Connecting to an API written in C from C#

The last couple of days have been trying for me at work.

Fortunately, I learned something. I was working on an application that needed to connect to a 3rd party API that was originally written in C - like a billion years ago. There was good documentation on the software, but in order to connect to it in C#, I had to go online and find out how from somewhere else. So here's what you do:

First, make sure the API was installed on your system, so that the dll's are registered in the GAC.

Second, start a new project in C#, and create a new class. Make sure to import "System.Runtime.InteropServices". At the top of the class definition, do something like this:

public static extern int MessageBox(int h, string m, string c, int type);

Now, you'll have to know the signature of the methods you want to use from the API first. Anyway, once you declare that the function you want to use is defined externally, and you've told the compiler where it's defined, you can start using the function:

MessageBox(0,"API Message Box","API Demo",0);

This is great stuff to know. You might think that you could just reference the dll in the Solution Explorer in Visual Studio, but if it's not a valid .NET dll, it won't let you do so.

The tutorial I used to figure this stuff out is located here.

One more thing that might be useful to you is passing pointers to variables, especially if you're calling C functions. to do so, just declare the function with the keyword "ref" right before the parameter, like so:

public static extern int blahmethod(ref char[] someVariable, int otherVariable);

And then use ref again when calling the function:

var x = blahmethod(charArray1, someInt);


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