.NET Performance Blog

March 18, 2013

Blog name changes to “.NET Performance Blog”

Filed under: General — Eric P @ 5:51 am

April 5, 2011

OpenFaq (Part 3): Custom Membership Provider in Entity Framework Code First

Filed under: ASP.NET MVC,BDD,DDD,General,TDD — Eric P @ 4:33 am

Previous posts in OpenFaq series
OpenFaq (Part 1): The beginning
OpenFaq (Part 2): Business Requirements in Code
Source code in Codeplex

Why Custom Membership Provider

When creating new MVC web site – it is automatically configured to use SqlMembershipProvider. Before it can actually be used, the default tables need to be created in DB using spnet_regsql.exe tool here.
That creates a whole bunch of tables, views and stored procs. See link above.

I would like to be pretty consistent in my approach to how the database is accessed (through Entity Framework) and how my tables are named and structured. So I am going to use a flexible Provider model supplied my mine and your friends at Microsoft to implement a custom membership provider that will be driven by Code First Entity Framework.

YAGNI says only to implement things I need and worry about “things I don’t need” when I need them. So at this point in my application I just want to be able to register users, log them in and possibly change their password.

The acceptance tests written in part 2 of this series should still work.

Getting Samples from the Holy Book of MS (MSDN)

I used several examples provided by Microsoft for guidance:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/6tc47t75.aspx – simple example of ODBC Membership provider (C# after VB.NET code)
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa478948.aspx – toolkit that includes fully featured example of Sql Membership/Role/Profile providers

A couple of interesting discoveries during implementation.

1. Some business logic code that should be re-usable is not provided in base MembershipProvider class

Two major cases of this were:
– Password Validation – like checking that password must be greater then 6 chars
– Password hashing – using Clear/Encrypted/Hashed

Both samples from Microsoft implement their own versions of validation and hashing.
In my case I had to implement my own (mostly by copying the toolkit sample).

I was hoping that provider model would allow to override these scenarios, but provide basic implementation which would be applicable in 90% of the cases.
Unfortunately that’s not the case.

2. Bad coding practices in sample

In Tooklit example there were a couple of things, that would make some developers punch the wall with their head.

The “Code Duplication” is the only major one, but since many developers are looking to microsoft for guidelines on how to write good code, I think MS should really make sure that their code has been properly reviewed and updated whenever there are new .NET features and guidelines. For ex. ODBC Membership provider sample is still using Hungarian notation which MS has been saying not to use for a while now.

Here are some examples of bad coding practices from Toolkit sample:

Code Duplication

Password validation logic is duplicated in CreateUser and ChangePassword

-- In CreateUser

           if( password.Length < MinRequiredPasswordLength )
                status = MembershipCreateStatus.InvalidPassword;
                return null;

            int count = 0;

            for( int i = 0; i < password.Length; i++ )
                if( !char.IsLetterOrDigit( password, i ) )

            if( count < MinRequiredNonAlphanumericCharacters )
                status = MembershipCreateStatus.InvalidPassword;
                return null;

            if( PasswordStrengthRegularExpression.Length > 0 )
                if( !Regex.IsMatch( password, PasswordStrengthRegularExpression ) )
                    status = MembershipCreateStatus.InvalidPassword;
                    return null;

            string salt = GenerateSalt();
            string pass = EncodePassword(password, (int)_PasswordFormat, salt);
            if ( pass.Length > 128 )
                status = MembershipCreateStatus.InvalidPassword;
                return null;

-- In ChangePassword

            if( newPassword.Length < MinRequiredPasswordLength )
                throw new ArgumentException(SR.GetString(

            int count = 0;

            for( int i = 0; i < newPassword.Length; i++ )
                if( !char.IsLetterOrDigit( newPassword, i ) )

            if( count < MinRequiredNonAlphanumericCharacters )
                throw new ArgumentException(SR.GetString(

            if( PasswordStrengthRegularExpression.Length > 0 )
                if( !Regex.IsMatch( newPassword, PasswordStrengthRegularExpression ) )
                    throw new ArgumentException(SR.GetString(SR.Password_does_not_match_regular_expression,

            string pass = EncodePassword(newPassword, (int)passwordFormat, salt);
            if ( pass.Length > 128 )
                throw new ArgumentException(SR.GetString(SR.Membership_password_too_long), "newPassword");

The logic from both functions should be combined into one method like ValidatePassword, which returns enough information to generate proper exception or return error code in calling function.

Using try/catch with no logic in catch

Throughout the toolkit sample there is code like

try {
               //some code
} catch {

If you ever stumble over code like above, I would recommend rewriting it like this and then sending it to original coder for review:

//some code

private void DoNothing()
     //Do nothing

On the bright side, it is not as bad as

try {
               //some code
} catch {
              //do nothing, to make sure that no exceptions are ever visible to user or the poor poor developer who will be maintaining this code

but nothing really is…

functions that have 10 input and 10 out parameters

   private void GetPasswordWithFormat( string       username,
                                            bool         updateLastLoginActivityDate,
                                            out int      status,
                                            out string   password,
                                            out int      passwordFormat,
                                            out string   passwordSalt,
                                            out int      failedPasswordAttemptCount,
                                            out int      failedPasswordAnswerAttemptCount,
                                            out bool     isApproved,
                                            out DateTime lastLoginDate,
                                            out DateTime lastActivityDate)

Uncle Bob just started spontaneously crying…

Not sure when this sample was written, but unless it was written on punch cards, they must have heard about passing in and returning structures, instead of 10+ args.
Also things like single responsibility principle – why does function called GetPasswordWithFormat return lastLoginDate.

Implementing the beast

From business requirements perspective, at this point I would like to support:
Change password

So I implemented the following functions in new CustomMembershipProvider class:

Naming Unit Tests

For each function that I implemented in CustomMembershipProvider I created unit tests first.
I used format
for ex…

Then I found a nicer format:
[MethodName_StateUnderTest_ExpectedBehavior] from:

So the previous example is now:

I also wanted to include “given” conditions (used in BDD), so it would be:

At the end I changed “With” to “When”, so that we would use the same language for both BDD and TDD and I ended up with:
so example would be:

Here are all the unit tests that should demonstrate what is currently implemented, for your viewing pleasure:

		public void CreateUser_GivenDefaultMembershipProviderSettings_WhenValidData_ReturnsUser();

		public void CreateUser_GivenPasswordRequiresMin6Chars_WhenPasswordHasLessThen6Chars_ReturnsNullAndStatusInvalidPassword();

		public void CreateUser_GivenPasswordRequiresMin6Chars_WhenPasswordHasMoreThen6Chars_ReturnsUser();

		public void CreateUser_GivenPasswordRequiresOneNonAphaNumericCharacter_WhenPasswordHasNoNonAlphaNumericCharacters_ReturnsNullAndStatusInvalidPassword();

		public void CreateUser_GivenPasswordRequiresOneAphaNumericCharacter_WhenPasswordHasOneAlphaNumericCharacter_ReturnsUser();

		public void CreateUser_GivenPasswordRequiresMatchRegularExpressions_WhenPassswordNotMatchingRegularExpreation_ReturnsNullAndStatusInvalidPassword();

		public void CreateUser_GivenPasswordRequiresMatchRegularExpressions_WhenPassswordMatchingRegularExpreation_ReturnsNullAndStatusInvalidPassword();

		public void CreateUser_WhenUsernameNotUnique_ReturnsNullAndStatusDuplicateUserName();

		public void CreateUser_GivenPasswordFormatHashed_HashesPassword();

		public void ChangePassword_WhenValidArguements_ChangesPassword();

		public void ValidateUser_WhenUserWithUsernameAndPasswordExists_ReturnsTrue();

		public void ValidateUser_WhenUserWithUsernameAndPasswordDoesNotExist_ReturnsFalse();

Deep Thoughts

In this episode of OpenFaq (The Series), we looked at how to create a simple Custom Membership Provider that uses EF Code First for back-end.
Coding crimes committed by MS where brought to light with appropriate punishment being administered as we speak.
TDD and BDD is still being followed.

For now you can get all the code discussed in this post from here:

Coming up next…

Now that we have the basic framework down, we are gonna implement us some FAQ goodness…

Current project road map is here:

March 28, 2011

OpenFaq (Part 2): Business Requirements in Code

Filed under: .NET,ASP.NET MVC,BDD,General,TDD — Eric P @ 3:38 am

Previous posts in OpenFaq series
OpenFaq (Part1): The beginning

There has been a lot of discussion about self documenting code. You can use good class/method names, proper unit tests and comments to make it clear what the code does.
But how do you specify and enforce what the code is SUPPOSED to do from business perspective, versus what it does? Usually there is a separate Business requirements document with a set of User Acceptance criteria that is used to QA the application. What if you could automate user acceptance criteria tests and run them from beginning (even before writing any code). That’s where BDD comes in.

The Joy of BDD

Brandon Santrom has a nice presentation on using SpecFlow, WatiN with MVC to write acceptance tests:

Video is here:

MSDN article (that covers a bit different scenario) is here:

In the presentations, Brandon Santrom promotes the following way of doing devlelopment:
BDD Approach

The first module I wanted to implement for OpenFaq was UserModule which will handle CRUD for User and related objects and will also implement Custom Membership Provider that will use EF4.
But before doing that, following BDD, I will write some UAC tests to make sure that user can login and register using default Membership Provider that can be used with MVC 3.

Setting up solution

Before writing any tests I am going to setup a new solution/project for OpenFaq.
Following YAGNI, I will only create projects as I need them.

To Start I am going to have 3 projects:

  • OpenFaq.Web – MVC 3 project
  • OpenFaq.Web.Tests – unit tests for controllers
  • OpenFaq.AcceptanceTests – acceptance tests

I also setup NUGet package manager that ScottGu mentioned many times in his blog.
I used it to add references to WatiN, SpecFlow for “OpenFaq.AcceptanceTests” project. I noticed that NUGet was installing packages into “packages” directory under solution directory. Since my project structure is:

\src – solution goes here
\lib – external dependencies go here

So I changed NuGet package directory to put packages into “\lib” using instructions here:

Login & Register – Starting BDD

Before writing any new code I create the following two Features using SpecFlow:

Login Feature

Feature: Login a site user
	In order to use OpenFaq features
	As a site user
	I want to be able to login to the OpenFaq site

Scenario: Login with valid information
	Given I am on the site home page
	When I click the "Log On" link
	And I complete the form with the following information:
		| Field           | Value							|
		| UserName        | openfaquser1					|
		| Password        | password1						|
	And I click the "Log On" button
	Then I should see a link with the text "Log Off" on the page

Scenario: Login with invalid information
	Given I am on the site home page
	When I click the "Log On" link
	And I complete the form with the following information:
		| Field           | Value							|
		| UserName        | unknowuser						|
		| Password        | password1						|
	And I click the "Log On" button
	Then I should see a validation summary "Login was unsuccessful"
	And  I should see a field error "The user name or password provided is incorrect"

Register Feature

Feature: Register a new site user
	In order to ask/answer questions
	As a site user
	I want to be be able to register new account

Scenario: Register with valid information
	Given I am on the site home page
		And I click the "Log On" link
		And I click the "Register" link	
	When I enter a random username
		And I complete the form with the following information:
			| Field				| Value					|
			| Email				| openfaquser@test.com	|
			| Password			| p@bla12				|
			| ConfirmPassword	| p@bla12				|
		And I click the "Register" button
	Then I should see a link with the text "Log Off" on the page

SpecFlow uses language called Gerhkin to describe business requirements. Not quite English and not quite code it is meant to bridge a gap between software developers and business analysts.
When you create SpecFlow feature files above, SpecFlow automatically creates CS files that interpret Gerhkin into C# code. When you run the tests, each step Given, When, Then… expects there to be a function that actually implements this functionality.

So to implement “Scenario: Login with valid information”, here is the file you would provide with Step Definitions:

using Microsoft.VisualStudio.TestTools.UnitTesting;
using OpenFaq.AcceptanceTests.StepHelpers;
using TechTalk.SpecFlow;
using WatiN.Core;

namespace OpenFaq.AcceptanceTests.Steps
	public class Login

		[Given(@"I am on the site home page")]
		public void GivenIAmOnTheSiteHomePage()

		[When("I click the \"(.*)\" link")]
		public void WhenIClickALinkNamed(string linkName)
			var link = WebBrowser.Current.Link(Find.ByText(linkName));

			if (!link.Exists)
				Assert.Fail(string.Format("Could not find '{0}' link on the page", linkName));


		[When(@"I complete the form with the following information:")]
		public void WhenICompleteTheFormWithTheFollowingInformation(Table table)
			foreach (var tableRow in table.Rows)
				var field = WebBrowser.Current.TextField(Find.ByName(tableRow["Field"]));

				if (!field.Exists)
					Assert.Fail(string.Format("Could not find {0} field on the page", field));


		[When("I click the \"(.*)\" button")]
		public void WhenIClickAButtonWithValue(string buttonValue)
			var button = WebBrowser.Current.Button(Find.ByValue(buttonValue));

			if (!button.Exists)
				Assert.Fail(string.Format("Could not find '{0}' button on the page", buttonValue));


		[Then("I should see a link with the text \"(.*)\" on the page")]
		public void ThenIShouldSeeALinkWithTheTextOnThePage(string linkText)
				string.Format("The following link text was not found on the page: {0}", linkText));

You may have noticed that in many cases instead of specifying actual text, I use a regular expression to pass Button value or link text to the function.

[Then("I should see a link with the text \"(.*)\" on the page")]

//instead of

[Then("I should see a link with the text \"Log On\" on the page")]

This will allow me to re-use the steps, in many different scenarios.

MembershipProvider – where art thou

When I ran acceptance tests I received errors having to do with MembershipProvider not being setup. To set it up on my local Sql Server DB I used steps here:

Now all acceptance tests have passed.

Tests Passed

Yes, I do use Resharper 5.1.

Did they live happily ever after?

Not quite yet…

In next part of this series I will replace SqlMembershipProvider with the one that supports EF 4.0 Code First.

For now you can get all the code from here:

Current project road map is here:

March 27, 2011

OpenFaq (Part 1): The beginning

Filed under: .NET,ASP.NET,ASP.NET MVC,DDD,General,TDD — Eric P @ 1:43 pm

It is time to learn some new technologies.

For this task I am going to write FAQ applicaton called OpenFaq.

OpenFaq – The future of FAQ

Whenever we buy any new product there is usually some questions or issues that come up, that may not be covered in manual or by asking the uncle who (supposedly) knows everything. How do I …? Why am I getting this f#$x error? etc…

In some cases you may go to product’s website and try to find an answer there. In about 5 minutes (depending on how quickly you reach the boiling point) you give up and just do a google search.

Why are so many sites so bad in helping you find what you need?

The problem(s) this application will try to solve is:
On many sites FAQ is created early on and not frequently updated. It quickly becomes forgotten.
The questions are grouped according to how website administrator feels like they should be grouped. Not based on frequency of asking.
User interaction is limited to reading an answer

The Solution
Make FAQ dynamic, so admin can edit questions and answers without doing rollout
Get users involved with asking, answering, voting and comments (similar to stack overflow)
Use voting and other statistics to determine which questions are frequent/popular and which are not

Some Business Requirements

Some preliminary requirements for this application are:
* User can login
* User can post question
* User can answer question
* User can comment on question and answer
* User can vote on question and answer
* User can use keyword search to quickly find questions, answers

Maybe a touch of Technology

In this series I will try out some new technologies from MS and use some of the latest methodologies in application development.

For a while now I have been reading about many new technologies and approaches for software development. Here is the list that I plan to use for OpenFaq.


  • BDD – behavior driven development
  • TDD – test driven development


  • YAGNI – you are not going to need it
  • KISS – keep it simple stupid
  • DRY – don’t repeat yourself


For this project I am going to use Microsoft stack.

  • ORM – EF 4 Code First
  • Web Framework – MVC 3
  • Template Engine – Razor
  • Package/Dependecy Manager – NuGet
  • BDD – SpecFlow
  • UI Testing/Acceptance test – WatiN
  • Unit testing – MS Test
  • Version Control – Mercurial
  • Project Site – Codeplex.com

December 4, 2009

Integrating FreeText Search in NHibernate Detached Criteria

Filed under: General — Eric P @ 5:01 am

Sql Server 2005/2008 has very nice FreeText searching capabilities. It is pretty easy to run FreeText query in Sql, but how would one do it in NHibernate.

To be able to use “contains” or “freetext” functions in HQL, the functions need to be registered in an override of MsSql2008Dialect, as is done here:

But how would one do it in Criteria or DetachedCriteria. The approach I chose was to implement a new class based on ICriterion, AbstractCriterion. To simplify the process I downloaded latest NHibernate 2.1 and based my class on one of the already existing ICriterion implementations.

You will need NHibernate 2.1 and FreeText functionality enabled on your Sql Server database. Also all the text columns that are searched using FreeText Search, must be indexed in a FreeText catalog.
Here is the code for ContainsExpression class which allows for using Criteria API for simple “CONTAINS” searches:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using NHibernate;
using NHibernate.Criterion;
using NHibernate.Engine;
using NHibernate.SqlCommand;
using NHibernate.Util;

namespace  ENTech.Common.Infrastructure
	public class ContainsExpression : AbstractCriterion
		private readonly string propertyName;
		private readonly object value;
		private readonly IProjection projection;

		public ContainsExpression(IProjection projection, object value)
			this.projection = projection;
			this.value = value;

		public ContainsExpression(string propertyName, object value)
			this.propertyName = propertyName;
			this.value = value;

		public override SqlString ToSqlString(ICriteria criteria, ICriteriaQuery criteriaQuery,
		                                      IDictionary<string, IFilter> enabledFilters)
			//TODO: add default capacity
			SqlStringBuilder sqlBuilder = new SqlStringBuilder();
			SqlString[] columnNames =
				CriterionUtil.GetColumnNames(propertyName, projection, criteriaQuery, criteria, enabledFilters);

			SqlString columnName = columnNames[0];



			return sqlBuilder.ToSqlString();

		public override TypedValue[] GetTypedValues(ICriteria criteria, ICriteriaQuery criteriaQuery)
			return CriterionUtil.GetTypedValues(criteriaQuery, criteria, projection, propertyName, value.ToString().ToLower());

		public override IProjection[] GetProjections()
			if(projection != null)
				return new IProjection[] { projection };
			return null;

		/// <summary></summary>
		public override string ToString()
			return (projection ?? (object)propertyName) + " contains " + value;

The main method in this class is “ToSqlString” which generates Sql from Expression parameters.

Here is the unit test that checks this functionality.
It basically gets a count of all non-deleted Products with name or description that contain “pants” word.

using System;
using Castle.ActiveRecord;
using ENTech.Common.Infrastructure;
using NHibernate.Criterion;
using NUnit.Framework;
using Modules.ProductCatalog;

namespace ENTech.Common.Infrastructure.Tests
    public class NHibernateTest
		public void Search_For_Pants_Using_DatachedCriteria_With_ContainsExpressioin()
			using (new SessionScope())
				string keyword = "pants";

				var query = DetachedCriteria.For<Product>();


				ICriterion criterion = new ContainsExpression("Name", keyword);
				criterion = Restrictions.Or(criterion, new ContainsExpression("Description", keyword));


				Console.WriteLine("Total products: " + ActiveRecordMediator.Count(typeof(Product), query));

Using NHProf. I can see that the following sql query is generated:

SELECT count(* ) as y0_
FROM   Product this_
WHERE  this_.DateDeleted is null 
       and (contains(this_.Name,'pants' /* @p0 */)
             or contains(this_.Description,'pants' /* @p1 */))

July 10, 2009

ASP.NET MVC Grid – Part 5 – Persisting Grid State

Filed under: ASP.NET MVC,General — Eric P @ 8:14 am

In this part I will implement the following items:

  • persist the state of the grid
  • update UI with row striping and row click actions
  • handle a “last customer on page” edge case
  • add status/notifications line when customer is added/deleted/modified
  • validate edit form
Click on the image to view the whole screenshot.

Click on the image to view the whole screenshot.

You can see demo here:

Code is available here:


1. Persist state of the grid
A common use case for any grid control – is remembering the state of the grid when user comes back to the list page. So if grid is currently on page 2 and sorted by phone and user clicks on Edit – then saves customer and goes back to grid – the grid will still be on page 2 and sorted by phone.

To implement this functionality I created a new service class GridStateService with methods
Save(key, Grid)
Grid Load(key)
bool Exists(key);

This service uses session to save/load grid’s state, so while the person is using the site and his/her session hasn’t expired, the grid state (current page, page size, etc…) persists. If needed, it should be simple to change the persistence mechanism to store grid state in the cookie or the database. In those cases, whenever user would come back to the site, his/her last preferences (like sorting by “Phone” or page-size=50) would remain.

Here is how GridStateService is used in CustomerController.List:

public ActionResult List()
	string key = GetGridKey();   //This function returns current url used to uniquely identify the grid
	if (_gridStateService.Exists(key))
		_grid = _gridStateService.Load(key);
		_grid = new Grid<Customer>
						new Pager {CurrentPage = 1, PageSize = 5}, 
						new Sorter("ID", SortDirection.Asc)


	return View(_grid);

Here is the code the saves last state of the grid.

public ActionResult List(Grid<Customer> grid)
	_grid = grid;



        //Check if there is data in the grid
	if (_grid.Data.Count() > 0)
	return View(_grid);

private void SaveGridState()
	string key = GetGridKey();
	_gridStateService.Save(key, _grid);

2.Row striping and row click

The row striping and highlighting (which allows for better readability) was implemented using approach described in the following article:

As for row-clicking – I added onlcick handler to data row’s tr tag:

<tr onclick="onRowClick(<%= item.ID %>)">

When user clicks on the row they will be taken to customer edit screen. This is handled by JS function:

function onRowClick(id) {
	document.location = "/Customer/Edit/" + id;

3. Edge case for deleting last customer on the page

If I am using 5 rows per page with 6 customers and I deleted sixth customer on the second page, the grid should automatically switch to page 1 instead of showing page 2 with no customers.

This condition was handled in pager using the following code:

//handle a case when user deleted all rows on last page
if (_currentPage > _totalPages)
    _currentPage = _totalPages;

4. Status line when customer is added/deleted/modified

This functionality is related to operations triggered in the grid page.
Previously, if I deleted a customer there would be no indication that customer was deleted. The grid would get refreshed, but there would be no explicit notification that customer was actually deleted.

I used TempData functionality on the MasterPage to display such messages/notifications. All operations, add/edit/delete, that are successfully performed on the customer are now followed by a status line message (yellow box) on the grid page.
This message fades out after 5 seconds (ain’t JQuery great).

5. Validate add/edit form
This functionality is not really grid-related, but I thought it would be important to have it for sample completeness. It is not very realistic to add a customer with all fields empty. It will also help when I implement inline editing.

I used Data Annonations approach described here:

I update UI a little to display error message right next to the input fields which are invalid.


  • Data annotations has a property DataType which takes DataType enumeation consisting of members like “Currency”, “Email Address”, etc… I originally thought it would validate my fields according to the type I pass, but that doesn’t work. But it doesn’t work this way. In one of the comments to article http://www.aspworkshops.com/blog/archive/2008/09/10/asp-net-mvc-tip-43-use-data-annotation-validators.aspx it states:

    The DataType attribute are not validators.
    So DataType(DataType.Email) will not validate a string for being an email address. These are ui type hint sttributes.

    GRRRRRRReat… I guess I will need a reg expression validator or custom validator for Email/Phone validations.

  • When messing with Data Annotations, I discovered another error. Even though it worked ok when binding simple models, I started getting NullReferenceException when binding to complex models (with sub objects). I discovered the fix here:


  • One more thing related to validation. Looks like there is no way to provide custom error messages for data type conversions during binding. So if user enters some text into “Orders Placed” field – the error message is always:

    The value ‘SOME VALUE’ is not valid for the Orders Placed field.

    This is confirmed by Scott Gu in one of the comments to the following article:

    # re: ASP.NET MVC Preview 5 and Form Posting Scenarios
    Wednesday, September 03, 2008 11:39 PM by ScottGu

    Hi Florian,

    >>>>>>> I very much like the approach, cannot wait until this stuff is baked. One question – is there a way to intercept input validation and specify custom ErrorMessages?

    >>>>>>> E.g. in your example where the user enters a random string instead of the decimal number required by the model field you’re auto-generating an error message (‘.. invalid value ..’).

    >>>>>>> Is there a way to customize (and localize) this message, without inspecting and changing ModelState explicitely?

    Unfortunately with Preview 5 you need to manipulate the ModelState dictionary directly to enable this (either that or override the ModelBinder behavior to customize your own message).

    Hope this helps,


    NOTE TO SELF: Add custom binder with a way to override type conversion error message.

Coming up…

There are a couple of items left before I will make the grid generic and re-usable. For the next part I will work on:

  • Making grid work if Javascript is disabled. This was brought to my attention by a comment in Part 3. Thank you, sironfoot.
  • Advandced search form – which will include fields “First Name”, “Last Name”, “Email”, date range for “Date of Last Order”, etc…
  • AJAX implementation so the whole page doesn’t refresh. Will work similar to how GridView worked in ASP.NET web forms if you put UpdatePanel around it.

July 6, 2009

ASP.NET MVC Grid – Part 4 – View Models, Unit Testing, Keyword Search

Filed under: ASP.NET MVC,General — Eric P @ 12:00 am

In this part, I decided to take a step back and do some refactoring. At the same time I would like to keep moving forward, by adding new Keyword Search functionality as well as an Auto Complete control to quickly find/edit a customer.

Click image to view full screenshot

Click image to view full screenshot

You can see demo here:

Code is available here:


1. Use View Model (instead of ViewData) to organize Grid variables

As I mentioned in last couple of posts, ViewData was being used for too many variables. Such variables in ViewData are not strongly typed and result in verbose code which could be error-prone (for example null errors).

Instead I introduce the following class structure for Grid View Model:

class Grid


	SearchCriteria	- new functionality for keyword search

	GridAction - enumeration with items like "Sort", "GoToPage", ...

Using this class feels a lot cleaner then ViewData. In the code below Model is of class Grid.

<div id="gridHeader">
					<td id="rowStats">
						<%= Model.Pager.RowStats %>
					<td id="pagerNav">			
						<% if (Model.Pager.IsNavVisible) { %>
										<% if (Model.Pager.IsFirstPage) { %>
											<span class="disabled">&lt;&lt;</span>
										<% } else { %>
											<a href="#" onclick="goToPage(<%= Model.Pager.FirstPage %>)">&lt;&lt;</a>  
										<% } %>

2. Write unit tests for pager. When creating a Pager class, I decided to follow TDD methodology and wrote unit tests first. Through this approach I discovered a lot of errors before actually integrating Pager into UI.

Here is a couple of unit tests… That check cases when Pager navigation should be visible and not visible.

namespace MvcGridSample.Tests.ViewModels.Shared
	public class PagerTest

		public void Nav_Not_Visible_If_One_Page()
			var pager = CreateAndInitPager(1, 10, 5);

		public void Nav_Visible_If_More_Then_One_Page()
			var pager = CreateAndInitPager(1, 10, 15);


3. Add Keyword search. This functionality allows user to search data by keyword which is matched against First Name, Last Name, Email or Phone. It can be expanded to search through other fields too (for ex. Customer Address – if one would exist).

The keyword search criteria was added to LINQ query using the following code:

private IQueryable<Customer> AddQuerySearchCriteria(IQueryable<Customer> query, SearchCriteria searchCriteria)
	if (!String.IsNullOrEmpty(searchCriteria.Keyword))
		string keyword = searchCriteria.Keyword.ToLower();
		query = query.Where(customer => customer.FirstName.ToLower().Contains(keyword)
		                                || customer.LastName.ToLower().Contains(keyword)
						|| (customer.Email != null && customer.Email.Contains(keyword))
						|| (customer.Phone != null &&  customer.Phone.Contains(keyword)));

	return query;

Note that I had to ensure that Email and Phone were not null, before checking them against keyword. Otherwise there were some “object reference is null” exceptions.

4. Add Auto Complete on Keyword. This is for a common use case when you would like to quickly find a record and perform certain operation on it. To try it out – start typing name of existing customer in keyword box. After first couple of letters you will see auto-complete drop down with a list of matching customers (by first name and last name).

If you select the customer in the list and click enter or click on it with a mouse – you will be taken to Edit Customer page.

To implement this functionality I used a JQuery auto-complete plugin from here:

For this to work I created a method on controller that would return list of customer names in JSON format:

public ActionResult GetKeywordAutoCompleteData(string q, int limit)
	string keyword = q;

	IQueryable<Customer> query = _customerService.GetQueryable();
	query = query.Where(customer => customer.FirstName.ToLower().StartsWith(keyword)
	                                || customer.LastName.ToLower().StartsWith(keyword))
					.OrderBy(customer => customer.FirstName)
					.ThenBy(customer => customer.LastName);

	var list = query.Select(customer => new { 
												Name = customer.FirstName + " " + customer.LastName});

	return Json(list);

Then call this method from client side using JQuery auto-complete plugin functionality:

jQuery(document).ready(function() {

        	dataType: 'json',
        	parse: function(data) {
        		var rows = new Array();

        		for (var i = 0; i < data.length; i++) {
        			rows&#91;i&#93; = { data: data&#91;i&#93;, value: data&#91;i&#93;.Name, result: data&#91;i&#93;.Name };
        		return rows;
        	formatItem: function(row, i, n) {
        		return row.Name;
        	width: 260,
        	selectFirst: false


         When HtmlHelper functions generate HTML controls - control IDs replace character  "." with "_".  For ex, if I want to use the following control in Jquery:

     <%= Html.Hidden("Sorter.SortDirection")%>

I need to call it like this:

  • Coming from Web Forms world, it seemed natural to me to create /App_Code directory to put all the utility classes.
    It has been working fine till now, but all of a sudden I started receiving compilation error:

    Compiler Error Message: CS0433: The type ‘MvcGridSample.StringFormatter’ exists in both ‘c:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727\Temporary ASP.NET Files\root\752a9979\7f1c3889\assembly\dl3\da179bc1\70581e2e_8ff9c901\MvcGridSample.DLL’ and ‘c:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727\Temporary ASP.NET Files\root\752a9979\7f1c3889\App_Code.nzexrw9-.dll’

    The reason for this issue is explained on the following page:

    During the conversion, VS 2008 renames your “App_Code” to “Old_App_Code”. This new name sounds ugly, but DO NOT RENAME IT BACK. In the “web application” model, all code will be in one assembly. In runtime, the web server does not know what web project type you are using. It does take all code in “App_Code” folder and create a new assembly for it. This way, if you have code in folder named “App_Code”, you’ll end up with RUNTIME compilation errors that the same types exist in two assemblies, the one created by VS, and the one created by IIS / ASP.NET Development Server.

    So to fix the issue I renamed the folder to “App_Code_”

  • Coming up for part 5…

    In part 5, I will implement grid persistance. Currently, if I am on page 3 of the grid sorted by phone number and I click on “Edit” next to one of the customers – when I save the customer and go back to grid – the grid returns to its default state of Page 1 and sorted by ID.

    Grid persistence – will remember the state of the grid when user goes to another page, so that when user will come back to the page with the grid, it will be in the state that it was left in.

    I will also add more JQuery functionality to format alternative rows, change row color on hover and provide “status line” notifications of user actions like created new customer, deleted customer, etc….

    May 14, 2009

    Web Sites vs Web Applications – build times

    Filed under: General — Eric P @ 10:01 am

    The enterprise-level application I am currently working on has several web projects built using “ASP.NET Web Site” model.
    For a while now, I have been thinking of converting one of them to “Web Application” and see if it improves my compilation/build times. I took one of the smaller projects consisting of about 500 web pages and converted it to Web Application.

    Results are as follows (using VS2008, cleaned solution before each build)

    Web Site: 1 minute 20 seconds
    Web Application: 2 secs

    That’s a 60 times improvement. AMAZING.

    There are definitely some drawbacks to switching to Web Application:
    1. Not sure how to deal with namespaces. By default when you convert to “Web Application” – the code behind classes and classes in App_Code stay the same as before – no namespaces are added. But any new classes will have the namespaces. This type of inconsistency can be a bit confusing.
    2. Namespaces introduce some naming conflicts, since some of my directory names match class name. For ex.
    The namespace will be “…UserControls.Order.UCViewOrder” which will conflict with my domain’s “Order” class.
    Need to come up with some convention for this one.

    These issues seem pretty small compared to SIXTY TIMES speed up in compilation time.

    January 29, 2009

    OOP vs Structured/Procedural programming (or DDD vs ADM)

    Filed under: DDD,General — Eric P @ 12:26 pm

    I think I may have succeeded in creating a headline with most Jargon evar… It is almost as bad as the name of my blog.

    I have been having this dilemma. I have an enterprise level application written using OOP and ActiveRecord. It utilizes many OOP concepts such as Inheritance and Polymorphism. Recently I have been looking into making the system more friendly for Unit Testing. I talked about it to some developers working on the system and I had an interesting revelation: most of the developers prefer Structured/Procedural programming over OOP.

    Here is the general overview of Procedural programming and OOP.
    From http://www.umsl.edu/~subramaniana/concepts1.html

    Procedural/Structured programming

    • Procedural Approach Data Structures can be represented as a network of associated structures, referring to one another.
    • Procedures can be represented as a network of routines which call one another, i.e., “call tree”


    • Object Oriented Approach Collection of discrete objects that incorporate data structures and behavior.
    • Each data structure has, combined with it, the procedures which apply to that data structure.
    • Contrasts with conventional programming in which data structures and behavior are only loosely connected
    • These entities, called objects, can be associated to one another in one network, rather than two.

    DDD is based on OOP, while Anemic Domain Model is all about procedural programming.

    Back to Dilemma. As much as Anemic Domain Model is an anti-pattern – it has one really nice thing going for it – it is simple and it makes sense to most developers and non-developers. How can Order ship itself, how can cake bake itself? Instead order and cake are just data and you have some OrderService and CakeService operating on them. With SOA even many business people can easily think in procedural terms.

    My current system is written using OOP – objects have both data and actions. So I was hoping that switching to DDD would make OOP even more central to future development. The problem is that separating Active Record Entities into Repositories, Domain Entities and Application Services layer is confusing other developers on my team. Many of them come from procedural programming (aka Java EJB), so as soon as they see Entities and Services – then all logic goes into Services while Entities are just data structures.

    Here is an example of what I have in my system:

         OrderStatus _status;  (InProgress, Paid, Shipped)
         List _orderLines;
         Customer _customer;
         OrderBilling _billing; //Includes ShippingAddress and payment info
         OrderShipping _shipping;  
         DateCreated _dateCreated;
         AddOrderLine(product, quantity)

    Here is the same code written using ADM/Procedural:

         OrderStatus _status;
         List _orderLines;
         Customer _customer;
         OrderBilling _billing;
         OrderShipping _shipping;  //Includes ShippingAddress and payment info
         DateCreated _dateCreated;
         AddOrderLine(order, product, quantity)
         RemoveOrderLine(order, orderLine)

    So what are the benefits of OOP vs ADM:
    1. In OOP all the methods that operate on Entity are part of entity (or delegated to appropriate command/domain services by entity), while in Procedural – the code can be dispersed through many different services.

    2. OOP is better for code re-use. Will need some examples for this one.

    3. When refactoring, can use OOP Design Patterns like State Pattern for switching Order status.

    But saying all this is not enough. There is only one way to make a convincing argument in Software Development:


    In the upcoming blog entries, I will try to provide a real world coding example for each one of the points above…

    January 28, 2009

    One class per file or multiple classes in one file

    Filed under: ASP.NET,General — Eric P @ 9:10 am

    I browsed the internet for an answer to this question and the best I could find was:

    “The primary benefit of a class per file is for source control and concurrent access: Why deal with the inevitable human error of code merges if each developer is really dealing with the separate classes.”

    In my case there are several really small classes that seem like they can go into one file or be separated. As a personal style it seems best to put each class into separate file. This way I can easily see/find all the classes through solution explorer.

    On the other hand it seems more like a stylistic argument, since I couldn’t find any evidence that it actually improves performance. I could also use VS diagramming tool to create a nice diagram for all the classes in a module.

    So some possible guidelines for development team that can come out of this are:

    1. Allow including several classes in file only if each class is max of 10 lines of code.
    2. Classes in the same file must belong to the same Module (DDD Module)
    3. Enums should go in .cs file that uses them. If there are several classes that use enum – pick one.

    Found another good reason for keeping classes in separate files:

    “Also you’ll find many errors/diagnostics are reported via file name (“Error in Myclass.cpp, line 22″) and it helps if there’s a one-to-one correspondence between files and classes. ”
    From: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/28160/multiple-classes-in-a-header-file-vs-a-single-header-file-per-class

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