Custom Integrations with Xamarin Workbooks

This document describes the integration SDK for Xamarin Workbooks. While integrations are most relevant to Xamarin Workbooks, it is important to note that they can also work with Xamarin Inspector.

Architecture Overview

Xamarin Workbooks features two main components which must work in conjunction with each other: Agent and Client.

Interactive Agent

The Agent component is a small platform-specific assembly which runs in the context of a .NET application.

Xamarin Workbooks provides pre-built "empty" applications for a number of platforms, such as iOS, Android, Mac and WPF. These applications explicitly host the agent.

During live inspection (Xamarin Inspector), the agent is injected via the IDE debugger into an existing application as part of the regular development & debugging workflow.

Interactive Client

The client is a native shell (Cocoa on Mac, WPF on Windows) that hosts a web browser surface for presenting the workbook/REPL interface. From an SDK perspective, all client integrations are implemented in JavaScript and CSS.

The client is responsible (via Roslyn) for compiling source code iinto small assemblies and sending them over to the connected agent for execution. Results of execution are sent back to the client for rendering. Each cell in a workbook yields one assembly which references the assembly of the previous cell.

Because an agent can be running on any type of .NET platform and has access to anything in the running application, care must be taken to serialize results in a platform-agnostic manner.


Within a workbook or inspector session, code that is executed and yields a result (e.g. a method returning a value or the result of an expression) is processed through the representation pipeline in the agent. All objects, with the exception of primitives such as integers, will be reflected to produce interactive member graphs and will go through a process to provide alternate representations that the client can render more richly. Objects of any size and depth are safely supported (including cycles and infinite enumerables) due to lazy and interactive reflection and remoting.

Xamarin Workbooks provides a few types common to all agents and clients that allow for rich rendering of results. Color is one example of such a type, where for example on iOS, the agent is responsible for converting CGColor or UIColor objects into a Xamarin.Interactive.Representations.Color object.

In addition to common representations, the integration SDK provides APIs for serializing custom representations in the agent and rendering representations in the client.

External Integrations

Integration assemblies should reference the Xamarin.Interactive PCL.

Eventually the SDK will be released directly as a NuGet package, but for now any integrations should copy the SDK dependencies into their projects explicitly.

Mac /Library/Frameworks/Xamarin.Interactive.framework/Versions/Current/SDK
Windows C:\Program Files (x86)\Xamarin\Workbooks\SDK

Client integrations are initiated by placing JavaScript or CSS files with the same name as the agent integration assembly in the same directory. For example, if the agent integration assembly (which references the Xamarin.Interactive PCL) is named SampleExternalIntegration.dll, then SampleExternalIntegration.js and SampleExternalIntegration.css will be integrated into the client as well if they exist. Client integrations are optional.

The external integration itself can be packaged as a NuGet, provided and referenced directly inside the application that is hosting the agent, or simply placed alongside a .workbook file that wishes to consume it.

A workbook or live inspect session will load the integration by referencing the integration assembly.

#r "SampleExternalIntegration.dll"

The Xamarin.Interactive PCL provides a few important integration APIs. Every integration must at least provide an integration entry point:

using Xamarin.Interactive;

[assembly: AgentIntegration (typeof (AgentIntegration))]

class AgentIntegration : IAgentIntegration
    const string TAG = nameof (AgentIntegration);

    public void IntegrateWith (IAgent agent)
        // hook into IAgent APIs

At this point, once the integration assembly is referenced, the client will implicitly load JavaScript and CSS integration files.


As with any assembly that is referenced by a workbook or live inspect session, any of its public APIs are accessible to the session. Therefore it is important to have a safe and sensible API surface for users to explore.

The integration assembly is effectively a bridge between an application or SDK of interest and the session. It can provide new APIs that make sense specifically in the context of a workbook or live inspect session, or provide no public APIs and simply perform "behind the scenes" tasks like yielding object representations.

Note: APIs which must be public but should not be surfaced via IntelliSense can be marked with the usual [EditorBrowsable (EditorBrowsableState.Never)] attribute.

External Representations

Xamarin.Interactive.IAgent.RepresentationManager provides the ability to register a RepresentationProvider, which an integration must implement to convert from an arbitrary object to an agnostic form to render. These agnostic forms must implement the ISerializableObject interface.

Note: APIs that produce ISerializableObject objects directly do not need to be handled by a RepresentationProvider.

Rendering a Representation

Renderers are implemented in JavaScript and will have access to a JavaScript version of the object represented via ISerializableObject. The JavaScript copy will also have a $type string property that indicates the .NET type name.

We recommend using TypeScript for client integration code, which of course compiles to vanilla JavaScript. Either way, the SDK provides typings which can be referenced directly by TypeScript or simply referred to manually if writing vanilla JavaScript is preferred.

The main integration point for rendering is xamarin.interactive.RendererRegistry:

  function (source) {
    if (source.$type === "SampleExternalIntegration.Person")
      return new PersonRenderer;
    return undefined;

Here, PersonRenderer implements the Renderer interface. See the typings for more details.

Sample Integrations

See the Kitchen Sink sample for a working example of an integration. Simply build KitchenSink.sln in Xamarin Studio or Visual Studio and then open KitchenSink.workbook.

Xamarin Workbook

If it's not already installed, install the Xamarin Workbooks app first. The workbook file should download automatically, but if it doesn't, just click to start the workbook download manually.