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Awesome application

I presented Update Controls in WPF, Silverlight, and Winforms online for a bunch of folks not at PDC. You can download the source code and watch the recording to follow along.

The most awesome app ever
The most awesome app ever is Excel. Actually, it’s Excel’s great grandfather VisiCalc. With these apps you express the relationship among parts of your data. The spreadsheet figures out when to recalculate and keep things up to date.

You can demonstrate the View Model pattern in Excel. Put your name in C1. That’s the data model. Then enter the formula “=C1” into B1. That’s the view model. It gets its data from the data model. It doesn’t store that data, it just interprets it for the benefit of a specific view. Finally, put the formula “=B1” into A1. This is your view. It binds to properties of your data model. It can’t do complex logic. That’s the View Model’s job.

I want to write my application the same way that I construct a spreadsheet. It should just know what depends upon what, and keep things up to date. That’s what I demonstrate with Update Controls.

Don’t copy data
The View Model does not make a copy of your data. It delegates to the Data Model. If data is stored in two places, it might get out of sync. If it’s stored in only one place, then there is no chance of inconsistency.

The View Model in this example does not have any fields, other than the references that are assigned during construction. If you are storing state in your data model, you are probably making a mistake. If that state is a copy of what’s in the Data Model, or it can be calculated from the Data Model, then delegate. If not consider moving it to a navigation model.

Navigation model
Your application exists for one purpose: to manage information in a specific problem domain. That is what goes into the Data Model. Everything else is there to help the user navigate through that information. That goes into the Navigation Model.

The Navigation Model keeps track of selected items. The selected item of a ListBox is bound to a property on the View Model. That property just delegates to the Navigation Model. Putting the user selection into the Navigation Model instead of directly binding controls to one another allows you to programmatically change the selection. All you do is change the property in the Navigation Model.

The Navigation Model also keeps track of search parameters. A TextBox is bound to a Filter property, which delegates to the Navigation Model. A where clause in the linq query in the View Model compares items to this Filter. Since the linq query references the Filter property, the list is dependent upon it. Changing the Filter updates the list.

Rapidly added features
Update Controls discovers dependencies for you. You don’t have to manage dependencies on your own. When you do your own dependency management, you have to touch old code to add a new feature. But when the system manages dependencies, you can add new code and the old code will continue to behave as expected. All you have to do is:

  • Store domain data in the Data Model.
  • Store user selection and navigation in the Navigation Model.
  • Delegate from the View Model to either the Data or the Navigation Model: don’t store state in the View Model.
  • Use Independent on all Data and Navigation Model fields.
  • Use ForView.Wrap() on all DataContexts that you set through code.


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