets a list files that contain plug-ins within the specified directory. There is one overload that allows you specify a PluginType.
GetPluginFolder Returns the plug-in directory.
GetPlugins Gets a List of plug-ins from the specified file. There is one overload that allows you specify a PluginType.

Included plug-ins
FileCopy
The FileCopy plug-in provides the ability to copy files that fit a mask from one directory to another. This plug-in reads the configuration file, FileCopyPlugin.Settings.xml, for all of the Directory nodes listed in the Directories element. For example:

<Directories>
<Directory FromDir="C:\Temp\" ToDir="d:\Temp\" FileMask="*.*" />
<Directory FromDir="C:\Temp\junk" ToDir="d:\Temp\junk" FileMask="*.txt" />
<Directory FromDir="C:\Temp\junk" ToDir="d:\Temp\junk" FileMask="*.xyz" />
</Directories>
The following configuration contains three copy commands.

Will copy all of the files located in the c:\temp directory to d:\temp
Will copy all of the TXT files located in the c:\temp\junk directory to the d:\temp\junk directory
Will copy all of the XYZ files located in the c:\temp\junk directory to the d:\temp\junk directory
PluginShell
The PluginShell plug-in provides a class that contains everything needed to implement the ITaskPluginInterface.

RunCommand
The RunCommand plug-in provides the ability to execute processes using the System.Diagnostics.Process namespace. This plug-in reads the configuration file. RunCommandPlugin.Settings.xml, for Command elements listed in the Commands node. Each command element has XmlChildNodes that correspond to parameters of the ProcessStartInfo struct of the Process object.

TaskPluginTest
The TaskPluginTest is a sample application that demonstrates the use of the TaskPluginInterface library. This application utilizes the TaskPluginInterface utilities to load the list of application plug-ins. In addition, this application displays the plug-in metadata, executes the plug-in and handles events from the plug-in.

Future enhancements
Create NUnit test cases for entire library.
Create VB.NET sample plug-ins.
Improve on the Schedule library to allow for the displaying of all future schedules.
Integrate the ITaskPlugin interface into a Windows Service application to provide a flexible version of the Windows Task Scheduler.
References
.NET Scheduled Timer by Andy Brummer
History
Version Date What was done
1.0 4/21/07 Initial release.
1.0.0.1 4/21/07 Fixed an issue with spaces in the path.
1.0.0.2 5/5/07 Added better logging information to the plug-ins and the plug-in host.

Updated the Utilities class to replace the logic for GetPluginFolder.

1.0.0.2 6/12/07 Article edited and posted to the main CodeProject.com article base.

About Joseph Guadagno

I have been a developer, technical leader and technical manager for over 13 years. In my spare time, I coach my son's soccer team and baseball teams.

For more on me, visit my website http://www.josephguadagno.net.
Click here to view Joseph Guadagno's online profile.


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