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Implementing RelativeSource binding in Silverlight

, 17 May 2009
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This technical blog post shows how to create FindAncestor and RelativeSource.Self bindings with Silverlight 2.0

In my previous post, I demonstrated how the WPF ElementName style binding can be emulated with Silverlight via an attached behaviour. As a brief recap, the technique involved creating an attached property, which when bound, adds a handler for the elements Loaded event. When the element is loaded, the event handler locates the named element and constructs a binding via a relay object. Here is the attached property in use:

<Rectangle Height="20" Fill="Green">
    <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
        <local:BindingProperties ElementName="Slider" 
		SourceProperty="Value" TargetProperty="Width"/>
    </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
</Rectangle>
<Slider x:Name="Slider" Value="20" Minimum="0" Maximum="300"/>

Where the Rectangle’s Width is bound to the Slider’s Value. For details, and source code, visit this blog post. Here I am going to extend this attached behaviour in order to emulate WPF’s RelativeSource binding.

Most of the time, you will want to bind your visual elements to your data objects via their DataContext property. However, there are often times when you want to perform a binding for pure presentation purposes, for example, binding the width of two elements together. In this context, WPF's RelativeSource and ElementName binding prove to be powerful and useful features of the binding framework.

Here I will extend the attached behaviour I described in my previous post to add RelativeSource binding capabilities. The properties of the attached property type have been extended:

public class BindingProperties
{
    public string SourceProperty { get; set; }
    public string ElementName { get; set; }
    public string TargetProperty { get; set; }
    public IValueConverter Converter { get; set; }
    public object ConverterParameter { get; set; }
    public bool RelativeSourceSelf { get; set; }
    public string RelativeSourceAncestorType { get; set; }
    public int RelativeSourceAncestorLevel { get; set; }
 
    public BindingProperties()
    {
        RelativeSourceAncestorLevel = 1;
    }
}

With the RelativeSourceSelf, RelativeSourceAncestorType and RelativeSourceAncestorLevel properties being used for relative source bindings. Taking RelativeSourceSelf as our first example, within WPF a RelativeSource.Self property indicates that the source of a binding should be the element which the binding is associated with. (I know - it sounds a bit crazy, but search Google, it is surprisingly useful!).

private static void OnBinding(
    DependencyObject depObj, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e)
{
    FrameworkElement targetElement = depObj as FrameworkElement;
 
    targetElement.Loaded += new RoutedEventHandler(TargetElement_Loaded);
}
 
private static void TargetElement_Loaded(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
    FrameworkElement targetElement = sender as FrameworkElement;
 
    // get the value of our attached property
    BindingProperties bindingProperties = GetBinding(targetElement);
 
    if (bindingProperties.ElementName != null)
    {
        // perform our 'ElementName' lookup
        ...
    }
    else if (bindingProperties.RelativeSourceSelf)
    {
        // bind an element to itself.
        CreateRelayBinding(targetElement, targetElement, bindingProperties);
    }
}

When the attached property becomes attached to our target element, it adds a handler for the elements Loaded event (this is the attached behaviour). Within the event handler, we determine whether this is a relative source binding. If this is the case, the CreateRelayBinding method is invoked where the source and target element parameters are the same element. For details of how the CreateRelayBinding method works, see the previous blog post. An example of a relative-source self binding is shown below, where a TextBox’s Width property is bound to its Text, if you type in a new text value, the TextBox Width adjusts accordingly.

<TextBox Text="200" Margin="0,5,0,0">
    <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
        <local:BindingProperties TargetProperty="Width" SourceProperty="Text"
                                 RelativeSourceSelf="True"/>        
    </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
</TextBox>

The next type of RelativeSource binding I am going to tackle is the FindAncestor mode. You use this type of binding when you want to bind to an element of a specific type that is located further up the visual tree than the target element. The following code snippet shows how the attached behaviour achieves this type of binding:

private static void TargetElement_Loaded(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
    FrameworkElement targetElement = sender as FrameworkElement;
 
    // get the value of our attached property
    BindingProperties bindingProperties = GetBinding(targetElement);
 
    if (bindingProperties.ElementName != null)
    {
        // perform our 'ElementName' lookup
        ...
    }
    else if (bindingProperties.RelativeSourceSelf)
    {
        // bind an element to itself.
        ...
    }
    else if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(bindingProperties.RelativeSourceAncestorType))
    {
 
        // navigate up the tree to find the type
        DependencyObject currentObject = targetElement;
 
        int currentLevel = 0;
        while (currentLevel < bindingProperties.RelativeSourceAncestorLevel)
        {
            do
            {
                currentObject = VisualTreeHelper.GetParent(currentObject);
            }
            while (currentObject.GetType().Name != 
		bindingProperties.RelativeSourceAncestorType);
            currentLevel++;
        }
 
        FrameworkElement sourceElement = currentObject as FrameworkElement;
 
        // bind them
        CreateRelayBinding(targetElement, sourceElement, bindingProperties);
    }
}

The code above simply navigates up the visual tree to find the nth element of a given type. When the given type has been located, the relay binding between the two is constructed.

This type of binding is incredibly flexible, the following shows a number of examples:

<UserControl x:Class="SilverlightBinding.PageTwo">
 
    <UserControl.Resources>
        <local:VisibilityConverter x:Key="VisibilityConverter"/>
    </UserControl.Resources>
 
    <StackPanel x:Name="TheOuterStackPanel" Background="White"> 
        <StackPanel Name="theInnerStackPanel" Width="400">
            <!--<span class="code-comment"> bind the textbox width to its text property --></span>
            <TextBox Text="200" Margin="0,5,0,0">
                <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                    <local:BindingProperties TargetProperty="Width" SourceProperty="Text"
                                             RelativeSourceSelf="True"/>
                </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
            </TextBox>
            <!--<span class="code-comment"> bind the textbox text to this UserControls width property --></span>
            <TextBox Margin="0,5,0,0">
                <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                    <local:BindingProperties TargetProperty="Text" SourceProperty="Width"
                                             RelativeSourceAncestorType="PageTwo"/>
                </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
            </TextBox>
            <!--<span class="code-comment"> bind the textbox text to the inner stack panels name property --></span>
            <TextBox Margin="0,5,0,0">
                <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                    <local:BindingProperties TargetProperty="Text" SourceProperty="Name"
                                             RelativeSourceAncestorType="StackPanel"/>
                </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
            </TextBox>
            <!--<span class="code-comment"> bind the textbox text to the outer stack panels name property --></span>
            <TextBox Margin="0,5,0,0">
                <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                    <local:BindingProperties TargetProperty="Text" SourceProperty="Name"
                                             RelativeSourceAncestorType="StackPanel"
                                             RelativeSourceAncestorLevel="2"/>
                </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
            </TextBox>
            <!--<span class="code-comment"> bind a slider's value to its parent grid's height property  --></span>
            <Grid Height="30"  Margin="0,5,0,0" Background="CadetBlue"
		HorizontalAlignment="Left" >
                <Slider Width="400"  HorizontalAlignment="Left"
			Minimum="10" Maximum="40">
                    <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                        <local:BindingProperties TargetProperty="Value"
				SourceProperty="Height"
                                   	RelativeSourceAncestorType="Grid"/>
                    </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                </Slider>
            </Grid>
        </StackPanel>     
    </StackPanel>
</UserControl>

You can see in the above XAML, examples of relative-source self and find ancestor bindings with a variety of types and ancestor-levels. And here it is in action:

[CodeProject does not support Silverlight applets, see this in action on my blog.]

If you type in a new value in the top text box its width will change, or move the slider to see the height of its parent grid changing. And all without any code-behind of course!

Many of these effects shown above could be performed via element-name bindings. However, you are not always the creator, or template provider for all the visual elements rendered to screen. One common example is that of the ItemsControl, the ListBox being an example of this type of control. Here you supply a DataTemplate, with your visual elements being rendered inside a ListBoxItem container. Therefore, there is no way to bind to the ListBoxItem via an element name or otherwise. However, you can reach the ListBoxItem by navigating up the tree using a relative-source binding as shown below:

<ListBox Name="grid" Width="200" HorizontalAlignment="Left">
    <ListBox.ItemTemplate>
        <DataTemplate>
            <Grid Width="180">
                <TextBlock Text="{Binding Forename}"/>
 
                <Ellipse Width="10" Height="10" Fill="Red" HorizontalAlignment="Right">
                    <local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                        <local:BindingProperties TargetProperty="Visibility" 
				SourceProperty="IsSelected"
                                   	Converter="{StaticResource VisibilityConverter}"
                                   	RelativeSourceAncestorType="ListBoxItem"/>
                    </local:BindingHelper.Binding>
                </Ellipse>
            </Grid>
        </DataTemplate>
    </ListBox.ItemTemplate>
</ListBox>

In the above example, we have a DataTemplate which contains an ellipse. As the ListBox generates each ‘row’, it creates a ListBoxItem and populates it with the visual elements from our data template. When our ellipse is created, and loaded, the attached behaviour fires, navigating up the visual tree to find the first ListBoxItem it encounters. When it finds it, it creates a single instance of our relay object, binding both the ListBoxItem.IsSelected and Ellipse.Visibilty (via a suitable value converter) together via the relay object.

And here it is in action (click an item to see the ellipse) … 

[CodeProject does not support Silverlight applets, see this in action on my blog.]

You can download a Visual Studio project with all the source code here.

Enjoy, Colin E.

License

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

About the Author

Colin Eberhardt
Architect Scott Logic
United Kingdom United Kingdom
I am CTO at ShinobiControls, a team of iOS developers who are carefully crafting iOS charts, grids and controls for making your applications awesome.
 
I am a Technical Architect for Visiblox which have developed the world's fastest WPF / Silverlight and WP7 charts.
 
I am also a Technical Evangelist at Scott Logic, a provider of bespoke financial software and consultancy for the retail and investment banking, stockbroking, asset management and hedge fund communities.
 
Visit my blog - Colin Eberhardt's Adventures in .NET.
 
Follow me on Twitter - @ColinEberhardt
 
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Comments and Discussions

 
Generalbinding problem Pinmemberjohnsontroye7-Jan-10 12:37 
GeneralRe: binding problem PinmemberColin Eberhardt8-Jan-10 19:39 

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