9 Tools for Design-Time Code Generation

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To generate or not to generate? Each developer has a different opinion on generating code at the design stage. We say generate but with the right tool. Code generation at the design stage saves a lot of time for a developer. The right tool quickly translates your code into a low-level language with few or no errors.

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In this article, Apriorit experts review the nine most popular code generation tools. We compare languages, functionality, performance, availability, official support, and other characteristics. This article will be useful for developers who are looking for the best design-time code generation tool for their project.

Why generate code at the design stage?

Code generation allows a developer to concentrate on a high level of abstraction during development. It transforms high-level code written by a human into a low-level language. In other words, it generates source code based on the description or model of our project. This allows us to save time during application development and protects our code from human errors that are inevitable even for the most skilled developers.

1. XLS Transformation templates

eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) is a styling language for XML documents. eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT) is a part of this language that’s responsible for converting XML files to other formats. This solution for template creation is part of the W3C XLS standard. The key advantage of XSLT compared with other similar tools is its flexibility.

XSLT is designed to convert the hierarchical structure of an XML document to HTML, PDF, text, source code, etc. The XSLT language is a powerful tool for manipulating data and information in a hierarchical structure.

2. UML-based tools

It’s possible to convert code to a target language using tools based on Unified Modeling Language (UML) models. They generate source code in a particular language from UML classes and enable a UML model to display any changes in the source code.

Double-sided integration helps to synchronize source code and UML. This means every time you generate a piece of code or update a UML model, these changes will be merged.

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3. Razor Generator

Razor Generator (note that it has no connection to the Razor engine) is an open-source tool written in C# that supports Visual Studio 2019. It allows a developer to process Razor files at design time instead of at run time. Due to this, you can integrate Razor files to your build in order to make it easier to reuse and distribute them.

This tool provides a developer with more time to launch and allows for testing of Razor views.

4. Metadrone

Metadrone is a free tool that uses a simple template syntax to output text based on a database scheme. It allows a developer to reduce manual coding of interface screens, persistence layers, ORM mappings in frameworks, stored procedures, API classes, etc. Metadrone supports SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL databases.

There’s detailed documentation of its functionality.

5. Reegenerator

Reegenerator is a free code generation tool integrated into Microsoft Visual Studio. It can use any type of file as an input and generate any type of file as an output:

  • Data files: XML, JSON
  • Code files: CS, .VB
  • Databases

Reegenerator uses several generators in a single file. The generators are regular C#/VB.NET classes in a regular .NET Class Library. To find out more about Reegenerator, visit its official website

6. Т4 templates

Text Template Transformation Toolkit (T4) is a code generator embedded in Microsoft Visual Studio since 2008. Text Template is the element of T4 that generates output data in a Visual Studio project for every build. Template logic can be written in C# or VB.NET. The transformation of design-time T4 templates happens during compilation. These templates are generally used for code generation during current project compilation. After generation, T4 provides a user with templates. These templates can be reused by inheritance or inclusion.

7. Radzen

Radzen is a tool for web application development that generates code for the Angular framework. You can work with Radzen files in Visual Studio Code. This tool is especially useful for small projects due to its limited functionality.

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8. CodeSmith Generator

СodeSmith Generator is a part of CodeSmith Tools. This is a source code generator based on templates. It automates code generation for any text language. CodeSmith Generator contains a set of useful templates, including templates for dealing with verified architectures (netTiersSLANHibernatePLINQOEntity FrameworkKinetic Framework, etc.). You can easily change the default template or create your own. When generation is finished, CodeSmith Generator provides the results.

9. ASP.Net Zero

ASP.NET Zero is a solution for Visual Studio. It’s based on the multilayered architecture, while its code structure is based on SOLID. It’s also equipped with Metronic UI, which provides a comfortable interface.

ASP.NET Zero ensures a highly capable and scalable architecture and pre-spawned pages. It also supports multi-tenancy, subscriptions, and payment systems. This generator has an admin panel with all functionality for system and user administration, including for adding log records to the database. Dynamic localization makes it possible to launch your project in several countries, and the dynamic interface allows for adapting it to various user classes.