How do I generate a .proto file from a C# class decorated with attributes?


Trying to get my mind around google protobuf. I found some implementation of protobuf in C# but they seems to lack one feature: the ability to generate .proto files automatically from an existing C# class decorated with attributes.

The reason I want to do it this way instead of going from auto-generated C# classes from .proto file is because I already have the C# classes defined in my project and I don't want to duplicate them just to satisfy ProtoBuf.

Does anyone have encountered such a scenario?


Is this possible to just decorate a C# class and not use a .proto file to use protobuf?


Good news; what you have described (having existing C# classes) is the expected use-case of protobuf-net. All the .proto stuff ("protogen", the VS add-in, etc) were all added as afterthoughts. The core of protobuf-net doesn't know about them or care about them.

protocol buffers defines a DSL (.proto, as you mention) that is shared between implementations, and is (sometimes) used for code generation. When I first wrote protobuf-net, the code-generation aspect wasn't my biggest concern - simply that .NET developers are generally guilty (myself included) of "implementation first" rather than "contract first".

As a consequence, protobuf-net doesn't need .proto files to work; an attributed class is sufficient to unambiguously serialize/deserialize. Just use Serializer.Serialize , .Merge and .Deserialize (etc).

That said; it does include some very under-developed and experimental support for this:

string proto = Serializer.GetProto<YourType>();

This is far from complete, but may work for simple types. If you have some specific cases where it fails, then let me know (add a comment or log an issue). However; most of the time, people interested in .proto would write the .proto first and work from there.

Examples of working decorated types are shown on the project home page; it is entirely up to you whether you use WCF attributes, xml attributes or protobuf-net attributes (although the latter provide more control over some specific serialization points, such as inheritance and numeric layouts).