Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CLASS Services

The next version of CLASS extensions is going to be available by the end of summer with some really interesting goodies added. But, with HTML client (even before it’s official release) being in the center of interest, I feel like Silverlight extensions, are going to be soon, if not already, out of demand.
So, until I find the time to catch up with HTML client, I though on focusing more to stuff that are client implementation independent. That’s why, apart from the next version of CLASS Extensions for Silverlight clients, I plan on releasing a Server/Common side extension pack called CLASS Services.
If you are one of the blessed people Angel that purchased CLASS Extensions, you already know of File Server service included, that provides file based content access to your server.
Two more of the services that are going to be included in this new CLASS Services pack can be found in this sample I posted in MSDN. Ok, I am not crazy, I know that if I share the code no-one will buy the extensions, but these two simple (as regards to the coding effort) services, are just a part of what CLASS Services is going to include. Either way, I believe my Lightswitch community contribution, even if not as extensive and steady as other people’s, makes clear that the idea is sharing and not making money out of it.
Regarding the sample, I must underline that the application itself is just an example. And I want to stress this point, because some would say that, what the sample application displays is not DI. The idea of the sample was not to display DI in action but just to display how you bind the RIA services together, to do whatever you like. MEF is used as a DI framework by the RIA Service to provide the required functionality.
Also, I have to admit that if properly implemented, by the book, restrictions and conventions in imports and exports of MEF (or any other DI framework for that matter) would make any additional configuration (like the one my sample suggests) pointless.
Nevertheless, IMHO, you really have to be a DI purist, not to recognize the potential provided by these two services. An example: In Computer Life, we plan (George stop calling me names Smile with tongue out) to implement a generic (extension) way to support EAV model in our Lightswitch applications. It’s so obvious how useful the Domain Types RIA service will be for this implementation that I won’t even bother writing anything to prove it.
Anyway, I hope you find these two RIA services useful. I realize you have to go far beyond the “Coding is optional” motto to make good use of this kind of services, but I believe the Lightswitch development community, has already given the answer to that (not at all well-intentioned) “It’s the next MS-Access” hype…

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Can I delete this?

In a previous post I suggested a way to override default LightSwitch add/edit behavior. In this post I will suggest an override to default delete behavior.
It has happened many times to delete entries, only to get an error message, when trying to save, informing me about reference constraints being violated and the action cannot be completed. This is not much of problem when you try to delete one record (apart from the fact this message is ugly and not one that I would allow my end users to deal with, for that matter). But when trying to delete many records you have no clue which was the one (or more) record(s) that cannot be deleted. In this case all you can do is delete-save until you find the record that cannot be deleted. And when you find it, you have to refresh your screen or undo the changes of the current record (a future article will suggest a way to do this).
What I needed was a good generic way to be able to set Delete_CanExecute result. This is my suggestion using (what else) extension methods, interfaces (Yann will love me for this Smile) and an attribute.
First the interface to help decide if an instance can be deleted or not:
public interface IDependencyCheck : IEntityObject
  bool CanDelete { get; }

Quite simple you must admit. Keep in mind interfaces you want to use in your common project have to be accessible both by Server and Client project also. If someone here thinks of EntityName_CanDelete, someone forgets that it is a server side hook.

Now an attribute to help us decide which of the dependencies an entity might have are strong ones, meaning that the referential integrity of the database or your business logic if you don’t use database constraints, would not allow an instance to be deleted.
public class StrongDependencyAttribute : Attribute
  public StrongDependencyAttribute(string dependencies) {
    this.dependencies = dependencies.ToStringArray();

  public string[] Dependencies {
    get { return dependencies; }

  private readonly string[] dependencies;

This attribute takes a list of strong reference property names as comma delimited string (or whatever delimiter you like for that matter) using these simple extensions:
public static string[] ToStringArray(this string strings) {
   return strings.ToStringArray(',');

public static string[] ToStringArray(this string strings, char delimiter) {
   return (from string item in strings.Split(new char[] { delimiter }, StringSplitOptions.RemoveEmptyEntries)
               select item.Trim()).ToArray();

If you want to use another delimiter just replace
this.dependencies = dependencies.ToStringArray();

in the constructor with (for example):
this.dependencies = dependencies.ToStringArray(';');

Or if you want, you can have one instance of the attribute for each property you want to check and avoid delimited strings altogether. Plenty of choices…Smile.

Keep in mind that if you declare no instance of this attribute but you implement IDependencyCheck then ALL dependencies will be considered as strong ones and checked for integrity.

This attribute needs to be accessible by the Common project only.

Now, all that said, there are two extension methods that will help us do the job.

The first one needs to be accessible by the Client project only:
public static bool CanDeleteSelection(this IScreenObject screen, string collectionName) {
   if (!screen.HasSelection(collectionName))
     return false;
   IVisualCollection collection = screen.Details.Properties[collectionName].Value as IVisualCollection;
   if (collection.SelectedItem is IDependencyCheck)
     return (collection.SelectedItem as IDependencyCheck).CanDelete;
   return true;

Please note I am using IScreenObject.HasSelection extension that has already been introduced in a previous post. That’s why I am not checking if the cast to IVisualCollection is successful (not null).

The second one has to be accessible by the Common project only:
    public static bool CanDelete(this IEntityObject entity) {
      IEnumerable<IEntityCollectionProperty> collectionProperties = 
        .Where(p => p.GetType().GetInterfaces()
          .Where(t => t.Name.Equals("IEntityCollectionProperty"))
          .FirstOrDefault() != null)
      if (collectionProperties == null)
        return true;
      List<string> strongDependencies = new List<string>();
      IEnumerable<StrongDependencyAttribute> dependencies = 
        .GetCustomAttributes(typeof(StrongDependencyAttribute), false)
      foreach (StrongDependencyAttribute dependency in dependencies)
      bool hasDependencies = strongDependencies.FirstOrDefault() != null;
      bool canDelete = true;
      foreach (IEntityCollectionProperty property in collectionProperties) {
        if (hasDependencies &&strongDependencies.FirstOrDefault(d => d.Equals(property.Name)) == null)
        IEnumerable value = entity.GetType()
          .GetProperty(string.Format("{0}Query", property.Name))
          .GetValue(entity, null) as IEnumerable;
        try {
          if (value != null && value.GetEnumerator().MoveNext()) {
            canDelete = false;
        catch {
      return canDelete;

Although it’s obvious at first glance what the code does Hot smile, I will give brief explanation:

If there is not a StrongDependencyAtttibute defined for the entity then all reference properties are checked and if at least one has members then the entity cannot be deleted. If a StrongDependencyAtttibute is defined for the entity then only reference properties included in the attribute are checked. That’s all…

If you manage to read the code (I am not very proud about the absence of comments) you will notice that only one-to-many and many-to-many references are handled. In my world one-to-one references mean inheritance and in this case both objects should be deleted. But what if the base object can be deleted (has no direct references) and the derived object has? Again in my world, if you are trying to delete the base object you are already doing it wrong! Anyway if someone lives in a world other than mine (I am very democratic guy Be right back) and wants to support one-to-one relations all he/she has to do is find where IEntityCollectionProperty definition is and look for the respective property type (I believe it is IEntityReferenceProperty but I am not quite sure).

And for the end an example so that anyone can see what all of the above end up to:

Suppose you have a Customer entity. And this Customer entity has a collection of Orders. The property of the Customer entity that holds these orders is called CustomerOrders. In your Datasource you right-click Customer entity and select View Table Code. A partial class implementation file is created (if it does not already exist). Modify the definition of you class as follows:
public partial class Customer : IDependencyCheck {

  #region IDependencyCheck members 
  public bool CanDelete {
    get { return this.CanDelete(); }
  #endregion IDependencyCheck members

Remember to reference (using) the namespace where your extension method (CanDelete) is declared.

Please note that IDependencyCheck gives you the potential to write whatever else hardcoded (or not) check you want in your CanDelete property implementation. In the code above I just call the extension method I introduced earlier. But you can do whatever you want. You can even skip the dependencies mechanism suggested altogether. The client side extension will still work.

So in the screen that you have your list of Customers right click the Delete command of the list or grid and in the CustomersDelete_CanExecute just write:
partial void CustomersDelete_CanExecute(ref bool result){
  result = this.CanDeleteSelection("Customers");

As partial implementation of Execute write:
partial void CustomersDelete_Execute(){

I know some of you have already noticed the overhead of potentially loading the dependent objects the first time you select an item of your list or grid. I cannot argue with that, except for the fact that my approach is suggested for intranet implementations (I am not sure I would do something like that over the web) and the fact that the time under these circumstances is an acceptable price to pay in order to avoid the annoying referential integrity message. At least in my world Smile