Low-Level Interface to the '.NET' Virtual Machine Along the Lines of the R C/Call API

Low-level interface to '.NET' virtual machine along the lines of the R C .call interface. Can create '.NET' object, call methods, get or set properties, call static functions, etc.

rDotNet allows R to access .NET libraries, with the .NET library running either locally or on a remote machine. From R one can:

  • create .NET objects
  • call member functions
  • call class functions (i.e. static members)
  • access and set properties
  • access indexing members

The codebase includes .NET code for the CLR server, as well as a python extension. The codebase can be found at:

The following data types in arguments are supported:

  • .NET objects
  • integers (16, 32, 64) bit
  • floats (32, 64) bit
  • strings
  • byte
  • enums
  • boolean
  • arrays of: objects, integers, doubles, boolean, bytes, strings, etc
  • vectors (with optional named index)
  • matrices (with optional named row and column indices)

How It Works

The R or Python packages communicate with the .NET side through simple client / server interactions. Your .NET libraries are loaded by a runner CLRServer.exe that provides a TCP-based API, giving full visibility into your library(ies).

On first use from R or Python, the package will start the .NET bridge server (or alternatively connect to an existing server). If the server is started from within VisualStudio, Xamarin Studio, or other tool, can be run in debug mode, so that you can debug your libraries as they are called from R or Python.

When a method is first called the code looks for all methods in a class that may match based on name and number of arguments and then picks the method from that subset with the closest convertible signature. The argument set need not be a perfect match in terms of types provided that the types can be reasonably converted. For example strings will be converted to enum values if a given signature requires an enum, integers can be converted to floating point, double[] arrays can be applied to double[] or Vector, etc. These signatures are cached so that subsequent calls avoid scanning.

For example if a class has 2 overloaded public methods "F":

  • public double F (double x, Vector<double> series)
  • public double F (Direction dir, Vector<double> series)

where Direction is enum Direction { Up, Down }. If the object is called from R or python as:

vec <- c(0.1, 0.2, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2)
obj$F ('Up', vec)

the second method would be chosen given that 'Up' is convertible to Direction.Up and the numeric array is convertible to Vector<double>.


The .NET bridge server (CLRServer.exe) will not have access to your code unless you indicate a DLL to be loaded. One needs to instruct the server to load a dll or dlls from your environment. There are a number of ways to do this:

  • run CLRServer.exe -dll on the command line
  • run CLRServer.exe -dll in your favorite IDE (particularly useful for debugging)
  • run from within R or Python

From within R one has two options. The first approach is to set an environment variable either within the R session or externally:

## set environment variable
Sys.setenv(rDotNet_DLL="~/Dev/mymodels.dll") OR
## load package
## create an object and call a method
obj <- .cnew ("NormalDistribution1D", 0.0, 1.0)
obj$F (0.1)

The second approch is to explicitly call the rDotNet initialization function:

## initialize
## create an object and call a method
obj <- .cnew ("NormalDistribution1D", 0.0, 1.0)
obj$F (0.1)


Assuming the following (contrived) .NET classes:

namespace com.stg.dummy 
    class Point (double X, double Y);
    class Circle
        Circle (double radius)
            _radius = radius;
        public double Radius 
            { get { return _radius; } set { _radius = value; } }
        public double Area 
            { get { return Math.PI * _radius * _radius; } }
        // function returning list of objects
        public List<Point> PointsFor1 (int npoints)
            var incr = 2.0 * Math.PI / (double)npoints;
            var list = new List<Point>[);
            for (int i = 0 ; i < npoints ; i++)
                var theta = (double)i * incr;
                var x = _radius * Math.cos(theta);
                var y = _radius * Math.sin(theta);
                list.Add (new Point(x,y));
            return list;
        // function returning array of objects
        public Point[] PointsFor2 (int npoints)
            return PointsFor(npoints).ToArray();

The R api uses the $ syntax to reference members much like other R object approaches. Here is how we could call the above from R:

## create circle object
circle <- .cnew("com.stg.dummy.Circle", 10.0)
## get the list of points back
pointlist <- circle$PointsFor1 (100)
## dereference one of the point objects
point <- pointlist[2]
## or do it all in one go
point <- circle$PointsFor1 (100)[3]
## getting a property
## setting a property
circle$Set("Radius, 20)


In general one installs this package like any other R package. However .NET should be present on the machine and in the path. See the OS specific installation instructions below.


Depending on how your system is setup, the above may require running as sudo on unix. One should also make sure you have the mono SDK installed and nuget and msbuild or xbuild in your path. On OS X mono installs in:

  • /Library/Frameworks/Mono.framework/Commands

and on Linux will depend on the package installer. The bin directory where msbuild / xbuild and nuget reside must be added to your path. Note that on windows and OS X, the builder is called 'msbuild' and on linux is 'xbuild'. Before running the package install, check that nuget and msbuild / xbuild can be run from the command line, then run the following:



Windows will have .NET installed by default. However the various executables needed for building may not be in your path. Adjust your path so that msbuild and associated compilers are visible (you can adjust Path settings in the control panel). The path to the various tools may be in the following directory or something similar:

  • c:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework64\v4.0.30319

If you do not have a command line version of nuget installed, you will need to install nuget and place in your path. Can find a command line version of nuget here:

On windows you will also need to install the Rtools toolset for building R packages, available on CRAN. Finally with all of the above installed and working, can run the installation as follows:



rDotNet 0.9.0

This is the initial public version of rDotNet. This version has been successfully built and tested on:

  • OS X 10.12.6
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Ubuntu Linux 14.04

rDotNet 0.9.1

This version fixes some build issues.

  • Jari Karppinen noted that the build for linux was broken so submitted some patches.
  • added unit tests to the tests directory (which will be skipped if .NET is not available)
  • adjusted the TcpClient source to use a newer API, so will build on Solaris

Reference manual

It appears you don't have a PDF plugin for this browser. You can click here to download the reference manual.


0.9.1 by Jonathan Shore, 4 years ago


Browse source code at https://github.com/cran/rDotNet

Authors: Jonathan Shore <[email protected]>

Documentation:   PDF Manual  

Apache License (== 2.0) license

Imports Rcpp, testthat

Linking to Rcpp

System requirements: mono 4.x or higher on OSX / Linux, .NET 4.x or higher on Windows, 'msbuild' and 'nuget' available in the path

See at CRAN