Clean up Excel Interop Objects with IDisposable

Are there any disadvantages using the IDisposable Interace

Sure, it accomplishes absolutely nothing. Using Using or calling Dispose() is never an appropriate way to set a variable to Nothing. Which is all that your code does.

We completely avoid to use the two dot rule.

Feel free to continue to ignore it, it is nonsense and causes nothing but grief. The blog author’s implied assertion is that doing so would force the programmer to use a variable to store the value of xlApp.Workbooks. So he’d have a fighting chance, later, to not forget to call releaseObject(). But there are many more statements that produce an interface reference that don’t use dots. Something like Range(x,y), there’s a hidden Range object reference there that you’ll never see. Having to store them as well just produces incredibly convoluted code.

And overlooking just one is enough to completely fail to get the job done. Utterly impossible to debug. This is the kind of code that C programmers have to write. And often failed at miserably, large C programs often leak memory and their programmers spend a great deal of time finding those leaks. Not the .NET way of course, it has a garbage collector to do this automatically. It never gets it wrong.

Trouble is, it is a bit slow at taking care of the job. Very much by design. Nobody ever notices this, except in this kind of code. You can see that the garbage collector didn’t run, you still see the Office program running. It didn’t quit when you wrote xlapp.Quit(), it is still present in the Processes tab of Task Manager. What they want to happen is for it to quit when they say so.

That’s very possible in .NET, you can certainly force the GC to get the job done:


Boom, every Excel object reference gets released automatically. There is no need to store these object references yourself and explicitly call Marshal.ReleaseComObject(), the CLR does it for you. And it never gets it wrong, it doesn’t use or need a “two dot rule” and it has no trouble finding those hidden interface references back.

What matters a great deal however is exactly where you put this code. And most programmers put it in the wrong place, in the same method that used those Excel interfaces. Which is fine, but does not work when you debug the code, a quirk that’s explained in this answer. The proper way to do it in the blog author’s code is to move the code into a little helper method, let’s call it DoExcelThing(). Like this:

Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click
    '' Excel.exe no longer running anymore at this point
End Sub

And do keep in mind that this is truly all just a debugging artifact. Programmers just hate to have to use Task Manager to kill the zombie Excel.exe instances. Zombified when they stopped the debugger, preventing the program from exiting normally and collect garbage. This is normal. It will also happen when your program dies in production for any kind of reason. Put your energy where it belongs, getting the bugs out of your code so your program won’t die. The GC doesn’t need more help than that.

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