Flash Builder 4 and Flex 4 Bible- P13

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Flash Builder 4 and Flex 4 Bible- P13

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Flash Builder 4 and Flex 4 Bible- P13: When Macromedia first released Flash MX in 2002, the product was branded as the new way to build Rich Internet Applications (known by the acronym RIA). The term was invented at Macromedia to describe a new class of applications that would offer the benefits of being connected to the Internet, including access to various types of Web-based services, but would solve many of the nagging issues that had been inherent in browser-based applications since the mid-1990s....

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  1. CHAPTER Using List Controls M ost Flex applications are designed for the purpose of presenting and managing data in some form. As a result, one of the most pop- IN THIS CHAPTER ular families of visual controls in the Flex framework includes Understanding list controls those known as list controls. Providing data to list controls A list control is defined as a component that has a dataProvider property that enables you to populate the control with dynamic data. The data provided Using dynamic data providers to a list control can be in the form of either hierarchical or relational data, and Controlling list item labels the type of data you want to present frequently determines which control you use. In addition to being able to display relational or hierarchical data, list con- Using list control events and trols have a common set of properties, methods, and events that enable the properties user to select one or more items with mouse and keyboard gestures. Handling user data selections The Flex 4 SDK includes both the older MX list controls such as DataGrid, Using custom item renderers AdvancedDataGrid, and OlapDataGrid and newer controls based on the new Spark component architecture: l The List component. This component behaves by default like an HTML control and displays data items to the user in a list box. After you learn how to use the List control, you have most of the information you need to use other such controls. You can populate controls with data, listen for events indicating that the user has selected or started to drag data, set common styles, and so on. It supports the Spark layout architecture, so you can display a horizontal or tile layout instead of the default vertical list. l The DropDownList and ComboBox components. These compo- nents also behave like an HTML control but use a drop- down list instead of a static list. l The ButtonBar component. This component has the same appearance and behavior as an MX ToggleButtonBar, presenting a set of ToggleButton controls horizontally, but is controlled programmatically just like other Spark list controls. 571
  2. Part III: Working with Data On the Web To use the sample code for this chapter, import the chapter19.fxp project from the Web site files into any folder on your disk. n In this chapter, I describe in general terms how to use all list controls. I include information on how to populate these controls with data, how to control data presentation with custom generation of item labels and renderers, and how to handle events indicating that the user wants to select and manipulate data. Cross-Reference The unique capabilities of other list controls, including the MX DataGrid, TileList, and HorizontalList, and the new Spark components, are described in Chapter 20. n Table 19.1 describes the components that have the capability to display dynamic data and support user interaction using the list control model. In the Architecture column I show which component architecture the most recent version of the component implements. TABLE 19.1 The List Controls Control Architecture Description Advanced MX This component implements all the features of the MX DataGrid DataGrid control but adds the capability to group and aggregate data and can sort on multiple columns. This component is part of the Flex Data Visualization components and is available only with a Flash Builder Premiere license. ButtonBar Spark This new component presents Spark ToggleButton objects horizontally. The appearance and behavior are similar to the MX ToggleButtonBar, but the application programming interface (API) follows the list model, implementing the change event and selected Item and selectedIndex properties. ComboBox Spark This component presents a drop-down list of simple string values. The presentation of this component is similar to an HTML con- trol that has its size property set to 1, but enables the user to enter an arbitrary string instead of selecting an item from the list. DataGrid MX This component presents a grid with multiple rows and columns. It is used to present data received from a server-side database or other data source that uses the spreadsheet-like rows-and-columns structure of relational database tables. DropDownList Spark Extended from the Spark List control, this control shows a drop- down list from which the user can select a value. Its layout property enables you to lay the list out with vertical, horizontal, or tile layout. 572
  3. Chapter 19: Using List Controls Control Architecture Description Horizontal MX This component presents a horizontal list of data items, typically ren- List dered with a custom item renderer. (For the Spark architecture, use a List with layout set to HorizontalLayout.) List Spark This component presents a list box of data items. By default, the presenta- tion of this component is similar to an HTML control that has its size property set to a value greater than 1. Its layout property enables you to lay out the list’s items with a Spark layout object such as HorizontalLayout or TileLayout. OlapDataGrid MX This component expands on the AdvancedDataGrid and supports pre- sentation of results from an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) query. TileList MX This component presents a grid of data items, typically rendered with a custom item renderer. (For the Spark architecture, use a List with layout set to TileLayout.) Tree MX This component presents hierarchical data, commonly supplied by the contents of an XML file. In addition to the components listed in Table 19.1, the Flex SDK includes a set of MX-based list controls designed for use in Adobe AIR applications. These controls provide the user with the abil- ity to inspect and manipulate files and directories in the local file system and cannot be used in Flex applications that are deployed over the Web. They include the FileSystemList, FileSystemComboBox, FileSystemDataGrid, and FileSystemTree components. Most of the information in this chapter and in Chapter 20 about list and DataGrid controls applies equally to these AIR-based controls, but these controls add functionality that enables them to populate their data from the directory and file contents of the local file system. They also imple- ment additional properties and methods that are designed to support their unique purpose. Note Other MX components extend a class named ComboBase and therefore must be considered members of the family of list controls as well. The ColorPicker control is designed to enable selection of a color value from a grid of “Web-safe” colors, and the DateField control presents a pop-up calendar control. The components aren’t often thought of as list controls, but they support the same set of properties, methods, and events as their cousins. In the Flex 4 SDK, there are no Spark equivalents to these components. n Each list control has its own unique visual presentation and behavior. As the developer, you select the control most suited to your application’s requirements. Figure 19.1 shows examples of the List, DataGrid, and DropDownList controls, each using the same set of data as its data provider. On the Web The application displayed in Figure 19.1 is available in the Web site files as ListControls.mxml in the chapter19 project. n 573
  4. Part III: Working with Data FIGURE 19.1 Commonly used list controls Using Data Providers The data you provide to a list control must be in the form of an ActionScript object, but for most purposes you typically provide a set of data that’s been wrapped in one of the data collection classes: either the ArrayList or ArrayCollection classes for data that’s in rows and columns or the XMLListCollection class for hierarchical data. The Spark and MX list controls have the same basic rules for their data providers: the data must be provided as an ordered data collection. But the Spark controls (List, DropDownList, and ComboBox) specify that the data object must implement the IList interface, whereas the MX con- trols accept any ActionScript Object. In practical terms, this means that the MX DataGrid and other related controls can accept a raw Array as their dataProvider, while the new Spark con- trols require an ArrayList, ArrayCollection, or other class that implements the interface. The List, DropDownList, and ComboBox controls are distinguished from the DataGrid and its related controls in that they present only a single column of data. They can present data from a collection of complex objects, but by default they present only one value in each list item. In con- trast, the DataGrid control is designed to present data in multiple columns. 574
  5. Chapter 19: Using List Controls Using hard-coded data providers You can embed data in a Flex application for use by either a specific instance of a list control or as a separate data object that’s then linked to a control through a binding expression. Hard-coding means that you declare actual data in the code, rather than retrieving it from an external data source at runtime. Caution As described in Chapter 18, when you embed data in a Flex application, the compiled application file expands accordingly. You should embed data only when it’s a small amount of content and won’t change during the lifetime of the application. n Nesting hard-coded data in a data provider When using a list control, you can nest hard-coded data in the declaration of a list control’s data- Provider by declaring the property with child-element syntax rather than attribute syntax. The following code presents a List control populated with a hard-coded data provider containing an ArrayList of simple String values: Small Medium Large You also can declare the dataProvider with hard-coded collections of complex objects by nest- ing multiple declarations within the tag set: California Sacramento Oregon Salem Washington Olympia 575
  6. Part III: Working with Data Note With MX controls, you can leave out the element and nest the data elements directly with the . This isn’t possible with Spark list controls, because the MXML compiler doesn’t know which implementing class of the IList interface to use. n Modifying data with the ArrayList API Because data is passed to the dataProvider as an ArrayList or ArrayCollection object, the class’s API can be used to access and manipulate the data. Even though the original data is hard-coded, the following ActionScript statement code would add a new item to the List object’s dataProvider when it contains simple String values: sizeList.dataProvider.addItem(‘Extra Large’); And this code would add a new item when it contains complex objects: stateList.dataProvider.addItem({state:’New York’,’Albany’}); The application in Listing 19.1 uses a List object with a hard-coded data provider and then enables the user to add data to the object with the addItem() method. LISTING 19.1 A List control with hard-coded data Small Medium Large 576
  7. Chapter 19: Using List Controls On the Web The code in Listing 19.1 is available in the Web site files as ListWithHardCodedData.mxml in the chapter19 project. n Declaring separate data objects with MXML tags You also can provide hard-coded data to a Spark list control from an element declared within an element or in ActionScript code. The application in Listing 19.2 declares an ArrayList and then provides the data to the List object through a binding expression. LISTING 19.2 A List control with data provided through a binding expression Small Medium Large On the Web The code in Listing 19.2 is available in the Web site files as ListWithBoundData.mxml in the chapter19 project. n Using dynamic data providers Data retrieved from an external source, such as the results of a remote server call through the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) components, or data retrieved from a local database (for an AIR desktop appli- cation) is typically stored in a data collection object. As described in Chapter 18, the data collection is typically declared in ActionScript code with the [Bindable] metadata tag or in MXML code. 577
  8. Part III: Working with Data In ActionScript code, the declaration looks like this: import mx.collections.ArrayList; [Bindable] private var myData:ArrayList = new ArrayList(); And in MXML, it looks like this: Note Data objects that are declared in MXML are immediately instantiated and always bindable. n Regardless of how the data collection is declared, by making it bindable, you make it possible to pass the data to a List control with a simple binding expression: Using RPC components You can choose to retrieve data dynamically from many sources, including the Flex SDK compo- nents that are grouped together as the RPC classes. These classes are distinguished from each other by the data format they use to communicate with a remote server: l HTTPService. This class sends simple HTTP requests to URLs that return data format- ted as simple text or XML. For example, a call to an RSS feed from a blog or content-based Web site would be executed using the HTTPService class. l RemoteObject. This class sends and receives messages formatted in Action Message Format (AMF). This binary format is defined by Adobe and implemented in many of its server products, including LiveCycle Data Services, BlazeDS, and ColdFusion. l WebService. This class retrieves data from a server with calls formatted in the industry- standard SOAP format. These components and their methodologies are described starting in Chapter 23. All, however, are capable of returning data sets in the form of ArrayList or ArrayCollection objects that are suitable for use as List control data providers. Note The AMF data format was published by Adobe Systems in 2007 to support development of independent appli- cation server products that are compatible with Flex- and Flash-based applications. n Retrieving local data in AIR applications If you’re building an AIR-based desktop application, you can retrieve data from local XML files using the File and FileStream classes or from the local SQLite embedded database with classes such as SQLConnection and SQLStatement. These classes aren’t designed to return data in the ArrayList format directly; you typically need to manually wrap data into your data collection objects with explicit ActionScript code. 578
  9. Chapter 19: Using List Controls Controlling List Item Labels If a List control’s data provider contains simple values (such as String, Number, or Date), these values are displayed on each item by default. If the data provider contains complex objects (either instances of the ActionScript Object class or of your own custom value object classes), you can determine the text labels that are displayed in a List control’s items using one of these strategies: l The labelField property enables you to point to a specific named property of each object whose values should be displayed. l The labelFunction property enables you to customize each item’s label with your own ActionScript code. Using the labelField property Most List controls support the labelField property. This property enables you to indicate which of the named properties of data items in the control’s data provider is displayed at runtime. The default value of labelField is label. As a result, if the data provider’s objects have a prop- erty named label, that property’s value is displayed. In the following code, the ArrayList con- tains data objects with a label property. The List control displays the label property’s value on each of its items: CA Sacramento OR Salem More commonly, the complex objects in the data collection have property names that are deter- mined by the structure of a database table, XML file, value object, or other existing data source. If you forget to set the labelField property on a List control that displays complex data objects, the control displays labels consisting of a set of [] characters wrapped around the word object and the object’s data type. If the data item is cast as an ActionScript Object, the result looks like this: [object Object] As shown in Figure 19.2, the results aren’t particularly useful, even when working with a value object class. 579
  10. Part III: Working with Data FIGURE 19.2 A List control displaying a complex data object with no labelField setting To fix this behavior, you explicitly set the List control’s labelField to the name of the prop- erty you want to display: CA Sacramento OR Salem Figure 19.3 shows the same List control, this time displaying the value of the property named in the control’s labelField property. The application in Listing 19.3 uses the List control’s labelField property to determine which property value of each data object is displayed at runtime. LISTING 19.3 Using the labelField property
  11. Chapter 19: Using List Controls xmlns:mx=”library://ns.adobe.com/flex/mx” xmlns:vo=”vo.*”> CA Sacramento OR Salem WA Olympia FIGURE 19.3 A List control displaying a complex data object with the labelField set to one of the properties of the data provider’s complex data objects 581
  12. Part III: Working with Data On the Web The code in Listing 19.3 is available in the Web site files as UsingLabelField.mxml in the chapter19 project. n Using the labelFunction property Most List controls implement the labelFunction property to enable you to customize the label that appears on each of the control’s items at runtime. You can control both how the data will be displayed and enable each label to show multiple properties from your data objects. The labelFunction property points to the name of a function that follows a specific signature: [access modifier] function [functionName](item:Object):String The access modifier for a custom label function can be anything you like, although when you’re calling the function from within the same application or component in which it’s defined, the access modifier is typically set to private because it’s most often used only from within. The name of the function’s only argument (item in the example syntax) can be anything you like, but it should be typed as either an Object or a custom class implementing the Value Object design pat- tern, depending on what type of data is stored in your List control’s dataProvider collection. And the function always returns a String, because its purpose is to generate a label for each of the List control’s visual items. At runtime, the List control calls the named function each time it needs to render an item visu- ally. It passes the current data object to the custom function as its item argument and then displays the returned String value. The following is an example of a function that’s compatible with the labelFunction architecture: private function getStateLabel(item:StateVO):String { return item.capitol + “, “ + item.state; } The application in Listing 19.4 displays a List control where each visual item’s label is generated by the custom getStateLabel() function. LISTING 19.4 Using the labelFunction property 582
  13. Chapter 19: Using List Controls CA Sacramento OR Salem WA Olympia On the Web The code in Listing 19.4 is available in the Web site files as UsingLabelFunction.mxml in the chapter19 project. n The resulting application is shown in Figure 19.4. Notice that each of the List control’s labels is generated using both of the data object’s named properties, concatenated with literal strings to sep- arate the values. Note The DataGrid component doesn’t implement the labelField or labelFunction properties directly. Instead, these properties are implemented in the DataGridColumn component so you can easily customize the presentation of individual columns. A label function written for a DataGridColumn must accept an additional argument: a reference to the DataGridColumn that is calling the label function. n 583
  14. Part III: Working with Data FIGURE 19.4 A List control displaying String values calculated in a labelFunction List Control Events and Properties All List controls support these events to notify you of user actions and other important updates to a control: l change. Notifies you that the user has selected an item using either a mouse or keyboard gesture. l changing. Notifies you that the user has attempted to select an item using either a mouse or a keyboard gesture. This event is cancelable, thus preventing the selection from occurring. List controls also support these properties that can be used to detect which data the user cur- rently has selected: l allowMultipleSelections:Boolean. When set to true, this enables the user to select more than one item at a time by holding down Ctrl while clicking items. l doubleClickEnabled:Boolean. When this property is set to true, the List con- trol detects double-clicks on its items and dispatches a doubleClick event. l selectedIndex:int. This is the numeric index of the currently selected item. l selectedIndices:Array. This is an array of indices of the currently selected items, when the List control’s allowMultipleSelection property is set to true. l selectedItem:Object. This is the data object underlying the List control’s cur- rently selected row or cell. l selectedItems:Array. This is an array of currently selected objects, when the List control’s allowMultipleSelection property is set to true. In addition, each List control supports unique events and properties designed for that control’s specific purpose and capabilities. 584
  15. Chapter 19: Using List Controls Caution The ComboBox and DropDownList controls do not support the allowMultipleSelection, selected Indices, or selectedItems properties. n Handling User Data Selections When a user selects items in a List control, she’s indicating that she wants to use the selected item’s underlying data. When this occurs, the List control dispatches a change event. After this event occurs, you can use the control’s selectedItem and selectedIndex properties to detect which item has been selected. Using the change event The change event is implemented in all Spark and MX List controls. In Spark controls, it dis- patches an event object typed as spark.events.IndexChangeEvent, which has a newIndex property that indicates by index which data item was selected by the user. You can detect which data item was selected by the user by referring to the event object’s new Index property and passing it to the getItemAt() method of the ArrayList data provider: changeMessage = “You clicked on “ + event.target.dataProvider.getItemAt(event.newIndex); Caution This technique notifies you that the user changed their selection, an item, but it doesn’t always indicate that the expression event.target.dataProvider.getItemAt(event.newIndex) returns a valid value. In most List controls, the user can hold down Ctrl (Cmd on the Mac) and click to deselect an item, in which case you get a change event that can’t be distinguished from the event that occurs when selecting an item. When nothing is selected, the getItemAt() expression causes a runtime error. The value of newIndex is -1, and when you pass that value to the ArrayList class’s getItemAt() method, it results in a RangeError with the message “Index ‘-1’ specified is out of bounds”. n Using the selectedItem property You can also use the List control’s selectedItem property, which always returns a reference to the data object that drove the creation of the currently selected list item. If the user has dese- lected all items in a List control, selectedItem returns null: if (event.target.selectedItem == null) { changeMessage = “None selected”; } else { changeMessage = “You selected “ + event.target.selectedItem; } 585
  16. Part III: Working with Data The application in Listing 19.5 uses a List control and a change event listener. Each time the change event is dispatched by the List control, an event handler function inspects the control’s selectedItem and displays a message indicating which item (if any) is currently selected. LISTING 19.5 Using the change event and selectedItem property Small Medium Large On the Web The code in Listing 19.5 is available in the Web site files as ChangeEventDemo.mxml in the chapter19 project. n When testing this application, try holding down Ctrl (Windows) or Cmd (Mac) and clicking an item that’s already selected. You should see the message “None selected” displayed, because the control’s selectedItem property now returns null. 586
  17. Chapter 19: Using List Controls Using the selectedIndex property All List controls implement the selectedIndex property, which returns the index position of the control’s currently selected item. Because all indexing in ActionScript starts at 0, if the first item is selected the selectedIndex property returns 1, the second returns 2, and so on. When you use a List or ComboBox control in a data entry form, you can place a data item as the first item in a list that indicates that the user is selecting all options: All Categories Comedy Drama Action Horror The following code detects whether the user has selected the first item, indicating she wants all cat- egories or a specific category: private function changeHandler(event:Event):void { if (categoryList.selectedIndex == 0) { Alert.show(“You selected all categories”, “Everything!”); } else { Alert.show(“You selected “ + categoryList.selectedItem, “One Thing!”); } } If no items are currently selected in a List control, the selectedIndex property returns a value of -1. This is particularly useful when you want to detect a state where the user hasn’t yet selected a value from a List or DataGrid control: private function changeHandler(event:Event):void { if (categoryList.selectedIndex == -1) { Alert.show(“You haven’t selected anything!”, “Nothin!”); } else { Alert.show(“You selected “ + categoryList.selectedItem, “One Thing!”); } } 587
  18. Part III: Working with Data Note When using a MX ComboBox with its editable property set to the default value of false, its selected Index property never returns -1, because some item is always selected. When you set editable to true and the user types a value into the TextInput portion of the control at runtime, selectedIndex returns -1 to indicate the user has provided a custom value. n Selecting complex data objects When a List control’s data provider is a collection of complex objects instead of simple values, you can refer to selected data objects’ named properties using either dot syntax or array-style syn- tax. Dot syntax is more common, because, especially when working with classes that implement the Value Object design pattern, they enable Flex Builder and the compiler to validate property names and provide code completion. For example, when a user selects an item that represents a complex data object from a List con- trol, you should first cast the control’s selectedItem property as the appropriate ActionScript class. You can then refer to the object’s named properties and gain the benefit of Flex Builder’s and the compiler’s syntax checking and code completion tools: var selectedState:StateVO = stateList.selectedItem as StateVO; var selectedCapitol = selectedState.capitol; If you prefer, you can use array-style syntax to refer to a data object’s named properties: var selectedCapitol = stateList.selectedItem[“capitol”]; This syntax enables you to use variables containing the names of the properties. The following code would have the same functional result as the other preceding examples: var fieldName:String = “capitol”; var selectedCapitol = stateList.selectedItem[fieldName]; Particularly when using data model classes that implement the Value Object design pattern, you may want to declare a bindable instance of the class to store the most recently selected data item. This StateVO value object class contains two properties, both of which are bindable due to the use of the [Bindable] metadata tag before the class declaration: package vo { [Bindable] public class StateVO { public var state:String; public var capitol:String; public function StateVO() { } } } 588
  19. Chapter 19: Using List Controls The application in Listing 19.6 uses a ComboBox with a data provider containing multiple instances of a value object class. Upon application startup, and then again when the user selects an item from the control, a reference to the currently selected data item is saved to the selected- State variable. Notice that this variable is marked as bindable, and its internal [Bindable] tag also marks its properties as bindable. Both levels of “bindability” are required in order for the Label controls to successfully display the selected object’s properties whenever the user selects new data. LISTING 19.6 Selecting complex data objects CA Sacramento OR Salem WA Olympia continued 589
  20. Part III: Working with Data LISTING 19.6 (continued) On the Web The code in Listing 19.6 is available in the Web site files as SelectingComplexObjects.mxml in the chapter19 project. n Using Custom Item Renderers By default, List controls display simple strings in their visual items. As described previously, you can customize the string that’s displayed with the control’s labelField and labelFunc- tion properties, but if you want to create a more complex display, you need to use a custom item renderer. MX List controls enable you to declare both item renderers and item editors. The differences between renderers and editors can be described as follows: l Item renderers primarily display information, while item editors enable the user to modify the data that’s stored in the List control’s data provider. l Item renderers display in every item of the List control regardless of the user’s interac- tions with the control. Item editors are displayed only when the user clicks to start editing the item. l Item renderers also can be marked as editors. In this case, they’re still displayed on every item of List control like a normal item renderer. But, like an item editor, they enable the user to modify the data in the List control’s data provider. The Spark List controls support only item renderers, and not item editors, but you can write your own logic to create renderers with an editable interface. Note The use of custom item renderers is described in this chapter, because they can be used with all List controls. Custom item editors are described in Chapter 20 in the section about the DataGrid control. n You declare a List control’s custom item renderer as a visual component that you want the con- trol to instantiate each time it needs to render an item visually. Each of the List controls has a 590
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