In this series of articles, we will learn about Prism Framework by creating a demo Composite WPF application. We will learn how to use various components of Prism to build a Composite application by mocking practical organization level scenario. To make it easy to read and understand this article series is consist of three parts. Outline of each part is mentioned below. In this article we will cover first part of the series.
Prerequisites: Before going through the series of this article, I assume you would be having basic understanding of WPF, specially concepts given in below points, if not please have a look at the links provided here:
- Overview of Final Demo
- Architecture of Final Demo
- What is Prism
- What is Shell
- Creating Shell and Defining Regions
- Creating Common Infrastructure
- Creating Modules
- Navigation Module
- Employee Module
- Software Module
- Hardware Module
- Request Module
- Loading Modules
- Issues in Demo Application
- What is Event Aggregator
- Use of Event Aggregator
- What is IActiveAware Interface
- Use of IActiveAware
Overview of Final Demo
In this article series, we will be creating a demo application called “ITHelpDeskDemoApp”. We are mocking an application which would be used to raise request for IT (Information Technology) related needs for employees in an organization. So the purpose of this demo application would be to provide ITHelpDesk service to the employees within the organization. By using this demo application employee can raise request to get softwares and hardwares. By providing employee id, one can get employee detail and the request associated with that employee.
We will start implementation of demo application, from first part of this article series and then keep enhancing this application till third part of this article. “ITHelpDeskDemoApp” application will have five modules called Navigation, Employee, Software, Hardware and Request module. Brief description of each module is given below:
Navigation Module: Navigation Module creates Navigation/Menu Bar which contains three buttons called as Software, Hardware and "All Request". Navigation Module is loaded with the Shell/Statup window.
Employee Module: Employee Module displays information of employee when the employee enters his/her Employee ID. This Module is loaded with the Shell/Startup window.
Software Module: Software Module is used to raise a request for a particular type of software. This module is loaded on demand while user clicks on Software button in Navigation bar.
Hardware Module: Hardware Module is used to raise a request for a particular type of hardware. This module is loaded on demand while user clicks on Hardware button in Navigation bar.
All Request Module: All Request Module is used to see the detail of request raised by Employee/User. This module is loaded on demand while user clicks on "All Request" button Navigation bar.
Architecture of Final Demo
Below image represents the architecture of our demo project:
As we can see the architecture of demo is a typical Prism app. At top level we have Shell and Modules, which is our UI part and those consist of Views. We are having related ViewModels in those projects too.
At bottom we have infrastructure module which have EmployeeService. It is supposed to provide all employees related services to the app. Often ViewModels call it to get employee related data and save employee requests. The benefit of having a service is that it abstracts the mechanism of information sources or its manipulation. So if datasource changes (it may be a RDBMS or XML files or web service) or we need to use multiple sources, only service code will change. For the simplicity we are using XML file as a database here and we have a HelpDeskXMLRepository to interact with XML file.
At right side of the architecture diagram, we have a vertical bar which represents Cross Cutting Concerns for entire application. We are using Unity as a dependency injection framework. With the help of unity, we are using many services provided by Prism such as Module Loader, Event Aggregator etc. We will explain about those in detail as we will use those while creating the demo.
What is Prism
Prism is a framework for building "Composite Applications” using WPF/Silverlight. Prism framework provides a set of libraries which helps us in building modular enterprise applications. By using those libraries, we can categories application into multiple modules, load them as per need and orchestrate them very easily. For more learning about Prism, please have a look at Prism Basic Introduction and Prism Page on MSDN, and few more things about Prism.
What is Shell
Prism framework provides many features, Shell is one of them. Shell is a standard naming for a xaml file which is used as Startup window but we can give any name to Shell.xaml file. In this file we write code which creates common layout and provide a consistent look and feel to the application. In Shell, we define the regions where module can be loaded initially at application startup or on demand.
It is similar to MasterPage in ASP.NET (or Layout page in ASP.NET MVC) which has logo/branding features, navigation bars, header, footer etc.
With Prism based application, as a first step, Shell need to be created. For that there are some standard steps need to be taken. Let us follow those steps given in next section.
Creating Shell and Defining Regions
At first step of Prism based application, we need to create Shell/Startup window then define regions in the Shell. That’s what we are going to achieve with this section.
Let us create a WPF application project called ITHelpDeskDemoApp by selecting WPF application template in Visual Studio.
Open "Package Manager Console" window by navigating Tools -> Library Package Manage -> Package Manager Console in Visual Studio. Write following command in "Package Manager Console" window and press enter. It will download and add all required libraries to all projects within the solution as shown in below screenshot.
Get-Project -All | Install-Package Prism.UnityExtensions -Version 4.0.0
Adding a region in Shell
Remove MainWindow.xaml file from the project. Add a new Window by selecting Window (WPF) called as Shell.xaml.
Open Shell.xaml file and add following namespace to the root element of the XAML file, as shown below. This namespace provides some classes which are required while defining the regions in Sell.
Write following code in Shell.xaml file to create common layout for the application and defines regions for modules.
<RowDefinition Height="100" />
<RowDefinition Height="150" />
<Rectangle Grid.Row="0" >
<LinearGradientBrush StartPoint="0,0" EndPoint="0,0.5" SpreadMethod="Reflect">
<GradientStop Color="#009900" Offset="0"/>
<GradientStop Color="White" Offset="1" />
<Label Grid.Row="0" HorizontalAlignment="Center" VerticalAlignment="Center" Content="IT Help Desk Application" Foreground="Brown" FontSize="35" FontFamily="Corbel"/>
<ItemsControl Grid.Row="1" prism:RegionManager.RegionName="NavigationRegion" />
<Border Grid.Row="2" >
<ContentControl prism:RegionManager.RegionName="EmployeeInfoRegion" />
<Separator Grid.Row="2" Margin="0,0,0,0" VerticalAlignment="Bottom" Height="10" BorderBrush="#193441"/>
<Border Grid.Row="3" BorderBrush="#193441" >
<ContentControl prism:RegionManager.RegionName="RequestInfoRegion" />
In above xaml code, ItemsControl is used to define two regions one for NavigationModule called as “NavigationRegion” and second for EmployeeModule called as “EmployeeInfoRegion”. A ContentControl is used to define region for Software/Hardware/"All Request" modules called as “RequestInfoRegion”. “prism:” is alias to bring namespace for RegionManager class. In both controls (ItemsControl/ContentControl), RegionManager.RegionName attribute is used which is an attached property of RegionManager class. This property is responsible to create region for module with the specified name. RegionManager class is responsible for creating and maintaining group of regions for modules.
Pictorial description of Shell is shown below.
Add ITHelpDeskBootstrapper.cs file to the root directory of the project and write following lines of code in this file.
class ITHelpDeskBootstrapper : UnityBootstrapper
protected override DependencyObject CreateShell()
protected override void InitializeShell()
App.Current.MainWindow = (Window)this.Shell;
In Prism framework, Bootstrapper is an abstract class. It provides methods required for application initialization stage. But we do not use it directly as we need a Unity (dependency injection framework) too, so we will use UnityBootstrapper class. UnityBootstrapper class is an abstract class which inherits from Bootstrapper class. This way if we used UnityBootstrapper, automatically we can use all methods given by UnityBootstrapper as well as Bootstrapper class.
In above lines of code, we are inheriting ITHelpDeskBootstrapper class from UnityBootstrapper. CreateShell is an abstract method of Bootstrapper class which we must override. This method is used to create Shell/Startup window of the application. InitializeShell is a virtual method of Bootstrapper class which we need to override because it is responsible to show Shell/Statup window. Now question comes if these both methods are from Bootstrapper class then why we are inheriting ITHelpDeskBootstrapper class from UnityBootstrapper, why not from Bootstrapper directly? This is because later in this application we will need to use ConfigureContainer method which is given by UnityBootstrapper. UnityBootstrapper provide more methods to register dependencies and other functionality required to implement in Prism application.
Setting up Startup Window
In WPF, StartupUri is used to launch MainWindow.xaml when application starts. Remove the reference of MainWindow.xaml from App.xaml file which is specified as StartupUri (Uniform Resource Identifier). In this demo, we are using Prism, now it is responsibility of Bootstrapper class to launch Shell/Startup window.
Open App.xaml.cs file and inside the constructor of App class, create an instance of ITHelpDeskBootstrapper and call Run method.
public partial class App : Application
ITHelpDeskBootstrapper bootstrapper = new ITHelpDeskBootstrapper();
Run the application, hope you will be able load Shell.xaml file as Startup window.
In this first part of the article series, we learned about how to create a Shell with regions. In next part of this article series, we will continue with same demo and enhance it further. Your comments/suggestions and queries are most welcome. Thanks.
I am a Software Developer working on Microsoft technologies. My interest is exploring and sharing the awesomeness of emerging technologies.