ASP.NET MVC Framework


ASP.NET MVC Framework

Model view controller
Page controller pattern
MVC design
REST architecture
MVC framework

ASP.NET MVC Framework

ASP.NET 3.5 Application Architecture and Design

This excerpt from ASP.NET 3.5 Application Architecture and Design by Thiru Thangarathinam, is printed with permission from Packt Publishing, Copyright 2007.

ASP.NET MVC Framework
Sample Project
URL Routing Engine

ASP.NET MVC Framework

The ASP.NET MVC framework was released by Microsoft as an alternative approach to web forms when creating ASP.NET based web applications. The ASP.NET MVC framework is not a replacement or upgrade of web forms, but merely another way of programming your web applications so that we can get the benefi ts of an MVC design with much less effort.

As of now, the ASP.NET MVC framework is still in CTP (Community Technology Preview, which is similar to an advanced pre-stage), and there is no certain date when it will be released. But even with the CTP 5, we can see how it will help MVC applications follow a stricter architecture.

We will quickly see how to use the ASP.NET MVC framework through a small example.

Sample Project

First, download the ASP.NET MVC framework from the Microsoft website and install it. This installation will create an MVC project template in VS 2008.

Start VS 2008, select the File | New Project menu item and then choose the ASP.NET MVC Web Application template to create a new web application using this template.

By default, when you create a new application using this option, Visual Studio will ask you if you want to create a Unit Test project for your solution, with a drop-down list pre-populated with the different possible types of test frameworks (the default would be VS test, but in case you installed MBUnit or NUnit, these would also be populated here):

Select the default option and click OK. You will notice that two projects have been added to the solution that VS has created. The fi rst project is a web project where you'll implement your application. The second is a testing project that you can use to write unit tests against.

In our custom MVC code project, we had different projects (class libraries) for the model, the view, and the controllers.

The default directory structure of an ASP.NET MVC Application has three top-level directories:

  • /Controllers
  • /Models
  • /Views

When the project becomes large, it is recommended that the Model, Views and Controllers are put in separate class library projects of their own so that it's easy to maintain them. But for the purpose of illustrating the ASP.NET MVC framework, this default structure is fi ne for us.

We will create a simple customer management application. For this, we fi rst create some ASPX pages in the Views folder. Note that VS has already created these subfolders for us, under Views:

  • Home: Contains the and Index views
  • Shared: Contains shared views such as master pages

Before we go on to adding custom code in this project, let us understand what VS has done for us while creating this MVC project.

URL Routing Engine

In the standard ASP.NET model (or Postback model), the URLs map directly to the physical fi les:

URL Routing Engine

So when we make a request to a page, say MyPage.aspx, the runtime compiles that page and returns the generated HTML back to IIS to be displayed by the client browser. So we have a one-to-one relationship between the application URLs and the page.

But in the MVC framework, the URLs map to the controller classes.


Therefore, the URL is sent to IIS and then to ASP.NET runtime, where it initiates a controller class based on the URL, using the URL routes, and the controller class then loads the data from the model, with this data fi nally being rendered in the view.

The controller classes uses URL routing to map the URLs, which in simpler terms means rewriting URL. We can set up the rules for which URL is to be routed to which controller class. The routing will pick up the appropriate controller and pass in the query string variables as necessary.

Open the global.asax.cs file and examine the following code:

public class GlobalApplication : System.Web.HttpApplication
                 public static void RegisterRoutes(RouteCollection routes)
                          // Route name
                          // URL with parameters
                          new { controller = "Home", action = "Index", id = ""
                          // Parameter defaults
        protected void Application_Start()

The RegisterRoutes() method contains the URL mapping routes. Initially we have only the default rule set:

         // Route name
         // URL with parameters
                new { controller = "Home", action = "Index", id = "" } 
         // Parameter defaults     

This URL mapping engine comes from System.Web.Routing.dll, which can be used independently, without the ASP.NET MVC framework, to rewrite URLs in your standard ASP.NET web applications.

The MapRoute() method, which handles URL routing and mapping, takes three arguments:

  • Name of the route (string)
  • URL format (string)
  • Default settings (object type)

In our case, we named the fi rst route "Default" (which is the route name) and then set the URL as:


The Controller here is the name of the controller class. action will be the method that needs to be invoked inside that controller class. id would be the parameters that need to be passed, if any.

In the default arguments, we create a new object and call it "Home", set the action to Index, and do not pass parameters to it. Note the new anonymous type syntax used to create parameter defaults:

new { controller = "Home", action = "Index", id = "" }

It is important that we name and assign a value to each of the properties that we are creating. What will be the type of the properties? They will automatically be cast to the data types of the values of the properties specifi ed. The anonymous types will always be derived from the base object class directly. They can only be used within class members and cannot be passed as method arguments (unless they are boxed), return values, or be specifi ed as class-level variables. Once the type is created, it cannot be changed into another type.

So we create a new anonymous type as the last argument of the MapRoute() method, passing in variable defaults with three properties, namely controller, action, and parameter.

Now have the Default.aspx page under the root directory, which acts as a redirecting page to the main home page of the site (which is /View/Home/Index.aspx).

We cannot directly set that as the "default" page since we are using URL routes to process pages instead of using physical fi les in the URLs.

So in the code-behind of our Default.aspx page, we have a simple redirect:

public void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)

So the runtime will fi rst set up routes in the global.asax page, then it will process the Default.aspx page. Here it faces a redirect to this URL: /Home.

The Controller

The MVC framework maps this URL to the route set in the global route table, which currently has only the default one, in this format:


So /Home corresponds to a controller named Home, and because we have not specifi ed any action or ID, it takes the default values we specifi ed in the RegisterRoutes() method in the globals.asax.cs. So the default action was Index and the default parameter was an empty string. The runtime initializes the HomeController.cs class, and fi res the Index action there:

public class HomeController : Controller
          public ActionResult Index()
                   ViewData["Title"] = "Home Page";
                   ViewData["Message"] = "Welcome to ASP.NET MVC!";
                   return View();

In this Index() method, we set the data to be displayed in the View (aspx/ascx pages) by using a dictionary property of the base Controller class named ViewData. ViewData, as the name suggests, is used to set view-specifi c data in a dictionary object that can hold multiple name/value pairs. When we call the View() method, the ViewData is passed by the Controller to the View and rendered there.

The View

Let us now look at the View. How does the framework know which View or aspx page to call? Remember that we passed the value "Index" in the action parameter (in the default route in the global.asax.cs fi le), so the Index.aspx will get called. Here is the code-behind of Index.apsx:

public partial class Index : ViewPage

There is absolutely no code here, which is a very important characteristic of the MVC design. The GUI should have no logical or data fetching code. Note that the Index class is derived from the ViewPage class. Using this ViewPage class, we can access all of the items in the ViewData dictionary that were set in the controller's Index() method and passed on to the View. Here is how we are accessing the ViewData in HTML:

<asp:Content ID="indexContent" ContentPlaceHolderID="MainContent" runat="server">
<h2><%= Html.Encode(ViewData["Message"]) %></h2>
To learn more about ASP.NET MVC visit <a href="" title="ASP.NET MVC Website"></a>.

We can directly access the ViewData dictionary in HTML. Now that we have seen how MVC works, we will create a new page to learn how to show data using a custom DAL and strongly typed objects, instead of the ViewData dictionary. Our example page will show a list of all the customers.

The Model

We will use the 5-Tier solution we created in the previous chapter and change the GUI layer to make it follow the MVC design using the ASP.NET MVC framework. Open the solution we created in the previous chapter and delete the ASP.NET web project from it. The solution will then only contain 5Tier.BL,
5Tier.DAL and 5Tier.Common projects.

Right click the solution in VS, and select Add New Project, and then select ASP.NET MVC Web Application from the dialog box. Name this new web project as Chapter05.MVC. This web project will be the new MVC based UI tier of our OMS application in this chapter.

The Customer.cs and CustomerCollection.cs class fi les in the business tier (5Tier. Business class library) will be the Model in our MVC application. To show a list of customers, the CustomerCollection class simply calls the FindCustomer() method in CustomerDAL.cs. We have already seen these classes in action in the previous chapter. So we can use an n-tier architecture in an MVC application, hence this shows that MVC and n-tier are not mutually exclusive options while considering the application architecture of your web application. Both actually compliment each other.

We can also create a utility class named CustomerViewData to transfer the Model objects to the View. There are multiple ways to pass- in the Model to the View through the Controller, and creating ViewData classes is one of them. Here is the CustomerViewData class created in the CustomerComtroller.cs fi le in the Chapter05.MVC web project:

#region ViewData
/// <summary>
/// Class used for transferring data to the View
/// </summary>
public class CustomerViewData
           public CustomerViewData() { }
           public CustomerViewData(Collection customers)
                       this.customers = customers;                  
           public Collection customers;
           public Customer customer;

Notice that this ViewData class is simply wrapping the business object inside it so that we can use this class in the UI layer instead of directly passing and manipulating domain objects.


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