XAF - Additional Enhancements for Windows & Web Platforms, Core and Model Editor (Shipping now in v16.2)

XAF Team Blog
23 December 2016

Happy New Year Everyone!

Late last year, I described some of the new features we shipped as part of XAF v16.2. In this post, I'll discuss a few other enhancements we incorporated in v16.2.

Support for Multiple Browser Tabs

v16.2 includes support for a popular ASP.NET scenario - displaying multiple independent XAF views via browser tabs within the same web browser instance . If you've used XAF in the past, you'll know that this specific requirement was not easy to implement, as the XAF web site stored information about the current main window within the ASP.NET session between requests (learn more...). Technically, it still does, but with v16.2, each loaded web window has a unique identifier by which all requests are correctly routed on the server. 

With the new static WebApplication.EnableMultipleBrowserTabsSupport feature toggle, you can, for instance, include hyper links to two different XAF views in a customer email and when clicked, these links will open two separate browser tabs so that end-user can work with them independently.


Custom grouping of Application Model nodes in the Model Editor

This feature was inspired by customer feedback and to help explain it, let's consider a real world scenario. Assume that you have numerous custom Controllers placed in folders with the following naming convention:


In previous versions, XAF did not offer an easy way to navigate between these Controllers and Actions in the Model Editor due to the default grouping by the Action identifier. Essentially, users requesting this feature needed to provide custom grouping - similar to that found in Solution Explorer. With v16.2, you can use the new ModelEditorGroupingHelper API to customize default node grouping. Here is a sample screenshot from an actual end-user project:



Improved Web UI Theme Customization

Though this feature was derived from the DevExpress ASP.NET product library, I definitely want to make mention of it. Let me quote myself from my personal blog:

"There were a good number of requests to simplify the process of adjusting the New Web UI to match corporate colors. With v16.2, this process became much easier with the new options for changing the base color and font in code or configuration files of your app. Our XCRM.Web demo now contains a custom color/font scheme picker to demonstrate the use of these new release capabilities:


In addition, the XAF theme was better integrated with the ASPxThemeBuilder & ASPxThemeDeployer tools offered by our DevExpress ASP.NET team for creating and deploying custom themes. These actions appear to be a good start towards a "true" themes chooser requested by some customers or rather their end-users, who liked a vast number of predefined styles. The idea under consideration is  that we may support changing more theme parameters at runtime (e.g., the white background was reported as eye-fatiguing by some users), i.e., not only the main color and font."

Take special note that color/font picker feature is NOT part of the standard delivery and is enabled only in our XCRM demo by default. To add and customize this feature in your project, do the following:
    1. Copy and include the "C:\Users\Public\Documents\DevExpress Demos 16.2\Components\eXpressApp Framework\XCRM\CS\XCRM.Web\BaseColorSelector" folder in the YourSolutionName.Web project.
    2. Copy and include the "C:\Users\Public\Documents\DevExpress Demos 16.2\Components\eXpressApp Framework\XCRM\CS\XCRM.Web\CustomDefaultVerticalTemplateContent.xx" files in the YourSolutionName.Web project and optionally customize the custom template in Visual Studio to meet your business requirements.
    3. In the YourSolutionName.Web/Global.asax.cs file, add the WebApplication.Instance.Settings.DefaultVerticalTemplateContentPath = "CustomDefaultVerticalTemplateContent.ascx"; line to the Session_Start method after the WebApplication.SetInstance call.
Refer to the Task-Based Help > How to: Customize an ASP.NET Template article to learn more about this customization process.

Platform-Agnostic API for Displaying Dialogs

With v16.2, use of custom dialogs has been simplified for both WinForms and ASP.NET applications. The ShowViewStrategyBase.ShowViewInPopupWindow method displays the specified View in a popup dialog with OK and Cancel buttons:

Application.ShowViewStrategy.ShowViewInPopupWindow(Application.CreateDashboardView(Application.CreateObjectSpace(), "PaymentSuccessConfirmation", true));

You can also pass the okDelegate and cancelDelegate  parameters to this method and specify the code to be executed when the OK and Cancel buttons are clicked. Button captions can be customized using the okButtonCaption and cancelButtonCaption parameters.

In the following screenshot, you can see how a DashboardView configured in the Application Model can be used with this new method in an ASP.NET app:


The ShowViewInPopupWindow method provides a platform-agnostic way to display popup dialogs from your code. However, there are certain specifics in ASP.NET applications:

- The ShowViewInPopupWindow method can be used on XafCallbackManager callbacks initiated by the RaiseXafCallback script. It cannot be used on control callbacks (e.g., grid sorting).
- It is impossible to pause the current request to wait for user input.
- Main window is not refreshed when the Cancel button is clicked.

Improved Customization of Action Controls

The customization of UI controls used to visualize XAF Actions has been simplified. With v16.2, each Action exposes the CustomizeControl event that provides access to the underlying control including its context information. Related product documentation and examples like How to: Customize Action Controls and How to: Access Navigation Control were updated to reflect the new implementation. All of the possible scenarios are also demonstrated in the Action section of the Feature Center demo that is shipped with XAF. Below is a screenshot of Visual Studio demonstrating customization of a parametrized Action control in WinForms:


To learn more about the reasons behind this feature, be sure to check out my blog as well.

Instant Feedback UI Mode in WinForms GridListEditor

With this release, XAF List Views support our server-side data processing engine - Instant Feedback UI Mode. When used, your apps will remain responsive regardless of dataset size. To enable this feature, set the ListView's DataAccesMode property to InstantFeedback. Refer to the List View Data Access Modes  and How to: Access Objects Selected in the Current View help articles for more information on supported scenarios and usage specificities.

Faster App Startup

We've improved our Application Model cache (introduced in v16.1) and further reduced WinForms application startup times. To learn more, check out the XafApplication.EnableModelCache article for additional information. Please note that you can now enable parallel loading of business types and tune the model cache by setting the static DevExpress.ExpressApp.ModelCacheManager.UseMultithreadedLoading and DevExpress.ExpressApp.ModelCacheManager.SkipEmptyNodes properties to True before the XafApplication.Setup method is called in the YourSolutionName.Win/Program.xx file. Based upon tests with various large customer applications, startup time can be reduced up to 30% when implemented. In general, the more business classes and Controllers included in an app, the greater the impact from this enhancement.

As always, we welcome your comments and feedback. Tell us what you think of these new features.

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