Back and forth in VB.NET

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15.1.3 Back and forth
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Browsers have a long history2 with their current navigation paradigm. When running an application in the browser, and increasingly when running desktop applications, users have come to expect that the approach of Back buttons, Forward buttons, and hyperlinks will be, if not the primary navigation mechanism, at least one form that s available to them. It has even reached a level mainstream enough to be incorporated into the Windows shell, as shown in figure 15.2. The Back and Forward buttons have their own settled UI convention (left and right arrows). As expected, Back navigates the browser history backward, toward the
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Navigation and dialogs
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Figure 15.2 The Back and Forward buttons have even made it into the Windows shell, in the file explorer windows.
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first page in the navigation chain, and Forward navigates forward as far as you ve gone in this chain. Of course, Forward only works if you ve used the Back button already. When you click another hyperlink, the forward chain is rebuilt starting at the current point. With the background in browser navigation, journals, and hashtags, we can now look at the Silverlight implementation and make more sense of the design choices made, as well as the knobs provided for tweaking the approach. The easiest and most obvious way to explore the navigation framework is to start with the Silverlight Navigation Application template.
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15.2 The Navigation Application template
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When creating a new Silverlight project, you can choose from several stock templates. For most of the projects in this book, we ve used the generic Silverlight Application template. That template is great if you want a blank slate to start with. The Silverlight Navigation Application template is another good one. This template provides the fundamental structure and plumbing required to allow your application to work using a familiar web page navigation model. In addition, the template provides for easy theming of your application. The Silverlight Navigation Application template isn t required when you want to incorporate navigation in your application. But you ll find the template provides a good starting point. In this section, you ll create a new navigation project and use it to explore the Navigation Application template, including modifying the navigation to include an additional page and the link to that page. We ll wrap up with an example showing you how to use the free online themes to customize the UI of the navigation application.
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15.2.1 Creating a navigation application
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As the name suggests, the Silverlight Navigation Application template structures the application around the navigation API first introduced with Silverlight 3. This API makes it easy to move between pages. The template provides a best-practices structure for using the capabilities provided, as well as a good starting point for your own applications. The first step is to create the new project using the navigation template. Figure 15.3 shows the correct template selected in the Visual Studio 2010 New Project dialog. I named the application NavigationExample.
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The Navigation Application template
Picking the Navigation Application template in Visual Studio 2010
After the project has been created, you end up with a structure that includes an Assets folder with application styles (see chapter 23 for more on styling) and a Views folder that includes two pages and an error window dialog. You ll also see the usual MainPage.xaml and App.xaml files in the project root. When you run the unmodified application, using the default application style, you ll end up with something that looks like figure 15.4.
Figure 15.4 The Navigation Application default project. Note how the URL corresponds to the current page visible in the application, and how the navigation menu on the right is synchronized with the two.
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Navigation and dialogs
The application template includes all the wiring required to synchronize the menu (the Home button at upper right in the screen shot) with the page in view, and synchronizes both with the hashtag in the URL. If you click the About navigation button, you ll see that the URL changes. Even better, you can use the browser s Back button to get back to the home page of the application. Although this is a great structure, an application with only home and about pages would probably not be particularly engaging. To grow beyond this, you need to add a new page and modify the navigation menu.
15.2.2 Adding a new page Much like regular web pages, the functionality and content for a navigation application are in the pages. Adding a new page to a navigation application involves three steps:
1 2 3
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