The "describe" command Edit on GitHub

The new describe command that comes with Oakton V3.0+ can be used as a generic diagnostic capability to look into the configuration of your .Net application that's bootstrapped with IHostBuilder.

Out of the box, the describe command will simply preview some information about your main application assembly, its version, the application's IHostEnvironment settings, and the immediately reference assemblies (it's not a recursive query) with output like this:

── About EnvironmentCheckDemonstrator ──────────────────────────────────────────
          Entry Assembly: EnvironmentCheckDemonstrator
        Application Name: EnvironmentCheckDemonstrator
             Environment: Production
       Content Root Path: /Users/jeremydmiller/code/oakton/src/EnvironmentCheckDemonstrator
AppContext.BaseDirectory: /Users/jeremydmiller/code/oakton/src/EnvironmentCheckDemonstrator/bin/Debug/net5.0/

── Referenced Assemblies ────────────────────────────────────────────────────────
│ Assembly Name                                         │ Version │
│ System.Runtime                                        │ │
│ Oakton                                                │ │
│ Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection.Abstractions │ │
│ System.ComponentModel                                 │ │
│ System.Console                                        │ │
│ Microsoft.Extensions.Hosting                          │ │
│ Microsoft.Extensions.Hosting.Abstractions             │ │
│ Baseline                                              │ │

The command line flags are shown below:

                  [-f, --file <file>] -> Optionally write the description to the given file location
                       [-s, --silent] -> Do not write any output to the console
                [-t, --title <title>] -> Filter the output to only a single described part
                         [-l, --list] -> If set, the command only lists the known part titles
                  [-i, --interactive] -> If set, interactively select which part(s) to preview
    [-e, --environment <environment>] -> Use to override the ASP.Net Environment name
                      [-v, --verbose] -> Write out much more information at startup and enables console logging
         [-l, --log-level <loglevel>] -> Override the log level
          [----config:<prop> <value>] -> Overwrite individual configuration items

As you can hopefull tell, the describe command can be used to preview the diagnostic information in the console and optionally write the descriptive text to a file like this, where is the file name you want the output written to:

dotnet run -- describe --file

If you have many described parts in your system, you can use the -i or --interactive flag to interactively select which parts you want to view or export to a file.

Extending describe

The describe command can be extended by registering custom implemtations of the IDescribedSystemPart interface in your application container:

public interface IDescribedSystemPart
    string Title { get; }

    Task Write(TextWriter writer);

Or if you have a related group of parts, you can register custom implementations of the IDescribedSystemPartFactory as well:

public interface IDescribedSystemPartFactory
    IDescribedSystemPart[] Parts();

Oakton adds a couple extension methods on IServiceCollection to help you register custom describers:

static Task<int> Main(string[] args)
    return Host.CreateDefaultBuilder()
        .ConfigureServices(services =>
            for (int i = 0; i < 5; i++)
                services.AddSingleton<IEnvironmentCheck>(new GoodEnvironmentCheck(i + 1));
                services.AddSingleton<IEnvironmentCheck>(new BadEnvironmentCheck(i + 1));
            // This is an example of adding custom
            // IDescriptionSystemPart types to your
            // application that can participate in
            // the describe output


For an example, here's the implementation for one of the built in described system parts:

public class AboutThisAppPart : IDescribedSystemPart
    private readonly IHostEnvironment _host;

    public AboutThisAppPart(IHostEnvironment host, IConfiguration configuration)
        _host = host;
        Title = "About " + Assembly.GetEntryAssembly()?.GetName().Name ?? "This Application";

    public string Title { get; }
    public Task Write(TextWriter writer)
        var entryAssembly = Assembly.GetEntryAssembly();    
        writer.WriteLine($"          Entry Assembly: {entryAssembly.GetName().Name}");
        writer.WriteLine($"                 Version: {entryAssembly.GetName().Version}");
        writer.WriteLine($"        Application Name: {_host.ApplicationName}");
        writer.WriteLine($"             Environment: {_host.EnvironmentName}");
        writer.WriteLine($"       Content Root Path: {_host.ContentRootPath}");
        writer.WriteLine($"AppContext.BaseDirectory: {AppContext.BaseDirectory}");

        return Task.CompletedTask;

You can also opt into enhanced formatting in the console output using the Spectre.Console library if your part implements the IWriteToConsole interface like this built in part:

public class ReferencedAssemblies : IDescribedSystemPart, IWriteToConsole
    public string Title { get; } = "Referenced Assemblies";
    // If you're writing to a file, this method will be called to 
    // write out markdown formatted text
    public Task Write(TextWriter writer)
        var referenced = Assembly.GetEntryAssembly().GetReferencedAssemblies();
        foreach (var assemblyName in referenced)
            writer.WriteLine("* " + assemblyName);

        return Task.CompletedTask;

    // If you're only writing to the console, you can implement the
    // IWriteToConsole method and optionally use Spectre.Console for
    // enhanced displays
    public Task WriteToConsole()
        var table = new Table();
        table.AddColumn("Assembly Name");
        var referenced = Assembly.GetEntryAssembly().GetReferencedAssemblies();
        foreach (var assemblyName in referenced)
            table.AddRow(assemblyName.Name, assemblyName.Version.ToString());

        return Task.CompletedTask;