Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Silverlight Behaviors and Triggers: TextBox Magic

The TextBox control is popular in Silverlight but comes with a few nuances. For example, the default behavior is that the data is not bound until the control loses focus! This can be awkward when you have a form with a disabled save button. The save button won't enable until the text box contains content, but it won't "know" about the content until the box loses focus, so the user is forced to tab from the last field before they can save.

I will cover two topics specific to the TextBox: the first is a behavior and trigger that resolve the issue with the "late data binding." The second is a filter behavior that allows you to control exactly what goes into the text box.

Let's get started! As you recall, the recipe for creating a new attached property is to declare the properties on a static class and register them as an attached property. We're going to start with the filter. As you know, the TextBox control itself takes any type of character input. A numeric field can be validated which prevents it from binding to the object, but why let the user type anything but a digit in the first place? Prevention is the best medicine, so why not filter the field?

We'll start with a class called TextBoxFilters to hold our attached properties specific to the text box. To filter the text box, we want to hook into the KeyDown event, check to see if it's a key we like, and set the event to "handled" if we don't want it (this prevents it from bubbling up and making it into the form). Of course, we have to be careful because we're not just checking for digits. Users must be able to navigate into and out of the field using TAB or fix their input using BACK.

The first part of the class is here. We create a convenient list of key presses that should always be allowed, then provide a method that tells us if it is a digit. Notice that we need to check the presence of the SHIFT key because Key.D1 becomes an exclamation mark when the SHIFT key is pressed.

public static class TextBoxFilters
{
    private static readonly List<Key> _controlKeys = new List<Key>
                                                            {
                                                                Key.Back,
                                                                Key.CapsLock,
                                                                Key.Ctrl,
                                                                Key.Down,
                                                                Key.End,
                                                                Key.Enter,
                                                                Key.Escape,
                                                                Key.Home,
                                                                Key.Insert,
                                                                Key.Left,
                                                                Key.PageDown,
                                                                Key.PageUp,
                                                                Key.Right,
                                                                Key.Shift,
                                                                Key.Tab,
                                                                Key.Up
                                                            };

    private static bool _IsDigit(Key key)
    {
        bool shiftKey = (Keyboard.Modifiers & ModifierKeys.Shift) != 0;
        bool retVal;
        if (key >= Key.D0 && key <= Key.D9 && !shiftKey)
        {
            retVal = true;
        }
        else
        {
            retVal = key >= Key.NumPad0 && key <= Key.NumPad9;
        }
        return retVal; 
    }
}

Next, we need to build our dependency properties. We'll provide a getter and setter and the registration. When the property is set, we'll check to see if the control is a TextBox. If it is, we hook into the KeyDown event and suppress it. The code looks like this:


public static bool GetIsPositiveNumericFilter(DependencyObject src)
{
    return (bool) src.GetValue(IsPositiveNumericFilterProperty);
}

public static void SetIsPositiveNumericFilter(DependencyObject src, bool value)
{
    src.SetValue(IsPositiveNumericFilterProperty, value);
}

public static DependencyProperty IsPositiveNumericFilterProperty = DependencyProperty.RegisterAttached(
    "IsPositiveNumericFilter", typeof (bool), typeof (TextBoxFilters),
    new PropertyMetadata(false, IsPositiveNumericFilterChanged));

public static void IsPositiveNumericFilterChanged(DependencyObject src, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs args)
{
    if (src != null && src is TextBox)
    {
        TextBox textBox = src as TextBox; 
        
        if ((bool)args.NewValue)
        {
            textBox.KeyDown += _TextBoxPositiveNumericKeyDown;
        }
    }
}

static void _TextBoxPositiveNumericKeyDown(object sender, KeyEventArgs e)
{
    bool handled = true;

    if (_controlKeys.Contains(e.Key) || _IsDigit(e.Key))
    {
        handled = false;
    }

    e.Handled = handled;
}

That's it ... now we have a handy attached behavior. If you include the namespace in your XAML and refer to it as Behaviors, you'll be able to attach the property to a text box like this:



<TextBox DataContext="{Binding MyNumericField}" Behaviors:TextBoxFilters.IsPositiveNumericFilter="True"/>

That's it - just attach the behavior, fire up your application, and try to put anything but a digit into your text box!

Now that we know how to attach that behavior, wouldn't it be nice to have some instant validation and databinding as well? This isn't difficult at all with dependency properties. All you need to do is hook into the event that is fired when the text changes, and force an update to the binding. The code for that behavior looks like this:

public static bool GetIsBoundOnChange(DependencyObject src)
{
    return (bool) src.GetValue(IsBoundOnChangeProperty);
}

public static void SetIsBoundOnChange(DependencyObject src, bool value)
{
    src.SetValue(IsBoundOnChangeProperty, value);
}

public static DependencyProperty IsBoundOnChangeProperty = DependencyProperty.RegisterAttached(
    "IsBoundOnChange", typeof(bool), typeof(TextBoxFilters),
    new PropertyMetadata(false, IsBoundOnChangeChanged));

public static void IsBoundOnChangeChanged(DependencyObject src, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs args)
 {
     if (src != null && src is TextBox)
     {
         TextBox textBox = src as TextBox;

         if ((bool)args.NewValue)
         {
             textBox.TextChanged += _TextBoxTextChanged;
         }
     }
 }

static void _TextBoxTextChanged(object sender, TextChangedEventArgs e)
 {
     if (sender is TextBox)
     {
         TextBox tb = sender as TextBox;
         BindingExpression binding = tb.GetBindingExpression(TextBox.TextProperty);
         if (binding != null)
         {
             binding.UpdateSource();
         }
     }
 }

As you can see, we hook into the text changed event, grab the binding and force it to update. Now you will have instant feedback. Of course, all validation rules are followed so if the binding causes a validation error, your validation will display instantly and the underlying objects will not be databound.

The new "super" text box that is filtered and binds as the text changes looks like this:


<TextBox DataContext="{Binding MyNumericField}" Behaviors:TextBoxFilters.IsPositiveNumericFilter="True"
   Behaviors:TextBoxfilters.IsBoundOnChange="True"/>

That's all there is too it ... keep your users honest by preventing them from typing something they don't need.

Jeremy Likness

3 comments:

  1. Great post, but I am having difficulty implementing the behavior for the late binding funcationality. The Behaviors Namespace isn't found. I've got the Interactivity namespace loaded in my xamle file. Any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tried the code above, but BindingExpression is unknown. Am using VS 2008 with Silverlight 2 SDK - would be useful if you specified which version of the SDK this runs with.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Is there way to unit test this behavior.

    ReplyDelete