Professional ASP.NET 1.0 Special Edition- P9

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Professional ASP.NET 1.0 Special Edition- P9

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Professional ASP.NET 1.0 Special Edition- P9:Those of us who are Microsoft developers can't help but notice that .NET has received a fair amount of visibility over the last year or so. This is quite surprising considering that for most of this period, .NET has been in its early infancy and beta versions. I can't remember any unreleased product that has caused this much interest among developers. And that's really an important point, because ignoring all the hype and press, .NET really is a product for developers, providing a great foundation for building all types of applications....

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  1. HorizontalAlign, Rows TableRow Cells, HorizontalAlign, VerticalAlign - none - TableCell ColumnSpan, HorizontalAlign, RowSpan, Text, VerticalAlign, Wrap - none - Literal Text - none - PlaceHolder - none - - none - It should be obvious from the names what most of the properties are for, however, we will examine each control in the following sections, and indicate some of the things to look out for when we use them. The sample application, which we have already seen in Chapter 5, contains pages for most of the ASP.NET Web Form controls, and we will be using these pages to demonstrate the properties of each control: You can get the sample files for this chapter, which contain this application, from http://www.wrox.com/Books/Book_Details.asp?isbn=1861007035. The application is in the folder named server-controls. You can also run many of the examples online at http:/www.daveandal.com/profaspnet/. Using the Web Form Controls When we want to add an ASP.NET Web Form server control to our page, we define it just like an ordinary HTML element, by adding the appropriate 'attributes' for the properties we want to set. For example, we can add an ASP:TextBox control to the page to output an HTML textbox element using:
  2. runat="server" /> Notice that the Web Form controls all have the ASP namespace prefix (uppercase or lowercase, it doesn't matter which) to denote that they are from the System.Web.UI.WebControls namespace. One thing that makes working with the HTML server controls we used in the previous chapter easy is that all the properties are simple String values. For example, we specify the string value right for the Align property of an HtmlImage control to align the image to the right of any following page content. As you will see in this section, however, it is not always as straightforward with the ASP.NET Web Form controls. Many of the properties for the ASP Web Form controls use values from an enumeration, or a reference to an object. Setting Property Values from Enumerations For example, to align an image to the right of any following content when using an ASP.NET Image server control, we set the ImageAlign property to the integer value that is defined for the enumeration member ImageAlign.Right. In this example the enumeration is named ImageAlign, and the member is named Right. Of course, this isn't a problem when we explicitly define the properties declaratively (in other words by setting the 'attributes' of a server control in the source of the page). The control knows from the property name which enumeration to use: This produces the following HTML output (notice that, in the Image control, border="0" is the default if not specified otherwise): However, if we need to assign a value to the property within the executable code of the page we have to use the following: objMyImage.ImageAlign = ImageAlign.Right Creating Enumeration Values Dynamically Even this is no good if we want to assign property values dynamically at run-time, such as when they are selected from a list (as in our demonstration pages). We have to use the numeric value of the appropriate enumeration member. In the case of ImageAlign.Right this value is 2.
  3. If we use a list control for the values, we can set the Text of each to the name in the enumeration, and set the Value to the integer that this equates to. The following code shows a list containing the complete ImageAlign enumeration: ImageAlign.NotSet ImageAlign.Left ImageAlign.Right ImageAlign.Baseline ImageAlign.Top ImageAlign.Middle ImageAlign.Bottom ImageAlign.AbsBottom ImageAlign.AbsMiddle ImageAlign.TextTop Then, to set the ImageAlign property, we can just assign the value from the list directly to it: objMyImage.ImageAlign = selAlign.Value Or we can be more specific and use the SelectedIndex property of the list:
  4. objMyImage.ImageAlign = selAlign.Items(selAlign.SelectedIndex).Value Finding Enumeration Values Of course, the next obvious question is how do we go about finding out the values to use for an enumeration? In fact there are a few options here. Most enumerations provide a type converter that we can use to get the value given the enumeration member as a string. In Visual Basic, we can use: TypeDescriptor.GetConverter(GetType(enumeration)).ConvertFromString("member") To be able to create a TypeDescriptor object and use its methods in our code, we must import the System.ComponentModel namespace that contains the definition of the TypeDescriptor class: For example, to get the value of HorizontalAlign.Left we can use: TypeDescriptor.GetConverter(GetType(HorizontalAlign)).ConvertFromString("Left") Alternatively, for enumerations that don't provide a type converter, we can usually cast the enumeration member directly to an Integer variable: Dim intValue = CType(HorizontalAlign.Left, Integer) Another technique is to use the excellent WinCV utility that is included with the frameworks. Simply type in all or part of the name of the enumeration, select it in the left-hand pane, and then the values are displayed in the right-hand pane. You can even click the Option button in the top right of the window to copy them to the clipboard ready to paste into your code (but note that the values are hexadecimal).
  5. WinCV is installed in the Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio.NET\FrameworkSDK\Bin folder if you have Visual Studio .NET, or the ProgramFiles\Microsoft.NET\[version]\FrameworkSDK\Bin folder if you just installed the .NET Framework. Setting Properties that are Objects The second area where working with the ASP Web Form controls can be a little tricky is when we want to set (or retrieve) property values that are actually references to other objects. A typical example of something that should be simple, but actually isn't when you first try it, is setting the value of a 'color' property. It's not that Microsoft's developers were trying to make life awkward - it's done on purpose to provide extra features within the controls and the framework as a whole. It also allows strong type checking to be achieved by the compiler and better support in a designer tool such as Visual Studio, which would not be possible if they were string values. As an example, the ASP Web Form controls have several properties (BackColor, ForeColor, BorderColor) that reference a Color object rather than a simple string value. When we explicitly define the colors for the controls in our sourcecode, we can use the color names directly: However, if we want to assign colors at run-time, we have to create a Color object first and then assign this object to the appropriate property. For this, we use the shared properties and methods that the Color class exposes. The System.Drawing.Color Class The Color class defines shared properties for all of the standard HTML color names, such as AliceBlue, AntiqueWhite, and so on. It also exposes three shared methods that create a Color object: Method Description
  6. Creates a Color object from its 32-bit component values that define the alpha, red, green, and FromArgb blue elements. Creates a Color object from a specified HTML standard 'known color' name, for example AliceBlue FromKnownColor or Gainsboro. Creates a Color object using the specified name, which can be a 'known color' name, a 32-bit value FromName or a hexadecimal HTML-style color value such as #ff0000 (red). Each Color object also has properties that return the individual components of the current color. For example, the properties A, B, G, and R return the alpha, blue, green, and red components respectively. To get the name of the color if it is one of the 'known colors', we can query the Name property of the Color object. To be able to create a Color object and use its shared properties and methods in our code, we must import the System.Drawing namespace that contains the definition of the Color class: In our demonstration pages, we include textboxes where you can enter the colors you want for various properties of the control. For example, to set the BackColor property of a control, we call the FromName method (passing it the value that was entered), and then assign the object that this method creates to the BackColor property of the control: MyControl.BackColor = Color.FromName(txtBackColor.Value) To retrieve the color from the BackColor property, we just have to extract the Name of the Color object that the property references: txtForeColor.Value = MyControl.ForeColor.Name The System.Web.UI.WebControls.Unit Class Several properties of the ASP Web Form controls are references to a Unit object, for example the Width and Height of an Image control and the BorderWidth of a Table control. As with the Color properties, we don't have to concern ourselves with this when we explicitly define the values in our sourcecode:
  7. However, to assign values at run-time, we have to use the properties and methods exposed by the Unit object. The class that defines the Unit object is part of the same namespace as the ASP.NET Web Form controls, and so it is imported by default into our ASP pages. It exposes two properties: Property Description The type of unit that the value is measured in. One of the members of the UnitType enumeration (Cm, Mm, Em, Type Ex, Inch, Percentage, Pica, Pixel, or Point). Value The actual number of the units (as defined in the Type property) that make up the value. The Unit class also provides three shared methods that we can use to create a Unit object with a specific Type property value: Method Description Percentage Creates a Unit object of type Percentage using the specified 32-bit signed integer. Pixel Creates a Unit object of type Pixel using the specified 32-bit signed integer. Point Creates a Unit object of type Point using the specified 32-bit signed integer. So, if we have an Integer variable named intTheHeight that contains the value in pixels we want to set for the Height property of a control named MyControl, we can use: MyControl.Height = Unit.Pixel(intTheHeight) If the value comes from a textbox with the id of txtHeight, we can use: MyControl.Height = Unit.Pixel(txtHeight.Value) If we want the value to be set as a percentage (say we wanted the control to be 50 percent of the width of the page or its container), we would use: MyControl.Height = Unit.Percentage(50) To retrieve the value of the Height property from the control, we query the Unit object's Value property. The following code returns 100 for the Image control we used earlier in this section: txtHeight.Value = MyControl.Height.Value If we want to know the type of unit, we can query the Type property of the Unit object, but this returns the integer equivalent of the UnitType enumeration. For a unit in pixels, for example, this property returns 1. However (in a similar way to the example with the HorizontalAlign enumeration), we can use a type converter to get the text name. This
  8. time we use the ConvertToString method rather than the ConvertFromString method: TypeDescriptor.GetConverter(GetType(UnitType)).ConvertToString _ (MyControl.Height.Type) Finally, the easiest way to get the complete value in human-readable form (including the unit type) is to use the ToString method. For the same control, the following code returns 100px: txtHeight.Value = MyControl.Height.Value.ToString() Using the AutoPostBack Feature When we build an interactive form using previous versions of ASP, a common technique is to use some client-side script with certain controls (such as a list box or checkbox) to automatically submit the they reside on to the server for processing when the user selects a value. This allows the server to update the page in response to changes the user makes in the form. In ASP.NET, this is now part of the feature set you get for free with the framework. Certain Web Form server controls (the TextBox, CheckBox, RadioButton), and all the list controls we will look at later in the chapter, provide a property named AutoPostBack. By default this property is False. If we set it to True for a control, that control will automatically post its value, and the values of the rest of the controls on the same form, back to the server when the user selects a value. This also raises an event on the server that we can handle and use to update the contents of the page. You can experiment with AutoPostBack in the samples we provide, and we will look at how we can handle the events on the server later in this section of the chapter. How Does AutoPostBack Work? The mechanism to implement automatic postback is simple. It uses exactly the same techniques as we would use if we were programming it ourselves in a page. When the AutoPostBack property is True, the server control adds a client-side event to the control - for a buttontype control it is the onclick event, and for textboxes and list controls it is the onchange event:
  9. This causes a client-side function named __doPostBack to run when the control is clicked, when the selection is changed in a list, or when the user edits the content of a textbox and moves to another control. The ID of the control is passed to this function as well. At the same time, the on which the control resides has two extra hidden-type controls added to it. These are used to pass back to the server the ID of the control that was clicked or changed, and any value for the second parameter that the __doPostBack function receives: And, of course, the client-side __doPostBack function is added to the page as well. It just collects the control name and any arguments, puts them into the hidden controls, and submits the form to the server: Examples of the ASP Web Form Controls
  10. In this section, we will briefly look at each of the basic ASP.NET Web Form controls to give you a flavor for what they do and how they can be used. We will bring out any particularly important points about each control as we go. The ASP:CheckBox and ASP:RadioButton Controls We start with the controls that create individual checkboxes and radio buttons (later we'll see two controls that can create lists of checkboxes or radio buttons automatically). One extremely useful feature of the CheckBox and RadioButton controls is that they automatically create a label for the control using the value of the Text property, and you can place this label to the left or right of the control using the TextAlign property: The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: You can also use this page to experiment with the effects of the AutoPostBack property we discussed earlier. Also notice the AccessKey and ToolTip that make it seem like a real Visual Basic style control. These are, of course, client-side features (ToolTip sets the title attribute of the element), but they are part of the HTML 4.0 standards. Adding Styles to Web Form Controls
  11. The formatting features that apply to all the ASP Web Form controls are demonstrated in the next screenshot of the CheckBox control. You can see how they add a set of CSS-style properties (or selectors) to the element: Setting the Group Name for a RadioButton Control The RadioButton control is almost identical to the CheckBox control, except (of course) that it creates an ; element instead of an ; element. However, there is one more fundamental difference. The RadioButton control exposes an extra property called GroupName, which sets the name attribute of the control. You can see this in the next screenshot:
  12. The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: This feature is required for two reasons. One is the obvious reason that you must use the same name attribute for all radio buttons that you want to be part of the same mutually exclusive group. The second reason is that all the controls on a page must have a unique ID property, and this is automatically used as the name attribute as well (as you can see if you refer back to the screenshot of the CheckBox control). Unlike the HTML radio button control, there is no Name property for the ASP.NET Web Form RadioButton control, so the GroupName is the only way to set the name attribute. The ASP:HyperLink Control This control provides an easy way to create hyperlink ; elements. As well as the usual formatting, AccessKey, and ToolTip properties, it provides specific properties for the NavigateUrl (which sets the href attribute) and the Target property (which sets the target attribute). One other great feature is that we can set the text that appears as the hyperlink (the content of the resulting ; element) using the Text property:
  13. The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: Notice that there is again, no Name property. This seems to indicate that we can't use the control to create an anchor in a page that another hyperlink can target. An HTML anchor element requires the name attribute to be set: Paragraph One Then, we target this location in the page using an HTML element such as: Go To Paragraph One However, we can add a name attribute to a Hyperlink control either declaratively or programmatically. We do it declaratively by specifying it within the element in the source of the page:
  14. Using the Attributes Property with Server Controls One other solution at run-time is to use the Attributes property to add the attribute programmatically. This property gives us access to a collection of all the HTML attributes on a server control. So, we can access the name attribute using: strNameAttr = MyAnchor.Attributes("name") And we can set or change the name attribute using: MyAnchor.Attributes("name") = strNewName So, we can still achieve what we want without a Name property. This useful technique can be applied to any of the server controls, including the HTML server controls we looked at in the previous chapter. It may be useful in other cases where you want to add non-standard attributes to an element for your own purposes. Using an Image as a Hyperlink We often use images as hyperlinks in our pages, and the Hyperlink control makes this much easier than coding by hand. If we specify the path to an image file as the ImageUrl property, that image is used in place of the Text property as the content of the ; element. We have provided a few images for you to try out:
  15. The ASP:LinkButton Control The LinkButton control demonstrates an interesting extension to the use of an HTML ; element. By default it uses the AutoPostBack feature we described earlier, specifying the client-side JavaScript function named __doPostBack as the href attribute of an ; element. This means that whenever the link is clicked, the form will be posted back to the server where a Click event will be raised: The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is:
  16. We specify the clickable text using the Text property in the same way as with a Hyperlink control, but in this control there is no option to use an image instead of text. For that, we have to use an ImageButton control (described shortly) instead. The ASP:Image Control When we want to display an image in our page, and be able to access the control in our serverside code, we can use the ASP.NET Image server control. There are properties available that specify all the usual attributes for an ; element, including the size, an AccessKey, the ToolTip, the alignment in relation to surrounding content, the border style, and the border and background colors: The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: Again, we have provided a few images for you to experiment with. Notice also how we can specify the values for the Color properties (BorderColor in the screenshot above) using a standard HTML-style hexadecimal color value. The ASP:Panel Control
  17. While it might sound like an exotic new feature to use in your pages, the Panel control is actually just a way of creating a formatted HTML ; element. We can specify the size and style of the element, and add a background image (though you should realize that, as with all the server controls, some browsers may not support all the style properties we apply): The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: Some text inside the Panel control A useful feature is the ability to set the width of the control, and then turn text wrapping on and off using the Wrap property. Remember that we can also add our own extra style properties to any server control using the Style collection: MyControl.Style("selector-name") = "value" So we could specify that the should be absolutely positioned on the page, add scroll bars to it, change the font, and so on, just by adding the appropriate CSS selector values.
  18. The ASP:Label Control The Panel control we have just seen creates an HTML element, and this is not always ideal. For example, it automatically wraps to the next line and causes other content to be wrapped below it. To place content inline with other elements and text, we need an HTML element instead. This is just what the ASP.NET Label control provides. This control has the usual set of properties that define the appearance: ToolTip, AccessKey, and so on. It also has the Text property that we use to specify the content of the ; element: The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: The ASP:Button Control The ASP.NET Button control is used to create a standard HTML button that we can access in our server-side code. Again, the properties are the usual set we have seen in all the other controls. Notice that the type of ; element it creates is a submit button. Clicking the button will automatically submit the form on which it resides to our server, where we can handle the Click event it raises in our server-side code:
  19. The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: The ASP:ImageButton Control Instead of using a normal textcaptioned button to raise a Click event on the server, we can use a clickable image instead. The ImageButton control creates an ; element that submits the form it resides on to the server when clicked. Also, as you can see from the following screenshot, we can control the size and appearance of the image to get the effect we want:
  20. The sourcecode we used to create the server control in this page is: The ASP:TextBox Control One of the most complex of the basic Web Form input controls is the TextBox control. We can use this to create several different types of HTML element, including a normal single-line textbox, a multi-line textbox (where it actually creates an HTML element), and a password input box that displays asterisks instead of text. In its simplest form, to create a normal ; element, we don't have to change any of the default property values. However, in the following screenshot you can see that we have set the MaxLength, ReadOnly, and ToolTip properties. We also set the Columns property, which equates to the size attribute for an ; element:
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