How to make localized models in Umbraco MVC

MVC, it’s the sh*t. Everything is so much easier when we use MVC. So when Umbraco came out with version 5, I was super happy, because I could now use my favorite framework on my favorite CMS. Then Umbraco killed v5 and we had to go back to webforms and simple razors…

BUT, then Umbraco announced they would implement MVC in the v4 branch and port many of the MVC features from v5 to v4. I was happy, for a while, I feared v4+ would end up just like v5. Mostly because of the weird mix of MVC and webforms. But no, the mix was elegant and seamlessly and super fast, so we began using it at my work. Everything was Good!

UNTIL, we had to make some more advanced stuff, like forms. Yeah, some of our customers wants forms, I know right! So we build a couple of forms, and the problems started to appear.

Umbraco is a “Content Management System”, meaing it manages content. One of the main forces of Umbraco is its ability to handle multiple languages. And the customers know that, well most of them do. So our customers wanted to be able to localize all the texts on the forms. This is something Umbraco cannot do, not easily and definitely not pretty.

When I build MVC forms I usually have a view model or two:

public string Name { get; set; }
public DateTime Birthday { get; set; }
public int NumberOfKids { get; set; }

This is a decent model. In MVC, I would build a form in one of three ways:

// One:
@Html.EditorForModel()

// Two
<div>@Html.LabelFor(m=>m.Name)</div>
<div>@Html.EditorFor(m=>m.Name)</div>
<div>@Html.ValidationMessageFor(m=>m.Name)</div>

<div>@Html.LabelFor(m=>m.Birthday)</div>
<div>@Html.EditorFor(m=>m.Birthday)</div>
<div>@Html.ValidationMessageFor(m=>m.Birthday)</div>

<div>@Html.LabelFor(m=>m.NumberOfKids)</div>
<div>@Html.EditorFor(m=>m.NumberOfKids)</div>
<div>@Html.ValidationMessageFor(m=>m.NumberOfKids)</div>

// Three
<div>@Html.LabelFor(m=>m.Name)</div>
<div>@Html.TextBoxFor(m=>m.Name)</div>
<div>@Html.ValidationMessageFor(m=>m.Name)</div>

<div>@Html.LabelFor(m=>m.Birthday)</div>
<div>@Html.TextBoxFor(m=>m.Birthday)</div>
<div>@Html.ValidationMessageFor(m=>m.Birthday)</div>

<div>@Html.LabelFor(m=>m.NumberOfKids)</div>
<div>@Html.TextBoxFor(m=>m.NumberOfKids)</div>
<div>@Html.ValidationMessageFor(m=>m.NumberOfKids)</div>

I would preferably go for number one, or in some cases where I need to be in control of the markup, number two. I see no reason to use anything but EditorFor().

So from where do I get labels, display names and validation messages?

In MVC I would do something like this:

[Display(Name="Name", ResourceType=typeof(SomeResourceFile))]
[Required(ErrorMessageResourceName = "NameRequired", ResourceType = typeof(SomeResourceFile))]
public string Name { get; set; }

[Display(Name = "Birthday", ResourceType = typeof(SomeResourceFile))]
[Required(ErrorMessageResourceName = "BirthdayRequired", ResourceType = typeof(SomeResourceFile))]
public DateTime Birthday { get; set; }

[Display(Name = "NumberOfKids", ResourceType = typeof(SomeResourceFile))]
[Required(ErrorMessageResourceName = "NumberOfKidsRequired", ResourceType = typeof(SomeResourceFile))]
public int NumberOfKids { get; set; }

In MVC, I would get my localized texts from a Resource file, but Umbraco has no resource files, nor does it have a resource provider or some feature that allows to extract texts from the dictionary and add it to our model attributes. And I, for one, don’t think we can hand over a product being part CMS and part resource files. So how do I solve that problem.

It’s quite simple. No I am NOT going to write a resource provider for umbraco!

What I am doing is actually as simple as extending the attributes I use. So lets take the first one, Display. What I essentially want is just to pass in my dictionary key and then get a text from Umbraco.  The problem here is, I cannot extend DisplayAttribute, it would have been overkill anyway, so instead I will extend the DisplayNameAttribute-class:

[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Method | AttributeTargets.Property | AttributeTargets.Field | AttributeTargets.Parameter, AllowMultiple = false)]
public sealed class UmbracoDisplayAttribute : DisplayNameAttribute
{
    // This is a positional argument
    public UmbracoDisplayAttribute(string dictionaryKey) : base(dictionaryKey)
    {
    }
}

This is simple, but all we get now, is just the key to the Umbraco dictionary. I want the value. Also easy. We just need to override one property:

public override string DisplayName
{
    get
    {
        return umbraco.library.GetDictionaryItem(base.DisplayName);
    }
}

What this does, is each time I, or the framework, needs to get the DisplayName, we return the value from the dictionary. Simple as that.

So to use this new attribute, all you need to do is use this:

[UmbracoDisplay("MyDictionaryKey")]

Easy?

The other attribute (RequiredAttribute) is a bit different, it’s a validation attribute.

But still, equally able of being extended:

[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Property | AttributeTargets.Field | AttributeTargets.Parameter, AllowMultiple = false)]
sealed class UmbracoRequiredAttribute : RequiredAttribute
{
    public UmbracoRequiredAttribute(string dictionaryKey)
    {
        this.ErrorMessage = dictionaryKey;
    }
}

Please note, I don’t have a DisplayName property available, so I cannot set or override that one. What I can do instead, is setting the ErrorMessage property. But I cannot override that one either. It’s okay, I just won’t do it. Now you might think, “hey dumbass, you haven’t gotten anything from the dictionary yet!” You’re absolutely right, I haven’t.

We need to override a method called FormatErrorMessage. It looks like this:

public override string FormatErrorMessage(string name)
{
    return umbraco.library.GetDictionaryItem(base.FormatErrorMessage(name));
}

Please note, I still call the base method. This is because the base method gives us our error message (in this case, a dictionary key). If our key contained a, I think this is true, “{0}” the display name of the field would be added.

If you where to run this, you will see, that our required-attribute is not being used client side. This is because the RequiredAttribute does not implement the IClientValidatable-interface. So we must implement that:

public IEnumerable<ModelClientValidationRule> GetClientValidationRules(System.Web.Mvc.ModelMetadata metadata, ControllerContext context)
{
    // Kodus to "Chad" http://stackoverflow.com/a/9914117
    yield return new ModelClientValidationRule
    {
        ErrorMessage = this.ErrorMessage,
        ValidationType = "required"
    };
}

If you run the code again, you will find, that the client side, and the server side validation messages are now localized, using the Umbraco dictionary.

This approach described here, can be used on most of the different attributes, we use in MVC. Happy coding!

Database design on user defined properties

As a developer, I often get across some database designs, that are quite complex caused by a developer not quite understanding the problem (we’ve all been there!), and therefore cannot solve it correctly.

The problem is as follows (or similar):

You have 2+ tables:

No references

Initial tables – no references

It’s quite simple, you have two types of data (media and documents), that you want to store in your database. I get that, I would too.

Now the requirements are as follows:

Both media and document has a set of user defined properties.

Said properties must store the following values: Type and Value, and a reference to both Media and Document.

There are a couple of ways to solve this lil’ problem, one (the one I encounter the most):

References(1) - Database Inheritance

Property-table added and References are added to media and document.

In this setup the Property-table knows about both media and document. We could make the two foreign keys nullable, either way we depend heavily on our code to keep media and document properties separated. And what happens if we add an other type (say Users), then we have to add a new foreign key to the property-table, and expand our code even more.

An other approach is this:

<img class="size-full wp-image-762" alt="References(2) – Database Inheritance" src="http://ndesoft.dk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/media_document_properties_take2 cialis overnight shipping.png” width=”404″ height=”444″ srcset=”http://ndesoft.dk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/media_document_properties_take2.png 404w, http://ndesoft.dk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/media_document_properties_take2-272×300.png 272w” sizes=”(max-width: 404px) 100vw, 404px” />

Media and document property references are stored in separate tables.

I must admit, I have done this one as well as the other one, and just admit it, so have you at some point!

So what are the pro’s and con’s of this setup: Well the pros are simple, neither media or document are referenced in the property table, we can have as many properties as we want per media and document, and we can quite simple add other types, such as Users. BUT:

When we have this setup, we must rely heavily on our code to help us not to have the same property on more than one media, and to ensure we don’t mix media properties with documents and users. And if we add an other type (Users) we must create, not only one, but two new tables, and still expand a complex code to handle that new type as well as the other types.

So how can we solve this problem?

We have Media, Documents and more types, that has dynamic  properties without the other types must know about it, we could do this:

References(3) – Database Inheritance

Each type now has its own set of properties

Yeah, I’ve also done this one. And this is almost, (I wrote, almost), as bad as the other ones. Well no property can be on more than one media (or document, or whatever), and no property can be on both media and document, so whats the problem?!

Well, for starters, we have to tables instead of one, per type. If we add an other field to our properties, we must add them to all of our *Property-tables. And if we want to list all properties, including the media/document/user/whatever it is attached to, it’s nearly impossible.

So here’s the solution, I find most fitting for the problem:

References, Inheritance – Database Inheritance

Added a Node-table, with the shared fields from Media and Document. Removed ID- and Name-fields from Media and Document, added a NodeID field, as both PK and FK. Added a Property-table, that references the Node-table.

So, this is my solution. I have added a Node-table, with the shared fields from Media and Document (ID and Name). Removed ID- and Name-fields from Media and Document, added a NodeID field, as both primary key and foreign key, this field must NOT be autoincremented! It will not work, then I added a Property-table, that references the Node-table.

The pros and cons: The pros are easy, One table per type, each type gets its ID from the Node-table, all properties are stored in one table, referencing the Node-table, so a Document can get its properties, using only its primary key. No property can ever be on two entities at once, and no entity knows about other entities or properties, except its own.

The cons are, that we must have some code that handles the inheritance. When I make a SELECT * FROM Media, I must make a JOIN on the Node-table as well. If you’re a .NET developer, like I, then you should take a look at the Entity Framework, as it handles this smoothly. I will write a post on that later on.

IEnumerable, why use it?

Okay, first off: I really love the IEnumerable<T> interface, and I use it excessively throughout my applications.

Almost any list or collection throughout the .NET framework implements this interface. It exposes only one method (GetEnumerator), but this method is your friend in almost any circumstance.

This method returns an Enumerator, which again exposes methods used to traverse (or loop through) the collection. This means you can make a method definition like this:

public void MyMethod(IEnumerable<string> someEnumerable)
{

}

I could call this method with any sort of collection, it could be string[], List<string>, IList<string>, IQueryable<string> or even a basic IEnumerable<string>. I don’t give a damn. I don’t care what the implementation is, I just want a collection to work with, nothin’ more.

This means I don’t need to force other developers who use my code, to pass an array or a List or some custom collection, they just pass whatever collection they have, and I will be able to work with it. That’s awesome!

But wait! How do you get an IEnumerable<T> in the first place? How can we make our own?

Well, in “ye olde times” one would make an abomination like this:

public List<string> MyMethod()
{
List<string> myResult = newList<string>();
for (int i = 0; i < dataSource.Length; i++)
{
// Do some work.
myResult.Add(dataSource[i].SomeProperty);
}
return myResult;
}

Can you see what’s wrong here?

There’s actually more than one thing that’s wrong with this snippet.

First off: When we return a specific implementation, in this case List<T>, we force our code to use this implementation. We kinda dictates the use of our result which is a major drawback on agile Development. What if the consumer don’t want or need a list?

Second: In line 3, we create an instance of an object we actually don’t need, so that we can return a list.

Third: We loop through a collection of an unknown size. This Collection could potentially contain a billion items.

Fourth: We have to wait until the loop has ended. Which could take forever. Think about what would happen to your app, when you loop though a billion items and only need the first five.

This is where .NET provides a concept of Enumerators. These are methods that only returns data when said data is ready to be returned on not when all data is ready to be returned. And it is actually the same method called from the GetEnumerator()-method.

To convert our method from above into an Enumerator, we must make some changes. First we need to return an IEnumerable<string> instead of a List. Second we need to remove the list-object. And finally rewrite the loop to use the keyword “yield”.

This is how our method would then look like:

public IEnumerable<string> MyMethod()
{
for (int i = 0; i < dataSource.Length; i++)
{
// Do some work.
yield return dataSource[i].SomeProperty;
}
yield break;
}

As you can see, the code looks way simpler. We don’t force our consumer to take a list. And the yield-keyword, changes the method into an Enumerator, which gives us a LOT of benefits:

The yield return, returns our data when the property Current is called on the Enumerator-instance. This property is usually called each time the MoveNext()-method is called. This Means you do not have to wait until all items are looped. You can stop at any moment. the yield-return is only called when you request the next item.

So if your consumer needs to loop through each of your items, you will only have to loop once, whereas the List-thingy above, would loop through the same items twice. That’s two billion items! Secondly the first example would always loop though each item, but the second one only loops through as many items as you want it to. Nothin more nothin less.

 

The essence of it all: Always use IEnumerable, only use lists where it cannot be done without it.

For performance reasons, always use Enumerators. They will save the day.

 

This is my first attempt on a “professional”-programming guide. Please provide feedback!

New site

I know it’s not long since my last visual transformations, but I feel I need to keep searching for a theme and for a setup that really suits me. And therefore I will keep looking.

This new theme includes a lot of features including a community in which I can handle more general questions, that does not suit any of my posts.

I have not yet fully explored all features, but I will do and in the meantime, please bare with me and the slowness of the site.

Future of NMultiSelect

Now that I have made a few releases of my jQuery plug-in, NMultiSelect, I have begun work on a future version of the plug-in, version 2.0.

At the moment that version has the following features, that the current (1.5.4) doesn’t:

The new features (at the moment) are:

  • Full jQuery 1.6+ compatibility (I like to move forward so this version will not be backward compatible with jQuery!)
  • NMultiSelect from <select>-tags (this is actually a quite cool solution, and doesn’t alter postbacks what so ever, so you can use it without altering your code-behind!).
  • Drag-n-Drop. (Who needs buttons anyway?).
  • Drop down. (Hide the big and ugly box away and minimize your layout.)
  • All NMultiSelect-boxes is found in their own <div>-tag now. (Prettier HTML).
  • Functions to remove all or single item from the lists. (Easier maintenance with AJAX).
  • Easier access to lost NMultiSelect-box reference using default jQuery selectors.
  • More methods to alter NMultiSelect-behavior.
  • Possibility to bind multiple event-handlers.
  • A lot of core updates and changes.
  • Auto loading of dependencies. All you need to get NMultiSelect is just the jQuery-file and NMultiSelect-file. The plug-in takes care of the rest.
  • A small graphical update. Just a little eye-candy.

If you have anything to add to this list, don’t be shy, just give ’em to me!

UPDATE:

I have made a few screen dumps of some of the new features, for you to see:

[nggallery id=1]

UPDATE 2:

I have published an early preview of the v2 of NMultiSelect.

Please note, this is not final, nor stable but I will try to fix as many bugs as possible within the next 1 or 2 weeks.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for a long time, but I’m actually drowning in work so I’ve just been to damn busy. But I will make it up for you guys. I Promis!

You can see the preview here:

<a href="http://nmultiselect.ndesoft.dk/v2/nms buy cialis overnight delivery.html” target=”_blank”>http://nmultiselect.ndesoft.dk/v2/nms.html

NMultiSelect 1.5.4

Just a service update.

I think I was way to fast in releasing the 1.5.3-version. It was extremely buggy, had a few bugs and didn’t live up to the standards I think a release from me should meet. So therefore, forget the 1.5.3 (throw it away and never look back!) and get the latest NMultiSelect 1.5.4 instead. It is much more stable and nice than previous versions.

You can download NMultiSelect 1.5.4 here.

Or see it live here.

As always, comments are welcome!

Quick bug-fix, new features and Github

Hi, sorry about the time since my last post, I’ve just been so damn busy.

After being notified about a serious bug (a missing function, thanks wilco) and a few new features (thanks Jimmy), I’ve decided to add the project to github.

All source code is now located on https://github.com/JohnDoe3000/NMultiSelect, except for pre-1.5.3-releases. The code for those is to be found on this website. You are welcome to contribute, comment and so on, both here, and at github.

NMultiSelect 1.5.3

The new features in this release is (thanks Jimmy, http://jimblanchard.net/) are:

The ability to remove the add/remove-all buttons, remove the filter-box and remove the ability to chose multiple items to transfer at once.

The new options looks like this:

var settings = {
Name: "NMultiSelect_" + $.NMultiSelect.Instances,
Move: true,
FilterText: "filter", // Set to null to disable filters
AvailableText: "Available items:",
SelectedText: "Selected items:",
EnableAddAll: true, // If false, the add-all-button is removed.
EnableRemoveAll: true, // If false, the remove-all-button is removed.
EnableMultiSelect: true, // If false, the ability to select multiple items at once, is removed.
Height: 150,
Width: 150,
FadeSpeed: "fast", // How fast would we wan't the fading to go?
TitleTag: "h2", // What tag should be surrounding our box title?
Title: null, // Our box title, if null, the box title is not shown.
SelectionLimit: -1 // -1 unlimited selections.

}

To download the latest release, click here.

Up and running again

Hi,

Finally! The site is now running on a new server and everything seems to work properly! I apologize again for any inconvenience the “downtime” has caused, but the site should be working perfectly again.

As you might have noticed, I have change the look and feel of the site, I figured new server, new design. Over the following few weeks you may encounter a few changes regarding the layout and maybe a few moments with slow responses as I tweak the site and slowly changing the overall language to English.

If you have any thoughts about something cool to have on the site, please feel free to post them in the comments bellow.

Site problems

Hi all,

The last few days I have had major problems regarding the site, it has been slow as h… and I am very sorry for any inconveniences this has caused.

Because of the problems, I am changing to an other server. This will cause a few problems within the next couple of days, but I hope that the site is up and running again by Friday on the new server.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them as a comment below or contact me using my my email ( nick {at} ndesoft.dk ).

NMultiSelect v. 1.5.2

UPDATE

I know this is a very popular version, but I have made an update for it. It has more features and is much more stable.

You can always find the latest NMultiSelect version here:

http://ndesoft.dk/category/web/js/nmultiselect-js/

OK,

I know, I’m just throwing new versions out, but what else to do? When you guys ask me for a new feature, shouldn’t I just make it?

Well, this version is a minor update, with a new feature requested from bas, (http://ndesoft.dk/2011/04/26/nmultiselect-v-1-5-1/#comment-280):

Selection limits

What it is, is just a new option to add to the instantation object.

It looks like this:

settings = {
                Name: <span class="str">"NMultiSelect_"</span> + $.NMultiSelect.Instances,
                Move: <span class="kwrd">true</span>,
                FilterText: <span class="str">"filter"</span>,
                AvailableText: <span class="str">"Available items:"</span>,
                SelectedText: <span class="str">"Selected items:"</span>,
                Height: 150,
                Width: 150,
                FadeSpeed: <span class="str">"fast"</span>,
                TitleTag: <span class="str">"h2"</span>,
                Title: <span class="kwrd">null</span>,
                SelectionLimit: -1 <span class="rem">// -1 unlimited selections.</span>
            },

It can be any integral value from –1 to, well infinity (and beyond 🙂 ).

When set to –1, the user can select an infinite amount of items, when 0 the user can’t select anything, when 10, the user can select 10 items and so on.

Now you are wondering, why 1.5.2, instead of 1.5.1.1 (or whatever)? Well I have made a few optimizations to the code, moved some things around a bit and changed som names and so on, so it’s 1.5.2.

Download and live examples

A live example of the 1.5.2 release of the NMultiSelect, can be found here.

You can download the NMultiSelect 1.5.2 release here.