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Extending the ASP.NET multiline TextBox control to limit the number of characters entered

, 16 Nov 2007
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Developers use multiline TextBox controls in almost all web projects. Since the MaxLength property of a TextBox control does not work when the TextMode property is set to Multiline, we usually use Validator controls to validate the length.

Introduction

Developers use multiline TextBox controls in almost all web projects. Since the MaxLength property of a TextBox control does not work when the TextMode property is set to Multiline, we usually use Validator controls to validate the length. In this hands-on article, we are going to extend the TextBox control using JavaScript in order to limit the number of characters entered by the user to the length specified.

Using the code

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Text;
using System.Web;
using System.Web.UI;
using System.Web.UI.WebControls;
using System.IO;
using System.Globalization;
using System.Threading;

namespace CustomServerControls
{
    [DefaultProperty("Text")]
    [ToolboxData("<{0}:TextArea runat="server"></{0}:TextArea>")]
    public class TextArea : TextBox
    {
        public override TextBoxMode TextMode
        {
            get
            {
                return TextBoxMode.MultiLine;
            }
        }

        protected override void OnPreRender(EventArgs e)
        {
            if (MaxLength > 0)
            {
                if (!Page.ClientScript.IsClientScriptIncludeRegistered("TextArea"))
                {
                    Page.ClientScript.RegisterClientScriptInclude("TextArea", 
                                      ResolveUrl("~/textarea.js"));
                }
                this.Attributes.Add("onkeyup", "LimitInput(this)");
                this.Attributes.Add("onbeforepaste", "doBeforePaste(this)");
                this.Attributes.Add("onpaste", "doPaste(this)");
                this.Attributes.Add("onmousemove", "LimitInput(this)");
                this.Attributes.Add("maxLength", this.MaxLength.ToString());
            }
                base.OnPreRender(e);
        }
    }
}

The code above creates a new TextArea custom server control by extending ASP.NET's TextBox control. By overriding the OnPreRender function, we include attributes to the HTML of the control. We add custom JavaScript and a property to pass MaxLength on the client side.

To show the working TextArea control, I prepared the following HTML:

<%@ Page Language="C#" AutoEventWireup="true" 
         CodeFile="Default.aspx.cs" Inherits="_Default" %>
<%@ Register TagPrefix="csc" Namespace="CustomServerControls" %> 

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" >
<head runat="server">
    <title>TextArea Custom Server Control with MaxLength property</title>
</head>
<body>
    <form id="form1" runat="server">
    <div>
        <csc:TextArea id="TextArea" runat="server" 
            MaxLength="105" Rows="10" 
            Width="300px"></csc:TextArea>
    </div>
    </form>
</body>
</html>

In the above HTML, I register the custom control with the web page by using the following line:

<%@ Register TagPrefix="csc" Namespace="CustomServerControls" %>

If you don't want to add the above registration line on each page that you use the TextArea control, you may add the following statement in the system.web section of the web.config file:

<pages>
   <controls>
    <add tagPrefix="csc" namespace="CustomServerControls"></add>
   </controls>
</pages>  

I added the control on the page as:

<csc:TextArea id="TextArea" runat="server" MaxLength="105" Rows="10" Width="300px">
</csc:TextArea>

Let's compare the rendered output of a multiline textbox control and our text area control:

The rendered output of a standard multiple line ASP.NET TextBox is:

<textarea name="TextArea" id="TextArea" rows="10" cols="20" style="width:300px;" ></textarea>

The rendered output of our TextArea custom server control is:

<textarea name="TextArea" rows="10" cols="20" id="TextArea"
  onkeypress="LimitInput(this)" onbeforepaste="doBeforePaste(this)"
  onpaste="doPaste(this)" onmousemove="LimitInput(this)" maxLength="105"
  style="width:300px;"></textarea>

The JavaScript event handlers doBeforePaste and doPaste are only implemented in Internet Explorer. These event handlers are used to check the length of characters that are pasted by using a mouse in Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, the doBeforePaste and doPaste event handlers are not defined in other browsers and we cannot catch a mouse paste in browsers other than IE. Therefore, I added an onmousemove event handler in order to check the length of characters that are pasted by using a mouse after a mouse move. The onkeypress event handler handles the standard character input.

function doBeforePaste(control)
{
   maxLength = control.attributes["maxLength"].value;
   if(maxLength)
   {
       event.returnValue = false;
   }
}
function doPaste(control)
{
   maxLength = control.attributes["maxLength"].value;
   value = control.value;
   if(maxLength){
        event.returnValue = false;
        maxLength = parseInt(maxLength);
        var o = control.document.selection.createRange();
        var iInsertLength = maxLength - value.length + o.text.length;
        var sData = window.clipboardData.getData("Text").substr(0,iInsertLength);
        o.text = sData;
    }
}
function LimitInput(control)
{
    if(control.value.length >

Updates

  • Nov 10, 2007 - The onkeypress JavaScript event handler is changed with the onkeyup JavaScript event handler. (You may check the reason at KeyPress, KeyDown, KeyUp - The Difference Between JavaScript Key Events)
  • Nov 9, 2007 - Instead of using the 'ResolveClientUrl' method to access textarea.js which may cause a problem in the case of URL rewriting, the 'ResolveUrl' method is used.
  • The code is tested on Firefox, IE 6.0, and IE 7.0.

      Try the online demo of the extended ASP.NET multiline TextBox control that limits the number of characters entered. You may find more articles about ASP.NET, JavaScript, and C# on my blog.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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Comments and Discussions

 
BugMy vote of 5 [modified] Pinmemberzhangtai19-Sep-12 18:40 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembermanoj kumar choubey17-Feb-12 20:55 
GeneralWell Done Pinmembernorchr14-Apr-10 11:56 
GeneralObject expected error while using this customer control into update panel [modified] PinmemberRakesh Bhavsar22-Feb-10 0:34 
GeneralNice Control Pinmemberthatraja19-Jan-10 3:14 
QuestionDatabinding issues? Pinmembermminnich28-Dec-09 5:27 
GeneralSet MaxLength from CodeBehind PinmemberKen Robert Andersen7-May-09 23:34 
I needed to set the MaxLength property from Codebehind. Made possible with this change of OnPreRender method, which uses the programatically set value if existing, otherwise the MaxLength property from aspx:
 
protected override void OnPreRender(EventArgs e)
{
int maxLength = 0;

if (this.Attributes["maxLength"] != null) { //programmatically set attribute. Used if existing.
try {
maxLength = Convert.ToInt32(this.Attributes["maxLength"]);
}
catch {
throw new ApplicationException("Invalid set attribute MaxLength of TextArea control. Must be a number" );
}
}
else if( this.MaxLength > 0) {//static property from aspx
maxLength = this.MaxLength;
this.Attributes["maxLength"] = maxLength.ToString();
}

if (maxLength > 0)
{
if (!Page.ClientScript.IsClientScriptIncludeRegistered("TextArea"))
{
Page.ClientScript.RegisterClientScriptInclude("TextArea", ResolveUrl("~/textarea.js"));
}
this.Attributes.Add("onkeyup", "LimitInput(this)");
this.Attributes.Add("onbeforepaste", "doBeforePaste(this)");
this.Attributes.Add("onpaste", "doPaste(this)");
this.Attributes.Add("onmousemove", "LimitInput(this)");
}
base.OnPreRender(e);
}

GeneralThanks PinmemberGrettir Strong6-Feb-09 7:34 
GeneralNice Solution PinmemberAlpha_Jujster2-Feb-09 3:02 
Generalvalidation not working quite right PinmemberHalfHuman7-Jan-08 1:13 

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