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ASP.NET MVC Basics: How to create a HtmlHelper

 ASP.NET MVC Basics: How to create a HtmlHelper Hello! And welcome to another tutorial on  This is the first tutorial in a series on ASP.NET MVC development.  This first installment will cover how to create an HtmlHelper.   What is ASP.NET MVC? I apologize if I'm stating the obvious, however, this is a tutorial on the basics so I'm approaching the tutorial with the assumption that the reader has no knowledge of ASP.NET, MVC, or ASP.NET MVC.  I'm sure you noticed that I made three references to the technology.  That's because ASP.NET MVC is more than one technology.  First we have ASP.NET, which is a server side web development technology created by Microsoft that utilizes the .NET framework.  Simply put, ASP.NET allows you to write dynamic web pages in .NET language of your choice (C#, VB.NET, etc..).  ASP.NET is an open source technology and it can be developed using the .NET framework or the Mono runtime.  You can find all sorts of wonderful information at . ASP.NET comes in two "flavors".  ASP.NET WebForms which is the original flavor, and ASP.NET MVC.  ASP.NET MVC is made up of two concepts.  First and foremost there is the MVC design pattern.  The MVC or Model-View-Controller design pattern was introduced by Trygve Reenskaug in the 1970's.  The design pattern has also be explained by Martin Fowler in his wonderful book on design patterns called Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture . The idea behind the MVC pattern is that you have data that you wish to display (Model), you have a presentation layer in which you wish to display your Model (View), and you have a class that handles the interaction between the View and the Model (controller).  The MVC design pattern is an excellent example of a design with proper separation of concerns.  Applications that implement the MVC design pattern are generally loosely coupled, and easy to test (unit testing).  In ASP.NET MVC, the View is a web page, the model can be any class that holds data that you want to display in the View, and a controller class. Now that I've explained ASP.NET and MVC, I'll now explain ASP.NET MVC.  You see, not only is ASP.NET MVC an implementation of the Model-View-Controller design pattern, it's also a framework built by Microsoft to support the implementation of the MVC design pattern.  You will see as you begin working with MVC that the framework is a large part of what makes ASP.NET MVC what it is.  You could implement ASP.NET MVC without the framwork, however, I don't recommend it.  The framework will create controller's for you, create Views that are bound to a strongly typed model of your choice, and much more.  Using the ASP.NET MVC framework, you can create a basic CRUD web application in a very short amount of time. I hope that this gives you a nice overview of the ASP.NET MVC framework and design pattern. HtmlHelper: What they are and how to create them I'll explain HtmlHelpers by taking you through implementing one..  We'll start by firing up Visual Studio and create a new ASP.NET MVC 4 project (note: I'm using VS 2012, however, if you have an earlier version installed, simply choose whichever ASP.NET MVC version that you have available to you.  If you don't have any ASP.NET MVC templates, you can use the Web platform installer to install ASP.NET MVC on your system.       The next dialog allows you to choose which type of ASP.NET MVC application that you'd like to create.  We will pick an Internet Application, with the Razor View engine and a unit testing project as shown below.     Now click OK and your project will be created for you.  The ASP.NET MVC Framework will create a lot of boiler plate code behind the scenes.  This includes "Forms based Authentication" in the web.config file as well as an AccountController which is a controller to handle authentication to the site.  There is also a default controller called HomeController. We are going to create an html helper that creates an HTML table.  This is merely an example and is not particularly useful, however, it will show you how to create and use an HTML Helper.  An HTML helper is nothing more than an extension method which returns a string of HTML.  Here is the official definition of an extension method from MSDN: Extension methods enable you to "add" methods to existing types without creating a new derived type, recompiling, or otherwise modifying the original type. Extension methods are a special kind of static method, but they are called as if they were instance methods on the extended type. For client code written in C# and Visual Basic, there is no apparent difference between calling an extension method and the methods that are actually defined in a type. Creating the HtmlHelper  Create a folder called "Helpers" in your solution.  In the folder, create a static class called TableExtensions.cs .  The class will look like this: TableExtensions.cs using System; using System.Text; using System.Web.Mvc; namespace HtmlHelpers.Helpers { public static class TableExtensions { public static MvcHtmlString Table(this HtmlHelper helper, string id, string name, int rows, int columns) { if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(id)) throw new ArgumentNullException("id"); if(string.IsNullOrEmpty("name")) throw new ArgumentNullException("name"); if (rows <= 0) throw new IndexOutOfRangeException(); if (columns <= 0) throw new IndexOutOfRangeException(); StringBuilder tableBuilder = new StringBuilder(); tableBuilder.Append(string.Format("<table id=\"{0}\" name=\"{1}\">", id, name)); for (int rowCounter = 0; rowCounter < rows; rowCounter++) { tableBuilder.Append("<tr>"); for (int columnCounter = 0; columnCounter < columns; columnCounter++) { tableBuilder.Append("<td>"); tableBuilder.Append(rowCounter.ToString()); tableBuilder.Append("</td>"); } tableBuilder.Append("</tr>"); } tableBuilder.Append("</table>"); return new MvcHtmlString(tableBuilder.ToString()); } } } As you can see, we've created a static class and a static method. The the first method parameter is  this HtmlHelper helperThis is where the magic happens. This allows us to use the method from the View like all other HTML helpers.The other methods specify the number of rows and columns that should be built in the HTML table.Here is an example of how to use the helper: @using HtmlHelpers.Helpers; @{ ViewBag.Title = "Index"; } <h2>Index</h2> @Html.Table("myTable", "myTableName", 4, 4)The output looks like this: And there you have it folks.  I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.  If you have any questions please don't hesitate to leave a comment. Thanks for reading.

Mono 3.0 released. New improvements include asynchronous programming, Mac OS X and iOS support, ASP.NET MVC 4, Entity Framework and more

Mono 3.0 released On 10/22/2012 Miguel de Icaza blogged about the latest release of the Mono .NET project.  As you may already know, the Mono project is an open source port of the Microsoft .NET framework which allows cross platform support for .NET applications with support for such systems as Linux and Mac OS X / iOS. The Mono 3.0 release includes improved support for asynchronous programming which was introduced in .NET 4.5.  These improvements help developers to create fast, responsive applications.  The ability to keep the user interface of an application responsive while executing time consuming tasks is extremely important as applications are moving to smart phones and tablets.  The release also includes improvements that will strengthen Mono's support for Mac OS X and iOS development. Developers can also look forward to added support to Microsoft's open sourced stacks which includes technologies like: ASP.NET MVC 4, ASP.NET WebPages, Entity Framework, Razor View Engine, and System.Json. You can read about other improvements to the garbage collector and more here: Miguel de Icaza's blog post The offical Mono project's release notes  kick it on        

Emulating iPhone, iPad, and Opera devices to debug mobile ASP.NET MVC4 apps with VS 2012 and WebMatrix 2.

Visual Studio 2012RC and ASP.NET MVC4 Mobile sites I've recently downloaded Visual Studio 2012 RC to experiment with the latest and greatest that .NET 4.5 has to offer.  The installation took around an hour and a half. What's new in .NET 4.5 you ask?  Here's a comprehensive list from (sorry Scott!) .   ASP.NET MVC4 mobile sites I started by launching VS 2012 and clicking on new project and then browsing to samples.  I clicked on c#, my language of choice and I browsed through many of the interesting samples until I came across the ASP.NET MVC 4 Mobile features sample. Once the sample loaded, I noticed a nice feature of VS 2012.  The IDE allows you to choose the browser in which  to debug your ASP.NET applications.  Since we are dealing with an ASP.NET MVC 4 Mobile application, I thought it was only natural for me to seek out mobile device emulators to use to view the websites.  It turns out Visual Studio 2012 makes this easy.     You start by clicking the browser drop down list located next to the green "play" (debug) button.   How to add custom emulators I'm sure you've noticed from the screenshot that I have a few emulators loaded in my browser list.  These aren't there by default, however, it's easy to add them.   Opera Mobile Emulator The Opera mobile emulator can be downloaded from the following address   Once you've installed the emulator, all you have to do is click on the browser drop down in VS 2012 and click "Browse With"   You are then prompted with the Browse With dialog box that lists all available browsers.   Next, you click on Add and you are then prompted with the add program prompt.   Add program   You simply browse to locate the Opera Emulator executable and enter a friendly display name.   If you used the default installation settings, the executable can be found in  C:\Program Files (x86)\Opera Mobile Emulator\OperaMobileEmu.exe.   The iPhone and iPad emulators. In order to add the iPhone and iPad emulators, you basically have to follow the same set of steps.   you must set the application arguments associated with the emulator mode that you wish to operate in.   To install the emulator, I used WebMatrix 2.  You can find WebMatrix2 in the Microsoft Web Platform Installer 4.0 located at   I found the following instructions under this blog entry by Scott Hanselman  From the Run menu, select Add new...From here, you'll go to the Browser Extension area where you can add the iPhone and iPad emulators to your system.      Once you've installed the emulators, you use the same VS 2012 browse and add directions as before to add the iPad and iPhone emulators to your VS 2012 browser list. Here are the configurations for the iPad and iPhone.   iPhone settings   path  C:\Users\budbjames\AppData\Local\Microsoft\WebMatrix\Extensions\20RC\iPhoneSimulator\ElectricMobileSim\ElectricMobileSim.exe     iPad configuration   path  C:\Users\budbjames\AppData\Local\Microsoft\WebMatrix\Extensions\20RC\iPadSimulator\ElectricMobileSim\ElectricMobileSim.exe     Once you've added the emulators, you can browse the mobile site sample application using the device of your choice.   Here are some screenshots for your reference.   Opera mobile emulator     iPad       iPhone   Conclusion And that's it!  That's all it takes to view an ASP.NET MVC 4 mobile app in 3 different emulators.  I'm very excited about VS 2012 and the possibilities that it and the .NET 4.5 framework have created. I plan to post more articles related to .NET 4.5 as I evaluate the framework.   I'm particularly interested in the added improvements regarding parallel computing. I'd like to give a special thanks to Scott Hanselman for his post regarding WebMatrix 2. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!  ~/Buddy James kick it on  

How to configure mono 2.10, .NET 4.0 and ASP.NET MVC to run on an Ubuntu Apache web server.

The challenge... As per my previous post [post title here], I wanted to configure mono on my recently installed Ubuntu machine.  Specifically, I wanted to be able to use the latest .NET functionality as well as ASP.NET MVC integration with Apache.  In this post, I plan to provide the steps and resources in which I took to accomplish my goals. Let's start with the Ubuntu machine.... The Ubuntu desktop specifications The machine in which I've installed Ubuntu is an OLD machine that I had laying around the house.  My Android has more horsepower than this old Dell, however, Ubuntu 10.4 seems to operate at a perfectly acceptable capacity.  I plan to "refresh" my Linux skills and look for spare RAM to add to this machine before I upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04.  The recommended minimum requirements for Ubuntu 12.04 are as follows; [For installing] The minimum memory requirement for Ubuntu 12.04 is 384 MB of memory for Ubuntu Desktop. Note that some of your system's memory may be unavailable due to being used by the graphics card. If your computer has only the minimum amount of memory, the installation process will take longer than normal; however, it will complete successfully, and the system will perform adequately once installed. [For upgrading] While the minimum memory requirement for 32bit is 384 MB, a minimum of 512 MB is needed for the 64bit installation. On systems with only the bare minimum amount of memory, it is also strongly recommended to use the "Install Ubuntu" option as it uses less memory than the full live session. Ubuntu Desktop System Requirements for 12.04 LTS What's with all the aPtitude? As much as I love aptitude, I'm quite annoyed by the time it takes for source repositories to list packages as "stable".  I understand that this has nothing to do with the package manager itself and that the Ubuntu version carries more of the blame, even so, I wanted to simply apt-get install mono-complete, I would be stuck with mono 2.4.  Since I wanted to use   some newer functionality, I had some planning to do.  The overall process went a little something like this; Find a bash script that compiles all of the mono packages that I needed to get the job done. Execute the script and watch some T.V while I waited for the massive compile to complete. Move the Apache mono module configuration into the "available modules" folder to enable mod-mono under Apache. I needed to create an Apache virtual host configuration file with the mod-mono specific settings that are required. I had to prepare my file system to serve my ASP.NET applications (c:\inetpub\wwwroot\ for all you Windows natives). I needed to provide a simple solution to publish ASP.NET applications from Visual Studio on my Windows 7 machine to my Ubuntu web server. Finally I needed to restart apache2, publish a web application and test the fruits of my labor. BASHing mono into shape As I stated before, I wasn't going to apt-get install my way into the wonderful world of mono with all of the specific details that my target installation required.  Luckily, I found this post  in which someone created a BASH script that would download all of the specific packages and compile the sources to produce the exact environment that I was after.  I'm sure  if I had used a modern PC it wouldn't have taken so long, never the less, the compilation was quite a time consuming task indeed!  The script was authored very well in that if there was an error detected, the script would break execution to make it easier for you to find what went wrong.  Fortunately, my compilation completed without a hitch!   Enabling mod_mono in Apache The BASH script had installed created the mod_mono.conf configuration file but I had to find it and copy it to the enabled modules directory so that Apache would recognize it. Here is the command that I executed from a terminal to copy the file to the proper location sudo cp mod_mono.conf /etc/apache2/mods-enabled Of course I had to find the configuration file before I could copy it sudo find -name mod_mono.conf With the configuration file in place, I restarted Apache to make sure all was well sudo service apache2 restart The service restarted successfully so I felt OK with what had been done so far. Creating the mono virtual host configuration file There is a webiste that will require you to fill in some input fields and click a button to generate this file the virtual host configuration with mono specific settings.  I merely had to modify one line of the file. The website is I simply used localhost as my server name and it generated the physical path of /srv/www/localhost. I used nano to edit the file and I modified the MonoDirectory line to point to the correct path of my mono_server4 binary's path which I was able to search and find to be /opt/mono-2.10/bin . Creating wwwroot, or /svr/www ... It was now time to prepare my file system to setup a home for my site hosting.  This basically involved creating some folders, setting permissions and creating an alias link or two. Create the directories sudo mkdir /srv/www sudo mkdir /srv/www/localhost Assign a root group to the folder sudo chown root:www-data /srv/www/localhost -R Change the directory attributes sudo chmod 775 /srv/www/localhost -R I then moved the virtual host site generated file to the appropriate path mv ~/Desktop/localhost.conf /etc/apache2/sites-available I then created a symbol link so I could refer to the vhost configuration file with leading zeros (Apache loads the configurations alphabetically). sudo ln -s ../sites-available/localhost.conf "000-localhost.conf" I restarted Apache, fired up firefox, browsed http://localhost and that's all it took...  I hope you enjoyed reading this article and I hope this helps someone configure ASP.NET MVC under Apache on Ubuntu using mono.  Until next time.. ~/Buddy James   kick it on  

About the author

My name is Buddy James.  I'm a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer from the Nashville, TN area.  I'm a Software Engineer, an author, a blogger (, a mentor, a thought leader, a technologist, a data scientist, and a husband.  I enjoy working with design patterns, data mining, c#, WPF, Silverlight, WinRT, XAML, ASP.NET, python, CouchDB, RavenDB, Hadoop, Android(MonoDroid), iOS (MonoTouch), and Machine Learning. I love technology and I love to develop software, collect data, analyze the data, and learn from the data.  When I'm not coding,  I'm determined to make a difference in the world by using data and machine learning techniques. (follow me at @budbjames).  

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