Scott Hanselman

Adding a Custom Inline Route Constraint in ASP.NET Core 1.0

June 23, '16 Comments [8] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC
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ASP.NET supports both attribute routing as well as centralized routes. That means that you can decorate your Controller Methods with your routes if you like, or you can map routes all in one place.

Here's an attribute route as an example:

[Route("home/about")]
public IActionResult About()
{
//..
}

And here's one that is centralized. This might be in Startup.cs or wherever you collect your routes. Yes, there are better examples, but you get the idea. You can read about the fundamentals of ASP.NET Core Routing in the docs.

routes.MapRoute("about", "home/about",
new { controller = "Home", action = "About" });

A really nice feature of routing in ASP.NET Core is inline route constraints. Useful URLs contain more than just paths, they have identifiers, parameters, etc. As with all user input you want to limit or constrain those inputs. You want to catch any bad input as early on as possible. Ideally the route won't even "fire" if the URL doesn't match.

For example, you can create a route like

files/{filename}.{ext?}

This route matches a filename or an optional extension.

Perhaps you want a dateTime in the URL, you can make a route like:

person/{dob:datetime}

Or perhaps a Regular Expression for a Social Security Number like this (although it's stupid to put a SSN in the URL ;) ):

user/{ssn:regex(d{3}-d{2}-d{4})}

There is a whole table of constraint names you can use to very easily limit your routes. Constraints are more than just types like dateTime or int, you can also do min(value) or range(min, max).

However, the real power and convenience happens with Custom Inline Route Constraints. You can define your own, name them, and reuse them.

Lets say my application has some custom identifier scheme with IDs like:

/product/abc123

/product/xyz456

Here we see three alphanumerics and three numbers. We could create a route like this using a regular expression, of course, or we could create a new class called CustomIdRouteConstraint that encapsulates this logic. Maybe the logic needs to be more complex than a RegEx. Your class can do whatever it needs to.

Because ASP.NET Core is open source, you can read the code for all the included ASP.NET Core Route Constraints on GitHub. Marius Schultz has a great blog post on inline route constraints as well.

Here's how you'd make a quick and easy {customid} constraint and register it. I'm doing the easiest thing by deriving from RegexRouteConstraint, but again, I could choose another base class if I wanted, or do the matching manually.

namespace WebApplicationBasic
{
public class CustomIdRouteConstraint : RegexRouteConstraint
{
public CustomIdRouteConstraint() : base(@"([A-Za-z]{3})([0-9]{3})$")
{
}
}
}

In your ConfigureServices in your Startup.cs you just configure the route options and map a string like "customid" with your new type like CustomIdRouteConstraint.

public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
// Add framework services.
services.AddMvc();
services.Configure<RouteOptions>(options =>
options.ConstraintMap.Add("customid", typeof(CustomIdRouteConstraint)));
}

Once that's done, my app knows about "customid" so I can use it in my Controllers in an inline route like this:

[Route("home/about/{id:customid}")]
public IActionResult About(string customid)
{
// ...
return View();
}

If I request /Home/About/abc123 it matches and I get a page. If I tried /Home/About/999asd I would get a 404! This is ideal because it compartmentalizes the validation. The controller doesn't need to sweat it. If you create an effective route with an effective constraint you can rest assured that the Controller Action method will never get called unless the route matches.

If the route doesn't fire it's a 404

Unit Testing Custom Inline Route Constraints

You can unit test your custom inline route constraints as well. Again, take a look at the source code for how ASP.NET Core tests its own constraints. There is a class called ConstrainsTestHelper that you can borrow/steal.

I make a separate project and setup xUnit and the xUnit runner so I can call "dotnet test."

Here's my tests that include all my "Theory" attributes as I test multiple things using xUnit with a single test. Note we're using Moq to mock the HttpContext.

public class TestProgram
{

[Theory]
[InlineData("abc123", true)]
[InlineData("xyz456", true)]
[InlineData("abcdef", false)]
[InlineData("totallywontwork", false)]
[InlineData("123456", false)]
[InlineData("abc1234", false)]
public void TestMyCustomIDRoute(
string parameterValue,
bool expected)
{
// Arrange
var constraint = new CustomIdRouteConstraint();

// Act
var actual = ConstraintsTestHelper.TestConstraint(constraint, parameterValue);

// Assert
Assert.Equal(expected, actual);
}
}

public class ConstraintsTestHelper
{
public static bool TestConstraint(IRouteConstraint constraint, object value,
Action<IRouter> routeConfig = null)
{
var context = new Mock<HttpContext>();

var route = new RouteCollection();

if (routeConfig != null)
{
routeConfig(route);
}

var parameterName = "fake";
var values = new RouteValueDictionary() { { parameterName, value } };
var routeDirection = RouteDirection.IncomingRequest;
return constraint.Match(context.Object, route, parameterName, values, routeDirection);
}
}

Now note the output as I run "dotnet test". One test with six results. Now I'm successfully testing my custom inline route constraint, as a unit. in isolation.

xUnit.net .NET CLI test runner (64-bit .NET Core win10-x64)
Discovering: CustomIdRouteConstraint.Test
Discovered: CustomIdRouteConstraint.Test
Starting: CustomIdRouteConstraint.Test
Finished: CustomIdRouteConstraint.Test
=== TEST EXECUTION SUMMARY ===
CustomIdRouteConstraint.Test Total: 6, Errors: 0, Failed: 0, Skipped: 0, Time: 0.328s

Lots of fun!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Using Redis as a Service in Azure to speed up ASP.NET applications

November 6, '15 Comments [18] Posted in ASP.NET MVC | Azure
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Microsoft Azure has a Redis Cache as a Service. There's two tiers. Basic is a single cache node, and Standard is as a complete replicated Cache (two nodes, with automatic failover). Microsoft manages automatic replication between the two nodes, and offers a high-availability SLA. The Premium tier can use up to a half-terabyte of RAM and tens of thousands of client connections and be clustered and scaled out to even bigger units. Sure, I could manage your own Redis in my own VM if I wanted to, but this is SAAS (Software as a Service) that I don't have to think about - I just use it and the rest is handled.

I blogged about Redis on Azure last year but wanted to try it in a new scenario now, using it as a cache for ASP.NET web apps. There's also an interesting open source Redis Desktop Manager I wanted to try out. Another great GUI for Redis is Redsmin.

For small apps and sites I can make a Basic Redis Cache and get 250 megs. I made a Redis instance in Azure. It takes a minute or two to create. It's SSL by default. I can talk to it programmatically with something like StackExchange.Redis or ServiceStack.Redis or any of a LOT of other great client libraries.

However, there's now great support for caching and Redis in ASP.NET. There's a library called Microsoft.Web.RedisSessionStateProvider that I can get from NuGet:

Install-Package Microsoft.Web.RedisSessionStateProvider 

It uses the StackExchange library under the covers, but it enables ASP.NET to use the Session object and store the results in Redis, rather than in memory on the web server. Add this to your web.config:

<sessionState mode="Custom" customProvider="FooFoo">
<providers>
<add name="MySessionStateStore"
type="Microsoft.Web.Redis.RedisSessionStateProvider"
host="hanselcache.redis.cache.windows.net"
accessKey="THEKEY"
ssl="true"
port="1234" />
</providers>
</sessionState>

Here's a string from ASP.NET Session stored in Redis as viewed in the Redis Desktop Manager. It's nice to use the provider as you don't need to change ANY code.

ASP.NET Session stored in a Redis Cache

You can turn off SSL and connect to Azure Redis Cache over the open internet but you really should use SSL. There's instructions for using Redis Desktop Manager with SSL and Azure Redis. Note the part where you need a .pem file which is the Azure Redis Cache SSL public key. You can get that SSL key here as of this writing.

Not only can you use Redis for Session State, but you can also use it for a lightning fast Output Cache. That means caching full HTTP responses. Setting it up in ASP.NET 4.x is very similar to the Session State Provider:

Install-Package Microsoft.Web.RedisOutputCacheProvider 

Now when you use [OutputCache] attributes in MVC Controllers or OutputCache directives in Web Forms like <%@ OutputCache Duration="60" VaryByParam="*" %> the responses will be handled by Redis. With a little thought about how your query strings and URLs work, you can quickly take an app like a Product Catalog, for example, and make it 4x or 10x faster with caching. It's LOW effort and HIGH upside. I am consistently surprised even in 2015 how often I see folks going to the database on EVERY HTTP request when the app's data freshness needs just doesn't require the perf hit.

You can work with Redis directly in code, of course. There's docs for .NET, Node.js, Java and Python on Azure. It's a pretty amazing project and having it be fully managed as a service is nice. From the Azure Redis site:

Perhaps you're interested in Redis but you don't want to run it on Azure, or perhaps even on Linux. You can run Redis via MSOpenTech's Redis on Windows fork. You can install it from NuGet, Chocolatey or download it directly from the project github repository. If you do get Redis for Windows (super easy with Chocolatey), you can use the redis-cli.exe at the command line to talk to the Azure Redis Cache as well (of course!).

It's easy to run a local Redis server with redis-server.exe, test it out in development, then change your app's Redis connection string when you deploy to Azure. Check it out. Within 30 min you may be able to configure your app to use a cache (Redis or otherwise) and see some really significant speed-up.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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NuGet Package of the Week: A different take on ASP.NET MVC Forms with ChameleonForms

February 17, '15 Comments [32] Posted in ASP.NET MVC | NuGet | NuGetPOW | Open Source
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One of the nice things about any modular system (like ASP.NET) is the ability to swap out the parts you don't like. As the authors of ChameleonForms state, HTML forms is a pain. It's repetitive, it's repetitive, and it's boring. While ASP.NET MVC's Form Helpers help a lot, they felt that helper methods like Html.EditorForModel didn't go far enough or give you enough flexibility. ChameleonForms adds its own templating model and attempts to be as DRY as possible. It also takes a number of issues head on like better handling for drop-down lists and lists of radio buttons, and it even supports Twitter Bootstrap 3 to you can bang out HTML forms ASAP.

ChameleonForms also is a nice example of a tidy and well-run small open source project. They've got a public Trello backlog board, excellent documentation, a continuous integration build, a good example project, and of course, they're on NuGet. Check out the other projects that the folks in the "MRCollective" work on as well, as they've got their own GitHub organization.

NuGet Install ChameleonForms

Often ChameleonForms tries to use C# for the whole form, rather than switching back and forth from Div to Html Helper. For example:

@using (var f = Html.BeginChameleonForm()) {
using (var s = f.BeginSection("Signup for an account")) {
@s.FieldFor(m => m.FirstName)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.LastName)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.Mobile).Placeholder("04XX XXX XXX")
@s.FieldFor(m => m.LicenseAgreement).InlineLabel("I agree to the terms and conditions")
}
using (var n = f.BeginNavigation()) {
@n.Submit("Create")
}
}

This is the whole form using usings for scoping, and it's nice and clean.  How about a comparison example? Here's standard ASP.NET MVC:

@using (Html.BeginForm())
{
<fieldset>
<legend>A form</legend>
<dl>
<dt>@Html.LabelFor(m => m.RequiredString, "Some string")</dt>
<dd>@Html.TextBoxFor(m => m.RequiredString) @Html.ValidationMessageFor(m => m.RequiredString)</dd>
<dt>@Html.LabelFor(m => m.SomeEnum)</dt>
<dd>@Html.DropDownListFor(m => m.SomeEnum, Enum.GetNames(typeof(SomeEnum)).Select(x => new SelectListItem {Text = ((SomeEnum)Enum.Parse(typeof(SomeEnum), x)).Humanize(), Value = x})) @Html.ValidationMessageFor(m => m.SomeEnum)</dd>
<dt>@Html.LabelFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox)</dt>
<dd>@Html.CheckBoxFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox) @Html.LabelFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox, "Are you sure?") @Html.ValidationMessageFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox)</dd>
</dl>
</fieldset>
<div class="form_navigation">
<input type="submit" value="Submit" />
</div>
}

And here is the same form with ChameleonForms.

@using (var f = Html.BeginChameleonForm()) {
using (var s = f.BeginSection("A form")) {
@s.FieldFor(m => m.RequiredString).Label("Some string")
@s.FieldFor(m => m.SomeEnum)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox).InlineLabel("Are you sure?")
}
using (var n = f.BeginNavigation()) {
@n.Submit("Submit")
}
}

But these are basic. How about something more complex? This one has a bunch of variety, a number overloads and customizations, as well as a FileUpload (note that the form is a Multipart form):

@using (var f = Html.BeginChameleonForm(method: FormMethod.Post, enctype: EncType.Multipart))
{
<p>@f.LabelFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox).Label("Are you ready for: ") @f.FieldElementFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox) @f.ValidationMessageFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox)</p>
<p>@f.FieldElementFor(m => m.RequiredStringField).TabIndex(4)</p>
using (var s = f.BeginSection("My Section!", InstructionalText(), new{@class = "aClass"}.ToHtmlAttributes()))
{
using (var ff = s.BeginFieldFor(m => m.RequiredStringField, Field.Configure().Attr("data-some-attr", "value").TabIndex(3)))
{
@ff.FieldFor(m => m.NestedField).Attr("data-attr1", "value").TabIndex(2)
@ff.FieldFor(m => m.SomeEnum).Attr("data-attr1", "value")
@ff.FieldFor(m => m.SomeEnum).Exclude(SomeEnum.SomeOtherValue)
}
@s.FieldFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox).AsDropDown()
using (var ss = s.BeginSection("Nested section"))
{
@ss.FieldFor(m => m.FileUpload).Attr("data-attr1", "value")
}
@s.FieldFor(m => m.RequiredStringField).OverrideFieldHtml(new MvcHtmlString("Custom html <b>she-yeah</b>!"))
@s.FieldFor(m => m.TextAreaField).Cols(60).Rows(5).Label("Some Label").AutoFocus().TabIndex(1)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox).InlineLabel("Some label").WithHint("Format: XXX")
@s.FieldFor(m => m.SomeCheckbox).AsRadioList().WithTrueAs("True").WithFalseAs("False")
@s.FieldFor(m => m.ListId)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.ListId).AsRadioList()
@s.FieldFor(m => m.SomeEnums)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.SomeEnumsList).AsRadioList()
@s.FieldFor(m => m.Decimal)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.Int).AsInputGroup().Append(".00").Prepend("$")
@s.FieldFor(m => m.DecimalWithFormatStringAttribute)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.NullableInt)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.Child.ChildField)
@s.FieldFor(m => m.Child.SomeEnum).AsRadioList()
@s.FieldFor(m => m.RequiredStringField).Disabled()
@s.FieldFor(m => m.RequiredStringField).Readonly()
}
using (var n = f.BeginNavigation())
{
@n.Submit("Submit")
@n.Reset("Reset")
}
}

ChameleonForms also has a special NuGet package if you're using TwitterBootstrap that changes how forms with the BeginChameleonForm method render.

ChameleonForms also has some convenient extra abilities, like being able to automatically infer/create a [DisplayName] so you don't have to. If you're doing Forms in English and your preferred Display Name will end up just being your variable name this can be a useful time saver (although you may have opinions about its purity.)

So instead of the tedium of:

[DisplayName("Email address")]
public string EmailAddress { get; set; }

[DisplayName("First name")]
public string FirstName { get; set; }

You can just say this once, picking just one...this is an example where they use HumanizedLabels.

HumanizedLabels.Register(LetterCasing.AllCaps) => "EMAIL ADDRESS"
HumanizedLabels.Register(LetterCasing.LowerCase) => "email address"
HumanizedLabels.Register(LetterCasing.Sentence) => "Email address"
HumanizedLabels.Register(LetterCasing.Title) => "Email Address"

If you've got a lot of Forms to create and they're just no fun anymore, you should definitely give ChameleonForms a try. If you're a Twitter Bootstrap shop, doubly so, as that's where ChameleonForms really shines.

I'll do a few other posts exploring different ways to for Forms in ASP.NET MVC in the coming weeks. Be sure to explore the NuGet Package of the Week Archives as well!


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ASP.NET 5 (vNext) Work in Progress - Exploring TagHelpers

November 20, '14 Comments [142] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC
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TagHelpers are a new feature of ASP.NET 5 (formerly and colloquially ASP.NET vNext) but it's taken me (and others) some time to fully digest them and what they mean.

Note that this, and all of ASP.NET 5 is a work in progress. TagHelpers can and will change. There is NO tooling support in Visual Studio for them, as they are changing day to day, so just be aware. That's why this post (and series is called Work in Progress.)

Historically we've used HtmlHelpers within a Razor View, so when you wanted a Label or a TextBox you'd do this. This is from the ASP.NET 5 Starter Web example.

<li>@Html.ActionLink("Home", "Index", "Home")</li>

There you have some HTML, then we start some C# with @ and then switch out. It's inline C#, calling a function that will return HTML.

Here's the same thing, using a TagHelper.

<li><a controller="Home" action="Index">Home</a></li>

The source for TagHelpers is (as with all ASP.NET source) up on GitHub, here. This is an anchor, A, so it'll be in AnchorTagHelper. The code is very simple, in fact, gets a collection of attributes and decides which to act upon.

In this case, "controller" and "action" are not HTML5 attributes, but rather ones that ASP.NET is looking for.

Question for You - Would you rather have these attributes and ones like them (including your own) be prefixed? Perhaps asp:controller or asp-controller? That's an open issue you can comment on! You could do [HtmlAttributeName("asp:whatever")] on a property or [TagName("foo")] for a tag if you liked.

How do these attributes get mapped to a TagHelper? Well, an attribute name is mapped directly to a C# property and automatically injected. See how AnchorTagHelper has public properties Action and Controller?

It's important to note that this isn't the second coming of WebForms controls, while the possible asp:foo syntax may look familiar (even though a prefix is optional.) This is more like syntactic sugar that gives you a compact way to express your intent. It doesn't give you any "control lifecycle" or anything like that.

Personally, I'd love to see them look different in the editor. For example, rather than

Tag Helpers

I'd like to see italics, or maybe a desaturation to show what's server-side and what's not, which will be super important if I'm NOT using a prefix to distinguish my attributes.

Tag Helpers, desaturated

The code below in this Before and After results in the same HTML and the same behavior. A nice aspect of TagHelpers it that you avoid the context switch from markup to C#.

Here is another example, a login partial form, before...

@using System.Security.Principal

@if (User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
{
using (Html.BeginForm("LogOff", "Account", FormMethod.Post, new { id = "logoutForm", @class = "navbar-right" }))
{
@Html.AntiForgeryToken()
<ul class="nav navbar-nav navbar-right">
<li>
@Html.ActionLink("Hello " + User.Identity.GetUserName() + "!", "Manage", "Account", routeValues: null, htmlAttributes: new { title = "Manage" })
</li>
<li><a href="javascript:document.getElementById('logoutForm').submit()">Log off</a></li>
</ul>
}
}
else
{
<ul class="nav navbar-nav navbar-right">
<li>@Html.ActionLink("Register", "Register", "Account", routeValues: null, htmlAttributes: new { id = "registerLink" })</li>
<li>@Html.ActionLink("Log in", "Login", "Account", routeValues: null, htmlAttributes: new { id = "loginLink" })</li>
</ul>
}

and after...with the Microsoft.AspNet.Mvc.TagHelpers package added in project.json and then @addtaghelper "MyAssemblyName" in either your ViewStart.cshtml to get this in all views, or separately within a single view page.

@using System.Security.Principal

@if (User.Identity.IsAuthenticated)
{
<form method="post" controller="Account" action="LogOff" id="logoutForm" class="navbar-right">
<ul class="nav navbar-nav navbar-right">
<li>
<a controller="Account" action="Manage" title="Manage">Hello @User.Identity.GetUserName()!</a>
</li>
<li><a href="javascript:document.getElementById('logoutForm').submit()">Log off</a></li>
</ul>
</form>
}
else
{
<ul class="nav navbar-nav navbar-right">
<li><a id="registerLink" controller="Account" action="Register">Register</a></li>
<li><a id="loginLink" controller="Account" action="Login">Log in</a></li>
</ul>
}

This makes for much cleaner markup-focused Views. Note that this Sample is a spike that Damian Edwards has on his GitHub, but you have TagHelpers in the Beta 1 build included with Visual Studio 2015 preview or OmniSharp. Get involved!

Remember also to check out http://www.asp.net/vnext and subscribe to my YouTube Channel and this playlist of the ASP.NET Weekly Community Standup. In this episode we talked about TagHelpers in depth!

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Announcing .NET 2015 - .NET as Open Source, .NET on Mac and Linux, and Visual Studio Community

November 12, '14 Comments [198] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | Open Source | VS2015
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It's happening. It's the reason that a lot of us came to work for Microsoft, and I think it's both the end of an era but also the beginning of amazing things to come.

The .NET 2015 wave of releases is upon us. Here's what's happening and we announced it today in New York. There's a lot here, so drink it all in slowly.

Be sure to check out all the blog posts I'm linking to at the end, but here's my personal rollup and take on the situation.

  • We are serious about open source and cross platform.
    • .NET Core 5 is the modern, componentized framework that ships via NuGet. That means you can ship a private version of the .NET Core Framework with your app. Other apps' versions can't change your app's behavior.
    • We are building a .NET Core CLR for Windows, Mac and Linux and it will be both open source and it will be supported by Microsoft. It'll all happen at https://github.com/dotnet.
    • We are open sourcing the RyuJit and the .NET GC and making them both cross-platform.
  • ASP.NET 5 will work everywhere.
    • ASP.NET 5 will be available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Mac and Linux support will come soon and it's all going to happen in the open on GitHub at https://github.com/aspnet.
    • ASP.NET 5 will include a web server for Mac and Linux called kestrel built on libuv. It's similar to the one that comes with node, and you could front it with Nginx for production, for example.
  • Developers should have a great experience.
    • There is a new FREE SKU for Visual Studio for open source developers and students called Visual Studio Community. It supports extensions and lots more all in one download. This is not Express. This is basically Pro.
    • Visual Studio 2015 and ASP.NET 5 will support gulp, grunt, bower and npm for front end developers.
    • A community team (including myself and Sayed from the ASP.NET and web tools team) have created the OmniSharp organization along with the Kulture build system as a way to bring real Intellisense to Sublime, Atom, Brackets, Vim, and Emacs on Windows, Linux, and Mac. Check out http://www.omnisharp.net as well as blog posts by team members Jonathan Channon
  • Even more open source.
    • Much of the .NET Core Framework 4.6 and its Reference Source source is going on GitHub. It's being relicensed under the MIT license, so Mono (and you!) can use that source code in their .NET implementations.
    • There's a new hub for Microsoft open source that is hosted GitHub at http://microsoft.github.io.

Open sourcing .NET makes good sense. It makes good business sense, good community sense, and today everyone at Microsoft see this like we do.

Open .NET

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.