I’ve been using ILMerge and various hacks to merge/squish executables together for well over 12 years. The . community has long toyed with the idea of a self-contained EXE that would “just work.” No need to copy a folder, no need to install anything. Just a EXE.

While work and thought continues on a CoreCLR Single File EXE solution, there’s a nice Rust tool called Warp that creates self-contained single executables. Warp is cross-platform, works on any tech, and is very clever

The Warp Packer app has a slightly complex command line, like this:

.warp-packer --arch windows-x64 --input_dir bin/Release/netcoreapp2.1/win10-x64/publish --exec myapp.exe --output myapp.exe

Fortunately Hubert Rybak has created a very nice “dotnet-pack” global tool that wraps this all up into a single command, dotnet-pack.

NOTE: There is already a “dotnet pack” command so this dotnet-pack global tool is unfortunately named. Just be aware they are NOT the same thing.

All you have to do is this:

C:supertestweb> dotnet tool install -g dotnet-pack
C:supertestweb> dotnet-pack
O Running Publish...
O Running Pack...

In this example, I just took a Razor web app with “dotnet new razor” and then packed it up with this tool using Warp packer. Now I’ve got a 40 meg self-contained app. I don’t need to install anything, it just works.

C:supertestweb> dir
Directory: C:supertestweb

Mode LastWriteTime Length Name
---- ------------- ------ ----
d----- 2/6/2019 9:14 AM bin
d----- 2/6/2019 9:14 AM obj
d----- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM Pages
d----- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM Properties
d----- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM wwwroot
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM 146 appsettings.Development.json
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM 157 appsettings.json
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM 767 Program.cs
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM 2115 Startup.cs
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:13 AM 294 supertestweb.csproj
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:15 AM 40982879 supertestweb.exe

Now here’s what it gets interesting. Let’s say I have a console app. Hello World, packed with Warp, ends up being about 35 megs. But if I use the “dotnet-pack -l aggressive” the tool will add the Mono ILLinker (tree shaker/trimmer) and shake off all the methods that aren’t needed. The resulting single ? Just 9 megs compressed (20 uncompressed).

C:squishedapp> dotnet-pack -l aggressive
O Running AddLinkerPackage...
O Running Publish...
O Running Pack...
O Running RemoveLinkerPackage...
C:squishedapp> dir
Mode LastWriteTime Length Name
---- ------------- ------ ----
d----- 2/6/2019 9:32 AM bin
d----- 2/6/2019 9:32 AM obj
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:31 AM 47 global.json
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:31 AM 193 Program.cs
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:32 AM 178 squishedapp.csproj
-a---- 2/6/2019 9:32 AM 9116643 squishedapp.exe

Here is where you come in!

NOTE: The .NET team has planned to have a “single EXE” supported packing solution built into .NET 3.0. There’s a lot of ways to do this. Do you zip it all up with a header/unzipper? Well, that would hit the disk a lot and be messy. Do you “unzip” into memory? Do you merge into a single assembly? Or do you try to AoT (Ahead of Time) compile and do as much work as possible before you merge things? Is a size more important than speed?

What do you think? How should a built-in feature like this work and what would YOU focus on?


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