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Adding AJAX Support to the Cuyahoga Framework

By , 21 Feb 2008
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Introduction

The Cuyahoga framework has very nice approach to web development. It has a bunch of built-in modules, and you can develop your own modules in a couple of hours. If you have some experience with NHibernate and/or some other web framework, your module development may even take less than an hour. My product site PragmaSQL Online runs on top of the Cuyahoga framework, and it took me just a couple of hours to bring this site up and running. Although Cuyahoga is a very nice framework and I love Cuyahoga development, I shall admit that you may experience some problems while applying some advanced topics like AJAX to Cuyahoga. In this article, I will show you a simple and structured way to add AJAX support to your Cuyahoga website.

Background

I previously shared my module development experience with an article titled Developing a Simple Issue Tracker Module here on CodeProject. In my issue tracker module, I used the AjaxToolkit ModalPopupExtender control. But, this was an unstructured approach. It was a kind of a hack, I simply placed ScriptManager on my ASPX page and moved the injection code of the GeneralPage class to the OnPreInit method from OnInit. This was the right choice and it saved the day, this module is still online and is working very well.

Nowadays, I am working on another website, BenimOdam.com (the website is in Turkish). In BenimOdam.com, we only use the Forum and ContactUs built-in modules, and much of the functionality is embedded in our own modules. These modules mainly function as list and record editing modules. We have used the MultiView and View controls to provide tabbed browsing functionality, and I guess much of you know that MultiView does a post back while switching between views, and this post back may be annoying from the user's point of view. In such uncomfortable situations, the UpdatePanel control included with the Microsoft AJAX distribution (previously known as Atlas) provides a nice and easy to apply solution. You simply put your controls, MultiView in our case, inside an UpdatePanel, and you are done. Your users will experience a much more smooth navigation, and probably they will be happier.

Cuyahoga Internals

Cuyahoga has some principles we must keep in mind before attempting to extend the framework for AJAX support. These are:

  • Template User Controls with placeholders are used to identify different parts of your pages.
  • A custom HttpHandler (PageHandler) is used to process requests and a custom UrlWriter to rewrite raw URLs.
  • Page structure (sections) and modules contained within the sections are resolved from the database.
  • Injection is used to build the resulting pages.
  • Modules are designed as User Controls, and you must inherit your module control from BaseModuleControl.
  • You can use the GeneralPage base class to build custom ASPX pages not related to any Cuyahoga node that uses the default site template.

AJAX Support Preparation

The UpdatePanel included within the Microsoft AJAX distribution and the AjaxToolkit controls all require a ScriptManager control placed as the first control in your ASPX page. But, Cuyahoga does not handle your modules as separate ASPX pages, and injects your module inside the template you are using. As I mentioned above, a template has placeholder controls that make the different parts of your pages. As a result, it is not guaranteed that the ScripManager control you placed as the first control in your module will also be placed as the first control in the rendered page. Being the first control in the resulting page is a very tight constraint imposed by ASP.NET. The solution to this situation is placing a default ScriptManager control inside your template user controls as the first control. Here is a sample template User Control code:

<%@ Control Language="c#" AutoEventWireup="false" Inherits="Cuyahoga.Web.UI.BaseTemplate" %> 
<%@ Register TagPrefix="cc1" Namespace="Cuyahoga.ServerControls.Navigation" 
   Assembly="Cuyahoga.ServerControls.Navigation" %> 
<%@ Register Assembly="System.Web.Extensions, Version=1.0.61025.0, 
  Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35"
  Namespace="System.Web.UI" TagPrefix="asp" %> 
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 
  Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd"> 
<html> 
<head> 
    <title> <asp:literal id="PageTitle" runat="server"> </asp:literal> </title> 
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /> 
    <asp:literal id="MetaTags" runat="server" /> 
    <asp:literal id="Stylesheets" runat="server" /> 
    <!--[if IE]> 
    <style type="text/css" media="screen"> 
        body { behavior: url(<%= Page.ResolveUrl("~/csshover.htc") %> );
        /* call hover behaviour file */ } 
    </style> 
    <![endif]--> 
</head> 
<body> 
    <form id="t" method="post" runat="server"> 
        <asp:ScriptManager ID="DefaultScriptManager" runat="server">
        </asp:ScriptManager> 
        <div id="container">             
            <div id="header">     
                <div id="logo"> 
                 <img width="120px" height="100px"  alt="BenimOdam.com" 
                src="http://www.mydomain.com/Templates/Bo/Images/bo_logosmaller.gif"/> 
                </div> 
                <div> 
                    <span id="titletext"> Ev arkadaşı ve ev 
                            arayanların buluşma noktası.</span> 
                </div>         
                <div id="searcharea"> 
                    <asp:placeholder id="searchinput" runat="server">
                    </asp:placeholder> 
                </div> 
            </div> 
            <div id="nav"> 
                <cc1:menu id="mnuMain" runat="server" 
                   MenuCss = "~/Templates/Bo/Css/Menu.css"> </cc1:menu> 
            </div>     

            <!-- shadow divs --> 
            <div id="containerleft"> 
            <div id="containertopleft"> 
            <div id="containerright"> 
            <div id="containertopright"> 
            <!-- main --> 
            <div id="main"> 
                <!--
                <div id="globalmenu"> 
                    <asp:placeholder id="globalMenu" runat="server"> </asp:placeholder> 
                </div> 
                -->

In the sample code above, you can see that we have added a ScriptManager named DefaultScriptManager as the first control of the form. That means, DefaultScriptManager will be injected to all our Cuyahoga pages using this template. As a result, we meet the constraint that says that "AJAX controls need a ScriptManager and this ScriptManager must be the first control in the ASPX page".

Note: Do not forget to register System.Web.Extensions.dll, else you will get an exception telling you that the ScriptManager type can not be resolved.

Adding AJAX Support to your Modules

In theory, we do not have to add a ScriptManager to our module code, since we have added a default ScriptManager to our template which will automatically be injected to all of our Cuyahoga pages. But in practice, we will probably want designer support while developing our modules, and if you do not include the ScriptManager in your module control, the designer will complain and refuse to render the AJAX control, which can make us feel uncomfortable (you can still design your module markup without designer support). When you add a ScriptManager to your module, the resulting Cuyahoga page will contain more than one ScriptManager, one from the template and one or many from your modules. Another constraint about the ScriptManager says that "Only one ScriptManager can be used in a page", and we have to find a way to remove additional ScriptManager instances and leave only one ScriptManager in the resulting page. The solution here is straightforward, we will remove the ScriptManagers placed in our modules and leave only the DefaultScriptManager placed in our template control.

Limitations: If you want to use custom JavaScript code for AJAX handling in your module, you have to register your scripts to your ScriptManager's (the one included in your module code) Scripts collection. In this case, you will have to rethink the solution I proposed. May be, you will have to invent some interaction that places your custom scripts in the DefaultScriptManager before removing the ScriptManager from your module.

As I mentioned above, all of your Cuyahoga modules must be inherited from BaseModuleControl. But, we have to find a way to remove ScriptManagers from our module code before they are injected to the template we are using. The solution is to create another base class (AjaxBaseModuleControl) which supports ScriptManager removal functionality. AjaxBaseModuleControl is inherited from BaseModuleControl and overrides the AddedControl method. In the AddedControl function, we try to catch the ScriptManager control after it is added to the Controls collection of our module, and remove it from from the collection so that the multiple ScriptManagers problem is avoided.

Note: We could prefer to modify the PageEngine class so that we would inspect all controls and remove the ScriptManagers from the modules. But, that would probably cause performance problems since we would have to loop with a foreach on the modules' Controls collection. May be, some modules would not even use AJAX, and that would be a waste of time inspecting those modules for ScriptManager controls. ( Marker interfaces could be used to identify AJAX modules but still that would be waste of time to loop.)

Here is the AjaxBaseModuleControl code:

namespace Cuyahoga.Web.UI
{
  public class AjaxBaseModuleControl:BaseModuleControl
  {
    protected override void AddedControl(Control control, int index)
    {
      if (control.GetType() == typeof(ScriptManager))
        this.Controls.RemoveAt(index);
      else
        base.AddedControl(control, index);

    }
  }
}

AjaxBaseModuleControl is simple and straightforward, we simply catch the ScriptManager after it is added to the Controls collection, and remove it from the collection, which enables us to avoid the multiple ScriptManagers problem.

Important: The Cuyahoga PageEngine class applies the template and injects your modules in the overridden OnInit function. I would recommend you move the OnInit code to the overridden OnPreInit function. That is not necessary for module level AJAX support, but the reason will be more clear when I explain page level AJAX support.

Adding AJAX Support to your Nodeless Pages

Modules are the primary means of Cuyahoga development. But, it is obvious that only modules may not meet all your requirements. For example, you would list records with a module and deploy a separate nodeless page for record editing. We call the record editing page nodeless because this page is not attached to any node in our site structure. For such cases, the Cuyahoga framework provides us a base class named GeneralPage. You inherit your nodeless page from GeneralPage, and Cuyahoga automatically applies the default site template (CSS styles and the structure of the page based on the default template) to your page. Actually, your page code is injected, not rendered.

For a nodeless page example, please go to Pragma Issue Tracker and try to view an issue from the issue list. The page used to view a specific issue is a nodeless page, and it is not included in the site structure; we simply redirect to this page from our module, and Cuyahoga injects the page code automatically.

In order to add AJAX support to our nodeless pages, we have to apply the same ideas.

  • Add a default ScriptManager as the first control to the resulting page.
  • Automatically remove the ScriptManager, added during design time, before Cuyahoga injects our page's source.

The first item was already applied by putting a default ScriptManager to our template control. For the second item, we create another base class named AjaxGeneralPage which is inherited from GeneralPage, and override the AddedControl method to intercept and catch the ScriptManager included in our nodeless page.

Here is the code:

namespace Cuyahoga.Web.UI
{
    public class AjaxGeneralPage:GeneralPage
    {
        protected override void AddedControl(Control control, int index)
        {
            if (control.GetType() == typeof(HtmlForm))
                TryToRemoveScriptManager(control as HtmlForm);
            else
                base.AddedControl(control, index);
        }
    
        private void TryToRemoveScriptManager(HtmlForm frm)
        {
            int idx = -1;
            for (int i = 0; i <frm.Controls.Count; i++)
            {
                if (frm.Controls[i] is ScriptManager)
                {
                    idx = i;
                    break;
                }
            }
        
            if (idx >= 0)
                frm.Controls.RemoveAt(idx);
        }
    }
}

Please be warned that we do not catch the ScriptManager directly as that was the case in AjaxBaseModuleControl. We catch the HtmlForm control included within the page and search for ScriptManager in the form's Controls collection.

Important note: The original version of the GeneralPage class (the base class of our AjaxGeneralPage) handles content loading in the overridden OnInit function (I think this was the only place in the .NET 1.1 version to perform content loading). If you leave the content loading code inside this function, you will not be able to properly remove the ScriptManager control from your page. For details of why this is not possible, see the ASP.NET Page Lifecylcle article on MSDN. To solve this problem, we simply move the code in the overridden OnInit function to the OnPreInit override. That is the right place for content loading and dynamic control creation in .NET version 2.0.

Our OnPreInit function in the GeneralPage class looks like this:

protected override void OnPreInit(EventArgs e)
{
    // The GeneralPage loads it's own content.
    // No need for the PageEngine to do that.
    base.ShouldLoadContent = false;
    
    //Init the PageEngine.
    //NOTE: We replaced base.OnInit with base.OnPreIniti
    base.OnPreInit(e);
    
    // Build page.
    ControlCollection col = this.Controls;

    this._currentSite = base.RootNode.Site;
    if (this._currentSite.DefaultTemplate != null 
        && this._currentSite.DefaultPlaceholder != null 
        && this._currentSite.DefaultPlaceholder != String.Empty)
    {
        // Load the template
        this.TemplateControl = 
            (BaseTemplate)this.LoadControl(UrlHelper.GetApplicationPath() 
            + this._currentSite.DefaultTemplate.Path);

        // Register css
        string css = UrlHelper.GetApplicationPath() 
            + this._currentSite.DefaultTemplate.BasePath
            + "/Css/" + this._currentSite.DefaultTemplate.Css;
        RegisterStylesheet("maincss", css);

        if (this._title != null)
        {
            this.TemplateControl.Title = this._title;
        }

        // Add the pagecontrol on top of the control collection of the page
        this.TemplateControl.ID = "p";
        col.AddAt(0, this.TemplateControl);

        // Get the Content placeholder
        this._contentPlaceHolder = this.TemplateControl.FindControl(
              this._currentSite.DefaultPlaceholder) as PlaceHolder;
        if (this._contentPlaceHolder != null)
        {
            // Iterate through the controls in the page to find the form control.
            foreach (Control control in col)
            {
                if (control is HtmlForm)
                {
                    // We've found the form control. Now move
                    // all child controls into the placeholder.
                    HtmlForm formControl = (HtmlForm)control;
                    while (formControl.Controls.Count > 0)
                    {    
                        this._contentPlaceHolder.Controls.Add(formControl.Controls[0]);
                    }
                }
            }


            // throw away all controls in the page, except the page control 
            while (col.Count > 1)
            {
                col.Remove(col[1]);
            }
        }

        #region // Ali Ozgur (07-02-2008): Load sections that are related to the template
        foreach (DictionaryEntry sectionEntry in _currentSite.DefaultTemplate.Sections)
        {
            string placeholder = sectionEntry.Key.ToString();
            Section section = sectionEntry.Value as Section;
            if (section != null)
            {
                BaseModuleControl moduleControl = 
                       CreateModuleControlForSection(section);
                if (moduleControl != null)
                {
                    ((PlaceHolder)
                      this._templateControl.Containers[placeholder]).
                           Controls.Add(moduleControl);
                }
            }
        }
        #endregion 
    }
    else
    {
        // The default template and placeholders are not correctly configured.
        throw new Exception("Unable to display page because" + 
                            " the default template is not configured.");
    }
}

#region // Ali Ozgür 07-02-2008 : Load sections that are related to the template
private BaseModuleControl CreateModuleControlForSection(Section section)
{
    // Check view permissions before adding the section to the page.
    if (section.ViewAllowed(this.User.Identity))
    {
        // Create the module that is connected to the section.
        ModuleBase module = _moduleLoader.GetModuleFromSection(section);

        if (module != null)
        {
            if (Context.Request.PathInfo.Length > 0 && 
                section == this._activeSection)
            {
                // Parse the PathInfo of the request because they can be the parameters 
                // for the module that is connected to the active section.
                module.ModulePathInfo = Context.Request.PathInfo;
            }
            return LoadModuleControl(module);
        }
    }
    return null;
}

private BaseModuleControl LoadModuleControl(ModuleBase module)
{
    BaseModuleControl ctrl = (BaseModuleControl)this.LoadControl(
       UrlHelper.GetApplicationPath() + module.CurrentViewControlPath);
    ctrl.Module = module;
    return ctrl;
}
#endregion

In the GeneralPage code snippet presented above, you will notice regions of code that add support for loading sections attached to the default site template. This code has nothing to do with AJAX support; it was an improvement needed for BenimOdam.com.

Modifying the HttpHandler for AJAX support

As I mentioned in the Cuyahoga Internals section of the article, the Cuyahoga framework registers a custom HttpHandler class named PageHandler to handle page requests. This handler is needed as a result of the injection practice used in the framework. Cuyahoga does not actually render physical pages or user controls. The page structure is retrieved from the database (sections, and modules within these sections) and modules are instantiated during runtime, and the final page is constructed by Cuyahoga by injecting the module code and the page template to a resulting page. Since there is only one physical page called Default.aspx (actually, there are some more physical pages as Error.aspx and Install.aspx), all page requests must be handled by a custom HttpHandler and resolved so that proper pages with proper sections and modules can be constructed at runtime.

The PageHandler class implements the IHttpHandler interface and the IRequiresSessionState marker interface. PageHandler utilizes Cuyahoga'a custom UrlRewriter class which is used to rewrite requested URLs. UrlRewriter produces URLs that are meaningful for the framework and used for building the right result page. But unfortunately, HTTP requests caused by AJAX calls can not be handled properly by PageHandler because Cuyahoga's UrlRewriter can not rewrite the right URL for AJAX calls, which in turn results in a resource not found exception thrown by the handler. To overcome this problem, we have to slightly modify the PageHandler class' ProcessRequest function. Here is the code:

public void ProcessRequest(HttpContext context)
{
    string rawUrl = context.Request.RawUrl;
    log.Info("Starting request for " + rawUrl);
    DateTime startTime = DateTime.Now;

    string aspxPagePath = String.Empty;
    // Rewrite url
    UrlRewriter urlRewriter = new UrlRewriter(context);
    string rewrittenUrl = urlRewriter.RewriteUrl(rawUrl);

    
    #region //Ali Ozgur: This is an ajax request, so we have to realign the rewritten url.
    if (context.Request["HTTP_X_MICROSOFTAJAX"] != null)
    {
        int idx = rewrittenUrl.ToLowerInvariant().IndexOf("/default.aspx");
        if (idx >= 0)
        {
            rewrittenUrl = rewrittenUrl.Substring(idx, rewrittenUrl.Length - idx);
        }
    }
    #endregion
    
    
    // Obtain the handler for the current page
    aspxPagePath = rewrittenUrl.Substring(0, rewrittenUrl.IndexOf(".aspx") + 5);
  
    IHttpHandler handler = 
      PageParser.GetCompiledPageInstance(aspxPagePath, null, context);

    // Process the page just like any other aspx page
    handler.ProcessRequest(context);

    // Release loaded modules. These modules are added
    // to the HttpContext.Items collection by the ModuleLoader.
    ReleaseModules();

    // Log duration
    TimeSpan duration = DateTime.Now - startTime;
    log.Info(String.Format("Request finshed. Total duration: {0} ms.", 
                           duration.Milliseconds));
}

Installation

We have to modify our Web.config file to enable AJAX support. If we do not add the following configuration information, it is likely that we will get a "Sys not defined" error when our module tries to execute AJAX related code.

<system.web > 
 <httpHandlers > 
  <remove verb="*"  path="*.asmx" /> 
  <add verb="*"  path=" Error.aspx"  
      type=" System.Web.UI.PageHandlerFactory"  /> 
  <add verb="*"  path=" *.aspx"  
      type=" Cuyahoga.Web.HttpHandlers.PageHandler, Cuyahoga.Web"  /> 
  <add verb="*"  path=" *.asmx"  validate=" false"  
      type=" System.Web.Script.Services.ScriptHandlerFactory, System.Web.Extensions, 
            Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" /> 
  <add verb="*"  path=" *_AppService.axd"  validate=" false"  
     type=" System.Web.Script.Services.ScriptHandlerFactory, System.Web.Extensions, 
           Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" /> 
  <add verb=" GET,HEAD"  path=" ScriptResource.axd"  
    type=" System.Web.Handlers.ScriptResourceHandler, System.Web.Extensions, 
          Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35"  
    validate=" false" /> 
 </httpHandlers> 
 <httpModules> 
  <add type=" Cuyahoga.Web.HttpModules.AuthenticationModule, Cuyahoga.Web"  
    name=" AuthenticationModule"  /> 
  <add type=" Cuyahoga.Web.HttpModules.CoreRepositoryModule, Cuyahoga.Web"  
    name=" CoreRepositoryModule"  /> 
  <add name=" NHibernateSessionWebModule"  
   type=" Castle.Facilities.NHibernateIntegration.Components.SessionWebModule, 
         Castle.Facilities.NHibernateIntegration"  /> 
            
  <!--Ajax toolkit support--> 
  <add name=" ScriptModule"  
   type=" System.Web.Handlers.ScriptModule, System.Web.Extensions, 
          Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" /> 

</httpModules> 
</system.web>

History

  • 18 February 2008: Initial version published.

License

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

About the Author

Ali Ozgur
Team Leader PragmaTouch
Turkey Turkey
- Software developer
- Has BS degree in Computer Engineering
- Has MBA degree
- Programmed with C, C++, Delphi, T-SQL and recently C#
- Little educational experience with Prolog
- Feel enthusiasm about NHibernate and LINQ
- Love to develop on Cuyahoga Web Framework
- Developer of PragmaSQL Editor
(Code Project Members Choice Winner for 2009 and 2010)
- Developed JiraTouch and MoodleTouch for iPhone
- PragmaTouch Lead (www.pragmatouch.com)
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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralFix error Pinmemberj1mmyw3b15-Apr-10 23:09 
GeneralTnx for sharing PinmemberStaffan Sjöstedt27-Feb-08 22:25 
GeneralRe: Tnx for sharing PinmemberAli Ozgur2-Mar-08 5:00 
General[Message Removed] Pinmembernompel1-Oct-08 7:38 

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