The Future of Reflector

Simple Talk asked freelance writer Bob Cramblitt to sit down with the two people behind the agreement that Red Gate will be responsible for the future development of .NET Reflector, and discuss with them what it means to the community and the future of Reflector.

Red Gate will
continue to offer
the tool for free
 to the community.

Under an agreement announced on Wednesday 20th August , Red Gate will be responsible for the future development of .NET Reflector, the popular tool authored by Lutz Roeder. Red Gate will continue to offer the tool for free to the community.

Lutz Roeder is a well-known .NET developer. His software, .NET Reflector, is one of the most widely used .NET development tools. Roeder works at Microsoft and is one of the original developers of Expression Blend.

James Moore is general manager of .NET Developer Tools at Red Gate. He has extensive programming experience and worked on the user interface of Red Gate’s SQL Compare and SQL Backup tools before taking over the .NET division. Moore has previous experience developing large open source code through his involvement in the PHP project, where he worked on quality assurance, engine extensions, and PHP-GTK documentation.

“First off, please explain what .NET Reflector is and what it does.”
“Reflector is a browser and analysis tool for .NET.  It allows developers to navigate, search, disassemble and analyze .NET components.”
“Like thousands of other developers, I find Reflector to be an indispensable tool. Reflector allows you to peer beyond the public API and gives the developer a chance to really understand how the underlying classes work (or don’t work in many cases). It can save you hours when looking for a workaround to some quirk.”
“Lutz, Reflector is recognized by Scott Hanselman as one of “The Big Ten Life and Work-Changing Utilities” and MSDN magazine named it “one of the 10 must-have tools every developer should download now.”  Please describe your experience with .NET Reflector.”
“I wanted to write a tool that made it easier to browse and navigate components. When .NET was announced I started to work on Reflector and kept improving it. Users provided lots of feedback and other developers started creating add-ins to make it even more useful.”
“How did this deal come about?”
“I’ve used .NET Reflector for years and it’s at the top of my list of great .NET tools. It’s also one of the few tools every developer here uses, so I knew I was not alone. A few months ago, I dropped Lutz an email introducing myself and it just kind of went from there.”
“When James emailed me and we spoke about the future of Reflector and the resources Red Gate could make available to the project, it made the decision easy for me.”
“How can it be good news that a commercial software company is taking ownership of a free community tool?”
“I think we can provide a level of resources that will move the tool forward in a big way.  The first thing we are doing is continuing to offer the software to the community for free downloading.  The second thing is giving our product management and usability teams the task of going out into the community to get suggestions on how we can make this amazing tool even better.
We accept the fact that there will be scepticism, but we can point to a good track record of support for the community. People were wary a couple of years ago when we purchased the SQL Server Central community site, but over time we have won over many of our critics by investing heavily in the site and boosting its readership, while allowing it to maintain editorial independence. I’m hoping I will be able to sit here in a few years time and claim the same level of success with Reflector.”
“You’ve already said, James, that .NET Reflector is easy to use and works exactly as it should.  How can you improve on that?”
“I don’t know yet; this is what we’ll glean from the community. We know we have a responsibility to the development community not to ruin a tool that is so widely used and so valuable to developers in their day-to-day jobs. But, we also know that Red Gate has the in-house expertise to translate user desires into simple, elegant products.”
“Will you continue to be involved with .NET Reflector, Lutz?”
“I will be using Reflector and I’m sure I will be emailing James every so often asking for new features.”
“Over the past eight years, Lutz has built up a unique understanding of the .NET developer community. I hope he will continue to provide us with valuable input into the future of .NET Reflector.”
“Will Red Gate still encourage the community to write and use add-ins?”
“Yes, that won’t change and we encourage and value all the .NET Reflector add-in writers.”
“Any other thoughts?”
“What is going to be in Reflector 6.0? I’d like to know…”
“Uh oh, the pressure is on already. Enough talk, I need to get to work…”

.NET Reflector 6 is now available for download from Red Gate’s website. Red Gate has also released a new tool that integrates the technology of .NET Reflector into Visual Studio, to let you debug 3-rd party and legacy code, even if you don’t have the source. Find out more.

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  • webooth

    The (uncertain) Future of Reflector
    I notice that Red Gate “… will continue to offer the software to the community for free downloading”. I have seen that cleaver tease before. How about continued use for free? What about a basic version for free and a “Pro” or “Enterprise” version? Reflector is just too good a tool used by too many people to remain free unless it goes to someplace like SourceForge or CodePlex.

  • Anonymous

    How many emails
    Good stuff from Redgate, but how many emails will I get now when I try to download it?

    I’m no open source guy, but I would rather see it go into open source.

  • jenisys

    I’m Disappointed, Not Surprised
    Thanks, Lutz, for doing this for so long as an independent. I congratulate you on whatever benefits this brings to you, as you deserve all that and more.

    As for Red Gate, what the previous posters said 🙁

    Also, remember SQL Prompt? Used to be free, then it’s bought by RedGate and free for a while, then it’s not. Hmmm. I’d love to be wrong, but I don’t see the fully featured Reflector as free much longer.

  • James


    As stated in the introduction we will continue to provide a free version of Reflector.

    We do not plan to release the source code but we will be looking at ways we can make it easier
    for others to contribute functionality through the Add-in API.

    I understand that people will be sceptical of our motives and are concerned about the future of
    a great tool. I hope that we can win over those who are sceptical, through our actions not words,
    that we can be as good custodians of Reflector as we have been of

    When downloading reflector you now have the option to sign up to the .NET Reflector newsletter. This will be the only email you get from us and will be produced by the same guys who do Simple-Talk so we can all look forward to lots of high quality articles on .NET.


  • Anonymous

    This makes sense
    RG does a pretty good job on their products. If you keep all the existing functionality free, what is wrong with them making money off enhancements that compliment the tool. Don’t screw it up!

  • Anonymous

    This makes sense
    RG does a pretty good job on their products. If you keep all the existing functionality free, what is wrong with them making money off enhancements that compliment the tool. Don’t screw it up!

  • Lance

    Red Gate…
    Red Gate has some of the best development enhancement features on the market. Let’s face it; .NET is a money-making framework. There is no reason not to consume this project and crank out an even more user-friendly and robust diagnostic utility, take some plug-ins and formalize them into the product, and (most importantly for Red Gate, in my opinion) add a new facet of meta-.NET software to their portfolio. If Red Gate continues along this path, I could see an immensely beneficial debugging/profiling/diagnostics suite that would most certainly become an enterprise standard. All-in-all, if the community gets burned, with as many devoted users as Reflector has, do you honestly think a CodePlex project wouldn’t spring up overnight to put back what Red Gate commercialized?

  • Bart Read

    Free version of SQL Prompt
    Hi jenisys,

    SQL Prompt, originally PromptSQL, isn’t really a good comparison simply because it *wasn’t* free when we bought it: we made it free with version 2, which whilst it wasn’t part of our original plan, did seem like the best thing to do at the time. We did however make it very clear that this would only be for a limited period, until we released our new version of the tool, at which point we would start charging for it again.

    We do try to be as straightforward with people as possible–take, as examples, and PInvoke.NET–however, as James has said: judge us on our actions, not our words.


  • Granville Barnett

    Open source…
    I agree with a previous poster, would have been nice to see it go open source.

  • Chuck

    Boo, hiss, boo
    I’m sure they are paying a pretty penny for the source code and rights to continue development, and Lutz deserves every penny.

    Unfortunately, what that means for the community going forward is a crippled-down “free version” and a high-priced “working version.”

  • James

    Hi Chuck,

    We have no plans at all to release a “free version” which has reduced functionality and a high priced “working version”.

    Reflector is a great tool and Lutz has done an amazing job developing and maintaining it over the past eight years. I hope that Red Gate can continue this and live up to the high standard Lutz has set us.


  • GlenH

    Reflector is dead. Long live Reflector
    <quote>SQL Prompt, originally PromptSQL, isn’t really a good comparison simply because it *wasn’t* free when we bought it…</quote>

    Yes, SQL Prompt is still “Free for Download” (man, how I hate that phrase), but the license cost (vs the “download” cost) has gone from $25 as PromptSQL to around $250 as SQL Prompt.

    At a glance, I don’t see anything different from the $25 dollar product other than the inflated price tag.

  • Chris Sutton

    Requests for the transition
    Please keep the free version:

    1) Lightweight – my current version is about 1.3 Megs, don’t let it get bloated in size.
    2) Fast
    3) Keep it so people can download it easily without a lot of annoying emails or licensing restrictions
    4) Make sure that the plugin model is maintained and even enhanced.

    I hope to see good things come out of this transition.


  • Anonymous

    RedGate, eh?
    Have you tried looking at Reflector in Reflector? It’s obfuscated 🙂 I personally wouldn’t trust RedGate with it, but if it was JetBrains… now that would be interesting.

  • AlexH

    Their not purchasing this for nothing
    It won’t be “free”. They’ll provide it in return for your email (and perhaps more of your information), so that they can market their products to you.

    Why didn’t the interviewer ask why Red Gate actually “purchased” it? As it stands this is nothing more than a promo piece.

  • AMJ

    Put your money where your mouth is…
    What I see is a company who is only interested in profit and who obtained the source code for a free tool. How long do you think that company will maintain a free tool? How long until that company is adding “marketing gadgets” into the tool. They are already forcing registration in order to download Reflection after how many days? I don’t want a free version that is ‘dead’. James Moore, I been in this business for almost twenty years, put your money where your mouth is and give us the source code. Then Reflector will truly be free as intended.

  • Chris

    This is dreadful news
    Maybe someone will take the initiative to build an open source competitor to Reflector and put it on CodePlex.

    I still haven’t forgiven Red Gate for the SQL Prompt fiasco.

  • Steve

    Feature requests
    Where do we go to post feature requests? I’ve got a few…

  • MVV

    Not decided yet
    Nothing wrong with RG purchasing the rigths to mantain and enhace a *Free to use* software (do not confuse with “Free software” nor with “Open source” , wich Reflector isn’t and havent ever been.

    I prefer to wait and see what RG does with this product. Then i will take my stance. Anyway , i have some preference of having a commercial company taking the load of developing an enterprise-grade tool instead of a lone developer , however clever he is , just because we are all mortals , but companies endures.

    I could make a request of RG , and it is that if for any reason they loose interest in the tool or deem it non profitable , they give the source away like happened with free space (a game)

  • James

    Feature requests
    Hi Steve,

    You can post feature requests here:


  • Troy

    Do I Hear A Promise? I didn’t think so
    “As stated in the introduction we will continue to provide a free version of Reflector.”

    Red Gate plans to provide a free version. Does it plan to provide a non-free version?

    More to the point, will Red Gate’s shareholders allow the company to promise that Reflector ALWAYS will be maintained and free? I’m sure much of the dev community would like to hear Red Gate make that promise in unambiguous terms. If it cannot commit to this promise, why not?

    This is a matter of trust, and from many comments here it doesn’t look like Red Gate is fully trusted to do what many developers would like it to do – keep Reflector updated and unencumbered. I hope it does, but can’t blame Red Gate for going after the Euro.

    Can Red Gate answer the questions above? Will they?

    I’m sure if that was the intention we would have heard it by now. I’m not holding my breath. I hope the code gets leaked by a sympathetic soul. 😉


    Red Gate will continue to offer the tool for free to the community
    it is a must-to-have dev tool, it was build for the comunity, so i hope the source code contiues in the comunity.

  • Anonymous

    Strings Attached
    Some may not realize it, but Lutz coded reflector to have strings attached. It automatically disables itself when a newer release is available and you do not upgrade to it within a certain period of time.

    I would really like to know about what Red Gate’s plans are with regards to this ‘feature’.

  • Stephen Chambers

    Reflector update

    A number of people have also commented on the issue of disabling when a new version is available. If you would like to also add your thoughts to this issue or suggest further improvements you can post in the Reflector forum


  • Stephen Chambers

    Reflector update

    A number of people have also commented on the issue of disabling when a new version is available. If you would like to also add your thoughts to this issue or suggest further improvements you can post in the Reflector forum


  • Jose Fajardo

    Good luck and ill give RG the benefit of the doubt

    Thanks Loetz for a brilliant piece of software! And thanks RG for taking up the challenge of growing and maintaining the application.

    Worse comes to worse, if RG decide to charge for this same free version someone will re-write a free version.. end of story.

    Truth is the .NET reflector is brilliant BUT at the same time not too dificult to replicate. The only reason someone hadn’t done it is because the current free version is perfect.

    Anyway back to work!!

  • dave

    Already strange
    Instead of decompiling properties correctly it decompiles to Setter and Getter calls. I spent the better half of the after noon yesterday converting one of my own decompiled DLLs to valid C# syntax. I realize that decompiling isn’t the ultimate goal of the reflector, but in my case, I used to be able to use it to do so when I lost my own source or whatever. I wouldn’t dream of using it to pirate or hack someone else’s code, but it has turned out to be a lifesaver in cases, like yesterday, where source safe was completely hosed and the restore wasn’t immediately available. I’m a little disappointed there.

  • Bart Read

    Decompiling properties

    Thanks for the feedback.

    What can I say? Eek! That’s nasty! At the moment, we’re just collecting feedback and aren’t even close to deciding what improvements to make, and when, but I’ll definitely add improvements to the decompilation to the list. There have obviously also been some language enhancements, such as LINQ, that it doesn’t handle as well, although I’ve a feeling that would be extremely difficult to fix.

    Hope you manage to recover your repository OK, and if you eventually tire of Sourcesafe, I’d suggest that Subversion along with the Tortoise client make an excellent (and reliable!) combination.

    Thanks again for the feedback!


  • Dan

    Community Project
    Really would have been nice to see it open sourced to the community. No offense to Red Gate, but they can’t compete with the minds of a huge community of users.

  • Anonymous

    Why use .NET anyway and not continue with Visual C++ ?

    Whatever, I wish everyone good luck.

    Why use .NET anyway and not continue with Visual C++ ?

  • Chris

    Powerful new features could be added without losing free version functionality
    Hey folks, I can’t say what Redgate’s past is, but I can see lots of potential for Redgate to take reflector to the next level while continuing to keep the free version completely free.

    First of all, I tend to use Reflector primarily for conversion tasks. I happen to be in a VB shop and a lot of the support code out there is written in C#. I commonly take code that is written in C#, compile it and reflect it in VB.Net. Sure, for small things, I can do it in my head faster, but some of the larger pieces are a little more difficult for me to do that with. Reflector saves me a lot of time in seeing how to do things within the context of my current environment and that’s priceless.

    There are new languages coming out that lie on top of the .Net framework. I think Redgate could provide support for some of these other languages like NetCobol and I’m not sure if there is a, but I doubt it’s far off if there isn’t. Perhaps creating language packs, or something of that nature would be valuable for some folks. Redgate could charge for these and I don’t think anyone in the development community would complain (unless the charge is unreasonably high).

    There are other additions Redgate could provide. The ability to see side by side C# and VB or VB and IL, or whatever. Or having Visual Studio integration or things along those lines could be extremely valuable and I think lots of folks would pay for versions that do that.

    I would hope that Redgate will put effort into supporting frameworks higher than 2.0, without additional charge, in the free version. Letting the free version of Reflector go stale would be nearly the same as charging for it. If the only way to keep up-to-date is to pay, then Reflector would truly no longer be free. I would hope that Redgate would realize that the development community would not miss what’s going on if that happened.

    Anyway, my point is, there are plenty of things Redgate could do to make this product even better without needing to reduce the functionality of the free version. In fact, the free version could benefit from this arrangement and very well wet developer’s appetites to use the more powerful versions that Redgate could come up with.


  • ChrisS

    Not sure about the profiles on this forum
    Hey, I just posted that last entry, but I don’t want to get confused as being someone else. I noticed there was a profile saying that I’ve been a member since 2006, and I don’t think I have.

    I noticed another Chris posted something a little bit higher on the list and would like to clarify that I’m not the same person

  • T. Lewis

    Not necessarily a bad thing…
    >>What I see is a company who is only interested in profit…

    And what, exactly, is YOUR company interested in??

    There’s nothing wrong with Red Gate doing this solely for the profits they can make. HOWEVER, they should realize that they still have to dance with the ones who brought ’em. So long as they never cripple an existing feature, and do continue to enhance the free version, they can add as many more features to a commercial version as they want, and I hope they make a mint! What better incentive could they have to keep developing and releasing better free versions to get people interested in the full, licensed version?

    Just shoot straight with us, Red Gate, and honor the spirit of this commitment. I don’t think we can ask for more than that.

    MANY thanks to Lutz for developing this wonderful app to begin with. It saved my rear not so long ago when I had to disassemble an assembly I had written for a client after I had lost the source code!

  • bcunnin

    @Glenh (Reflector is dead. Long live…)
    GlenH you said “At a glance, I don’t see anything different from the $25 dollar product other than the inflated price tag” thus making it obvious that all you ever did was “glance” at it. Let me tell you about it from someone who actually used the tool in his daily job.

    I never used the tool before Red Gate bought it, my first exposure to it was Red Gate’s free version. It worked well for single, relatively simple SQL statements. However, as soon as you threw it real-life complexity, such as multiple statements, variables, GO statements, cursors, and transactions, it started getting confused, not to mention slow. It was better than nothing… most of the time. I liked it because it was definitely worth what I paid for it. If I’d have paid $25, I’d probably have said the same thing, but I’d have had to think about it for a while, as it would have been a near thing.

    Fast forward to today. SQL Prompt now works for all of my real-life code, and its fast. Red Gate asked for my feedback, received it, and actually used it in new versions, something that’s never happened to me with any other commercial software vendor. There are more options than before and the options work too. It now has enough options that it works the way I want it to work, rather than making me work the way it wants me to work. It is actually worth the purchase price, something I can say about relatively few pieces of commercial software that I own. Essentially Red Gate took a piece of software that was an excellent proof-of-concept and turned it into a viable commercial product.

    I think that we all need to consider shutting our mouths when we don’t know what we are talking about.

  • Vinoth

    All the best Red Gate
    I think we can compare this to the time when Microsoft got the sysinternals tools. Still they are free and good … I have used some of the tools of Red gate and they are all good. so its going to be a good thing for Reflector. May be Microsoft should put this into VS 2005 and replace that useless object browser.

    With Great Tools Comes Great Responsibilty… All the best Red Gate

  • Glen H

    I think you should take your own advice about shutting your mouth when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

    Fixing a couple of bugs and adding a couple of configuration settings does not equate to 10x price increase. Especially when you can’t say that the original vendor wouldn’t have made the same improvements at the $25 price point.

    I’m sure that since you work for “big oil” that when you said “it is actually worth the purchase price,” you meant that you are more then willing for your company to buy it for you, vs. paying out of your own pocket.

  • snakehunt

    Reflector is the class browser, explorer,

  • Anonymous

    Let’s build it
    If anyone is interested in starting an open source reflector replacement application with me in case Red-Gate pulls the plug let me know

    I’ve contributed to several open source projects in the past and while reflector certainly is excellent, it’s true that it is not perfect.

    Some features I’d like to see, a standalone and IDE integrated version (using the crappy DTE model it’s true). Better C# support (I’m tired of seeing things like ” Dictionary<string, string> <>g__initLocal0 = new Dictionary<string, string>();”) etcetra.

    Granted when Lutz was behind the wheel I never saw the need to compete with his program, but now it’s different.

  • Anonymous


    your program is very nice , I trust it.

  • Anonymous

    The current version of Reflector should work fine for newer versions of the .NET framework. It is a new version of the C# core language specification that will most likely cause problems. The official approved core spec hasn’t changed since ~June 2006, but changes are coming down the pipeline. Also, with regard to opening Reflector in Reflector, only private types are obfuscated, and not all of the private types. You can’t access the private types anyway so why care that they are obfuscated? I bet the last version before Red Gate got it has some private types obfuscated, maybe even the same ones. I needed help with writing a Reflector Add-On and figured it out myself by studying Reflector in Reflector (and this was the Red Gate version).

  • Anonymous

    I assume it is the dream of many a hotshot developer to start a small company, create some great software, and to have the company/software ‘bought out’ for $$$ by some big corporation (take Napster and WinAmp for example). In this case it is the eventuality that software which was free will no longer be free, and it can only be hoped that over time the cost of the software will stay reasonable (again take Napster and WinAmp for example).
    It was only a matter of time before this happened with Reflector. C# and .NET were created with every intention of being a cash cow, this is Microsoft we are talking about. Reflector is a tool whose use is exclusive to Microsoft technologies, it is arguably not in the spirit of things to be upset at the tool taking this route.
    I hope the tool will remain up-to-date with supporting the latest changes in the supported languages, CLR, and frameworks/libraries, and that it never costs more than $100.

  • AnonymousUser

    The real question is…
    why wasn’t this “must have .net tool” purchased by Microsoft and included in Visual Studio? Why wouldn’t such a popular tool that every .NET developer uses be on the very top of the enhancements list of Visual Studio?? And it’s even stranger because as noted in the article, Lutz is already a MS employee!