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Declarative Programming--Unifying Form And Web Development

, , 23 Nov 2004
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Use declarative programming to create UI's common for both Web and Form applets.

Introduction

This is a concept piece that is intended to whet your appetite for declarative programming and the idea that maybe, just maybe, it is possible to unify development for System.Windows.Forms and System.Web.UI.WebControls namespaces, at least for simple applications.

Now, granted, "real" web pages have lots of JavaScript to reduce post-backs, go through a lot of optimization at the server, need to deal with real world issues like traffic, etc. And a calculator example, where each button click is a post-back, is definitely not the best example!

Click here for an online demo.

How Does It Work?

Very simple. Given a MyXaml markup file that defines the UI in the System.Windows.Forms namespace, a very simple XSLT, written by Justin, converts the markup to one that can live in the System.Web.UI.WebControls namespace. So, one markup file drives both Form and Web UI's, and the event handler code is identical as well except for one line.

The Markup

The source markup is very simple. No styles, no sub-forms, etc. Simple is better when trying to pull this off.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> 
<!-- (c) 2004 Marc Clifton All Rights Reserved -->
<wf:MyXaml
  xmlns:wf="System.Windows.Forms" 
  xmlns:def="Definitions">
  <wf:Panel Name="Calc" Location="10, 10" Size="600, 400">
    <Controls>
      <wf:TextBox def:Name="display" Location="0, 0" Size="155, 20" 
          BackColor="Black" ForeColor="Yellow" Text="0.00"/>

      <wf:Button Text="C" Location="0, 20" Size="60, 25"
                 Click="OnClear" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="CE" Location="60, 20" Size="30, 25" 
                 Click="OnClearEntry" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="=" Location="95, 20" Size="60, 25" 
                 Click="OnEqual" FlatStyle="System"/>

      <wf:Button Text="7" Location="0, 50" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="8" Location="30, 50" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="9" Location="60, 50" Size="30, 28"
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="4" Location="0, 80" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="5" Location="30, 80" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="6" Location="60, 80" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="1" Location="0, 110" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="2" Location="30, 110" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="3" Location="60, 110" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="0" Location="0, 140" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="." Location="60, 140" Size="30, 28" 
                 Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System"/>

      <wf:Button Text="+" Location="95, 50" Size="60, 28" 
                 Click="OnAdd" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="-" Location="95, 80" Size="60, 28" 
                 Click="OnSubtract" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="*" Location="95, 110" Size="60, 28" 
                 Click="OnMultiply" FlatStyle="System"/>
      <wf:Button Text="/" Location="95, 140" Size="60, 28" 
                 Click="OnDivide" FlatStyle="System"/>
    </Controls>
  </wf:Panel>
</wf:MyXaml>

What Gets Generated?

The XSLT translates this to:

<wf:MyXaml
  xmlns:wf="System.Web.UI.WebControls, System.Web, Version=1.0.5000.0, 
            Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a"
  xmlns:def="Definitions">
  <wf:Panel Name="Calc" CssStyle="position:absolute; left:10px; 
            top:10px; width:600px; height:400px;">
    <Controls>
      <wf:TextBox def:Name="display" BackColor="Black" ForeColor="Yellow" 
                  Text="0.00" CssStyle="position:absolute; left:0px; top:0px;
                  width:155px; height:20px;"></wf:TextBox>

      <wf:Button Text="C" Click="OnClear" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:0px; top:20px; width:60px; 
          height:25px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="CE" Click="OnClearEntry" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:60px; top:20px; width:30px; 
          height:25px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="=" Click="OnEqual" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:95px; top:20px; width:60px; 
          height:25px;"></wf:Button>

      <wf:Button Text="7" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:0px; top:50px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="8" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:30px; top:50px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="9" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:60px; top:50px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="4" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:0px; top:80px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="5" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:30px; top:80px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="6" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:60px; top:80px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="1" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:0px; top:110px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="2" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:30px; top:110px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="3" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:60px; top:110px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="0" Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:0px; top:140px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="." Click="OnDigit" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:60px; top:140px; width:30px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>

      <wf:Button Text="+" Click="OnAdd" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:95px; top:50px; width:60px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="-" Click="OnSubtract" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:95px; top:80px; width:60px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="*" Click="OnMultiply" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:95px; top:110px; width:60px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
      <wf:Button Text="/" Click="OnDivide" FlatStyle="System" 
          CssStyle="position:absolute; left:95px; top:140px; width:60px; 
          height:28px;"></wf:Button>
    </Controls>
  </wf:Panel>
</wf:MyXaml>

What Does The XSLT Look Like?

The XSLT is straightforward enough:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0" xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform">
  <xsl:output method="xml"/>

  <xsl:template match="*">
    <xsl:choose>
      <xsl:when test="namespace-uri(.) = 'System.Windows.Forms'">
        <xsl:element name="{name(.)}" namespace="System.Web.UI.WebControls, 
             System.Web, Version=1.0.5000.0, Culture=neutral, 
             PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a">
          <xsl:copy-of select="namespace::*[not(.='System.Windows.Forms')]"/>
          <xsl:copy-of select="@*[not(name()='Location') and not(name()='Size')]"/>
          <xsl:if test="@Location or @Size">
            <xsl:attribute name="CssStyle">
              <xsl:if test="@Location">position:absolute; left:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-before(@Location,','))"/>px; 
              top:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-after(@Location,','))"/>px;
              </xsl:if>
              <xsl:if test="@Size">width:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-before(@Size,','))"/>px; 
              height:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-after(@Size,','))"/>px;
              </xsl:if>
            </xsl:attribute>
          </xsl:if>
          <xsl:apply-templates></xsl:apply-templates>
        </xsl:element>
      </xsl:when>
      <xsl:otherwise>
        <xsl:element name="{name(.)}" namespace="{namespace-uri(.)}">
          <xsl:copy-of select="namespace::*[not(.='System.Windows.Forms')]"/>
          <xsl:copy-of select="@*[not(name()='Location') and not(name()='Size')]"/>
          <xsl:if test="@Location or @Size">
            <xsl:attribute name="CssStyle">
              <xsl:if test="@Location">position:absolute; left:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-before(@Location,','))"/>px;
              top:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-after(@Location,','))"/>px;
              </xsl:if>
              <xsl:if test="@Size">width:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-before(@Size,','))"/>px; 
              height:<xsl:value-of 
              select="normalize-space(substring-after(@Size,','))"/>px;
              </xsl:if>
            </xsl:attribute>
          </xsl:if>
        <xsl:apply-templates></xsl:apply-templates>
        </xsl:element>
      </xsl:otherwise>
    </xsl:choose>
  </xsl:template>
</xsl:stylesheet>

The Loaders

To make all this magic work, the markup has to be parsed, which is done by MyXaml. The parsing is done in the application startup. For the Form version, this is done when Main() is called. In the Web version, it's done in Page_Load event handler.

The Form Loader

The Form version has a very simple loader:

using System;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Collections;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using System.Data;

using MyXaml;

namespace declarativeForm
{
  public class App
  {
    [STAThread]
    static void Main() 
    {
      new App();
    }

    public App()
    {
      Parser p=new Parser();
      SimpleCalc sc=new SimpleCalc();
      Panel panel=(Panel)p.LoadObject("calcForm.xml", "Calc", sc, null);
      Form form=new Form();
      form.Controls.Add(panel);
      Application.Run(form);
    }
  }
}

The Web Loader

The Web loader is more complicated because there is no concept of session state. Therefore, the class that manages the state of the calculator (concatenating digits, remembering the last operator, etc.) has to be preserved in the Session container. Also, for every post-back, the UI has to be regenerated.

using System;
using System.Collections;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Diagnostics;
using System.Drawing;
using System.IO;
using System.Text;
using System.Web;
using System.Web.SessionState;
using System.Web.UI;
using System.Web.UI.WebControls;
using System.Web.UI.HtmlControls;
using System.Xml;
using System.Xml.Xsl;

using MyXaml;

namespace declarativeWeb
{
  public class WebForm1 : System.Web.UI.Page
  {
    protected System.Web.UI.WebControls.Panel formPanel;

    private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
    {
      if (!IsPostBack)
      {
        SimpleCalc sc=new SimpleCalc();
        XmlDocument doc=LoadDocument();

        if (doc != null)
        {
          Parser parser=new Parser();
          Panel panel=(Panel)parser.LoadObject(doc, "Calc", sc, null);
          if (panel != null)
          {
            formPanel.Controls.Add(panel);
          }
        }

        Session["SimpleCalc"]=sc;
      }
      else
      {
        SimpleCalc sc=(SimpleCalc)Session["SimpleCalc"];
        XmlDocument doc=LoadDocument();

        if (doc != null)
        {
          Parser parser=new Parser();
          Panel panel=(Panel)parser.LoadObject(doc, "Calc", sc, null);
          if (panel != null)
          {
            formPanel.Controls.Add(panel);
          }
        }
      }
    }

    override protected void OnInit(EventArgs e)
    {
      InitializeComponent();
      base.OnInit(e);
    }

    private void InitializeComponent()
    { 
      this.Load += new System.EventHandler(this.Page_Load);
    }

    private XmlDocument LoadDocument()
    {
      XmlDocument doc=null;
      string path=MapPath("");

      try
      {
        doc=new XmlDataDocument();
        doc.PreserveWhitespace=true;
        doc.Load(path+"\\calcForm.xml");
        XslTransform xt=new XslTransform();
        xt.Load(path+"\\form2web.xslt");
        StringBuilder sb=new StringBuilder();
        StringWriter sw=new StringWriter(sb);
        xt.Transform(doc, null, new XmlTextWriter(sw), new XmlUrlResolver());

        doc=new XmlDocument();
        doc.LoadXml(sb.ToString());
        System.Diagnostics.Trace.WriteLine(sb.ToString());

      }
      catch(Exception ex)
      {
        Trace.Warn(ex.Message);
      }
      return doc;
    }
  }
}

The Calculator Event Handler Code

The calculator event handler code is identical for both Form and Web versions, except in the Form version you have to specify:

using System.Windows.Forms;

whereas in the Web version, you specify:

using System.Web.UI.WebControls;

Here is the Web version:

using System;
using System.Globalization;
using System.Web.UI.WebControls;    // Form version is System.Windows.Forms

using MyXaml;

namespace declarativeWeb
{
  public class SimpleCalc
  {
    private bool cleared;
    private string lastOp;
    private string lastValue;
    private NumberFormatInfo formatProvider;

    [MyXamlAutoInitialize] private TextBox display=null;

    public SimpleCalc()
    {
      cleared=true;
      lastOp=String.Empty;
      lastValue=String.Empty;

      formatProvider=new NumberFormatInfo();
      formatProvider.NumberDecimalDigits=2;
    }

    public void OnClear(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      display.Text="0.00";
      cleared=true;
      lastOp=String.Empty;
      lastValue=String.Empty;
    }

    public void OnClearEntry(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      display.Text="0.00";
      cleared=true;
    }

    public void OnDigit(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      Button btn=(Button)sender;
      if (cleared)
      {
        display.Text=btn.Text;
        cleared=false;
      }
      else
      {
        display.Text=display.Text+btn.Text;
      }
    }

    public string ProcessLastOp(string val)
    {
      double d=0;
      switch(lastOp)
      {
        case "+":
        {
          d=Convert.ToDouble(lastValue) + Convert.ToDouble(val);
          break;
        }
        case "-":
        {
          d=Convert.ToDouble(lastValue) - Convert.ToDouble(val);
          break;
        }
        case "*":
        {
          d=Convert.ToDouble(lastValue) * Convert.ToDouble(val);
          break;
        }
        case "/":
        {
          if (Convert.ToDouble(val) != 0.0)
          {
            d=Convert.ToDouble(lastValue) / Convert.ToDouble(val);
          }
          break;
        }
      }
      lastValue=d.ToString("N", formatProvider);
      return lastValue;
    }

    public void OnAdd(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      if (lastValue==String.Empty)
      {
        lastValue=display.Text;
      }
      else
      {
        lastValue=ProcessLastOp(display.Text);
        display.Text=lastValue;
      }
      lastOp="+";
      cleared=true;
    }

    public void OnSubtract(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      if (lastValue==String.Empty)
      {
        lastValue=display.Text;
      }
      else
      {
        lastValue=ProcessLastOp(display.Text);
        display.Text=lastValue;
      }
      lastOp="-";
      cleared=true;
    }

    public void OnMultiply(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      if (lastValue==String.Empty)
      {
        lastValue=display.Text;
      }
      else
      {
        lastValue=ProcessLastOp(display.Text);
        display.Text=lastValue;
      }
      lastOp="*";
      cleared=true;
    }

    public void OnDivide(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      if (lastValue==String.Empty)
      {
        lastValue=display.Text;
      }
      else
      {
        lastValue=ProcessLastOp(display.Text);
        display.Text=lastValue;
      }
      lastOp="/";
      cleared=true;
    }

    public void OnEqual(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
      if (lastValue != String.Empty)
      {
        display.Text=ProcessLastOp(display.Text);
        lastValue=String.Empty;
        lastOp=String.Empty;
        cleared=true;
      }
    }
  }
}

Where's The Smoke And Mirrors?

There's only one "trick" being employed here. Absolute positioning is used and Web controls don't support that except by using the style attribute in the HTML. .NET's support for this is via the Style property. However, this property does not accept a string that would be used to construct the HTML style attribute. Instead, the WebControl.Style property is CssStyleCollection type. To make matters worse, although this type behaves sort of like a dictionary (it has a key-value pair Add method), it isn't derived from IDictionary.

Therefore, the smoke and mirrors is that MyXaml has custom property setter code for the CssStyle attribute. When it encounters the CssStyle attribute, it invokes a handler for this attribute (CssStyleCustomProperty) that decodes the string and loads up the CssStyleCollection for the Style property of the instance being parsed. At least the mechanism that is used is a general purpose custom attribute handler, rather than embedding web style processing inside the MyXaml parser directly.

The Downloads

For the web demo:

  1. Create an ASP.NET web application project.
  2. Copy the the files in the web download into the folder for your project, overwriting the WebForm.* files.
  3. Add a reference to the MyXaml.dll assembly that got put into your bin directory.

For the form demo, just unzip the download and compile the provided csproj.

A Note To MyXaml Users

If you want to compile against the MyXaml source code, there's a minor change made to MyXaml to deal with the prefix on the MyXaml node. In InitializeNamespaces, change:

XmlNode uiNode=doc.GetElementsByTagName("MyXaml")[0];

to

XmlNode uiNode=doc.DocumentElement;

Because MyXaml is a GPL open source project, I would prefer that people obtain the source code directly from the MyXaml website and acknowledge that they agree to the licensing terms. The downloads include only the MyXaml assembly.

GAC Issues

MyXaml registers itself into the GAC, and for some very annoying reason, I had problems with the web version acquiring the correct MyXaml file. If you suspect such a problem, remove MyXaml from the GAC (note that the MyXaml project has a post-build step that registers itself into the GAC, so you might want to remove that too).

Conclusion

Within the confines of simple UI controls, simple requirements, and where post-back performance isn't an issue, declarative programming and XSLT makes it possible to create both form and web applets from the same code base.

License

This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here

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About the Authors

Marc Clifton

United States United States
Marc is the creator of two open source projects, MyXaml, a declarative (XML) instantiation engine and the Advanced Unit Testing framework, and Interacx, a commercial n-tier RAD application suite.  Visit his website, www.marcclifton.com, where you will find many of his articles and his blog.
 
Marc lives in Philmont, NY.

J. Dunlap
Web Developer
United States United States
My main goal as a developer is to improve the way software is designed, and how it interacts with the user. I like designing software best, but I also like coding and documentation. I especially like to work with user interfaces and graphics.
 
I have extensive knowledge of the .NET Framework, and like to delve into its internals. I specialize in working with VG.net and MyXaml. I also like to work with ASP.NET, AJAX, and DHTML.

Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralAlso look at Habanero PinmemberErichero30-Oct-08 2:06 
GeneralIdea - Intermediate Abstract Syntax Tree PinmemberPhilip Laureano31-Dec-06 13:58 
GeneralRe: Idea - Intermediate Abstract Syntax Tree PinprotectorMarc Clifton31-Dec-06 14:12 
GeneralRe: Idea - Intermediate Abstract Syntax Tree PinmemberPhilip Laureano1-Jan-07 13:00 
GeneralRe: Idea - Intermediate Abstract Syntax Tree PinprotectorMarc Clifton1-Jan-07 13:02 
GeneralmyAXml Pinmemberjsanjosemgmail.com8-Dec-05 7:35 
GeneralA Declarative Tour-De-Forde PinmemberKim Alexander19-Apr-05 0:47 
GeneralCool! Pinmemberbeardman24-Nov-04 6:27 
GeneralRe: Cool! PinprotectorMarc Clifton24-Nov-04 6:37 
GeneralConcept clear PinstaffPaul Watson24-Nov-04 0:17 
GeneralSpell Check ?... PinmemberCipherCode23-Nov-04 10:49 
GeneralRe: Spell Check ?... PinprotectorMarc Clifton23-Nov-04 11:06 
QuestionHow efficient is the traffic usage? Pinmemberdumky23-Nov-04 8:32 
AnswerRe: How efficient is the traffic usage? PinprotectorMarc Clifton23-Nov-04 9:07 
GeneralI like it! PinmemberFrank Hileman23-Nov-04 8:19 

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Web03 | 2.8.141223.1 | Last Updated 23 Nov 2004
Article Copyright 2004 by Marc Clifton, J. Dunlap
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