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WPF: A Beginner's Guide: Part 2 of n

, 11 Mar 2008 CPOL
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An introduction into XAML / code and WPF resources.

Introduction

OK, OK, so it seems that from the response to my WPF: A Beginner's Guide - Part 1 of n article, there are enough people interested in a "beginner's guide to WPF" to warrant me carrying on with this series, so I will. I have, however, come to a decision, and that is, that this article will actually encompass the following topics:

  • XAML vs. Code
  • Markup Extensions
  • WPF Resources

Just because it makes more sense to have these two combined into one article in my opinion. The proposed schedule for this series will still be roughly as follows:

But what exactly am I going to talk about in this article? This is a bit of a hard one to nail down actually; it could come across as being a bit vague, but what I'm aiming to cover is a brief introduction into the following:

  • What to do in XAML
  • What to do in code
  • How to reference classes/assemblies from XAML
  • Markup extensions
  • What are resources, and how can they help me
  • How to use resource files

Basically, in a nutshell, that's what this article will be about. I have provided a simple project which doesn't do anything actually apart from show you the syntax. I have decided to give you a really dumb demo app on purpose. I don't want to confuse you with Events/Commands/Databinding and Templates/Styles at this stage. So the demo app is intentionally dumb. If you have a beef with me supplying something that does nothing, sue me. I have an excellent lawyer.

So without futher ado, let's start, shall we?

What To Do In XAML

Caveat: This is only a recommendation, you can do what you want, this is just the way I like to do things.

Generally, WPF could be considered a quasi Model View Controller (MVC) type pattern. OK, the Model and the Controller are joined together, but the XAML / code-behind does give you a nice segregation from the View to the code-behind logic, in the same way that ASP.NET does. It is not the classic MVC, but the view is definitely separate, thanks to XAML.

I see this as a good thing, and as such, I would recommend doing the following in XAML:

  • The actual markup that represents the UI
  • Inclusion of the required resource files
  • Inclusion of the local resources (more on this in this article)
  • Possible declaration of Command Bindings (more on this in the next article)

Wow, that was a short list, wasn't it? And to my mind, that is how it should stay. There will obviously be times where exceptions have to made, but to be honest, I think that by abiding by this guideline, you will achieve a quite clean/segregated design.

What To Do In Code

Caveat: This is only a recommendation, you can do what you want, this is just the way I like to do things.

The way I see it, the code-behind file (C#|VB .NET) should carry out all the event handling and custom logic to drive the UI. The UI should be fairly dumb. There are a couple of exceptions where it may be useful to do things in XAML that are just a ball ache to do in the code-behind, and of course, if this turns out to be the case, you should use XAML. There is no right answer to this part, you have to make your own best call. But anyway, that said, this is what I would recommend:

  • All event handling (you don't have a choice here, code-behind it must be)
  • Any looping/math/calling of other intermediate non-UI class methods that don't contribute to the UI directly
  • Any validation
  • Any exception handling, which is non-existent in XAML due to its declarative nature
  • Any recursive operations

Basically, the UI (XAML) should just present data, and anything else should be in the code-behind.

Josh Smith recently published a true MVC pattern in WPF at CodeProject which is available right here, if you really can't wait and just want to crack on.

But be warned, it's fairly advanced stuff, but you know, I have high hopes for you lot...and hope that by the end of this series, you will have mastered enough to look at Josh's code and at least get the basics, and go, oh yeah there is a binding, there is a resource, cool.. I get it.

It took me about a 1/2 hour to get what he was up to, and I've been messing with this stuff for a little while now.

How To Reference Classes/Assemblies From XAML

One thing that you will definitely do at some point (if you wish to develop anything but a single Window application) is reference your own classes/controls and maybe even classes/controls from a different .NET assembly, from XAML. Now, in code-behind, this is a snitch; we just write a:

using System.Windows.Controls

or in VB.NET:

imports System.Windows.Controls

And bada bing, we can reference all the lovely objects in the System.Windows.Controls namespace. Nice and easy in code-behind, but we are talking XAML; how does all that work in XAML? Well, the same rules apply; if we want to use a control from the current namespace, we need someway in XAML for stating we wish to use a control from the current namespace. This is done with a namespace directive at the top of the XAML file where you wish to use the control/class. Yep, that's right, classes can also be instantiated directly in XAML code, provided they are referenced using the correct namespace.

Let's see some examples of this. I'll cover four options here:

  1. Assembly Ref 1: Using a local (same namespace) control in a Window
  2. Assembly Ref 2: Using a local (same namespace) class in a Window
  3. Assembly Ref 3: Using an external (different namespace/assembly) control in a Window
  4. Assembly Ref 4: Using an external (different namespace/assembly) class in a Window

The code that accompanies this article has comments in Window1.xaml that you can use to check these Assembly control references with. I've tried to make it easy for you.

So without further ado, let's carry on, shall we?

Assembly Ref 1: Using a Local (Same Namespace) Control in a Window

This is the easiest of the four methods to reference classes within XAML. As the class we wish to reference is within the same namespace, we can simply include an xmlns: namespace declaration within the opening tag of our Window (note: I am using Window, but this could be a Frame or any other hosting control for WPF).

Let's say, the current application I am working with has a namespace of "WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2" and that this is also the name of the generated Assembly. And that we have a UserControl called UserConrtrol2 in this namespace:

We can simply use the following xmlns: namespace declaration within the opening tag of our Window.

xmlns:local="clr-namespace:WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2;assembly="

This then enables us to use the UserConrtrol2 UserControl in the XAML markup as follows:

<!-- Assembly Ref 1 : This is how we declare a class 
     that is not part of the standard Microsoft namespace.
     The xmlns: at the top of this file may be used 
     to reference local (thus the name local:
     same namepspace), or entirely different Dll. 
     Its all down to how the xmlns: is defined.
     If the class is in a different assembly, 
     the assembly part of the xmlns: is required, otherwise
     only the namespace is required. 
     Note the clr-namespace/assembly string IS CASE SENSITIVE

    This control is in the current namespace/assembly
-->
<local:UserControl2/>

You may ask why I use the word local in the xmlns: declaration within the Window. Well, the answer is that you can use whatever name you want, but local: is used in lots of books and has sort of become the de facto convention for same namespace objects. I guess this stems from the fact that they are indeed local to the current namespace/Assembly.

Assembly Ref 2: Using a Local (Same Namespace) Class in a Window

This is pretty much the same steps as we just followed for a local UserControl. The only difference is that a UserControl is a visual object in WPF (basically inherits from Visual or Visual3D), which means it can be used as part of the UI. Classes, however, may or may not inherit from Visual or Visual3D, so may or may not be UI type objects. If they do not inherit from Visual or Visual3D, they will not be able to be used in the UI markup, but can still be used as Resources. Now, I know we haven't discussed Resources yet, so I'm sorry about that, but for now, you are just going to have to gloss over this and accept that we can instantiate a class by putting a reference to it in a Resource section or Resource file of a XAML file.

Let's say the current application I am working with has a namespace of "WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2" and that this is also the name of the generated Assembly. And that we have a custom class called LocalClass in this namespace:

As before, we can simply use the following xmlns: namespace declaration within the opening tag of our Window.

xmlns:local="clr-namespace:WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2;assembly="

This then enables us to use the custom class LocalClass in the XAML markup, as a Resource, as follows:

<StackPanel x:Name="sp1" Orientation="Vertical">

    <!-- I have added this ust to show you that you can 
         add classes to XAML. The ones i've used 
         can't be part of the actual UI, as they 
         aren't UI controls (dont inherit from Visual). 
        So I've put them into a resource Dictionary.
         -->
    <StackPanel.Resources>

        <!-- Assembly Ref 2 : we can also use local 
            (same namespace) classes in XAML, providing the
             xmlns: at the top of this file is correct -->
        <local:LocalClass x:Key="localClass1" AnIntProp="5"/>

    </StackPanel.Resources>
    
</StackPanel>

So what about that? We've instantiated a LocalClass object in XAML now, and set its AnIntProp property to 5. Note that in order to be able to construct a class in XAML, you will need to have a parameterless constructor on the source class being used.

So if we wanted to, we could use the instantiated instance of this LocalClass class in the code-behind; we can simply grab the Resource and use the instantiated object as if it had been created and added to the heap in the code-behind using the new keyword. Let's see this; again, it is a Resource thing (sorry for jumping ahead), but I think it's a fairly useful thing to demonstrate.

Assembly Ref 3: Using an External (Different Namespace/Assembly) Control in a Window

This is pretty much the same steps as we just followed for a local UserControl. The only difference this time is that the UserControl we are trying to use in the current Window actually lives in a different Assembly (the demo app uses an Assembly called "SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll"). So we obviously still need to reference this "SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll" assembly. But how do we reference and use it in XAML?

Well, it's not that different from what we saw earlier; the only addition to the xmlns: namespace declaration is the inclusion of the Assembly name.

Let's say the current application I am working with has a namespace of "WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2" and that we are trying to reference a third party Assembly ("SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll" in the demo app) and that the third party Assembly contains a UserControl called "UserControl1":

As before, we can simply use the following xmlns: namespace declaration within the opening tag of our Window, but this time, it's fully qualified and included the Assembly name also:

xmlns:SeperateWPFUserControlDll=
  "clr-namespace:SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll;assembly=SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll"

This then enables us to use the UserConrtrol1 UserControl in the XAML markup as follows:

<!-- Assembly Ref 3 : This is how we declare
     a class that is not part of the standard Microsoft namespace.
     The xmlns: at the top of this file may be used 
     to reference local (thus the name local:
     same namepspace), or entirely different Dll. 
     Its all down to how the xmlns: is defined.
     If the class is in a different assembly, 
     the assembly part of the xmlns: is required, otherwise
     only the namespace is required. 
     Note the clr-namespace/assembly string IS CASE SENSITIVE

    This control is in the SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll namespace 
    and SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll.dll  
-->
<SeperateWPFUserControlDll:UserControl1/>

As before, you are free to choose whatever name you like for the namespace, though it's probably a good idea to call it the same name as the source Assembly where the item being used resides. This may be easier to fault find, should something go wrong.

Assembly Ref 4: Using an External (Different Namespace/Assembly) Control in a Window

This is pretty much the same steps as we just followed for a local class. The only difference here is that we will be using classes from some of the core .NET assemblies, but the principle is the same.

Let's say we want to use the following classes in our XAML:

  • System.Collections.Hashtable within mscorlib.dll
  • System.Int32 within mscorlib.dll

As before, we can simply use the following xmlns: namespace declaration(s) within the opening tag of our Window.

xmlns:collections="clr-namespace:System.Collections;assembly=mscorlib"
xmlns:sys="clr-namespace:System;assembly=mscorlib"

This then enables us to use these classes in the XAML markup, as a Resource, as follows:

<StackPanel x:Name="sp1" Orientation="Vertical">

    <!-- I have added this ust to show you that 
         you can add classes to XAML. The ones i've used 
         can't be part of the actual UI, as they aren't 
         UI controls (dont inherit from Visual). 
         So I've put them into a resource Dictionary.
         -->
    <StackPanel.Resources>

        <!-- Assembly Ref 4 : we can even use standard 
                  System namespace classes in XAML, providing the
             xmlns: at the top of this file is correct -->
        <collections:Hashtable x:Key="ht1">
            <sys:Int32 x:Key="key1">1</sys:Int32>
            <sys:Int32 x:Key="key2">2</sys:Int32>
        </collections:Hashtable>

    </StackPanel.Resources>

</StackPanel>

That's pretty much the same as we previously saw with the LocalClass example.

Markup Extensions

Markup extensions enable you to extend the expressability of XAML, where the markup extension string can be evaluated at run time and produce the appropriate object based on a string. Markup extensions are invoked in XAML with an explicit and consistent manner.

Whenever an attribute value is enclosed in {} braces, the XAML compiler/parser treats it as a markup extension value rather than as a literal string.

For example, let's consider the following Rectangle, which simply sets the Background property to null.

<Rectangle  Fill="{x:Null}" Stroke="Black" StrokeThickness="2" Height="20"/>

As the compiler/parser sees the {} enclosed string, it will know this is a markup extension. However, this is just a parlor trick that the XAML parser knows how to perform. We can declare markup extensions in the same way as we used classes, as previously described, directly in the XAML. This is achieved by using the property-element syntax.

Property-element syntax

Property-element syntax allows us to expand out any property into a full element of the XAML tree, which allows us to add child elements to it. To best understand this, perhaps an example is needed.

We can imagine that we could declare a markup extension like this:

<Binding RelativeSource="{RelativeSource modeEnumValue}" .../>

Or possibly like this:

<object mode="{Binding RelativeSource={RelativeSource modeEnumValue} ...}" .../>

Now, using property element syntax, we are able to treat the mode property as an element in the tree that can have its own child elements, such as this example:

<Binding>
  <Binding.RelativeSource>
    <RelativeSource Mode="modeEnumValue"/>
  </Binding.RelativeSource>
</Binding>

//or a more complex example

<Binding>
  <Binding.RelativeSource>
    <RelativeSource
      Mode="FindAncestor"
      AncestorType="{x:Type typeName}"
      AncestorLevel="2"
    />
  </Binding.RelativeSource>
</Binding>

We can do quite a lot in XAML; remember, all these objects are just classes, so there is no problem us declaring them like this. The {} braces are really syntactic sugar for what is going on behind the scenes, which is that a whole slew of classes (as just demonstrated) are being created behind the scenes. This property element syntax can be applied to anything. For example, here is another property being used as an element for a Button Background property:

<Button Width="auto" Content="Button">
    <Button.Background>
        <SolidColorBrush Color="Blue"/>   
    </Button.Background>
</Button>

System.Windows.Markup.MarkupExtension is the base class that all markup extensions inherit from. There are the following markup extension classes available as standard:

  • System.Windows.Markup.ArrayExtension
  • System.Windows.Markup.NullExtension
  • System.Windows.Markup.StaticExtension
  • System.Windows.Markup.TypeExtension
  • System.Windows.ResourceKey
  • System.Windows.DynamicResourceExtension
  • System.Windows.ColorConvertedBitmapExtension
  • System.Windows.StaticResourceExtension
  • System.Windows.TemplateBindingExtension
  • System.Windows.ThemeDictionaryExtension
  • System.Windows.Data.BindingBase
  • System.Windows.Data.RelativeSource

The most common markup extensions used in WPF programming are those that support resource references (StaticResource and DynamicResource), and those that support data binding (Binding). Note the absence of the "Extension" suffix. This is implied by the compiler; as {} indicates a markup extension, the "Extension" suffix is not required.

  • StaticResource provides a value for a XAML property by substituting the value of an already defined resource. For details, see StaticResource Markup Extension.
  • DynamicResource provides a value for a XAML property by deferring that value to be a run-time reference to a resource. A dynamic resource reference forces a new lookup each time such a resource is accessed. For details, see DynamicResource Markup Extension.
  • Binding provides a data bound value for a property, per the data context that applies to the element. This markup extension is relatively complex, because it enables a substantial inline syntax for specifying a data binding. For details, see Binding Markup Extension.
  • RelativeSource provides source information for a Binding that can navigate several possible relationships in the run-time element tree. This provides specialized sourcing for bindings that are created in multi-use templates, or created in code without full knowledge of the surrounding element tree. For details, see RelativeSource MarkupExtension.

There are also several other markup extensions (as shown above) that are not specific to the WPF application of XAML, but are instead part of the specification and namespace of XAML as a language. These are typically identifiable by the x: prefix. The WPF implementation for these uses the same MarkupExtension base class to provide the implementation.

  • x:Type supplies the Type object for the named type. This is used most frequently in styles and templates. For details, see x:Type Markup Extension.
  • x:Static produces static values from value-type code entities that are not directly the type of a property's value, but can be evaluated to that type.
  • x:Null specifies null as a value for a XAML property.
  • x:Array provides support for creation of general arrays in XAML syntax, for cases where the collection support provided by base elements and control models is deliberately not used.

Don't worry if you think the Binding and RelativeSource extensions look weird; we will be revisiting these in the binding article.

Note: You can also create your own markup extensions; for example, you can check out Tomer Shamam's excellent post: WPF Control State Persistency, where he creates a markup extension to persist WPF elements' state to file.

I would recommend you also look at this MSDN article: Markup Extensions and XAML, which goes into some more detail about markup extensions.

What Are Resources, And How Can They Help Me

Resources are re-usable objects that may be declared in various places:

  • Within the application App.xaml file (or whatever your application file is called). Which means that the declared resource will have global application scope.
  • Within the Resources property of the current Window (assuming we are working with a Window). Which means that the declared resource will have Window level scope. All UI elements that are part of the resource declaring Window will have access to the declared resource.
  • Within the Resources property of any FrameworkElement or FrameworkContentElement.
  • Separate loose XAML resource file.

You can think of a resource as a single object that is stored in a Dctionary of resource objects. And as such, each resource must have a key that enables the safe and unique retrieval of the resource from the ResourceDictionary.

When you define resources in markup, you assign the unique key through the x:Key attribute. Typically, the key is a string; however, you can also set it to other object types by using the appropriate markup extensions. Non-string keys for resources are used by certain feature areas in WPF, notably for styles, component resources, and data styling. But we'll see more on this in subsequent articles in this article series.

Every framework-level element (FrameworkElement or FrameworkContentElement) has a Resources property, which is the property that contains the resources (as a ResourceDictionary) that a resource defines. You can define resources on any element. However, resources are most commonly defined on the root element, which would normally be Window.

So once you declare a resource, you are free to use it on an element. For example, the following XAML declares a new SolidColorBrush resource on a Window, which is then used for the Background of two Button objects within the Window.

<Window x:Class="WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2.Window1"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
    xmlns:SeperateWPFUserControlDll=
      "clr-namespace:SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll;
       assembly=SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll"
    xmlns:local="clr-namespace:WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2;assembly="
    xmlns:collections="clr-namespace:System.Collections;assembly=mscorlib"
    xmlns:sys="clr-namespace:System;assembly=mscorlib"
    Title="Window1" Height="300" Width="600"
    WindowStartupLocation="CenterScreen">
    
    <Window.Resources>
        <SolidColorBrush x:Key="windowLevelResourceBlueBrush" 
                     Color="Blue"/>   
    </Window.Resources>
    
    <StackPanel x:Name="sp1" Orientation="Vertical">

        <!-- Declare 2 Buttons that use the Window.windowLevelResourceBlueBrush resource -->
        <Button Width="auto" 
          Content="1st Button : I use the resourceBrushBlue Window Resource" 
          Background="{StaticResource windowLevelResourceBlueBrush}"/>
        <Button Width="auto" 
          Content="2nd Button : I use the resourceBrushBlue Window Resource" 
          Background="{StaticResource windowLevelResourceBlueBrush}"/>

    </StackPanel>
</Window>

This simple use of resources means that the two Button objects will have a Blue SolidColorBrush used for their backgrounds. (Note: As we say nothing about how to deal with what the button looks like when the mouse is over the Blue SolidColorBrush used for their Background, it only applies when the mouse is not over the Button. We will be covering this, in the Styles/Templates article in this series.)

One thing to note is that we are actually using the StaticResourceExtension (remember, we can omit the "Extension" suffix), but what the heck is a StaticResourceExtension, and what does it do for us? Well, there are actually two types of resources that we can use.

A resource can be referenced as either a static resource or a dynamic resource. This is done by using either the StaticResourceExtension Markup Extension or the DynamicResourceExtension Markup Extension.

According to the MSDN Resources (WPF) section, these are the guidelines as and when to use static/dynamic resources.

Static Resources

Static resource references work best for the following circumstances:

  • You have no intention of changing the value of the resource after it is referenced the first time.
  • Your application design concentrates most of all of its resources into page or application level resource dictionaries. Static resource references are not reevaluated based on runtime behaviors such as reloading a page, and therefore there can be some performance benefit to avoiding large numbers of dynamic resource references when they are not necessary per your resource and application design.
  • You are setting the value of a property that is not on a DependancyObject or a Freezable (that's immutable object really).
  • You are creating a resource dictionary that will be compiled into a DLL, and packaged as part of the application or shared between applications.
  • You are creating a theme for a custom control, and are defining resources that are used within the themes. For this case, you typically do not want the dynamic resource reference lookup behavior; you instead want the static resource reference behavior so that the lookup is predictable and self-contained to the theme. With a dynamic resource reference, even a reference within a theme is left unevaluated until runtime, and there is a chance that when the theme is applied, some local element will redefine a key that your theme is trying to reference, and the local element will fall prior to the theme itself in the lookup. If that happens, your theme will not behave in an expected manner.
  • You are using resources to set large numbers of dependency properties. Dependency properties have effective value caching as enabled by the property system, so if you provide a value for a dependency property that can be evaluated at load time, the dependency property does not have to check for a reevaluated expression and can return the last effective value. This technique can be a performance benefit.

Dynamic Resources

Dynamic resources work best for the following circumstances:

  • The value of the resource depends on conditions that are not known until runtime. This includes system resources, or resources that are otherwise user settable. For example, you can create setter values that refer to system properties, as exposed by SystemColors, SystemFonts, or SystemParameters. These values are truly dynamic because they ultimately come from the runtime environment of the user and Operating System. You might also have application-level themes that can change, where page-level resource access must also capture the change.
  • You are creating or referencing theme styles for a custom control.
  • You intend to adjust the contents of a ResourceDictionary during an application lifetime.
  • You have a complicated resource structure that has interdependencies, where a forward reference may be required. Static resource references do not support forward references, but dynamic resource references do support them because the resource does not need to be evaluated until runtime, and forward references are therefore not a relevant concept.
  • You are referencing a resource that is particularly large from the perspective of a compile or working set, and the resource might not be used immediately when the page loads. Static resource references always load from XAML when the page loads; however, a dynamic resource reference does not load until it is actually used.
  • You are creating a style where setter values might come from other values that are influenced by themes or other user settings.
  • You are applying resources to elements that might be re-parented in the logical tree during the application lifetime. Changing the parent also potentially changes the resource lookup scope, so if you want the resource for a re-parented element to be reevaluated based on the new scope, always use a dynamic resource reference.

Your Resource Options

OK, so that was a brief (yes, there is a whole lot more to resources; as with all this stuff, I can't tell you everything, you'll have to read around these topics) introduction into Resources.

What we are going to do now is see how to define some of these different resources. Let's see the following types of resources:

  1. Application level resource (global resource)
  2. Window level resource
  3. FrameworkElement level resource
  4. Separate loose XAML resource

Application Level Resource

To create a global application scope resource, we simply add a Resources section to the App.xaml file (or whatever your application file is called). Let's see an example.

<Application x:Class="WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2.App"
  xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
  xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
  StartupUri="Window1.xaml">
    <Application.Resources>
        <SolidColorBrush x:Key="appLevelResourceGreenBrush" Color="Green"/>
    </Application.Resources>
</Application>

This means that any object within the present application can now use this resource. In the attached demo application, I have created a single Button within Window1.xaml that uses this application level resource.

<!-- Declare 1 Button that use the Application level appLevelResourceGreenBrush resource -->
<Button Width="auto" 
  Content="1st Button : I use the appLevelResourceGreenBrush Application level Resource" 
  Background="{StaticResource appLevelResourceGreenBrush}"/>

Window Level Resource

<Window x:Class="WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2.Window1"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
    xmlns:SeperateWPFUserControlDll=
      "clr-namespace:SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll;assembly=SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll"
    xmlns:local="clr-namespace:WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2;assembly="
    xmlns:collections="clr-namespace:System.Collections;assembly=mscorlib"
    xmlns:sys="clr-namespace:System;assembly=mscorlib"
    Title="Window1" Height="300" Width="600"
    WindowStartupLocation="CenterScreen">
    
    <Window.Resources>
        <SolidColorBrush x:Key="windowLevelResourceBlueBrush" Color="Blue"/>   
    </Window.Resources>
    
    <StackPanel x:Name="sp1" Orientation="Vertical">

        
        <!-- Declare 2 Buttons that use the Window.windowLevelResourceBlueBrush resource -->
        <Button Width="auto" 
           Content="1st Button : I use the resourceBrushBlue Window Resource" 
           Background="{StaticResource windowLevelResourceBlueBrush}"/>
        <Button Width="auto" 
           Content="2nd Button : I use the resourceBrushBlue Window Resource" 
           Background="{StaticResource windowLevelResourceBlueBrush}"/>

    </StackPanel>
</Window>

I simply use the resource "windowLevelResourceBlueBrush" on the two Button objects.

Framework Element Level Resource

As I stated earlier, each FrameworkElement or FrameworkContentElement has a Resources property. Which means that you can create a local (think, only available to the current element and its children) resource.

<Window x:Class="WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2.Window1"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
    xmlns:SeperateWPFUserControlDll=
      "clr-namespace:SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll;
       assembly=SeperateWPFUserControl_Dll"
    xmlns:local="clr-namespace:WPF_Tour_Beginners_Part_2;assembly="
    xmlns:collections="clr-namespace:System.Collections;assembly=mscorlib"
    xmlns:sys="clr-namespace:System;assembly=mscorlib"
    Title="Window1" Height="300" Width="600"
    WindowStartupLocation="CenterScreen">
    
    .....
    .....
    
    <StackPanel x:Name="sp1" Orientation="Vertical">

        <!-- I have added this ust to show you that you 
             can add classes to XAML. The ones i've used 
             can't be part of the actual UI, as they 
             aren't UI controls (dont inherit from Visual). 
             So I've put them into a resource Dictionary.
             -->
        <StackPanel.Resources>


            <SolidColorBrush x:Key="parentLevelResourceOrangeBrush" 
                  Color="Orange"/>

        </StackPanel.Resources>

          ......
          ......

        <!-- Declare 1 Button that use the parent (the StackPanel) 
             level parentLevelResourceOrangeBrush resource -->
        <Button Width="auto" 
          Content="Button : I use the parentLevelResourceOrangeBrush 
                   parent (the StackPanel) level Resource" 
          Background="{StaticResource parentLevelResourceOrangeBrush}"/>

    </StackPanel>
</Window>

This means that any object in the actual FrameworkElement that declares the resource or its children are free to use the resource. Any other attempt to use a resource declared in this manner will cause an Exception to be thrown.

Separate Loose XAML Resources

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) resources support a merged resource dictionary feature. This feature provides a way to define the resources portion of a WPF application outside of the compiled XAML application. Resources can then be shared across applications, and are also more conveniently isolated for localization.

Note that the ResourceDictionary element does not have an x:Key Attribute, which is generally required for all items in a resource collection. But another ResourceDictionary reference within the MergedDictionaries collection is a special case, reserved for this merged resource dictionary scenario. The ResourceDictionary that introduces a merged resource dictionary cannot have an x:Key Attribute. Typically, each ResourceDictionary within the MergedDictionaries collection specifies a Source attribute. The value of Source should be a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) that resolves to the location of the resources file to be merged. The destination of that URI must be another XAML file, with ResourceDictionary as its root element. Let's see an example of this, shall we?

Let's start with how to define the actual loose XAML file:

<ResourceDictionary 
        xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
        xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml">
    <SolidColorBrush x:Key="seperateResourceFilePinkBrush" 
                     Color="Pink"/>
</ResourceDictionary>

That's enough. The only other thing to ensure is that the "Build Action" is set to Resource or Page in Visual Studio.

So how do we then use this? Let's say we want to use this loose XAML file on a Button resources property; we can do something like the following:

<!-- Declare 1 Button that uses a seperate loose XAML level Resource, 
     namely the seperateResourceFilePinkBrush resource -->
<Button Width="auto" 
        Content="Button : Uses a seperate loose XAML level Resource, 
                 namely the seperateResourceFilePinkBrush resource">
    <Button.Resources>
        <ResourceDictionary>
            <ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries>
                <ResourceDictionary Source="SeperateResourceDictionary1.xaml"/>
            </ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries>
        </ResourceDictionary>
    </Button.Resources>
    <Button.Background>
        <StaticResourceExtension ResourceKey="seperateResourceFilePinkBrush"/>
    </Button.Background>
</Button>

In this example, as the Button declares the MergedDictionaries, we can use all of the resources declared in the referenced loose XAML file as if they were locally (local to the Button) declared resources.

We're Done

As I mentioned earlier, I don't think this particular article of the series is that bad; not too much to digest here, was there? Rest assured from here on in, it does get harder though.

History

  • 18/01/08: Initial issue.

License

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

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About the Author

Sacha Barber
Software Developer (Senior)
United Kingdom United Kingdom
I currently hold the following qualifications (amongst others, I also studied Music Technology and Electronics, for my sins)
 
- MSc (Passed with distinctions), in Information Technology for E-Commerce
- BSc Hons (1st class) in Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence
 
Both of these at Sussex University UK.
 
Award(s)

I am lucky enough to have won a few awards for Zany Crazy code articles over the years

  • Microsoft C# MVP 2014
  • Codeproject MVP 2014
  • Microsoft C# MVP 2013
  • Codeproject MVP 2013
  • Microsoft C# MVP 2012
  • Codeproject MVP 2012
  • Microsoft C# MVP 2011
  • Codeproject MVP 2011
  • Microsoft C# MVP 2010
  • Codeproject MVP 2010
  • Microsoft C# MVP 2009
  • Codeproject MVP 2009
  • Microsoft C# MVP 2008
  • Codeproject MVP 2008
  • And numerous codeproject awards which you can see over at my blog

Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralVery Good Pinmemberrajvardhan1@gmail.com3-Jun-14 3:28 
GeneralMy vote of 3 PinmemberJerry201-Nov-13 10:14 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberEric.D19-Oct-13 22:30 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 PinmvpSacha Barber20-Oct-13 0:19 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberDeniskoS5-Sep-13 0:39 
QuestionA tiny gripe... [modified] PinmemberRob Grainger2-Feb-13 12:05 
Sacha,
 
Once again, a great introduction to the subject. Enough detail without getting bogged down in it.
 
As mentioned one tiny gripe. It seems that the section "Property Element Syntax" is listed under the info for Markup Expressions rather than at the same level. This seems wrong to me - while the example continues the previous example, PES is not only applicable to Markup Expressions (esp. Bindings).
 
As I said, a minor detail, but it is one of my personal issues when authoring to attempt to view sub-headings almost as a composition relationship - they should not make sense outside the heading. Otherwise, I try to refactor.
 
Still gets a 5 though. Well done.
 
Rob
 
PS. I'm just starting to plan an article (or a series, not quite decided) on the basics of the Smalltalk family of languages, simply because its such an important language that I feel more people should become familiar with it. Hopefully, you'll return the favour and pick holes in those.
 
PPS. In the same section, a C style comment "// a more complex example" snuck its way into the XAML.

modified 2-Feb-13 17:16pm.

GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberBehs11-Feb-13 13:17 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberissamfarran30-Dec-12 23:09 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 PinmvpSacha Barber31-Dec-12 1:36 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberMadhan Mohan Reddy21-Jun-12 1:01 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberAli Abdelfattah26-Mar-12 17:07 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberMika19922-Mar-12 10:50 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberSeniorCrispy12-Oct-11 23:43 
Generalwho wants to tell this newbie PinmemberMember 32004402-Jun-11 8:19 
GeneralRe: who wants to tell this newbie PinmemberMember 32004402-Jun-11 10:21 
GeneralRe: who wants to tell this newbie PinmvpSacha Barber2-Jun-11 10:54 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberhajnalm26-May-11 10:36 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 PinmvpSacha Barber2-Jun-11 10:55 
GeneralMistakes PinmemberHamid Reza Mohammadi22-May-11 4:22 
GeneralRe: Mistakes PinmemberHamid Reza Mohammadi22-May-11 7:53 
GeneralRe: Mistakes PinmvpSacha Barber22-May-11 20:55 
QuestionTwo short questions ("Assembly Ref"). PinmemberElad Gutman5-Apr-11 0:18 
AnswerRe: Two short questions ("Assembly Ref"). PinmvpSacha Barber5-Apr-11 1:26 
GeneralSelf study material PinmemberPhantom1316-Jan-11 3:31 
GeneralRe: Self study material PinmvpSacha Barber16-Jan-11 5:41 
GeneralRe: Self study material PinmemberPhantom1316-Jan-11 8:05 
GeneralRe: Self study material PinmvpSacha Barber16-Jan-11 8:08 
GeneralRe: Self study material PinmemberPhantom1316-Jan-11 10:32 
GeneralGood Articles PinmemberPhantom1311-Jan-11 11:13 
GeneralRe: Good Articles PinmvpSacha Barber11-Jan-11 20:25 
GeneralRe: Good Articles PinmemberPhantom1313-Jan-11 11:36 
GeneralRe: Good Articles PinmvpSacha Barber13-Jan-11 22:35 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberswayson23-Dec-10 6:53 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberjapp2730-Nov-10 6:53 
Questionhow to use an already instantiated local class varible as resource through XAML PinmemberAvibiter24-Sep-10 23:34 
AnswerRe: how to use an already instantiated local class varible as resource through XAML PinmvpSacha Barber24-Sep-10 23:37 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembernoshirwan30-Jul-10 8:45 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 PinmvpSacha Barber24-Sep-10 23:37 
GeneralSplit XAML resources Pinmemberchameau18-May-10 23:38 
QuestionResource Sharing Within Visual Tree? PinmemberDogu Tumerdem15-Feb-10 22:56 
AnswerRe: Resource Sharing Within Visual Tree? PinmvpSacha Barber15-Feb-10 22:58 
GeneralRe: Resource Sharing Within Visual Tree? PinmemberDogu Tumerdem15-Feb-10 23:08 
GeneralRe: Resource Sharing Within Visual Tree? PinmemberDogu Tumerdem15-Feb-10 23:19 
GeneralGreat Article PinmemberViral Upadhyay1-Feb-10 21:04 
GeneralFormatting Articles PinmemberJammer10-Jun-09 13:51 
GeneralRe: Formatting Articles PinmvpSacha Barber11-Jun-09 5:25 
GeneralRe: Formatting Articles PinmemberJammer11-Jun-09 10:50 
GeneralRe: Formatting Articles PinmvpSacha Barber11-Jun-09 22:40 
QuestionCan you help me to loop through XAML (WPF) to change color in certian controls? PinmemberSteven1000011-May-09 5:25 
AnswerRe: Can you help me to loop through XAML (WPF) to change color in certian controls? PinmvpSacha Barber13-May-09 0:32 

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