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File System Browsing in ASP.NET: New Approach vs. Old Approach

, 3 Jul 2005
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Most of the programmers who have transitioned from ASP to ASP.NET still use the loop-and-create method for displaying contents of a specific folder. In this demo I am going to show you how to use the File System Objects, a DataGrid and a DataTable to accomplish this task.

Introduction

"File system browsing? What the heck is that?"

"Old way? New way? is there another way???"

I guess most of us are still on the pre-.NET mindset, the term I commonly use when people think of solutions that are based on the ways of doing stuff without utilizing the benefits of the new technology which could help in making the task a lot easier. A great example of this type of mindset is this, what comes to your mind when you are asked to create a Web Form that enables the user to list the contents of a folder and enables the user to download selected files on that folder? I bet you more than 80% of the programmers would have this answer.

"Yeah, I can build a function that reads the folder and write it like what I used to do on ASP 3.0 where I build the layout using HTML tags and just loop thru all the directories and files inside the specified folder. I would then use the Response.Write method to write the structure of the table to an HTML page."

Guilty??

I guess most of us still think this way...

What if I tell you that you can do this task by just using some System.IO objects, a DataTable and a DataGrid? Strange huh? But it's true! Before we proceed to the solution, I want to show you an example of a code written by an ASP.NET programmer that uses the old way of accomplishing this task:

Here is the C# example of the classic code:

using System;
using System.Collections;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Web;
using System.Web.SessionState;
using System.Web.UI;
using System.Web.UI.WebControls;
using System.Web.UI.HtmlControls;
using System.Text;
using System.IO;
using System.Configuration;
namespace KeithRull.FolderBrowserCS
{
    /// <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary>
</span>
    /// Summary description for FolderBrowser.
    /// <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary>
</span>
    public class theOldWayBrowser : System.Web.UI.Page
    {
        protected System.Web.UI.WebControls.PlaceHolder plhFiles;
        
        private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
        {
            //create the our table
            LiteralControl lcTableHead = new 
                       LiteralControl(@"<TABLE id=FileSystem" + 
                       @"style='FONT-SIZE: xx-small;" + 
                       @"BORDER-TOP-STYLE: none;" + 
                       @"FONT-FAMILY: Arial;" + 
                       @"BORDER-RIGHT-STYLE: none;" + 
                       @"BORDER-LEFT-STYLE: none;" + 
                       @"BORDER-COLLAPSE: collapse;" + 
                       @"BORDER-BOTTOM-STYLE: none'" + 
                       @"cellSpacing=0" + 
                       @"rules=all border=1>");
            plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcTableHead);
            LiteralControl lcContents;
            
            //creathe the column headers
            LiteralControl lcTableHeader = new 
                   LiteralControl(@"<TR>" +
                   @"<TD style='WIDTH: 80px'>Type</TD>" +
                   @"<TD style='WIDTH: 350px'>Name</TD>" +
                   @"<TD style='WIDTH: 150px'>CreationTime</TD>" +
                   @"<TD style='WIDTH: 150px'>LastWriteTime</TD>" +
                   @"</TR>");
            plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcTableHeader);
            try 
            {
                //read our query string, if its null, 
                //assign the default folder
                //to our variable else assign the query string value. 
                string strDir = Request.QueryString["d"] == null ? 
                   FileBrowerProperty.IntialPath : Request.QueryString["d"];
                //read the directory
                DirectoryInfo DirInfo = new DirectoryInfo(strDir);
                //read the subdirectories inside the parent directory
                DirectoryInfo[] subDirs = DirInfo.GetDirectories();
                //read the files in the parent directory
                FileInfo[] Files = DirInfo.GetFiles();
                //check if there are directories and 
                //files inside our parent directory
                if((Files.Length != 0) && (subDirs.Length!=0))
                {
                    //loop thru each of the directory 
                    //inside the parent directory
                    foreach(DirectoryInfo di in subDirs)
                    {
                        //add the directory info to our table
                        LiteralControl lcFolders = 
                                 new LiteralControl(@"<TR>" + 
                                 @"<TD style='WIDTH: 80px'>" + 
                                 @"Directory</TD>" + 
                                 @"<TD style='WIDTH: 350px'>" + 
                                 @"<a href='theOldWayBrowser.aspx?d=" + 
                                 @di.FullName + "'>" + di.Name + 
                                 "</a></TD><TD style='WIDTH: 150px'>" + 
                                 di.CreationTime + 
                                 "</TD><TD style='WIDTH: 150px'>" + 
                                 di.LastWriteTime + "</TD></TR>");
                        plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcFolders);
                    }
                    //loop thru each of the file 
                    //inside the parent directory
                    foreach(FileInfo fi in Files)
                    {
                        //add the file info to our table
                        LiteralControl lcContentsHead = 
                           new LiteralControl("<tr><td>File</td><td>");
                        plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcContentsHead); 
                        LinkButton lb = new LinkButton();
                        //set the label and command name 
                        //to the filename of the file
                        lb.Text = @fi.Name;
                        lb.CommandName = @fi.Name;
                        //set the command argument to the fullpath
                        lb.CommandArgument = @fi.FullName;
                        //add our handler
                        lb.Click += new EventHandler(Download);
                        plhFiles.Controls.Add(lb);
                        LiteralControl lcContentsTail = 
                               new LiteralControl("</td><td>" + 
                               fi.CreationTime + 
                               "</td><td valign='bottom'>"+ 
                               fi.LastWriteTime+"</td></tr>");
                        plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcContentsTail);
                    }
                }
                else
                {
                    // there is file or folder inside the directory
                    lcContents = 
                          new LiteralControl("<tr>" +
                          "<td colspan = 4>" + 
                          "No file/folder found inside this " + 
                          "directory.</td></tr>");
                    plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcContents);
                } 
            }
            catch(Exception ex)
            {
                //error trap
                lcContents = 
                    new LiteralControl("<tr>" + 
                    "<td colspan = 4> Error encountered" + 
                    " while trying to parse directory. " + 
                    ex.Message + "</td></tr>");
                plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcContents);
            }
            LiteralControl lcTableTail = 
                new LiteralControl("</table>");
            plhFiles.Controls.Add(lcTableTail);
        }
        private void Download(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
        {
            //get the file path
            string filepath = ((LinkButton) sender).CommandArgument;
            //geth the filename
            string filename = ((LinkButton) sender).CommandName;
            
            //read the file to our stream
            Stream s = File.OpenRead(filepath);
            //create the bytes to be streamed
            Byte[] buffer = new Byte[s.Length];
            
            //build the buffer
            try 
            { 
                s.Read(buffer, 0, (Int32) s.Length); 
            }
            //close our stream
            finally { s.Close(); }
            //clear the response headers
            Response.ClearHeaders();
            //clear the content type
            Response.ClearContent();
            Response.ContentType = "application/octet-stream";
            //add our header
            Response.AddHeader("Content-Disposition", 
                "attachment; filename=" + filename);
            //write the buffer to the http stream
            Response.BinaryWrite(buffer);
            //end response
            Response.End();
        }
    }
}

Doesn't this look like an old ASP implementation? Working with the interface while reading the data?

As I said a while ago, we can accomplish the same task by using DataTables and a DataGrid. First, let's do a little examination of the DataGrid.DataSource property. DataGrid.DataSource property accepts any object that implements an IList interface. With this in mind, let's take a look at the values returned by DirectoryInfo.GetDirectories(), DirectoryInfo.GetFiles() and Directory.FileSystemInfo().>.

The DirectoryInfo.GetDirectories() is a method that is used when you want to get a collection of all the subdirectories inside a directory. While the DirectoryInfo.GetFiles() gets a collection of all the files inside a specified directory. On the other hand, DirectoryInfo.GetFileSystemInfos() gets a collection of all the files and directories inside a folder. Since these three methods return a collection of files, directories or both, we can safely assume that we can use the result set returned by these objects as the data source of our DataGrid.

The listing below shows how to list the contents of a folder using DirectoryInfo.FileSystemInfo():

private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
{
    string folderToBrowse = @"c:\";
    
    DirectoryInfo DirInfo = 
        new DirectoryInfo(folderToBrowse);
    FileSystemGrid.DataSource = 
        DirInfo.GetFileSystemInfos();
    FileSystemGrid.DataBind();
}

Please take a note that you need to setup your grid to accept the values that are generated by the DirectoryInfo.GetFileSystemInfo method. A sample template is as follows:

<asp:datagrid id="FileSystemGrid" runat="server" 
    BorderStyle="None" AutoGenerateColumns="False"
    Font-Size="XX-Small" Font-Names="Arial" 
    AllowSorting="True">
<Columns>
<asp:TemplateColumn HeaderText="Name">
<HeaderStyle Width="350px"></HeaderStyle>
<ItemTemplate>
<asp:HyperLink id=systemLink runat="server" NavigateUrl='' 
   Text='<%# DataBinder.Eval(Container, "DataItem.FullName") %>'>
</asp:HyperLink>
</ItemTemplate>
</asp:TemplateColumn>
<asp:BoundColumn DataField="CreationTime" 
    HeaderText="CreationTime">
<HeaderStyle Width="150px"></HeaderStyle>
</asp:BoundColumn>
<asp:BoundColumn DataField="LastWriteTime" 
    HeaderText="LastWriteTime">
<HeaderStyle Width="150px"></HeaderStyle>
</asp:BoundColumn>
</Columns>
</asp:datagrid>

The result of our first sample is shown below:

This is simple? right?

What if we want to add some user interactions? For example, clicking on a selected directory would allow the user to browse the underlying files and directories. To accomplish this task, we need to have a LinkButton, our DataTable and our DataGrid. But this time, we would be separating the Folder table and the File table. This is necessary because we want to have different interactions. For example, clicking a folder would enable us to browse the sub folder and files on that folder or clicking on the file would enable us to download that file.

Here is the C# example of the solution to this problem:

using System;
using System.Collections;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Web;
using System.Web.SessionState;
using System.Web.UI;
using System.Web.UI.WebControls;
using System.Web.UI.HtmlControls;
using System.IO;
namespace KeithRull.FolderBrowserCS
{
    /// <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary>
</span>
    /// Summary description for theNewWayBrowser.
    /// <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary>
</span>
    public class theNewWayBrowser : System.Web.UI.Page
    {
        protected System.Web.UI.WebControls.DataGrid FileSystem;
        
        private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
        {
            //read our query string, if its null, assign the default folder
            //to our variable else assign the query string value.
            string folderToBrowse = Request.QueryString["d"] == null ? 
                  FileBrowerProperty.IntialPath : Request.QueryString["d"];
            //read the folder 
            DirectoryInfo DirInfo = new DirectoryInfo(folderToBrowse);
            //create our datatable that would hold the list
            //of folders in the specified directory
            DataTable fileSystemFolderTable = new DataTable();
            //create our datatable that would hold the list
            //of files in the specified directory
            DataTable fileSystemFileTable = new DataTable();
            //create our datatable that would hold the list
            //of files and folders when we combine the two 
            //previously declared datatable
            DataTable fileSystemCombinedTable = new DataTable();
            
            //create the columns for our file datatable
            DataColumn dcFileType = new DataColumn("Type");
            DataColumn dcFileFullName = new DataColumn("FullName");
            DataColumn dcFileName = new DataColumn("Name");
            DataColumn dcFileCreationTime = new DataColumn("CreationTime");
            DataColumn dcFileLastWriteTime = new DataColumn("LastWriteTime");
            //create the columns for our folder datatable
            DataColumn dcFolderType = new DataColumn("Type");
            DataColumn dcFolderFullName = new DataColumn("FullName");
            DataColumn dcFolderName = new DataColumn("Name");
            DataColumn dcFolderCreationTime = new DataColumn("CreationTime");
            DataColumn dcFolderLastWriteTime = new DataColumn("LastWriteTime");
            //add the columns to our datatable
            fileSystemFolderTable.Columns.Add(dcFileType);
            fileSystemFolderTable.Columns.Add(dcFileName);
            fileSystemFolderTable.Columns.Add(dcFileFullName);
            fileSystemFolderTable.Columns.Add(dcFileCreationTime);
            fileSystemFolderTable.Columns.Add(dcFileLastWriteTime);
            fileSystemFileTable.Columns.Add(dcFolderType);
            fileSystemFileTable.Columns.Add(dcFolderName);
            fileSystemFileTable.Columns.Add(dcFolderFullName);
            fileSystemFileTable.Columns.Add(dcFolderCreationTime);
            fileSystemFileTable.Columns.Add(dcFolderLastWriteTime);
            //loop thru each directoryinfo object in the specified directory
            foreach(DirectoryInfo di in DirInfo.GetDirectories())
            {
            //create a new row in ould folder table
            DataRow fileSystemRow = fileSystemFolderTable.NewRow();
            
            //assign the values to our table members
            fileSystemRow["Type"] = "Directory";
            fileSystemRow["Name"] = di.Name;
            fileSystemRow["FullName"] = di.FullName;
            fileSystemRow["CreationTime"] = di.CreationTime;
            fileSystemRow["LastWriteTime"] = di.LastWriteTime;
            fileSystemFolderTable.Rows.Add(fileSystemRow);
            }
            //loop thru each fileinfo object in the specified directory
            foreach(FileInfo fi in DirInfo.GetFiles())
            {
            //create a new row in ould folder table
            DataRow fileSystemRow = fileSystemFileTable.NewRow();
            //assign the values to our table members
            fileSystemRow["Type"] = "File";
            fileSystemRow["Name"] = fi.Name;
            fileSystemRow["FullName"] = fi.FullName;
            fileSystemRow["CreationTime"] = fi.CreationTime;
            fileSystemRow["LastWriteTime"] = fi.LastWriteTime;
            fileSystemFileTable.Rows.Add(fileSystemRow);
            }
            
            //copy the folder table to our main datatable,
            //this is necessary so that the parent table would have the
            //schema of our child tables.
            fileSystemCombinedTable = fileSystemFolderTable.Copy();
            //loop thru each row of our file table
            foreach(DataRow drw in fileSystemFileTable.Rows)
            {
            //import the rows from our child table to the parent table
            fileSystemCombinedTable.ImportRow(drw);
            }
            
            //assign our file system parent table to our grid and bind it.
            FileSystem.DataSource = fileSystemCombinedTable;
            FileSystem.DataBind();
        }
        #region Web Form Designer generated code
        override protected void OnInit(EventArgs e)
        {
            //
            // CODEGEN: This call is required 
            // by the ASP.NET Web Form Designer.
            //
            InitializeComponent();
            base.OnInit(e);
        }
        
        /// <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary>
</span>
        /// Required method for Designer support - do not modify
        /// the contents of this method with the code editor.
        /// <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary>
</span>
        private void InitializeComponent()
        { 
            this.FileSystem.ItemCommand +=
                new DataGridCommandEventHandler(FileSystem_ItemCommand);
            this.Load += new System.EventHandler(this.Page_Load);
        }
        #endregion
        private void FileSystem_ItemCommand(object source, 
                                DataGridCommandEventArgs e)
        {
            //get the filepath from the specified 
            //command arguments for our linkbutton
            string filepath = e.CommandArgument.ToString();
            //get the file system type of the selected ite
            string fileSystemType = 
                FileSystem.Items[e.Item.ItemIndex].Cells[0].Text;
            //if its a directory, redirect to our page and passing
            //the new file path to our query string
            if(fileSystemType == "Directory")
            {
                Response.Redirect("theNewWayBrowser.aspx?d="+ 
                                   e.CommandArgument.ToString());
            }
            else
            { 
                //get the filename
                string filename = e.CommandName;
                
                //read the file to our stream
                Stream s = File.OpenRead(filepath);
                //create the bytes to be streamed
                Byte[] buffer = new Byte[s.Length];
                
                //build the buffer
                try { 
                    s.Read(buffer, 0, (Int32) s.Length); 
                }
                //close our stream
                finally { s.Close(); }
                //clear the response headers
                Response.ClearHeaders();
                //clear the content type
                Response.ClearContent();
                Response.ContentType = "application/octet-stream";
                //add our header
                Response.AddHeader("Content-Disposition", 
                     "attachment; filename=" + filename);
                //write the buffer to the http stream
                Response.BinaryWrite(buffer);
                //end response
                Response.End();
            }
        }
    }
}

The screenshot of the result of our solution is shown below:

As you can see, we have accomplished the same result as the first example that uses the legacy ASP logic using native ASP.NET objects.

License

This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here

About the Author

Keith Rull
Web Developer
United States United States
Keith Rull is a programmer from the Philippines who recently moved to San Diego, CA.
 
He has vast experience in developing applications using C#, Vb.NET, Java, Oracle, Microsoft Reporting Services and Microsoft SQL Server.
 
When not infront of the computer, he usually spends his time thinking about his motherland.

Comments and Discussions

 
Questionthis is what I need Pinmembersaichander12331-Jul-12 17:57 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberMamun Reza17-Oct-11 23:45 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberJamie Llewellyn6-Oct-11 16:55 
GeneralExcellent code PinmemberDan B. Nielsen17-Nov-09 2:12 
QuestionHow to show a icon associated to file Pinmemberfalejandrocom25-Jan-09 19:42 
AnswerRe: How to show a icon associated to file PinmemberKeith Oliver Rull26-Jan-09 4:39 
Questionhow to make it all download at time using button click on page Pinmemberharish44823-May-08 21:11 
GeneralNew version! PinmemberKeith Oliver Rull19-Nov-07 6:08 
GeneralSorting PinmemberAdam953614-Sep-07 5:03 
GeneralGenius I say Pinmemberknahledge15-Jun-07 5:43 
QuestionHow can we make the datagrid sortable? Pinmembernancydo30-Apr-07 4:52 
GeneralError while running locally Pinmemberxccx19-Mar-07 20:39 
GeneralHi Pinmembertaminha21-Feb-07 21:31 
GeneralRe: Hi PinmemberKeith Oliver Rull23-Feb-07 11:03 
QuestionIs there a ASP classic version of this? PinmemberMember #37897762-Feb-07 8:06 
GeneralFile download incomplete PinmemberAndyBerga26-Jan-07 1:06 
GeneralRe: File download incomplete PinmemberKeith Oliver Rull2-Feb-07 8:48 
GeneralI get a compilation error Pinmembercygnusx19730-Nov-06 10:39 
GeneralRe: I get a compilation error PinmemberForogar8-Dec-06 6:18 
GeneralThanks for the article [modified] PinmemberBoro_Bob25-Aug-06 4:47 
QuestionCan you sort fileSystemCombinedTable by Name, Length, and LastWriteTime on ASC and DESC? PinmemberMary L28-Feb-06 8:43 
AnswerRe: Can you sort fileSystemCombinedTable by Name, Length, and LastWriteTime on ASC and DESC? PinmemberKeith Oliver Rull28-Feb-06 8:47 
GeneralRe: Can you sort fileSystemCombinedTable by Name, Length, and LastWriteTime on ASC and DESC? Pinmemberyangmingchao20-Jun-07 16:21 
QuestionA better alternative? PinmemberKerem Kat27-Jan-06 12:02 
Generalnice PinmemberTaha Zayed7-Jul-05 2:47 

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