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11 Customizing ASP.NET MVC
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In other words, using the viewdata element adds one more possibility and doesn t limit you in any way. Let s consider another example. In this case, the viewdata element is used to reference a complex type, such as MyContainer:
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namespace MyBook.Samples { public class MyContainer { public string Message { get; set; } } }
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The controller stores an instance of MyContainer into the ViewData dictionary:
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var myContainer = new MyContainer(); myContainer.Message = "..."; ViewData["MyModel"] = myContainer;
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You retrieve this data via the viewdata element as follows:
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<use namespace="MyBook.Samples" /> <viewdata MyModel="MyContainer" /> ... ${MyModel.Message}
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And finally, if your view-model object is stored in the Model property of the ViewData collection, here s what you can do:
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<use namespace="MyBook.Samples" /> <viewdata model="MyContainer" /> ... ${Model.Message}
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The case of property names in the viewdata element doesn t matter. To finish off, here s a complete demo that renders a data-driven user interface. The view model is a collection of Category object. Note the special [[ type ]] syntax used in the viewdata element for generics:
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<content name="MainContent"> <viewdata model="IEnumerable[[Category]]"/> <h2>Browse Products <span class="action"> !{Html.ActionLink("[add]", "NewCategory")} </span> </h2> <ul> <li each="var category in ViewData.Model" id="!{Html.AttributeEncode(category.CategoryName)}">
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!{Html.ActionLink(category.CategoryName, "List", new { id=category.CategoryName })} </li> </ul> </content>
Figure 11-7 shows the output produced by this template.
FIGuRE 11-7 The output of the view as designed with Spark
Note What makes Spark so attractive to so many people in the relatively small (but growing)
ASP.NET MVC community The reason is essentially this: Spark gives you a clean syntax to describe the view you want. Your final result will probably be much cleaner and more readable than the tag soup you are likely to produce with the default Web Forms view engine. This increases readability which, in turn, helps maintenance because Spark makes it inherently easier to spot what s wrong at some point. Spark makes it harder for you to produce a tag soup, but a readable syntax with the default engine is definitely possible. The reality is that Spark brings with it a new syntax and binds you to a community-driven project. In my opinion, it couldn t be farther from the truth that community-driven and open-source projects are lesser software. However, I ve seen too many customers who are just not willing to use any software without a clear vendor behind it to yield to the sincere geek enthusiasm for something that like Spark is inherently cool.
11 Customizing ASP.NET MVC
Ultimately, using Spark or sticking to the default view engine doesn t generally make a big difference in the economy of a project. Although I won t deny that Spark is really cool and effective, I won t list it as one of the must-have features that could make your project a success. This said, I welcome any improvement to the view syntax that Microsoft could deliver in the near future. Compile-time checking, ordered mix-up of HTML and code, and optional declarative components for when you need more abstraction these are, in my opinion, the pillars of the ideal ASP.NET MVC view engine.
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Many developers go through the same experience when they approach ASP.NET MVC. The initial enthusiasm for the technology and the attraction to the overall high quality of the design are soon softened by the consideration that, when it comes to the view, you seem to go 10 years back to the tag soup of old-fashioned ASP. Spark (as well as other engines such as NVelocity) can certainly contribute to making a view template more readable and cleaner, but it doesn t change a basic fact: ASP.NET MVC today lacks a component model to give you the level of productivity you can achieve in Web Forms through server controls.
ASP.NET MVC and a Component Model
ASP.NET MVC pushes simplicity and, as a result, it is designed to stay really close to the metal. Because the URL of a Web application typically returns HTML, staying close to the metal means staying close to the machinery that produces HTML and granting developers total control over it. This is a good point and fulfills a real demand. The point is: should the quest for simplicity and control preclude adding a more abstract component model conceptually similar to server controls, but technically different If we could get to this, in my opinion, we would be more than halfway toward the unification of the various ASP.NET frameworks (Web Forms, ASP.NET MVC, and also Dynamic Data). You might recall from 1, Goals of ASP.NET MVC and Motivation for Its Development, the success of Web Forms is largely due to the abstraction it provides over the production of HTML and script code. This abstraction is mostly achieved through server controls. You can certainly use Web Forms server controls in ASP.NET MVC, but server controls follow their own paradigm, which is tightly integrated with the Page Controller pattern of Web Forms. A component model that is analogous to server controls just doesn t exist for ASP.NET MVC. This fact definitely cuts down to some extent the potential of the framework and makes the choice between Web Forms and ASP.NET MVC more difficult (and, in a way, pointless) for architects and project managers. The fundamental question should we use ASP.NET Web Forms or ASP.NET MVC too often ends up being an endless and pointless religious discussion where all parties are just pushing their own vision and screaming louder with the gathering force of their conviction.
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