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When downloading and installing the ASP.NET MVC framework SDK, a new project template is installed in Visual Studio—the ASP.NET MVC project template. This article by Maarten Balliauw describes how to use this template. We will briefly touch all aspects of ASP.NET MVC by creating a new ASP.NET MVC web application based on this Visual Studio template. Besides view, controller, and model, new concepts including ViewData—a means of transferring data between controller and view, routing—the link between a web browser URL and a specific action method inside a controller, and unit testing of a controller are also illustrated in this article.

(For more resources on .NET, see here.)

Creating a new ASP.NET MVC web application project

Before we start creating an ASP.NET MVC web application, make sure that you have installed the ASP.NET MVC framework SDK from http://www.asp.net/mvc. After installation, open Visual Studio 2008 and select menu option File | New | Project. The following screenshot will be displayed. Make sure that you select the .NET framework 3.5 as the target framework. You will notice a new project template called ASP.NET MVC Web Application. This project template creates the default project structure for an ASP.NET MVC application.

Your First ASP.NET MVC Application

After clicking on OK, Visual Studio will ask you if you want to create a test project. This dialog offers the choice between several unit testing frameworks that can be used for testing your ASP.NET MVC application.

Your First ASP.NET MVC Application

You can decide for yourself if you want to create a unit testing project right now—you can also add a testing project later on. Letting the ASP.NET MVC project template create a test project now is convenient because it creates all of the project references, and contains an example unit test, although this is not required. For this example, continue by adding the default unit test project.

What’s inside the box?

After the ASP.NET MVC project has been created, you will notice a default folder structure. There’s a Controllers folder, a Models folder, a Views folder, as well as a Content folder and a Scripts folder. ASP.NET MVC comes with the convention that these folders (and namespaces) are used for locating the different blocks used for building the ASP.NET MVC framework. The Controllers folder obviously contains all of the controller classes; the Models folder contains the model classes; while the Views folder contains the view pages. Content will typically contain web site content such as images and stylesheet files, and Scripts will contain all of the JavaScript files used by the web application. By default, the Scripts folder contains some JavaScript files required for the use of Microsoft AJAX or jQuery.

Your First ASP.NET MVC Application

Locating the different building blocks is done in the request life cycle. One of the first steps in the ASP.NET MVC request life cycle is mapping the requested URL to the correct controller action method. This process is referred to as routing. A default route is initialized in the Global.asax file and describes to the ASP.NET MVC framework how to handle a request. Double-clicking on the Global.asax file in the MvcApplication1 project will display the following code:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Web;
using System.Web.Mvc;
using System.Web.Routing;

namespace MvcApplication1
{
public class GlobalApplication : System.Web.HttpApplication
{
public static void RegisterRoutes(RouteCollection routes)
{
routes.IgnoreRoute("{resource}.axd/{*pathInfo}");

routes.MapRoute(
"Default", // Route name
"{controller}/{action}/{id}", // URL with parameters
new { controller = "Home", action = "Index",
id = "" } // Parameter defaults
);

}

protected void Application_Start()
{
RegisterRoutes(RouteTable.Routes);
}
}
}

In the Application_Start() event handler, which is fired whenever the application is compiled or the web server is restarted, a route table is registered. The default route is named Default, and responds to a URL in the form of http://www.example.com/{controller}/{action}/{id}. The variables between { and } are populated with actual values from the request URL or with the default values if no override is present in the URL. This default route will map to the Home controller and to the Index action method, according to the default routing parameters. We won’t have any other action with this routing map.

By default, all the possible URLs can be mapped through this default route. It is also possible to create our own routes. For example, let’s map the URL http://www.example.com/Employee/Maarten to the Employee controller, the Show action, and the firstname parameter. The following code snippet can be inserted in the Global.asax file we’ve just opened. Because the ASP.NET MVC framework uses the first matching route, this code snippet should be inserted above the default route; otherwise the route will never be used.

routes.MapRoute(
"EmployeeShow", // Route name
"Employee/{firstname}", // URL with parameters
new { // Parameter defaults
controller = "Employee",
action = "Show",
firstname = ""
}
);

Now, let’s add the necessary components for this route. First of all, create a class named EmployeeController in the Controllers folder. You can do this by adding a new item to the project and selecting the MVC Controller Class template located under the Web | MVC category. Remove the Index action method, and replace it with a method or action named Show. This method accepts a firstname parameter and passes the data into the ViewData dictionary. This dictionary will be used by the view to display data.

The EmployeeController class will pass an Employee object to the view. This Employee class should be added in the Models folder (right-click on this folder and then select Add | Class from the context menu). Here’s the code for the Employee class:

namespace MvcApplication1.Models
{
public class Employee
{
public string FirstName { get; set; }
public string LastName { get; set; }
public string Email { get; set; }
}
}

After adding the EmployeeController and Employee classes, the ASP.NET MVC project now appears as shown in the following screenshot:

Your First ASP.NET MVC Application

The EmployeeController class now looks like this:

using System.Web.Mvc;
using MvcApplication1.Models;

namespace MvcApplication1.Controllers
{
public class EmployeeController : Controller
{
public ActionResult Show(string firstname)
{
if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(firstname))
{
ViewData["ErrorMessage"] = "No firstname provided!";
}
else
{
Employee employee = new Employee
{
FirstName = firstname,
LastName = "Example",
Email = firstname + "@example.com"
};

ViewData["FirstName"] = employee.FirstName;
ViewData["LastName"] = employee.LastName;
ViewData["Email"] = employee.Email;
}

return View();
}
}
}

The action method we’ve just created can be requested by a user via a URL—in this case, something similar to http://www.example.com/Employee/Maarten. This URL is mapped to the action method by the route we’ve created before.

By default, any public action method (that is, a method in a controller class) can be requested using the default routing scheme. If you want to avoid a method from being requested, simply make it private or protected, or if it has to be public, add a [NonAction] attribute to the method.

Note that we are returning an ActionResult (created by the View() method), which can be a view-rendering command, a page redirect, a JSON result, a string, or any other custom class implementation inheriting the ActionResult that you want to return. Returning an ActionResult is not necessary. The controller can write content directly to the response stream if required, but this would be breaking the MVC pattern—the controller should never be responsible for the actual content of the response that is being returned.

Next, create a Show.aspx page in the Views | Employee folder. You can create a view by adding a new item to the project and selecting the MVC View Content Page template, located under the Web | MVC category, as we want this view to render in a master page (located in Views | Shared). There is an alternative way to create a view related to an action method, which will be covered later in this article.

In the view, you can display employee information or display an error message if an employee is not found.

Add the following code to the Show.aspx page:

    MasterPageFile="~/Views/Shared/Site.Master" 
AutoEventWireup="true" Inherits=" System.Web.Mvc.ViewPage" %>









E-mail:




If the ViewData, set by the controller, is given an ErrorMessage, then the ErrorMessage is displayed on the resulting web page. Otherwise, the employee details are displayed.

Press the F5 button on your keyboard to start the development web server. Alter the URL in your browser to something ending in /Employee/Your_Name_Here, and see the action method and the view we’ve just created in action.

Your First ASP.NET MVC Application


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