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Create Custom FxCop Rules

FxCop is a free, open source code analysis tool from Microsoft. FxCop, stands for "Framework Police" and is a rules-based engine that checks managed code assemblies. .NET assemblies contain metadata entries that describe the assembly and all of its contained types. FxCop reads the assembly metadata and checks it for compliance against a set of rules that describe recommended coding standards and practices.

Once FxCop has analyzed the assemblies, it reports any rule violations and produces well-formatted XML test reports. Areas covered by FxCop are localization, performance, and security. FxCop checks .Net code against rules stored in an embedded xml file.

FxCop performs tests on the assemblies by parsing the MSIL (Microsoft Intermediate Language) they contain, inspecting, and reporting on code that fails to meet the rules. Since FxCop performs the tests on managed assemblies and not the source code, it's .NET-language neutral. Thus, you can run it against any assembly created using any language that targets the Microsoft .NET managed environment.

FxCop was developed by Microsoft and is available as a free download from their site.

FxCop has an extensive set of pre-defined rules. However, it also allows you to develop your own custom rules. To develop your own rules, you will need to delve into the MSIL. There are a number of ways to do this. One way to explore the MSIL for an assembly is to use the MSIL Disassembler (IL DASM) that comes with Visual Studio. A better way is to use the free Reflector for .NET by Lutz Roeder.

Now the bad news. There is no documentation for FxCop so developing custom rules is a matter of trial and error. Looking through the object model of FxCop is time well spent. To that end, I am sharing, on the following pages, a number of custom rules I created to check VB6 applications that were converted to VB.NET. I created these rules mostly to verify the converted applications used .NET statements and controls and did not rely on older VB6 controls or use the Microsoft.VisualBasic.Compatibility namespace.

FxCop Rule Overview

Each FxCop rule resides in its own class whose name must match the name of the rule. Also, each rule must have its own node in the embedded XML file. The XML file is what supplies the rule's message, description, resolution, and other attributes.

Most FxCop rules start out by calling either the Check or VisitCall method. Then, once a rule violation has been determined, return a Problem or ProblemCollection after making a call to the GetResolution method to retrieve the rule information such as, message, resolution, certainty level, etc. from the XML file.

Hopefully, the following samples and some Googling, will help get you started.

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