WPF with MVVM: From the Trenches on dnrTV!

A few weeks ago, after presenting at CodeMastery, I sat down with Carl Franklin from dnrTV! to discuss WPF with MVVM.  The discussion is centered around the demo portion of my presentation entitled WPF with MVVM: From the Trenches.  This presentation is the precursor to the work I have done with MVVM Fabric.  Without further ado, check it out here: http://dnrtv.com/default.aspx?ShowID=184 – complete with an un-flattering pic Winking smile

WPF with MVVM: From the Trenches Presentation Materials – Updated

If you have heard my presentation, I hope that you found it useful. To give you a chance to review, here are the presentation materials I used.

Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/brentledwards/wpf-with-mvvm-from-the-trenches
Code: http://github.com/brentedwards/Movies

If you have seen my presentation, I would really appreciate some feedback.

Chippewa Valley Code Camp 2010

Roll Your Own Simple Message Bus / Event Aggregator

I was recently working on a project that had a need for some sort of centralized messaging system.  After doing some research into the matter, I decided to move forward with the Event Aggregator from the Prism team.  Prism’s Event Aggregator worked fine, but there were a few things about it that I found cumbersome.  While preparing for a presentation I gave recently, called “WPF with MVVM: From the Trenches,” I began to think about what it would take to create my own event aggregator that would smooth over some of the bumps.

First up, lets talk about the name, “Event Aggregator.”  During the course of our project, we used the event aggregator to publish data (or messages) in addition to events.  During a discussion about the event aggregator, Jason Bock pointed out that it is really more of a “Message Bus” than an “Event Aggregator.”  I agree.  So, for the remainder of this post, I will refer to it as a “Message Bus.”

The next bump that I wanted to smooth over was the fact that, with Prism, we had to create both an Event class which derived from CompositePresentationEvent and an EventArgs class for every message we wanted to publish.  With Prism, I wrote an extension method, called GetEventViaArgs(), which would get the CompositePresentationEvent based on the type of the args.  That eliminated the need for an explicit Event class, but that also made me question the need for an Event at all.  What if the message type was all that we needed for subscribing and publishing?  Eliminating the need for an Event would simplify testing as well because we wouldn’t have to mock out both getting the event and subscribing/publishing the message, which so happens to be another bump that I wanted to smooth over.

A Starting Point

So, lets take a look at the method signatures that I had in mind.  A Message Bus should provide functionality to Subscribe to a message, Unsubscribe from a message and Publish a message.

This looks straight-forward enough.  Whatever implementation I come up with, it should leverage generics to make sure all interested parties are notified of messages they care about.  The method signature I would like to see for the callbacks would be something like this:

Since I am a big fan of dependency injection and inversion of control, I wanted to define an interface, called IMessageBus, to be used instead of a concrete implementation.  Keeping in mind how I wanted to use this bad boy, here is the interface I came up with:

Let me break this down a bit…  TMessage is the Type of the message to be sent.  Action is a way for me to take, as a parameter, a method which has a void return value and takes a parameter of type TMessage.  Also note that TMessage is just a class that contains whatever data we need to convey the message.

So far, so good.  We now have a contract in place for our message bus.  Next up is implementation.

Making It Happen

First, we need a data structure that will have some sort of key/value association.  The key will be the Type of TMessage and the value will be the collection of Action which will be called when a message of type TMessage is published.  Since I plan to use generics at the method level, I decided to use Object in place of Action, then cast it before using it.  So, here is our MessageBus class so far:

Now that we have a data structure in place to keep track of subscribers, time to implement the Subscribe method.  Now, when a new subscriber is added, we need to first find out if there is already a subscriber list for that message type.  If there is, use it.  Otherwise, create a new one.

Next up is Unsubscribe.  When a subscriber makes a call to Unsubscribe, we need to make sure they are actually a subscriber in the first place and remove them if they are.  Also, if they are the last subscriber, we can go ahead and remove the subscriber list for that message type.

Almost there.  Now we just need to be able to Publish.  As you probably noticed above, I thought it would be nice to both explicitly define what type of message to publish and let the message type be determined dynamically.  For either case, we need to get the list of subscribers for the type of message being published and invoke each of their callback methods with the message as a parameter.  First up is the explicitly define flavor:

Pretty straight-forward here too.  If there are subscribers for that message type, iterate over them (casting them in the process) and invoke them.

The dynamic version of Publish is a little more involved, only because we have to use reflection in place of generics due to the dynamic aspect:

This one is essentially doing the same thing as the other Publish method.  If there are subscribers for that message type, iterate over them (finding their Invoke method in the process) and invoke them.  Don’t be confused by the two different Invokes that you see…  The first Invoke is the name of the method on the Action type and the second Invoke is what reflection uses to execute a method.

There we have it!  A simple message bus that is easy to use.  But how about testing with it?  Since testing was one of the bumps I wanted to smooth over, how did we do?  Let’s find out!

Testing Our Shiny New Message Bus

I use RhinoMocks, so here is how I would verify that some code is publishing the correct message:

I generate a stub for IMessageBus which will set my local searchMessage variable to the actual SearchMessage that is published.  I then could use searchMessage to verify that the message that is published has the correct data.

As an alternative, if all I wanted to do was verify that Publish was called on my Message Bus, I could do the following:

The key changes here are that I am using a Mock instead of a Stub and I am setting up an expectation.  That way I can verify that Publish was called without caring about the details:

Testing for messages being published is now much cleaner with our new MessageBus than it would be with Prism’s Event Aggregator.  But what about testing the handling of these messages that get published?  Well, the best way that I could come up with for that is the same way I did it with Prism’s Event Aggregator, which is to use the concrete implementation of the MessageBus and actually subscribe and publish with it in the unit test.  Oh well, at least we were able to clean up some of the testing aspect!


So, here we are at the end.  My goal here was to show that it isn’t all that difficult to implement your own message bus system or, at the very least, show the general concept behind how it works.  I hope that this has been useful.  If you want play with the code that we have written, as well as the tests that I wrote to beat on it a little, you can download the source here:

Using WPF’s ContentControl to Switch Between Editable and Read-Only Mode

I’ve been working with WPF a lot lately for a client project and I’ve learned some pretty cool tricks along the way.  I am planning to do a bunch of posts describing many of these tricks in the near future.  The first cool trick I will be talking about is how to make a control that switches between editable mode and read-only mode using only XAML, kind of.

I say ‘kind of’ because we will have some code to make it happen, but not in the code-behind.  Rather than use a code-behind, we will be leveraging the Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) design pattern to keep our code separate and testable.

Let’s dive right into the code by taking a look at the view model.  Since we will be leveraging WPF’s awesome data binding, we need to prepare the view model to allow WPF to keep track of property changes.  To do this, our view model will implement INotifyPropertyChanged.  Doing so will allow the WPF binding engine to listen for changes and update the view accordingly.

You’ll notice that I added a method called NotifyPropertyChanged.  This is just to simplify the process of raising the event from the property setters.

Next up we will set up the properties that the view will be binding to.  Our example is very simple, so there will only be two properties in the view model: IsReadOnly and Name.

Notice that both of the setters make a call to NotifyPropertyChanged, giving the name of the respective property.  That is what will signal the binding engine to update anything that is bound to one of those two properties.

That’s it for the view model.  We’re keeping things simple.  Let’s move on to the view itself.  First things first, we need to set up the view model as the DataContext.

Next up we are going to set up some the style for the ContentControl.

Now, this is where the magic happens.  You’ll see that we have a style here with two DataTriggers.  Both of the DataTriggers bind to the IsReadOnly property of our view model.  One of the DataTriggers handles when IsReadOnly is True and the other handles when IsReadOnly is False.

If IsReadOnly is True, we set the Template to a Grid with a static Label.  The Label is bound to the Name property.

If IsReadOnly is False, we set the Template to a Grid with a TextBox.  The TextBox also binds to the Name property and sets UpdateSourceTrigger=PropertyChanged.  The reason for this is that the binding would normally wait to trigger an update to the property until it loses focus.  Setting UpdateSourceTrigger=PropertyChanged will trigger the update with every key press.

The only missing piece to this puzzle is to place the actual ContentControl.

To use the style we created above, we simply need to bind the Style of the ContentControl to the Style with the Key Name.  You’ll also notice that I have placed a CheckBox in there as well, giving a way to test that the whole operation works.

So, that pretty much wraps it up.  We now have a control that completely changes it’s look based on only a boolean value.  Although this example is quite simple, this approach can be applied to more complex situations.  You can take the solution at the end of the post and poke around a little.

Hopefully this has been helpful!  Have fun with it!