Review .NET dependencies on every commit

I want to share with you a sad story that would not have happened if I had known earlier how to review .NET dependencies automatically. I work with .NET app that has a lot of .NET Framework projects. However, they are slowly being migrated to .NET Standard to be able to move to .NET Core eventually. At some point, I made yet another migration of project and its dependencies to .NET Standard. Then after a while, know what?! I found out that the project has .NET Framework dependencies again. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ Of course, it passed a review we do manually and landed to main branch. With such success we will never move to .NET Core. How come?


Modern IDE is such a convenient and smart editor that it can add a new dependency as you type. As a result, an undesirable dependency may show up, silently. Such changes may go through the review phase because, a review by human is not always reliable. Can this be automated?


There is a way to test architecture and coding rules by tests. Such tests run on CI/CD server on every commit and fail the build (and therefore a review) once mistake is found. Check out these awesome libraries: ArchUnitNET, NetArchTest. It turned out they both do not support checking .NET assemblies and their dependencies. However, they both rely on Mono.Cecil to analyze .NET DLLs.

Thanks to Mono.Cecil I managed to write a tiny wrapper to represent dependencies as a tree, so it is possible to drill down (and up). Checkout complete version of DotNetAssembly.

public class DotNetAssembly
    public DotNetAssembly(AssemblyDefinition assembly)
        => MonoCecilAssembly = assembly;
    public AssemblyDefinition MonoCecilAssembly { get; }
    public HashSet<DotNetAssembly> Dependencies { get; } = new();
    public HashSet<DotNetAssembly> BackwardsDependencies { get; } = new();
  • MonoCecilAssembly property of AssemblyDefinition type is part of Mono.Cecil where you can find the assembly details, for instance, an attribute like TargetFrameworkAttribute.
  • Dependencies contains direct dependencies.
  • BackwardsDependencies contains who references that assembly.


I prepared projects with dependencies for demo purpose.

Demo projects

There are 3 components: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie.

Shell is an application host to boot and start-up the components, kind of :)

A component consist of 2 projects:

  • contract (Gaev.Alfa.Api, Gaev.Bravo.Api, Gaev.Charlie.Api)
  • implementation (Gaev.Alfa, Gaev.Bravo, Gaev.Charlie).

Now, let’s see how my architecture requirements are covered by tests. I will skip the implementation details, feel free to see final tests.

A project itself should be .NET Standard

public void App_project_should_be_NetStandard(DotNetAssembly it)
    => it.IsDotNetStandard()

A project’s dependencies should be .NET Standard

public void App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(DotNetAssembly my)
    => my.Dependencies
        .Should().OnlyContain(e => e.IsDotNetStandard());

A contract should not have any dependencies

public void Contract_should_not_have_any_dependencies(DotNetAssembly contract)
    => contract.Dependencies
        .Should().OnlyContain(e => IsSystem(e));

An implementation should not reference other implementations

public void Implementation_should_not_reference_implementation(DotNetAssembly implementation)
    => implementation.Dependencies
        .Should().NotContain(e => IsImplementation(e));

An implementation should reference Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection

public void Implementation_should_reference_DI(DotNetAssembly implementation)
    => implementation.Dependencies
        .Should().Contain(e => e.Name.StartsWith("Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection"));

The tests output

Passed App_project_should_be_NetStandard(Gaev.Shell) [21 ms]
Passed App_project_should_be_NetStandard(Gaev.Alfa) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_be_NetStandard(Gaev.Alfa.Api) [1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_be_NetStandard(Gaev.Bravo) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_be_NetStandard(Gaev.Bravo.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_be_NetStandard(Gaev.Charlie) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_be_NetStandard(Gaev.Charlie.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(Gaev.Shell) [3 ms]
Passed App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(Gaev.Alfa) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(Gaev.Alfa.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(Gaev.Bravo) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(Gaev.Bravo.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(Gaev.Charlie) [< 1 ms]
Passed App_project_should_have_NetStandard_dependencies_only(Gaev.Charlie.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed Contract_should_not_have_any_dependencies(Gaev.Alfa.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed Contract_should_not_have_any_dependencies(Gaev.Bravo.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed Contract_should_not_have_any_dependencies(Gaev.Charlie.Api) [< 1 ms]
Passed Implementation_should_not_reference_implementation(Gaev.Alfa) [< 1 ms]
Passed Implementation_should_not_reference_implementation(Gaev.Bravo) [< 1 ms]
Passed Implementation_should_not_reference_implementation(Gaev.Charlie) [< 1 ms]
Passed Implementation_should_reference_DI(Gaev.Alfa) [< 1 ms]
Passed Implementation_should_reference_DI(Gaev.Bravo) [< 1 ms]
Passed Implementation_should_reference_DI(Gaev.Charlie) [< 1 ms]


Keep in mind, .NET compiler optimizes dependencies so unused ones are removed from the resulting assembly. To overcome this in the tests I had to introduce dummy method. To sum up, when you add a reference without actual use it afterwards, you won’t see the reference in the tests due to the optimization.

private void CompilerHint()
    _ = typeof(Shell.Bootstrap).Assembly;

I’m happy now, since few lines of code in the tests can define and keep architecture rules team should follow. In case of rule violation, this won’t let you pass a review as it was before. A developer will see once PR is created and CI tests fail.


Thank you for reading to the very end. Wait a minute now, but there is one more thing I want to show you. You can render a package dependency diagram via PlantUml right like this.

public void It_should_render_PlantUml_diagram(DotNetAssembly project)
    var plantUmlCode = project.RenderPlantUmlDiagram(IsMyApp);
    var svgDiagramUrl = new RendererFactory()
        .RenderAsUri(plantUmlCode, OutputFormat.Svg);

By the way, I rendered the showcase diagram above with the help of this test, check it out. The spirit of self-documented app is flying around :)

Source code: demo projects, tests and stuff.

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