Getting the list of Type associated to a given export in MEF

One of the problem I had to solve to make WCF and MEF live together,  is knowing all the types discovered by MEF at runtime for a given export. This information is really important because I need the list of type that derived from Request and Response to inform WCF of all the KnownTypes available to the service.  First of all let’s see how I initialized MEF engine

private static CompositionContainer theContainer; 
private static DirectoryCatalog catalog;

static MefHelper() 
    catalog = new DirectoryCatalog(Path.GetDirectoryName(Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().Location)); 
    theContainer = new CompositionContainer(catalog); 

The catalog is instructed to load everything that is located in the current directory, a configuration that is suitable for my simple WCF Request / Response service; then I need to change the DynamicKnownType class to get the list of exported types loaded by MEF.

class DynamicKnownType 
    static List<Type> knownTypes;

    static DynamicKnownType() 
        knownTypes = new List<Type>(); 

The GetExportedType() method is a little tricky, because MEF does not offer such a functionality out of the box, so I need to search inside information available from the catalog to identify all loaded types related to a specific Export. The code is quite simple and it is composed only by few lines.

public static IEnumerable<Type> GetExportedTypes<T>() 
    return catalog.Parts 
        .Select(part => ComposablePartExportType<T>(part)) 
        .Where(t => t != null); 

private static Type ComposablePartExportType<T>(ComposablePartDefinition part) 

    if (part.ExportDefinitions.Any( 
        def => def.Metadata.ContainsKey("ExportTypeIdentity") && 
        return ReflectionModelServices.GetPartType(part).Value; 
    return null; 

You can find all type related to an export because MEF Catalog contains a property named Parts that is an IEnumerable of ComposablePartDefinition, where each instance contains full details on a type discovered by MEF. For each ComposablePartDefinition I can cycle inside all ExportDefinitions list to find if one ExportDefinition is related to the type I’m looking for. This specific information is not exposed directly, but it is contained in the Metadata associated to the ExportDefinition in a key called “ExportTypeIdentity” that contains the FullName of exported Type.

If one of the ExportDefinition exports the type I’m searching for I can finally use the ReflectionModelService.GetPartType() static method to find the type of dynamically imported class. This simple method make possible to discover the list of all concrete classes loaded by MEF that inherit from Request or Response to create the list of KnownTypes for WCF.

08-05-2012 19-26-21

Figure 1: From the Wcf Test Client you can choose between all the requests that were dynamically loaded by MEF

Example can be downloaded here.

Gian Maria.

Published by

Ricci Gian Maria

.Net programmer, User group and community enthusiast, programmer - aspiring architect - and guitar player :). Visual Studio ALM MVP