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Posts Tagged ‘ViewModelKit’

Commands and InputGestures

November 24, 2009 2 comments

When developing applications with the MVVM design pattern, usually the actions a user can take are expressed through commands, objects that implement the ICommand interface, that are exposed as properties on the ViewModel. WPF supports binding to commands in MenuItems and Buttons, so this seems like a convenient and clean way to connect UI and ViewModel.

However, in WPF, commands can do more than just call a method on a ViewModel. WPF supports command routing, i.e. the ability to redirect a command to a specific implementation that might be connected to the control that has keyboard focus at the moment. Also, WPF supports binding InputGestures like mouse clicks or keyboard shortcuts to commands. Finally, WPF defines a set of standard application commands, which can  be used to define standard behaviour of controls independent of the final application which uses them. E.g. there is a Paste command that is mapped by default to the CTRL+V keyboard shortcut, and can be handled by TextBoxes and RichTextBoxes with built-in behaviour, so that an application using a RichTextBox offers this behaviour by default.

In order to take advantage of these WPF features, the following piece of WPFGlue defines a class that maps an ICommand implementation from a ViewModel to a WPF RoutedUICommand, thus being able to use command routing and default KeyGesture bindings:

Public Shared ReadOnly CommandProperty As DependencyProperty = DependencyProperty.Register("Command", GetType(RoutedCommand), GetType(CommandSetCommandBase))
Public Property Command() As RoutedCommand
    Get
        Return GetValue(CommandProperty)
    End Get
    Set(ByVal value As RoutedCommand)
        SetValue(CommandProperty, value)
    End Set
End Property

Public Shared ReadOnly ImplementationProperty As DependencyProperty = DependencyProperty.Register("Implementation", GetType(ICommand), GetType(CommandSetCommand))
Public Property Implementation() As ICommand
    Get
        Return GetValue(ImplementationProperty)
    End Get
    Set(ByVal value As ICommand)
        SetValue(ImplementationProperty, value)
    End Set
End Property

Protected Overrides Sub OnCanExecute(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Input.CanExecuteRoutedEventArgs)
    If Implementation Is Nothing Then
        e.Handled = False
    Else
        e.CanExecute = Implementation.CanExecute(e.Parameter)
        e.Handled = True
    End If
End Sub

Protected Overrides Sub OnExecuted(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Input.ExecutedRoutedEventArgs)
    If Implementation Is Nothing Then
        e.Handled = False
    Else
        Implementation.Execute(e.Parameter)
        e.Handled = True
    End If
End Sub

Private Sub OnCanExecuteChanged(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As EventArgs)
    If sender Is Implementation Then
        CommandManager.InvalidateRequerySuggested()
    End If
End Sub

Public Overrides Sub Attach(ByVal target As System.Windows.FrameworkElement)
    SetCommandProperties()
    If Implementation IsNot Nothing Then
        MyBase.Attach(target)
    End If
End Sub

 

This code is supposed to be used with the Sticky Command pattern. I will publish the complete class and the ViewModelKit it belongs to at a later stage. For now, it may be enough to see that the handlers for the RoutedCommand’s events delegate to the ICommand’s implementation.

In XAML, the class would be used like this:

<Window.Resources>
    <c:CommandSetCommand x:Key="OpenCommand" Command="Open" Implementation="{Binding Source={StaticResource FileManager}, Path=OpenCommand}"/>
</Window.Resources>

What is the advantage? Now, the ViewModel’s OpenCommand is connected to the semantics of the ApplicationCommands.Open command, it is available through this command’s keyboard shortcut, and it can participate in command routing, which basically means that every input element on the page that can receive keyboard input or has a Command property can trigger this command without more bindings, like the following MenuItem:

<MenuItem Command="Open"/>

 

Because ApplicationCommands.Open is a RoutedUICommand and has default values for its Text and InputGestures properties, this will display like this (on a computer with German Windows):

OpenMenuItemScreenShot

But this is not all.

Changing Default Keyboard Shortcuts

In the Attach method of the CommandSetCommand, a SetCommandProperties method is called. It is the job of this method to change properties on the RoutedCommand which can be configured through more properties of the CommandSetCommand:

Protected Overridable Sub SetCommandProperties()
    If Command IsNot Nothing Then
        If KeyGesture IsNot Nothing Then
            Command.InputGestures.Clear()
            Command.InputGestures.Add(KeyGesture)
        End If
        If TypeOf Command Is RoutedUICommand And Not String.IsNullOrEmpty(Text) Then
            DirectCast(Command, RoutedUICommand).Text = Text
        End If
    End If
End Sub

 

This is enough to enable overriding of the default keyboard shortcuts of the commands defined in ApplicationCommands at load time, when the command is bound to the Window or other Framework element. If you want to be able to change the keyboard shortcut at runtime, you need to do something when KeyGesture is changed:

Public Shared ReadOnly KeyGestureProperty As DependencyProperty = DependencyProperty.Register("KeyGesture", GetType(KeyGesture), GetType(CommandSetCommandBase), New PropertyMetadata(AddressOf onkeygesturechanged))
Public Property KeyGesture() As KeyGesture
    Get
        Return GetValue(KeyGestureProperty)
    End Get
    Set(ByVal value As KeyGesture)
        SetValue(KeyGestureProperty, value)
    End Set
End Property
Private Shared Sub OnKeyGestureChanged(ByVal d As CommandSetCommandBase, ByVal e As DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs)
    Dim c As RoutedCommand = TryCast(d.Command, RoutedCommand)
    If c IsNot Nothing Then
        c.InputGestures.Clear()
        If e.NewValue IsNot Nothing Then
            c.InputGestures.Add(e.NewValue)
        End If
        d.SetValue(CommandProperty, Nothing)
        d.SetValue(CommandProperty, c)
    End If
End Sub

This code will update the RoutedCommand’s InputGestures and will connect it to the new keyboard shortcut whenever KeyGesture is changed, which allows it to redefine keyboard shortcuts at runtime, both for standard application commands and for custom RoutedCommands.

This would be the right place to say that explicit KeyBindings on elements within a page should be avoided, because their scope is always local to the element on which they are defined. If this is not explicitly intended, it is easier to maintain consistent keyboard bindings throughout the application if the RoutedCommands InputGestures are used.

However, there is one problem: MenuItems use their command’s InputGestures collection to display a keyboard shortcut when they first load, but they don’t monitor it for changes. Therefore, the OnKeyGestureChanged method sets the Command property to nothing and then back to its old value. This causes MenuItems which are binding their Command property to the CommandSetCommand’s Command property to update both their Header and their InputGestureText properties. The MenuItem would look like this to support this functionality:

<MenuItem Command="{Binding Source={StaticResource
    PasteCommand}, Path=Command}"/>

 

Overriding Class CommandBindings

Have you ever tried to override the default paste command in a RichTextBox? It’s not so easy to get around this behaviour if you want to use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V for something else, or want to do checks on the clipboard contents before you paste them. Clearing the InputGestures collection of ApplicationCommands.Paste does the trick, without resorting to dirty tricks like intercepting keystrokes in the PreviewKeyDown event. Once you have got the class CommandBinding out of the way, you can define a custom RoutedCommand, its CommandBindings, and InputBindings with the original Ctrl+V keystroke wherever you need them.

To Be Continued…

In posts to come, I will introduce the CommandSet ViewModelKit, which will allow it to define the complete set of commands for an application in one place, including the functionality introduced here, and other things like connecting RoutedCommands directly to method calls in the ViewModel.

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WPFGlue Patterns

November 5, 2009 4 comments

Let’s recapitulate the design requirements for WPFGlue components:

  • You shall not duplicate functionality that is already in the WPF framework.
  • You shall not mess with WPF’s correct function, like keeping objects from being freed and the like evil practices.
  • You shall not require code behind.
  • You shall not demand sub-classing controls.
  • You shall not demand interface implementations from your business objects (unless the interfaces are part of WPF itself), nor common base classes, nor any other construct that commits the developer to a strong coupling between your glue and his code.

The following design patterns have proved suitable for development under these constraints:

Sticky Properties (a.k.a. Attached Properties)

Attached properties can be used to extend the state of any element in WPF. They can be used in XAML, and neither the framework-supplied controls nor the business object model need to know them. So, they are suitable for WPFGlue.

Built-in examples for attached properties are the Canvas.Left and Canvas.Top properties, which the WPF Canvas uses to store the positions of its child elements.

Sticky Behaviours (a.k.a. Attached Behaviours)

Attached behaviours are a special kind of attached properties that register event handlers on the elements they are attached to. The event handlers provide additional functionality to the elements which is triggered through the elements standard events, while the implementation of the event handlers is contained in the class that defines the attached property.

A built-in example for a sticky behaviour is the SpellCheck.IsEnabled property, which adds the functionality of spell checking to controls based on TextBoxBase.

Josh Smith writes about attached behaviours in this article; Attached behaviours are introduced and defined by Nikhil Kothari here.

Sticky CommandBindings

Work like sticky behaviours, with the difference that they don’t handle events, but standard routed commands. Attaching a sticky CommandBinding to a WPF FrameworkElement means that this element will be able to handle the command, without having to change the original implementation of the element. A sticky CommandBinding should add / remove the CommandBindings when the value of an attached property changes.

Pete O’Hanlon gives an almost perfect example of this pattern here. Almost perfect because he uses a class CommandBinding instead of the CommandBindings collection, but this might be justified on his case since he expects the command to be used by many elements per page.

Sticky ViewModels (a.k.a. Mini-ViewModels)

Sticky ViewModels are ViewModels that don’t wrap a business object, but attach themselves to it and expose a specialized, reusable bit of functionality through their own properties and commands. Typically, a sticky ViewModel wouldn’t be the DataContext of a FrameworkElement, but it would be attached to the element as a sticky property and use the FrameworkElement’s DataContext to find the model it is supposed to work on. Controls inside the scope of the FrameworkElement would then bind to properties of the sticky ViewModel in order to benefit from it.

Quite often jobs like this are done through converters (Converters are classes that implement the IValueConverter interface). However, I view this as converter abuse. A converter is not intended for anything but type conversions, translating data between different data types and string presentations. If the intention of the solution is rather to achieve some more complex interaction between the View and the Model, I’d recommend a sticky ViewModel instead. Usually these cases are discovered by feeling the need to pass more information into the conversion routines than is readily available…

While Mini-ViewModel seems to imply that the functionality of such a class would normally be quite limited, I could imagine whole page ViewModels using this technique.

Colin Eberhardt describes the Mini-ViewModel pattern here and gives a nice example.

ViewModelKits

A ViewModelKit would be a class or set of related classes that can be instantiated and configured as XAML resources, and then be used as ViewModels through referencing the resource.

A built-in example for a ViewModelKit would be the CollectionViewSource class, which can be used to configure views of business object collections.

Sticky Markup (a.k.a. Custom Markup Extensions)

Custom markup extensions are classes derived from System.Windows.Markup.MarkupExtension, which can be used in XAML attributes using the markup extension syntax, like {Binding value}. Writing custom markup extensions is not documented very well in the WPF documentation, and I use them sparingly. They need to be initialized in place, i.e. where they are used in XAML. This limits their “stickiness” to situations where the information they need to do their job is either very simple or can be discovered from the built-in application framework. For example, I found them useful for accessing localized resources, application settings, or the current UI language.