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Layout Manager for Prism v2

, 24 Apr 2009
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Provides layout management for Composite WPF (Prism) applications
diagram.jpg

Introduction

One of the issues you may encounter when working on a Prism project is the management of regions and views within your application. While the RegionManager does an adequate job of managing regions, the orchestration of views and regions is pretty much left up to the developer.

A common approach is to define string constants in a common infrastructure assembly and injecting views into regions using these constants. This gets the job done, but adds rigidity to your application. For applications which require multiple layouts, coordinating regions and views can be a bit tedious.

One common approach I would not recommend is injecting your views in your module's Initialize method.

public void Initialize()
{
var view = new MyView();
_Container.RegisterInstance<IMyView>(view);
_RegionManager.Regions[RegionNames.Shell].Add(view);
}

This violates the encapsulation of the module, restricting the reuse of the module.

Background

On one project, we opted to create a "layout module." The sole purpose of this module was to load a layout UserControl into the Shell region of the main application window, and injecting the views into its own defined regions. Definitely a step in the right direction by decoupling the module views from the regions. The layout module was defined and loaded like any other module, but had to be the last module loaded due to its dependencies. One drawback to this approach was the increasing number of dependencies. The layout module had to reference all the infrastructure assemblies of the views it was required to manage.

Still this solution felt a bit too purpose-built. And other issues quickly arose, such as multiple layout support.

Ideally we were looking for a complete decoupling of regions and views with the ability to dynamically load layouts as required.

We quite liked the idea of using "layout views", views whose sole purpose was to define regions, and providing no business or UI logic. But, the source and introduction of these views needed to be dynamic and flexible.

Using the Code

The LayoutManager is my first attempt at tackling this issue. Its purpose is to dynamically manage one or more layout configurations for a Prism application.

To compile and run the LayoutManager you will need Visual Studio 2008 SP1 and the latest version of the Composite Application Guidance for WPF and Silverlight - February 2009.

The solution is fairly standard Prism solution, consisting of an Infrastructure, Shell and Modules projects. For the sake of simplicity, I've only included a single Modules project, where normally there would be more.

solution.jpg

classDiagram.jpg

The LayoutManager maintains a collection of Layout objects, which define layout controls, along with the views that will reside in the layout.

Configuration

The LayoutManager is configured by a LayoutProvider specified in your app.config file.

<section name="layoutProvider" type="Composite.Layout.Configuration.LayoutProviderSection, Composite.Layout"/>

Currently, two providers are available: ConfigLayoutProvider and XamlLayoutProvider. Custom providers can be used by inheriting from LayoutProviderBase.

ConfigLayoutProvider

Defines the LayoutManager in the app.config file as shown below:

<layoutProvider name="ConfigLayoutProvider" 
    type="Composite.Layout.Configuration.ConfigLayoutProvider, Composite.Layout">
    <layoutManager shellName="Shell" >

      <layouts>
        <layout name="FirstLayout" 
              filename="Layouts\FirstLayout.xaml" 
              fullname="First Layout" 
              isDefault="True"
              description="This is the default layout" 
              thumbnailSource="pack://application:,,,/LayoutManager.Infrastructure;
              component/Resources/Images/layout1.png">

          <views>
            <view typeName="LayoutManager.Infrastructure.IViewA,
                LayoutManager.Infrastructure" regionName="Left"  />
            <view typeName="LayoutManager.Infrastructure.IViewB,
                LayoutManager.Infrastructure" regionName="Right" />

            <viewModel typeName="LayoutManager.Infrastructure.IMenuViewModel,
                LayoutManager.Infrastructure" regionName="Menu"  viewProperty="View"/>
          </views>
        </layout>

        ...
          </layouts>
    </layoutManager>
  </layoutProvider>
XamlLayoutProvider

Defines the LayoutManager in Xaml

<layoutProvider name="XamlLayoutProvider"

           type="Composite.Layout.Configuration.XamlLayoutProvider, Composite.Layout"
           filename="Layouts\LayoutConfiguration.xaml"/>

The source of the Xaml can be specified by type or by filename.

<Layout:LayoutManager xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
                      xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"

                      xmlns:Layout=
                          "clr-namespace:Composite.Layout;assembly=Composite.Layout"
                      xmlns:Infrastructure=
    "clr-namespace:LayoutManager.Infrastructure;assembly=LayoutManager.Infrastructure"
                      ShellName="Shell">
    <Layout:LayoutManager.Layouts>
        <Layout:Layout x:Name="FirstLayout"

                       Fullname="First Layout"
                       Filename="Layouts\FirstLayout.xaml"
                       Description="This is the default layout"
                       ThumbnailSource=
"pack://application:,,,/LayoutManager.Infrastructure;component/Resources/Images/layout1.png"
                       IsDefault="True">

            <Layout:Layout.Views>
                <Layout:ViewModel RegionName="Menu"
                                  Type="{x:Type Infrastructure:IMenuViewModel}"
                                  ViewProperty="View" />

                <Layout:View RegionName="Left"
                             Type="{x:Type Infrastructure:IViewA}" />
                <Layout:View RegionName="Right"
                             Type="{x:Type Infrastructure:IViewB}" />

            </Layout:Layout.Views>
        </Layout:Layout>
	...
    </Layout:LayoutManager.Layouts>
</Layout:LayoutManager>

Each Layout contains a Views collection. The views collection accommodates both Views and ViewModels. The View specifies what view control is to be loaded and what region it is to be placed in. You can also set the visibility for the view. Use the ViewProperty of the ViewModel to specify the name of the property on your ViewModel which holds the View.

The LayoutManager is loaded after all of the modules have initialized. In the Bootstrapper.cs:

        protected override void InitializeModules()
        {
            base.InitializeModules();
            InitializeLayoutManager();
        }

        private void InitializeLayoutManager()
        {
            var layoutManager = LayoutConfigurationManager.LayoutManager;
            layoutManager.Initialize(Container);
            Container.RegisterInstance(layoutManager,
                new ContainerControlledLifetimeManager());
            //parameterless LoadLayout loads the default Layout into the Shell
            layoutManager.LoadLayout();
        }

The LayoutManager requires use of the Container. Once your layouts have been loaded, call the Initialize method passing in the container.

Once that is done, you can register the LayoutManager in the container making it accessible to other modules.

Loading a Layout

Layouts are loaded by calling the LoadLayout method of the LayoutManager.

  • LoadLayout() - loads the default layout in the Shell
  • LoadLayout(string layoutName) - loads the named layout in the Shell

The MenuViewModel.cs illustrates the use of LoadLayout:

private void LayoutCommandExecute(ILayout layout)
{
var layoutManager = _Container.Resolve<ILayoutManager>(); 
layoutManager.LoadLayout(layout.Name);
}

The basic sequence of loading a layout is:

  1. If there is a current layout, remove it from the RegionManager.
  2. Clear out any controls that were bound to any regions. This step is necessary otherwise you will get an InvalidOperationException ("This control is being associated with a region, but the control is already bound to something else.") when you try to reload it in the future. Currently, the LayoutManager only supports ItemsControls, ContentControls and Panels using the RegionManager.RegionName attached property.
  3. Add the new Layout Control to the RegionManager.
  4. Register any Regions contained within the Layout Control.
  5. Load any views associated with the new layout.

Events

There are several events raised by the LayoutManager:

  • LayoutManagerInitializedEvent - raised at the end of Initialize (see MenuViewModel.cs for an example of subscribing to this event)
  • LayoutLoadingEvent - raised at the beginning of LoadLayout
  • LayoutLoadedEvent - raised at the end of LoadLayout
  • LayoutUnloadingEvent - raised before the current layout is about to be unloaded
  • LayoutUnloadedEvent - raised after the current layout has been unloaded

All of these events are published through the EventAggregator.

Limitations

Currently there are several limitations with the LayoutManager, these are:

LayoutManager currently only supports UserControls as layout controls. There is also the basic assumption that your application main window has a single region defined, where layout controls are injected. Regions must be defined in XAML using the RegionManager.RegionName attached property.

Other Considerations

While the LayoutManager does decouple the regions from the views, it does not entirely do away with string-based region names. Dynamic manipulation of regions and views in code will still rely on region names (see the AddCommandExecute method in MenuViewModel.cs on how to programmatically add layouts). And region name attributes must match actual region names in the Layout control.

A possible approach to addressing this dependency may be to introduce a RegionType enumeration such as Top, Bottom, Left, Right, Center, StatusBar, Menu, Toolbar, etc. In which case, the LayoutManager could resolve these regions regardless of string names.

I have not tested the LayoutManager in all possible scenarios, such as nested layouts and custom RegionAdapters, or with Silverlight.

I am interested in feedback/comments/suggestions from the Prism community.

Points of Interest

For a good introduction to using Prism and WPF check out:

History

  • 13th April, 2009: Initial post
  • 23rd April, 2009: Refactored the Composite Layout assembly, including change of namespace. LayoutManager, Layout, View and ViewModel are now DependencyObjects. Decoupled layout configuration from the app.config file, allowing for flexible configuration. Added ConfigLayoutProvider and XamlLayoutProvider. Add token views and custom menus.

License

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

About the Author

Ron Gramann
Software Developer
United Kingdom United Kingdom
I'm a software developer living in West Sussex, UK, and enjoy working with the latest .Net technologies.

Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionQuestion PinmemberMikeyW10-Jul-13 9:14 
AnswerRe: Question PinmemberRon Gramann10-Jul-13 10:42 
Generalquestion Pinmembershayderi14-Jul-10 3:57 
GeneralRe: question PinmemberRon Gramann16-Jul-10 22:31 
Good question. I've never tried that scenario. If it is an all or nothing proposition, I suppose you could write an extension method which returns the "name" if one is supplied or type if not? This would be easy enough to verify, just register two views, one by name, the other by type and see what happens.
GeneralWindow Manager PinmemberChristianR192-May-10 8:08 
GeneralRe: Window Manager PinmemberRon Gramann4-May-10 4:27 
GeneralRe: Window Manager PinmemberMohammed Abed24-May-10 21:23 
GeneralRe: Window Manager PinmemberRon Gramann24-May-10 23:01 
GeneralThanks for the helpful sample Pinmemberkfrosty12-Mar-10 3:43 
GeneralRe: Thanks for the helpful sample PinmemberRon Gramann17-Mar-10 9:51 
GeneralUI Controller Pinmemberdakash28-Apr-09 3:50 
GeneralRe: UI Controller PinmemberRon Gramann28-Apr-09 4:24 
GeneralRe: UI Controller [modified] Pinmemberdakash28-Apr-09 5:14 
GeneralRe: UI Controller PinmemberRon Gramann28-Apr-09 7:52 
GeneralRe: UI Controller Pinmemberdakash29-Apr-09 5:55 
GeneralRe: UI Controller PinmemberRon Gramann29-Apr-09 7:47 
GeneralRe: UI Controller Pinmemberdakash29-Apr-09 11:04 
GeneralRe: UI Controller PinmemberRon Gramann30-Apr-09 0:23 
GeneralSome feedback / Questions Pinmembercbertolasio20-Apr-09 17:46 
GeneralRe: Some feedback / Questions PinmemberRon Gramann21-Apr-09 8:02 
GeneralRe: Some feedback / Questions Pinmembercbertolasio21-Apr-09 19:12 
GeneralRe: Some feedback / Questions [modified] PinmemberRon Gramann21-Apr-09 23:51 

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