Getting started with Android

In addition to the requirements from the Getting started with Java guide you'll also need:

As an overview, we will:

  • Create a C# Android Library project
  • Install .NET Embedding via NuGet
  • Run .NET Embedding on the Android library assembly
  • Use the generated AAR file in a Java project in Android Studio

Create an Android Library Project

Open Visual Studio for Windows or Mac, create a new Android Class Library project, name it hello-from-csharp, and save it to ~/Projects/hello-from-csharp or %USERPROFILE%\Projects\hello-from-csharp.

Add a new Android Activity named HelloActivity.cs, followed by an Android Layout at Resource/layout/hello.axml.

Add a new TextView to your layout, and change the text to something enjoyable.

Your layout source should look something like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<LinearLayout xmlns:android=""
        android:text="Hello from C#!"
        android:gravity="center" />

In your activity, make sure you are calling SetContentView with your new layout:

[Activity(Label = "HelloActivity"),
public class HelloActivity : Activity
    protected override void OnCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState)



Don't forget the [Register] attribute. For details, see Limitations.

Build the project. The resulting assembly will be saved in bin/Debug/hello-from-csharp.dll.

Installing .NET Embedding from NuGet

Follow these instructions to install and configure .NET Embedding for your project.

The command invocation you should configure will look like this:

Visual Studio for Mac

mono '${SolutionDir}/packages/Embeddinator-4000.' '${TargetPath}' --gen=Java --platform=Android --outdir='${SolutionDir}/output' -c

Visual Studio 2017

set E4K_OUTPUT="$(SolutionDir)output"
if exist %E4K_OUTPUT% rmdir /S /Q %E4K_OUTPUT%
"$(SolutionDir)packages\Embeddinator-4000.\tools\Embeddinator-4000.exe" "$(TargetPath)" --gen=Java --platform=Android --outdir=%E4K_OUTPUT% -c

Use the generated output in an Android Studio project

  1. Open Android Studio and create a new project with an Empty Activity.
  2. Right-click on your app module and choose New > Module.
  3. Select Import .JAR/.AAR Package.
  4. Use the directory browser to locate ~/Projects/hello-from-csharp/output/hello_from_csharp.aar and click Finish.

Import AAR into Android Studio

This will copy the AAR file into a new module named hello_from_csharp.

Android Studio Project

To use the new module from your app, right-click and choose Open Module Settings. On the Dependencies tab, add a new Module Dependency and choose :hello_from_csharp.

Android Studio Dependencies

In your activity, add a new onResume method, and use the following code to launch the C# activity:

import hello_from_csharp.*;

public class MainActivity extends AppCompatActivity {
    //... Other stuff here ...
    protected void onResume() {

        Intent intent = new Intent(this, HelloActivity.class);

Assembly compression (IMPORTANT)

One further change is required for .NET Embedding in your Android Studio project.

Open your app's build.gradle file and add the following change:

android {
    // ...
    aaptOptions {
        noCompress 'dll'

Xamarin.Android currently loads .NET assemblies directly from the APK, but it requires the assemblies to not be compressed.

If you do not have this setup, the app will crash on launch and print something like this to the console:

com.xamarin.hellocsharp A/monodroid: No assemblies found in '(null)' or '<unavailable>'. Assuming this is part of Fast Deployment. Exiting...

Run the app

Upon launching your app:

Hello from C# sample running in the emulator

Note what happened here:

  • We have a C# class, HelloActivity, that subclasses Java
  • We have Android Resource files
  • We used these from Java in Android Studio

For this sample to work, all the following are set up in the final APK:

  • Xamarin.Android is configured on application start
  • .NET assemblies included in assets/assemblies
  • AndroidManifest.xml modifications for your C# activities, etc.
  • Android resources and assets from .NET libraries
  • Android Callable Wrappers for any Java.Lang.Object subclass

If you are looking for an additional walkthrough, check out the following video, which demonstrates embedding Charles Petzold's FingerPaint demo in an Android Studio project:

Embeddinator-4000 for Android

Using Java 1.8

As of writing this, the best option is to use Android Studio 3.0 (download here).

To enable Java 1.8 in your app module's build.gradle file:

android {
    // ...
    compileOptions {
        sourceCompatibility JavaVersion.VERSION_1_8
        targetCompatibility JavaVersion.VERSION_1_8

You can also take a look at an Android Studio test project for more details.

If you are wanting to use Android Studio 2.3.x stable, you will have to enable the deprecated Jack toolchain:

android {
    // ..
    defaultConfig {
        // ...
        jackOptions.enabled true

Current limitations on Android

Right now, if you subclass Java.Lang.Object, Xamarin.Android will generate the Java stub (Android Callable Wrapper) instead of .NET Embedding. Because of this, you must follow the same rules for exporting C# to Java as Xamarin.Android. For example:

public class ViewSubclass : TextView
    public ViewSubclass(Context context) : base(context) { }

    public void Apply(string text)
        Text = text;
  • [Register] is required to map to a desired Java package name
  • [Export] is required to make a method visible to Java

We can use ViewSubclass in Java like so:

ViewSubclass v = new ViewSubclass(this);

Read more about Java integration with Xamarin.Android.

Multiple assemblies

Embedding a single assembly is straightforward; however, it is much more likely you will have more than one C# assembly. Many times you will have dependencies on NuGet packages such as the Android support libraries or Google Play Services that further complicate things.

This causes a dilemma, since .NET Embedding needs to include many types of files into the final AAR such as:

  • Android assets
  • Android resources
  • Android native libraries
  • Android java source

You most likely do not want to include these files from the Android support library or Google Play Services into your AAR, but would rather use the official version from Google in Android Studio.

Here is the recommended approach:

  • Pass .NET Embedding any assembly that you own (have source for) and want to call from Java
  • Pass .NET Embedding any assembly that you need Android assets, native libraries, or resources from
  • Add Java dependencies like the Android support library or Google Play Services in Android Studio

So your command might be:

mono Embeddinator-4000.exe --gen=Java --platform=Android -c -o output YourMainAssembly.dll YourDependencyA.dll YourDependencyB.dll

You should exclude anything from NuGet, unless you find out it contains Android assets, resources, etc. that you will need in your Android Studio project. You can also omit dependencies that you do not need to call from Java, and the linker should include the parts of your library that are needed.

To add any Java dependencies needed in Android Studio, your build.gradle file might look like:

dependencies {
    // ...
    compile ''
    compile ''
    // ...

Further reading