Archive for the ‘.NET 3.5’ Category

Using Object Initializers on Dictionary

March 13, 2008 2 comments

I’m still going strong on the ASP.NET MVC development, and I wanted to experiment with HtmlHelper.Select rather than hard coding specific values into my View. To that end, I am building a supporting class that will retain static properties (which I’m sure will be cached once I figure out how to do that). Some of these properties are lists of information, like product types and prices, that could be fed from a database table. Others may be static lists with the potential to become database driven, like state codes and names. Ultimately, where they come from does not matter, but in my coding today I came across something interesting.

To begin this process, I decided to populate a static Dictionary<string, string> with a list of codes and values. This is a small list, so for initial testing I just wanted to hard code the values. It has become a habit for me to use Object Initializers whenever possible, so naturally this seemed a perfect fit. But let me ask you: have you ever tried this? I have to admit that at first I was a little stumped. I first tried to build a method tree (a concept that really doesn’t exist in C#):

BusinessTypes = new Dictionary<string, string>()
.Add("APP", "Appraisal")
.Add("GOV", "Government")
.Add("INS", "Insurance")
.Add("LAW", "Legal")
.Add("LEN", "Lending")
.Add("REL", "Real Estate")
.Add("RES", "Research")
.Add("OTH", "Other");

Even though I didn’t really expect this to work, I thought it would be interesting to see what happened. [This could be a good candidate for a future language enhancement.] Naturally it failed, but in an unexpected fashion. The first call to .Add passed the compiler, but the second call to .Add threw the following error:

Operator ‘.’ cannot be applied to operand of type ‘void’

I also tried adding the method call inside the Initializer block, but since you can’t put method calls inside of Initializer blocks I pretty much knew that wouldn’t work either.

So I looked at it some more and asked myself “what is the Dictionary looking for?” My answer was “a KeyValuePair”, so I tried that next:

BusinessTypes = new Dictionary()
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    new KeyValuePair<string, string>("GOV", "Government"),
    new KeyValuePair<string, string>("INS", "Insurance"),
    new KeyValuePair<string, string>("LAW", "Legal"),
    new KeyValuePair<string, string>("LEN", "Lending"),
    new KeyValuePair<string, string>("REL", "Real Estate"),
    new KeyValuePair<string, string>("RES", "Research"),
    new KeyValuePair<string, string>("OTH", "Other")

That also threw an error:

No overload for method ‘Add’ takes ‘1’ arguments

But the error pointed me back to my original idea: somehow I needed to use Add(), but how? And then it dawned on me: what the message is really telling me is that I was already using Add(), I just didn’t realize it! Since we use curly braces to denote Initializers, I decided to try that within the context of the parent Initializer to send parmameters to the Add method:

BusinessTypes = new Dictionary<string, string>()
    {"APP", "Appraisal"},
    {"GOV", "Government"},
    {"INS", "Insurance"},
    {"LAW", "Legal"},
    {"LEN", "Lending"},
    {"REL", "Real Estate"},
    {"RES", "Research"},
    {"OTH", "Other"}

This compiles fine and now I have successfully used an Object Initializer on a Dictionary<TKey, TValue> object. I was curious about why this works, so I hit the Google pavement and found this article on MSDN from October of 2006. In it, the author has this to say:

Our resolution to this is to refine our understanding of collection initializers a little bit. The list you provide is not a ?list of elements to add?, but a ?list of sets of arguments to Add methods?. If an entry in the list consists of multiple arguments to an Add method, these are enclosed in { curly braces }. This is actually immensely useful. For example, it allows you to Add key/value pairs to a dictionary, something we have had a number of requests for as a separate feature.

From previous text in the article, we find that any IEnumerable with a public Add method will behave this way. As such, we should be able to use this construct in almost all the generic Collection classes.

This is definitely useful, and yes I should have searched for a solution before I spent the entire 3 minutes trying to figure it out. But sometimes, I just like solving the puzzle.

Categories: .NET 3.5, C# 3.0

ASP.NET MVC Preview 2 Released

March 6, 2008 Comments off

In another case of DGT (Darn Good Timing), in my inbox this morning was my copy of theToques 3320 baixar toques para celular Gratis, toques. Developer Fusion Community Newsletter, and the first item was this announcement. Being a very recent fan of the project, I immediately downloaded and installed the new Preview.? Here are the Release Notes. There are a few breaking changes, mostly object renames, but a little refactoring should take care of the bulk of it.

I spent some time yesterday playing around with it, and I am very happy with what I see. I plan to spend most of today reading Scott Guthrie’s excellent Tutorials.


March 5, 2008 Comments off

As I posted previously, I’ve been struggling with ASP.NET.? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to acknowledge that at the heart of my struggles is a failure to grasp the logic behind the ASP.NET approach. Of course, begin constantly bitten by newbie bugs is very disheartening for someone with almost ten years of web development, but I have tried to put my pride aside and just come to grips with it. This has been increasingly difficult to do as my frustrations mount, although finding the Wizard control alleviated some of it.

I have been in the process of learning about Data Caching in ASP.NET, which I think will address one of my (many) concerns, but such study requires frequent breaks, during which I usually read some other technical information. It was during one of these breaks yesterday that I picked up the Jan/Feb issue of CoDe: Component Developr Magazine, and doing so may have saved my relationship with ASP.NET.? In it, I came across an article by Jeffrey Palermo entitled “Use the ASP.NET MVC Framework to Write Web Apps without Viewstate or Postbacks” – Note to Jeffrey: bloggers like short titles!? The two page article made me sit up and take notice, and I spent the rest of the day researching ASP.NET MVC.? Championed by none other than Scott Guthrie (ScottGu to his readers), ASP.NET MVC is part of the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions project hosted at This project was recently released as a CTP and is now available for download.? You can get lots more information about it at Scott’s blog.

By freeing ourselves from the mantra of the PostBack, this MVC approach returns us to real HTML control, without the need to wrap all the content in a runat=server form.? This means you can finally put regular HTML forms on your pages. And best of all, you can still use all the ASP.NET goodies, just in a better architecture: Master Pages, ASP Controls, Code Behind, the works.

Downloading and installing the Extensions CTPwas a snap.? Naturally, it integrates with VS2008, so once it is installed you will see some new project types, a couple of which are MVC specific. Selecting one of these project types will create a project with all the plumbing in place and wired, which I immediately found intuitive and well designed. There are several extra, but well documented, steps you must go through if you wish to add MVC to an existing project, but since I don’t really have any of consequence this was not an issue for me.

Hopefully, this afternoon I will find more time to delve into this further.? I can say that I am very excited by this development.? I can finally do things with ASP.NET that are familiar and comfortable.? Projects like this could easily increase ASP.NET adoption and proliferation. My enthusiastic thanks go to all those involved!

Visual Studio 2008 Setup Project Frustrations

March 4, 2008 28 comments

I have not needed to create a Setup project since installing VS2008, but this afternoon I needed to share a utility program with a coworker friend of mine (who is not technical), so I opened the solution and added a Setup and Deployment project. Everything seemed to be fine. I added the primary output of my application’s project and adjusted the company name and product name properties, as well as some other settings, just like I used to do in VS2005.

The problem occurred when I wanted to create Start Menu and Desktop shortcuts for the application. In VS2005, double clicking the Application Folder would show you the list of DLLs, EXEs, and other files that would be installed. You could right-click the main project output file and create a shortcut to the program, which could then be copied to the User’s Desktop and User’s Program Menu directories. And you could also add icons and assign them to the shortcuts.

This was what I wanted to do in VS2008, but double clicking on the folders in File System does nothing. As a result, you cannot select the output file as instructed in the MSDN documentation. This is very frustrating: the Setup and Deployment project has always worked well for me (these are internal distribution installers), but now with VS2008 it no longer appears to function properly. The resulting MSI did work and did install the software, but without an icon and without shortcuts in the desired locations.

If you know the solution for this, please leave a comment. If I find a solution to this, I’ll be sure to share it. For now, all I can do is share the pain.

Trudging through ASP.NET

February 19, 2008 Comments off

I just wanted to post a quick update on what’s going on in my world this week.? I posted last week about my Authorize.Net efforts (which I updated this morning).? That work is the precursor to finally learning ASP.NET, one of my New Year’s Resolutions.? I have to admit that I have always assumed that learning ASP.NET would be no big deal.? I have developed web sites in PHP, JSP and Servlets, and even RPG CGI, so what could be so hard about ASP.NET?

Well, the short answer is that it is not hard, however I find myself constantly frustrated because I feel like I have to relearn all the basics.? Seemingly simple matters take me a lot of time and investigation to get working.? I’m sure that if I was learning from scratch this would be no problem, but in my case I am hobbled by too much knowledge going in.? In other words, my brain keeps getting in the way.

So I am trudging through books, websites, and training materials.? Currently, I am reading through’s “Build your own ASP.NET 2.0 Web Site“, which appears to be the simplest material I have on hand.? I’m also planning on spending some time going through some beginners videos at And if all that fails, I’ll consider ordering again from I know one day soon I’ll look back on this and wonder what all the fuss was about, but for now I must simply “Soldier On!”

Upgrade your C# Skills part 5 – LINQ to XML

January 31, 2008 7 comments

I am working on a project that requires a configuration file that can be edited or even replaced by the user. Looking at the requirements, what I really need is a series of “records” of the same layout, similar to a database table. Naturally, given the current state of technology, an XML file is the obvious choice. So I decided that now would be a good time to investigate LINQ to XML.

Understanding LINQ to XML

First of all, unlike other LINQ topics, this one is not really query oriented. LINQ to XML (also known as XLINQ) is primarily about reading and writing XML files. Once read into program variables, you can use LINQ to Objects technologies to perform query functions.

First, the XLINQ classes are not part of the standard System.Linq namespace. Instead, you will need to include System.Xml.Linq. This namespace contains the XML classes that make XLINQ worthwhile, and we’ll review a few of these as we go along.

Second, this article will be a far cry from exhaustive on the subject: there are a ton of additional features and topics that I will not cover. Chief among the reasons for this is that I am far from an XML expert. I consider myself a typical developer where XML is concerned: my programs need to find and consume information stored in an XML format. I may even have occasion to update or write XML content. Otherwise, XML holds no particular glamor for me.

Reading an XML File

Most articles I have read on this topic begin with using XLINQ to create XML structures and files. My first task was to read an existing XML file, so that is where I will begin.

Here is the XML data I will be using for this article:

<LayoutItems Class="">
  <LayoutItem Name="FullName">
  <LayoutItem Name="Address1">
  <LayoutItem Name="Address2">
  <LayoutItem Name="City">
  <LayoutItem Name="State">
  <LayoutItem Name="Zip">

This is a simple configuration file for a printing product I am writing. The root element LayoutItems has a Class attibute and contains a collection of child LayoutItem objects. Each LayoutItem has a Name attribute that references a Property name in the Class listed in the LayoutItems Class attribute. Each LayoutItem element then contains Row and Column elements. I’m pretty confident you can guess what these represent. This is a simple example, but no matter how complex your XML layout is, these same techniques will work.

First, we need to get an object that we can use to read and process our XML data. There are two that we can use: XDocument and XElement. If we use XDocument, we have to pull an XElement out of it to use our data, so an easier solution is to bypass the XDocument altogether and just use the XElement approach.

There are several ways to create a usable XElement object. This example uses XElement’s static Load method. In this case I am passing it the path of the XML file:

// Load XML from file
XElement xml = XElement.Load(XmlPath);

Dropping into debug after this happens shows us that the XElement object now contains all the XML from our file. All the nodes in an XElement are represented by other XElements. This nesting may look confusing at first, but it makes sense, like the Nodes of a TreeNode. Each subsequent element contains all the information for that element, including any other child elements. In our simple example there is only one sublevel of elements, but again the same techniques would work regardless of how deeply nested your data.

Now, in order to read through my XML data, I am going to loop through the Elements collection:

// Loop through Elements Collection
foreach (XElement child in xml.Elements())
    // Process child XElement

Each of these XElement objects will represent one LayoutItem section. The LayoutItem element has a Name attribute that I need to read, so I am going to use the XElement’s Attribute property:

// Read an Attribute
XAttribute name = child.Attribute("Name");

There is also an Attributes property that is a collection of all the XAttribute objects. If you had multiples to process or did not know the attribute names, this would be a simple enough option to use.

I want to point out that frequently the methods ask for an XName value. You will quickly find though that XName has no constructor. According to the documentation, wherever an XName is asked for, sending a string will perform an implicit conversion and create an XName object. I’m sorry, but this is really stupid: it creates unnecessary confusion in Intellisense and is not clear or intuitive. All that being said, now that you know, whenever you see “XName”, think “string”.

Now, since I have no further nesting to deal with, I’m ready to go ahead and read my child element data. The code is very similar to the Attribute code, except now we are using the “Element” property:

// Read an Element
XElement row = child.Element("Row");
XElement column = child.Element("Column");

Now that we have our Attributes and Elements, it’s time to actually use the values. To do this, we need to extract the values out of our XElement object. To accomplish this, you have two options. First, you can always use ToString() to get the string representation of the data and then manually convert to the desired type:

// using ToString() to extract data
string val = row.ToString();
float realVal = Convert.ToSingle(val);

Another option that will let you bypass that step is to use one of the built in cast operators to get the appropriate type directly:

// using a built in Cast operator
float realVal = (float)row;

There are built in cast operators for all the expected cast of characters like int, bool, DateTime, etc.

Creating and Writing XML

I used Visual Studio to create my XML file, but writing XML is pretty straightforward as well. Essentially, you need to create XElement objects and add other XElement objects to their Elements collection. Let’s create the above document in code.

The XElement constructor has several overloads. To just create an XElement, you can simply create a new one and pass it the name of the Element:

// Create a new XElement
XElement root = new XElement("LayoutItems");
// Add an Attribute
root.Add(new XAttribute("Class", ""));

Now, what would be intuitive would be able to access the Attributes and Elements collections and use their Add() methods to add content to them. Unfortunately, this is not possible because these are Read-only collections. XElement has an Add method of its own that accepts single content objects or a params[] construct. You can also use this method on the constructor, so let’s use the constructor method to create a few new XElements and add them to our root:

// Create and add more elements
XElement elm1 = new XElement("LayoutItem",
    new XAttribute("Name", "FullName"),
    new XElement("Row", 2),
    new XElement("Column", 5));

XElement elm2 = new XElement("LayoutItem",
    new XAttribute("Name", "Address1"),
    new XElement("Row", 3),
    new XElement("Column", 10));

XElement elm3 = new XElement("LayoutItem",
    new XAttribute("Name", "Address2"),
    new XElement("Row", 4),
    new XElement("Column", 10));

XElement elm4 = new XElement("LayoutItem",
    new XAttribute("Name", "City"),
    new XElement("Row", 4),
    new XElement("Column", 10));

XElement elm5 = new XElement("LayoutItem",
    new XAttribute("Name", "State"),
    new XElement("Row", 5),
    new XElement("Column", 40));

XElement elm6 = new XElement("LayoutItem",
    new XAttribute("Name", "Zip"),
    new XElement("Row", 5),
    new XElement("Column", 44));

Debug will now show that our root XElement object now contains all the properly formatted XML. To write it to the file system, you can use the standard StreamWriter options, or you could use the built in Save() method:

// Write file

In this example, I am just passing the string of the path of the file I want. There are several other overloads, but I’m confident you will be able to use them with no problem.


Like I said at the beginning, you didn’t see any query features here, because in this case the LINQ parts really happen in the XML processing. The Attributes and Elements collections implement IEnumerable<T>, so if you need to query them you can do so using LINQ to Objects techniques.

Personally, these new classes finally make XML an attractive solution. I finally feel like reading and processing XML can be pain free and straightforward. I know that I will be using a lot more XML in the future as a result.

Categories: .NET 3.5, C# 3.0

I hate being sick…

January 28, 2008 Comments off

I caught a bug that has been terrorizing the office and I’ve been out sick since last Wednesday.? I got back in today and found my DVD copy of Total Training for Microsoft Expression Studio waiting my return.? Hopefully I’ll begin going through the training this week, and naturally I’ll give you all a review of the materials and products.

Also, I’ve been working on a Printing Framework,Maker nextel tracfone ringtones software. so I plan on writing a series of articles on Printing.

Finally, I’ll be speaking next week at RVNUG on the new .NET 3.5 C# features.? I’ll cover most of the material from the “Updgrade your C# Skills” series, so if you are there be sure to say “Howdy!”

Categories: .NET 3.5, C# 3.0, Expression