Managing Nested GridView Controls

Because propagating events up through two, three, or more layers of nested grids and controls can be challenging, I receive a lot of email about nested grids. In response, I have devised an easy way to manage complex ASP.NET presentations using a consistent, reliable approach and the observer pattern. This article demonstrates my approach.

You'll see the plumbing of a nested presentation layer, including getting data in downstream, publishing changes to the page upstream using the publish-subscribe form of the observer pattern, and using nested controls. (Read a step-by-step walkthrough of creating a nested GridView control.) Whereas delegates/events in .NET are an implementation of the observer pattern that you can daisy chain through multiple layers of nested controls, the approach in this article bypasses that approach and implements a single publisher. All events are sent to the publisher, which forwards the events to the subscriber. This approach works in theory and in practice.

Get Up to Speed

My previous article showed you how to add a page with a GridView. In the grid view, it showed how to create a template column, drop a user control in it, and place a nested GridView on that user control. As far as the mechanics of nesting controls go, you can repeat this process as often as you'd like. The only caveat is that after three or four levels of nesting, the amount of data coming back from the server may make the page respond very slowly.

Adding the Plumbing to Nested Controls

The first half of this article presents a step-by-step walkthrough of designing the nested presentation layer. To manage nested controls, you need to push data to the downstream, nested controls and get events and data back to the main page. The reason for this is the page itself usually manages session state and has the business objects.

Tip: If you are using the InProc session state, you can modify data in session from anywhere in the control hierarchy because the InProc server uses pointers. However, once you switch to an out-of-process server, your business objects are serialized and desterilized, and an object in session in a user control will not point to the same address as a cached object in another control. That is, out-of-process session does not maintain addresses—it can't.

It also is harder to reuse user controls if a specific object is grabbed from session at the user control level rather than passed down from a single object source.

This technique assumes that the business object is created and managed (in session) at the Page level, and that subordinate—or detail objects—are passed down to the nested controls using a public property. To summarize how the plumbing is assembled, you need to:

  1. Add a public property on every user control. This property represents the detail data you will be passing to the nested user control.
  2. You will need a binding statement to get the business object assigned to each nested user control instance created by each row of the GridView.
  3. You will need to implement the publisher and subscriber interfaces. The publisher is a stand-alone object and the subscriber is the Page itself.
  4. All nested controls will send all their events to the singleton instance of the publisher, which in turn will forward all events to one location, the Page.

Adding a Public Property on the User Control

Getting data to nested controls is easy. You need to declare a public property on the User Control. I use an object data type for the property. This approach permits me to reuse controls for different literal data types with similar kinds of data. It also eliminates the need for importing my business assembly references into the ASP.NET page.

Continuing where my previous article left off (with the custom business objects Customer and Order, each Customer contained a generic list of order objects; the main page contained a GridView with the Customer; and the nested GridView showed each of the Order objects for the Customer), you need a property that will ultimately represent the Customer Orders. Listing 1 demonstrates the user control with the property representing the orders.

Listing 1: The Elided OrdersControl with the Public Property Used to Bind the List (of Orders)

Partial Class OrdersControl
   Inherits System.Web.UI.UserControl

   Protected Sub Page_Load(ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load

   End Sub

   Public WriteOnly Property Data() As Object
      Set(ByVal value As Object)
         If (TypeOf value Is Customer) Then
            GridView1.DataSource = CType(value, Customer).MyOrders
            GridView1.DataBind()
         End If
      End Set
   End Property

Binding the Detail Data to the User Control

The next step is to tell the main page—or the parent control, if you are nested more than two levels deep—that data needs to be pushed to children (see Listing 2). The very simple binding statement is shown in bold as an assignment to the OrdersControl's public Data property using block script.

Listing 2: Binding the Child/Detail Data to the User Control

<%@ Page Language="VB" AutoEventWireup="false"
         CodeFile="Default.aspx.vb" Inherits="_Default" %>

<%@ Register Src="Orders.ascx" TagName="Orders" TagPrefix="uc2" %>

<%@ Register Src="OrdersControl.ascx"
             TagName="OrdersControl" TagPrefix="uc1" %>

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"
   "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" >
<head runat="server">
   <title>Untitled Page</title>
</head>
<body>
   <form id="form1" runat="server">
   <div>
      <asp:GridView ID="GridView1" runat="server" Height="191px"
                    Width="325px" AutoGenerateColumns="False">
         <Columns>
            <asp:BoundField DataField="CustomerID"
                            HeaderText="Customer ID">
               <ItemStyle VerticalAlign="Top" />
               <HeaderStyle Wrap="False" />
            </asp:BoundField>
            <asp:BoundField DataField="CompanyName"
                            HeaderText="Company Name">
               <ItemStyle VerticalAlign="Top" />
               <HeaderStyle Wrap="False" />
            </asp:BoundField>
            <asp:BoundField DataField="ContactName"
                            HeaderText="Contact Name">
               <ItemStyle VerticalAlign="Top" />
               <HeaderStyle Wrap="False" />
            </asp:BoundField>
            <asp:TemplateField HeaderText="Order Shipping Details">
               <EditItemTemplate>
                   
               </EditItemTemplate>
               <ItemTemplate>
                  <!-- Here is the ASP with the binding statement -->
                  <uc1:OrdersControl ID="OrdersControl1"
                     runat="server" Data='<%# Container.DataItem %>'/>
               </ItemTemplate>
               <ItemStyle VerticalAlign="Top" />
               <HeaderStyle Wrap="False" />
            </asp:TemplateField>
         </Columns>
      </asp:GridView>

   </div>
   </form>
</body>
</html>

When the page in Listing 2 is rendered, each nested user control/GridView created for each row of the main GridView will be sent an instance of its Customer object. From the Customer object (refer to Listing 1), you have access to the List(Of Orders) named MyOrders.

Implementing IPublish and ISubscribe

You must define the publisher interface to indicate the events to which want to subscribe. These can be any variety. The key is to publish events for data that will change. Consequently, you need a delegate type and event arguments to contain the data. The publisher also needs to manage broadcasting the events to any subscriber listening. The subscriber is simply defined to get an instance of the publisher. When the subscriber is handed an instance of the publisher, it must bind to the published events.

To keep things manageable, the sample program for this article permits changing postal codes only. As such, you need to publish postal code changes and the main page needs to subscribe to those events. Listing 3 contains the definition of a suitable event argument class.

Listing 3: The definition of the Event Args Class

Public Class ChangeEventArgs

   Private _fieldName As String
   Private _parentID  As Object    REM Identify the object's parent
   Private _childID   As Object    REM Identify the object
   Private _value     As Object

   Public Sub New(ByVal FieldName As String, _
                  ByVal Value As Object, ByVal parentID As Object, _
                  ByVal childID As Object)

      _fieldName = FieldName
      _value     = Value
      _parentID  = parentID
      _childID   = ChildID
   End Sub

   Public ReadOnly Property ParentID() As Object
      Get
         Return _parentID
      End Get
   End Property

   Public ReadOnly Property ChildID() As Object
      Get
         Return _childID
      End Get
   End Property

   Public ReadOnly Property FieldName() As String
      Get
         Return _fieldName
      End Get
   End Property

   Public ReadOnly Property Value() As Object
      Get
         Return _value
      End Get
   End Property

End Class

The identifiers are used to ensure that you can access the correct business object at the page level. The field name and value properties contain the data that has changed.

Listing 4 defines a delegate that receives an instance of that argument type.

Listing 4: The definition of an event handler (delegate) that accepts ChangeEventArgs objects.

Public Delegate Sub OnFieldChangedEvent( _
   ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As ChangeEventArgs)

Listing 5 shows the publisher interface, which only needs to publish events that will be available to subscribers.

Listing 5: The IPublisher Interface

Public Interface IPublisher
   Event PostalCodeFieldChangedEvent As OnFieldChangedEvent
   REM Other events for any other fields that need syncronization
End Interface

Listing 6 shows the subscriber interface, which only needs to know when it can subscribe and when it should unsubscribe.

Listing 6: The ISubscriber Interface

Public Interface ISubscriber
   Sub Subscribe(ByVal publisher As IPublisher)
   Sub Unsubscribe(ByVal publisher As IPublisher)
End Interface

Subscription happens when the page is loaded and un-subscribing happens when the page is unloaded.

Managing Nested GridView Controls

If you are new to .NET, Listings 7, 8, and 9 present the Customer, Order, and data-access classes, respectively.

Listing 7: The Customer Class

Imports Microsoft.VisualBasic
Imports System.Collections.Generic


' This code was coded using coderush
Public Class Customer

   Private _myOrders As List(Of _Order) = New List(Of _Order)
   Public Property MyOrders() As List(Of _Order)

      Get
         Return _myOrders
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As List(Of _Order))
         _myOrders = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _customerID As String
   Public Property CustomerID() As String
      Get
         Return _customerID
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _customerID = Value
      End Set
   End Property


   Private _companyName As String
   Public Property CompanyName() As String
      Get
         Return _companyName
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _companyName = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _contactName As String
   Public Property ContactName() As String
      Get
         Return _contactName
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _contactName = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _contactTitle As String
   Public Property ContactTitle() As String
      Get
         Return _contactTitle
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _contactTitle = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _address As String
   Public Property Address() As String
      Get
         Return _address
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _address = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _city As String
   Public Property City() As String
      Get
         Return _city
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _city = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _region As String
   Public Property Region() As String
      Get
         Return _region
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _region = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _postalCode As String
   Public Property PostalCode() As String
      Get
         Return _postalCode
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _postalCode = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _country As String
   Public Property Country() As String
      Get
         Return _country
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _country = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _phone As String
   Public Property Phone() As String
      Get
         Return _phone
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _phone = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _fax As String
   Public Property Fax() As String
      Get
         Return _fax
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _fax = Value
      End Set
   End Property

End Class

Listing 8: The Implementation of the Order Class

Public Class _Order
   Private _orderID As Nullable(Of Integer)
   Public Property OrderID() As Nullable(Of Integer)
      Get
         Return _orderID
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As Nullable(Of Integer))
         _orderID = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _customerID As String
   Public Property CustomerID() As String
      Get
         Return _customerID
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _customerID = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _employeeID As Nullable(Of Integer)
   Public Property EmployeeID() As Nullable(Of Integer)
      Get
         Return _employeeID
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As Nullable(Of Integer))
         _employeeID = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _orderDate As Nullable(Of DateTime)
   Public Property OrderDate() As Nullable(Of DateTime)
      Get
         Return _orderDate
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As Nullable(Of DateTime))
         _orderDate = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _requiredDate As Nullable(Of DateTime)
   Public Property RequiredDate() As Nullable(Of DateTime)
      Get
         Return _requiredDate
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As Nullable(Of DateTime))
         _requiredDate = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shippedDate As Nullable(Of DateTime)
   Public Property ShippedDate() As Nullable(Of DateTime)
      Get
         Return _shippedDate
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As Nullable(Of DateTime))
         _shippedDate = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shipVia As Nullable(Of Integer)
   Public Property ShipVia() As Nullable(Of Integer)
      Get
         Return _shipVia
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As Nullable(Of Integer))
         _shipVia = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _freight As Nullable(Of Decimal)
   Public Property Freight() As Nullable(Of Decimal)
      Get
         Return _freight
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As Nullable(Of Decimal))
         _freight = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shipName As String
   Public Property ShipName() As String
      Get
         Return _shipName
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _shipName = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shipAddress As String
   Public Property ShipAddress() As String
      Get
         Return _shipAddress
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _shipAddress = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shipCity As String
   Public Property ShipCity() As String
      Get
         Return _shipCity
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _shipCity = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shipRegion As String
   Public Property ShipRegion() As String
      Get
         Return _shipRegion
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _shipRegion = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shipPostalCode As String
   Public Property ShipPostalCode() As String
      Get
         Return _shipPostalCode
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _shipPostalCode = Value
      End Set
   End Property

   Private _shipCountry As String
   Public Property ShipCountry() As String
      Get
         Return _shipCountry
      End Get
      Set(ByVal Value As String)
         _shipCountry = Value
      End Set
   End Property
End Class

Managing Nested GridView Controls

The new nullable types are used for value type objects to permit assigning a null value to them without throwing an exception. Microsoft uses this technique when you use generated typed DataSet objects too. Nullable types can be assigned Nothing and work fine between nullable and non-nullable value types. You don't need to make string-types nullable because they are reference types and thus already nullable.

Listing 9: The Custom Data Access Class

Imports Microsoft.VisualBasic
Imports System.Collections.Generic
Imports System.Data
Imports System.Data.SqlClient


Public Class Data

   Private Const connectionString As String = _
      "Password=test;Persist Security Info=True;User ID=dummy;" + _
      "Initial Catalog=Northwind;Data Source=localhost;"

   Public Shared Function GetCustomerList() As List(Of Customer)
      Dim customers As List(Of Customer) = GetCustomer()
      Dim orders As List(Of _Order) = GetOrder()

      Dim c As Customer
      Dim o As _Order

      For Each c In customers
         For Each o In orders
            If (c.CustomerID = o.CustomerID) Then
               c.MyOrders.Add(o)
            End If
         Next
      Next

      Return customers
   End Function

   Private Shared Function GetCustomer() As List(Of Customer)
      Using connection As SqlConnection = _
         New SqlConnection(connectionString)
         connection.Open()
         Dim command As SqlCommand = _
            New SqlCommand("SELECT * FROM Customers", connection)
         Dim reader As SqlDataReader = command.ExecuteReader()

         Dim customers As List(Of Customer) = New List(Of Customer)

         While (reader.Read())
            Dim customer As Customer = New Customer

            customer.Address      = HandleDBNull(reader("Address"))
            customer.City         = HandleDBNull(reader("City"))
            customer.CompanyName  = HandleDBNull(reader("CompanyName"))
            customer.ContactName  = HandleDBNull(reader("ContactName"))
            customer.ContactTitle = HandleDBNull(reader("ContactTitle"))
            customer.Country      = HandleDBNull(reader("Country"))
            customer.CustomerID   = HandleDBNull(reader("CustomerID"))
            customer.Fax          = HandleDBNull(reader("Fax"))
            customer.Phone        = HandleDBNull(reader("Phone"))
            customer.PostalCode   = HandleDBNull(reader("PostalCode"))
            customer.Region       = HandleDBNull(reader("Region"))

            customers.Add(customer)
         End While

         Return customers

      End Using
   End Function

   Private Shared Function HandleDBNull(ByVal o As Object)

      If (o Is System.DBNull.Value) Then
         Return Nothing
      Else
         Return o
      End If

   End Function


   Private Shared Function GetOrder() As List(Of _Order)
      Using connection As SqlConnection = _
         New SqlConnection(connectionString)
         connection.Open()
         Dim command As SqlCommand = New SqlCommand( _
            "SELECT * FROM Orders Order BY CustomerID", connection)
         Dim reader As SqlDataReader = command.ExecuteReader()

         Dim orders As List(Of _Order) = New List(Of _Order)

         While (reader.Read())
            Dim o As _Order  = New _Order()
            o.CustomerID     = HandleDBNull(reader("CustomerID"))
            o.EmployeeID     = HandleDBNull(reader("EmployeeID"))
            o.Freight        = HandleDBNull(reader("Freight"))
            o.OrderDate      = HandleDBNull(reader("OrderDate"))
            o.OrderID        = HandleDBNull(reader("OrderID"))
            o.RequiredDate   = HandleDBNull(reader("RequiredDate"))
            o.ShipAddress    = HandleDBNull(reader("ShipAddress"))
            o.ShipCity       = HandleDBNull(reader("ShipCity"))
            o.ShipCountry    = HandleDBNull(reader("ShipCountry"))
            o.ShipName       = HandleDBNull(reader("ShipName"))
            o.ShippedDate    = HandleDBNull(reader("ShippedDate"))
            o.ShipPostalCode = HandleDBNull(reader("ShipPostalCode"))
            o.ShipRegion     = HandleDBNull(reader("ShipRegion"))
            o.ShipVia        = HandleDBNull(reader("ShipVia"))
            orders.Add(o)
         End While

         Return orders
      End Using
   End Function

End Class
Tip: For the custom data-access class in a production system, you would move the connection string to the web.config file and encrypt it. That technique is fodder for another article.

Building the Publisher

Now you know what a publisher should look like to subscribers. However, you need additional plumbing. You need methods to permit downstream nested controls to send events, and you need code to publish those events to subscribers. Listing 10 contains the implementation of the publisher (I named Broadcaster by personal convention).

Listing 10: An Implementation of IPublisher

Public Class Broadcaster
   Implements IPublisher

   Private Const KEY As String = "BROADCASTER"

   Public Shared Function GetBroadcaster( _
      ByVal session As HttpSessionState) As Broadcaster

      If (session Is Nothing) Then Return Nothing

      If (session(KEY) Is Nothing) Then
         session(KEY) = New Broadcaster
      End If

      Return CType(session(KEY), Broadcaster)
   End Function

   Public Shared Sub PostalCodeFieldChanged( _
      ByVal session As HttpSessionState, ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As ChangeEventArgs)

      If (session Is Nothing) Then Return

      Dim instance As Broadcaster = GetBroadcaster(session)
      If (instance Is Nothing = False) Then
         instance.PostalCodeFieldChanged(sender, e)
      End If

   End Sub

   Private Sub PostalCodeFieldChanged( _
      ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As ChangeEventArgs)
      RaiseEvent PostalCodeFieldChangedEvent(sender, e)
   End Sub


   Public Shared Sub Subscribe(ByVal session As HttpSessionState, _
      ByVal subscriber As ISubscriber)

      subscriber.Subscribe(GetBroadcaster(session))

   End Sub

   Public Shared Sub Unscubscribe(ByVal Session As HttpSessionState, _
      ByVal subscriber As ISubscriber)

      subscriber.Unsubscribe(GetBroadcaster(Session))

   End Sub

   Public Event PostalCodeFieldChangedEvent( _
      ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As ChangeEventArgs) _
      Implements IPublisher.PostalCodeFieldChangedEvent
End Class

The code in bold implements IPublisher. This code literally just re-raises the event to anything that might be listening. Generally, the listener is the main page, as previously mentioned.

Because you need only one publisher, shared methods are defined to get a single Broadcaster/IPublisher instance from session. To receive these published events, the main page will subscribe and unsubscribe as need be.

Implementing the Subscriber

The subscriber is the main Page itself. To create the subscriber, all you need to do is implement ISubscriber in the Page and write the calls to Broadcaster.Subscribe and Broadcaster.Unsubscribe. Listing 11 shows the implementation of the main page representing the subscriber.

Listing 11: The Page Containing All of the Nested Controls Implements ISubscriber

Imports System.Collections.Generic

Partial Class _Default
   Inherits System.Web.UI.Page
   Implements ISubscriber

   Private customers As List(Of Customer)
   Private KEY As String = "Customers"

   Protected Sub Page_Load(ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load

      Broadcaster.Subscribe(Session, Me)

      If (IsPostBack = False) Then
         customers = Data.GetCustomerList
         GridView1.DataSource = customers
         GridView1.DataBind()
      Else
         customers = CType(Session(KEY), List(Of Customer))
      End If

   End Sub

   Protected Sub Page_Unload(ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Unload

         Broadcaster.Unscubscribe(Session, Me)

   End Sub

   Public Sub OnPostalCodeFieldChangedEvent( _
      ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As ChangeEventArgs)

      REM Update the data here


   End Sub

   Public Sub Subscribe(ByVal publisher As IPublisher) _
      Implements ISubscriber.Subscribe

      AddHandler publisher.PostalCodeFieldChangedEvent, _
         AddressOf OnPostalCodeFieldChangedEvent

   End Sub

   Public Sub Unsubscribe(ByVal publisher As IPublisher) _
      Implements ISubscriber.Unsubscribe

      RemoveHandler publisher.PostalCodeFieldChangedEvent, _
         AddressOf OnPostalCodeFieldChangedEvent
   End Sub


End Class

The code in bold coordinates "listening" to published events from anywhere in the nested control hierarchy via the broadcaster. You unsubscribe because delegates are multicast in .NET and if you repeatedly subscribe without unsubscribing you will get multiple event calls for the same event; you need only one.

Listing 12 shows the downline nested user control. The user control responds to events in its area of concern and forwards those to the publisher: your broadcaster object. This part of the process is shown in bold.

Listing 12: The OrdersControl Forwards its Events to the Broadcaster

Imports System.Collections.Generic


Partial Class OrdersControl
      Inherits System.Web.UI.UserControl

   Protected Sub Page_Load(ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load

   End Sub

   Public WriteOnly Property Data() As Object
      Set(ByVal value As Object)
         If (TypeOf value Is Customer) Then
            GridView1.DataSource = CType(value, Customer).MyOrders
            GridView1.DataBind()
         End If
      End Set
   End Property

   Protected Sub TextBox2_TextChanged(ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As System.EventArgs)

      Broadcaster.PostalCodeFieldChanged(Session, sender, _
         New ChangeEventArgs("ShipPostalCode", _
         CType(sender, TextBox).Text, GetParentID(sender), _
            GetChildID(sender)))
   End Sub

   Private Function GetChildID(ByVal sender As Object) As Object
      Try
         Return CType(sender.Parent.Parent.Cells(1), _
            DataControlFieldCell).Text
      Catch ex As Exception
         Return Nothing
      End Try
   End Function

   Private Function GetParentID(ByVal sender As Object) As Object
      Try
         Return CType(sender.Parent.Parent.Cells(0), _
                      DataControlFieldCell).Text
      Catch ex As Exception
         Return Nothing
      End Try
   End Function

End Class
Imports System.Collections.Generic


Partial Class OrdersControl
      Inherits System.Web.UI.UserControl

   Protected Sub Page_Load(ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load

   End Sub

   Public WriteOnly Property Data() As Object
      Set(ByVal value As Object)
         If (TypeOf value Is Customer) Then
            GridView1.DataSource = CType(value, Customer).MyOrders
            GridView1.DataBind()
         End If
      End Set
   End Property

   Protected Sub TextBox2_TextChanged(ByVal sender As Object, _
      ByVal e As System.EventArgs)

      Broadcaster.PostalCodeFieldChanged(Session, sender, _
         New ChangeEventArgs("ShipPostalCode", _
         CType(sender, TextBox).Text, GetParentID(sender), _
            GetChildID(sender)))
   End Sub

   Private Function GetChildID(ByVal sender As Object) As Object
      Try
         Return CType(sender.Parent.Parent.Cells(1), _
            DataControlFieldCell).Text
      Catch ex As Exception
         Return Nothing
      End Try
   End Function

   Private Function GetParentID(ByVal sender As Object) As Object
      Try
         Return CType(sender.Parent.Parent.Cells(0), _
            DataControlFieldCell).Text
      Catch ex As Exception
         Return Nothing
      End Try
   End Function

End Class

I am not going to insist that all of this plumbing is easy—nothing worth doing is. But, once you get the hang of patterns and wiring object-oriented code at this level of abstraction, you will find the results very orderly and predictable. It will become increasingly important that all VB programmers master OOP and design patterns.

As Advanced As You Wanna Be

This article demonstrated some pretty advanced techniques, such as the observer behavior pattern, block script, and (I hope you agree) an imaginative way to manage nested controls reliably. You won't need to nest controls and grids all the time, but you may want to sometimes. You can create some very advanced and imaginative user interfaces if you have this technique in your toolbox.

The real benefit is that no matter how complex your presentation layer gets, all you have to do is add more events. All events are raised by each user control, and then they go directly to the broadcaster and from there the main page. For your part, you will have to try the code and step through it a couple of times to get it—especially if interfaces and design patterns are unfamiliar territory.

About the Author

Paul Kimmel is the VB Today columnist for www.codeguru.com and has written several books on object-oriented programming and .NET. Check out his new book UML DeMystified from McGraw-Hill/Osborne. Paul is an architect for Tri-State Hospital Supply Corporation. You may contact him for technology questions at pkimmel@softconcepts.com.

If you are interested in joining or sponsoring a .NET Users Group, check out www.glugnet.org.



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