Validate input in Xamarin.Forms using INotifyDataErrorInfo, custom Behaviors, Effects and Prism

This post is also available in the Premier Developer blog.

I have recently been investigating the support available in Xamarin.Forms for validation and, in particular, researched the possibility of using INotifyDataErrorInfo to complement the traditional approach of using Behaviors.

In simple scenarios, it’s possible to perform validation by simply attaching a Behavior to the required view, as shown by the following sample code:

In this case, we are validating the input and modifying the UI if the number of characters entered is less than 5.

What about more articulated scenarios when multiple business rules are required to be checked for the input values?

In these cases, we could take advantage of other types available to make our code more structured and extensible:

  • INotifyDataErrorInfo: available in Xamarin.Forms. When implemented it permits specifying custom validation supporting multiple errors per property, cross-property errors and entity-level errors;
  • DataAnnotations decorate the data models using attributes which specify validation conditions to be applied to the specific field;
  • Forms Behaviors specify the specific UI to be applied to the specific validation scenarios, integrating with INotifyDataErrorInfo and DataAnnotations.

To start exploring this approach, I created a new Xamarin.Forms Prism solution using the Prism Template Pack which generated the following project structure:

Then, I added the following new model to be validated using DataAnnotations and INotifyDataErrorInfo:

The model uses attributes declared in the SystemComponentModel.DataAnnotations namespace which can be referenced in the solution modifying the Portable Class Library profile of the UsingValidation common project:

Quick tip: to be able to change the PCL profile I had to remove all the NuGet packages used by the common project, remove the Windows Phone 8 profile and then add back all the removed NuGet packages to the UsingValidation PCL.

To use the capability offered by INotifyDataErrorInfo, the model needs to implements 3 members defined in the interface:

  • GetErrors() returns an IEnumerable sequence of strings containing the error messages triggered by validation;
  • the HasErrors property returns a boolean value indicating if there are validation errors;
  • ErrorsChanged event can be triggered to Notify if the validation errors have been updated.

This interface is quite flexible and is designed to be customised depending on the different scenarios needed: I took as a starting point this implementation available on GitHub and modified it accordingly: I decided to separate the implementation of INotifyDataErrorInfo in a different base class called ValidationBase which contains the following code using a Dictionary<string, List<string>> needed for storing the generated validation errors:

The validation is performed by this method which evaluates the DataAnnotations decorating the model using the Validator available in the System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations namespace and then stores the error messages in the dictionary:

At this stage, I needed a solution for linking the UI to the model, and modifying the visuals depending on the presence or not of validation errors.

The ViewModel for the sample page, contains only a property storing an instance of the item defined in the model:

Then, the corresponding XAML contains two Entry views used for input and a ListView used for showing the validation errors:

The sample page uses a Behavior called EntryValidationBehavior which take care of changing the colour of the Entry background views in the case validation errors are present:

The UI is also fine-tuned using a Xamarin.Forms effect applied only to the UWP platform, in order to change the colour of the Entry border when validation errors occur:

And this is the result when the application is executed on Android and UWP:

Conclusions

Xamarin.Forms provides a rich set of features for implementing validation: the usage of INotifyDataErrorInfo, Data Annotations, Behaviors and Effects permit the handling of complex scenarios including multiple conditions per field, cross-property validation, entity-level validation and custom UI depending on the platform.

The source code of the sample demo is available for download on GitHub here.

Happy coding!

Using Prism modularization in Xamarin.Forms

Recently, Prism for Xamarin.Forms 6.2.0 has been released with many notable improvements including a new bootstrapping process, AutoWireViewModel behaviour changes, deep-linking support,  modularity and Prism template pack enhancements (full release notes available here).

Today, I fired up Visual Studio to have a play with this new version and decided to try the Xamarin.Forms support for Prism Modules: this is a very useful feature which allows to separate clearly the various parts of the application and improve quality, extensibility and readability of the code.

After downloading the new template pack, I created a new solution selecting New Project => Templates => Visual C# => Prism => Forms => Prism Unity App:

PrismTemplatePack

The new wizard is very useful and permits to select the platforms to target in the project: I selected Android, iOS and UWP and the project was generated targeting the three platforms with a shared PCL. NuGet packages were already updated to the latest version so no need for further actions.

While exploring the new project structure and the new modularization stuff, I decided to create a new Xamarin.Forms portable class library containing a module with a single View/ViewModel (SamplePage SamplePageViewModel) visualised when a user interacts with a button on the home page.

The new module required the definition of the following class implementing the Prism IModule interface:

To keep the logic separated from the rest of the app, I decided to register the navigation type for SamplePage inside the Initialize() method of the module which will be triggered when the module loads.

I also applied Xamarin.Forms XAML compilation to the module to improve performance, which is always great to have 😉

It’s worth noting that in this new Prism release the default value for the attached property ViewModelLocator.AutowireViewModel is set to true, so we can omit it and the framework will automatically associate SampleViewModel as the BindingContext for the view:

I then explored the new breaking changes for the bootstrapping process: the application class now needs to inherit from the PrismApplication class and two new virtual methods OnInitialized() and RegisterTypes() permit respectively to specify the implementation for navigating to the home page and registering the known types / ViewModel’s for navigation:

The third overridden method, ConfigureModuleCatalog(), informs the app to initialize the catalog with the module we created previously and set the initialization mode to OnDemand which means the module is not activated when the application starts, but it must load explicitly. This feature is particularly useful in cases in which some functionalities of the app must initialise after some other requirements like, for instance, successful authentication or applications extended via modules.

The sample view was in place, so I proceeded with the implementation of the HomePage: I wrapped the existing one in a NavigationPage to allow the correct back stack and then created two commands for initializing the module and navigating to the SamplePage defined previously:

and the corresponding ViewModel:

The module is initialized by injecting the Prism ModuleManager and then calling the LoadModule() method:

The navigation to the page defined in the module is performed by:

The property IsSampleModuleRegistered permitted to control the CanExecute() for the button commands using this nice fluent syntax using ObservesProperty(()=>….) available in Prism:

Here we go: I found the Prism implementation in this new version very stable and working well with Xamarin.Forms. The modularization capabilities are useful to write clean, maintainable and extensible apps.

The source code is available for download as part of the official Prism samples on GitHub.

Looking forward to exploring all the other capabilities available in Prism and Xamarin.Forms. Happy coding!

Xamarin.Forms: sharing resources in XAML using Styles

Previously, I’ve blogged about creating a custom Behavior in Xamarin.Forms. The sample published on GitHub initially used the default template available in Visual Studio which instantiates the Application singleton from C# using the following App class:

This is a great approach, however very often it is useful to define common resources in XAML and reuse them across the application using Styles.

To achieve this, It’s possible to transform the App class in a partial one and add a new App.xaml source file containing a resource dictionary to be shared:

In this code, I’ve defined a new resource with a specific Padding to be applied only on iOS via the OnPlatform class, and an explicit style named PageStyle targeting ContentPage types.

The modified code behind is now taking care of parsing/loading the XAML (via the InitializeComponent() call) and then creates an instance of SamplePage:

The page can now consume the new style specifying Style=”{StaticResource PageStyle}” (dynamic resources are also supported):

This is a basic example of using styles in Xamarin.Forms: a complete coverage of the various options is available on the Xamarin official documentation.

The source code is available for download here.

Xamarin.Forms: using the PanGestureRecognizer

Recently I’ve blogged about Xamarin.Forms and how to create a XAML Behavior for enabling Multi-Touch gestures to generic elements and implementing a scale / pinch functionality.

Fortunately the framework provides three types of recognizer that greatly simplify the implementation:

  • PinchGestureRecognizer allows user interactions for zoom / scale functionalities;
  • PanGestureRecognizer enables pan / translate transformations;
  • TapGestureRecognizer detects tap events.

Yesterday I decided to try the PanGestureRecognizer for extending the capabilities of the Behavior described in the previous post.

First of all, I added two Bindable properties in order to permit activation / deactivation of individual gestures (Bindable properties are equivalent to Dependency ones in UWP XAML)

In this way we can specify in our XAML what gestures are enabled:

Then I initialised the GestureRecognizers adding a new PanGestureRecognizer to the recognizers list:

And subscribed to the PanUpdated event in order to apply the translate transform:

The implementation of this event handler permits to update the X and Y coordinates of the element when a Pan gesture is detected:

Here we go: the sample app can now be deployed to the emulators and iOS / Android / Windows devices.

Just a couple of notes:

  • deployment to iOS required this workaround to work properly since the new sample app uses different assemblies;
  • Tap gestures on Android requires Xamarin.Forms – minimum version v2.1.0.6501-pre1 as pointed by the official documentation.

As usual, the latest source code is available for download on GitHub.

Having fun with Xamarin.Forms and Multi-Touch Behaviors

Recently Xamarin has released preview support for the Universal Windows Platform in their Xamarin.Forms framework so I have been playing around with version 2.0 for testing its features and verify how easy is to target multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Windows 10 UWP, Windows Phone, Windows 8.1) with a single codebase.

One of the experiments I have done is related to custom multi-touch gestures: the idea to use a XAML Behavior is a common scenario to write well structured code so I started creating a new Cross-Platform Xamarin.Forms Portable project and upgraded the NuGet packages to the latest stable version of the framework (currently v2.0.1.6505).

I have then read the official documentation and analysed the samples available on GitHub: a very good example is the PinchGesture one so, starting from it, I created a new MultiTouchBehavior implementing this gesture and attached the same Behavior to an Image object added to a sample ContentPage, as described below in this lovely cross-platform XAML 🙂

The BindingContext=”{Binding}” is used to trigger the BindingContextChanged event and initialise correctly the GestureRecognizers  for the parent object since the AssociatedObject.Parent is set to null when the Behavior.OnAttachedTo() is called (I suppose that the XAML tree is not yet completely created when the behavior is attached in Xamarin.Forms):

Here is the project deployed to the Android, iOS and Windows 10 emulators:

MultiTouch_Android_Emulator   Simulator Screen Shot 14 Feb 2016, 18.25.00   MultiTouch_Windows10_Emulator

I’ve been particularly impressed by Xamarin.Forms: the possibility to target so many platforms using the same code is a killer feature and the development environment is also very comfortable to use.

The sample code used in this post is available on GitHub, I’m planning to add more functionalities in the future with particular regard to other common multi-touch gestures using Xamarin.Forms and XAML.

Cordova Windows Store apps and certificate expired error

I was updating TypedMVVM to the latest Visual Studio 2013 Update 4 and Cordova tools (using the new free Community Edition) and trying to deploy the sample to the Windows 8 emulator when I received the following

error APPX0108: The certificate specified has expired

As pointed here by Microsoft Open Technologies, the certificate available in the Visual Studio template has just expired and is not possible to deploy Windows Store apps using the old one.

To solve this problem I’ve then downloaded from here the updated certificate and copied to the following location inside the Visual Studio project:

res/native/windows/CordovaApp_TemporaryKey.pfx

The updated code is available for download on CodePlex.

TypedMVVM: Samples updated for Apache Cordova

I’ve recently installed the Multi-Device Hybrid Apps template on Visual Studio in order to try out the development of native mobile applications (targeting Android, iOS, Windows Store and Windows Phone) using HTML, CSS and JavaScript using the Apache Cordova framework.

As a first example, I decided to reuse all the TypeScript code available in my library TypedMVVM available on CodePlex.

The process was very simple and didn’t take long: I was able to quickly create a basic “Hello World” application successfully deployed on the Ripple – Nexus 7 Android emulator

TypedMVVM_Cordova

As usual, the updated code is available for download on Codeplex.