WPF Commands (part 1)

Due to personal time limitations I add a shorter post today. Nonetheless this post is vital for programmers without any WPF experience.

Events are fairly low-level and deprecated in WPF to a certain degree. They are against the idea of MVVM, which in simple terms is the separation of code and user interface. The new technology is task based – known as commands. Commands act like glue between the user interface and the code. You can avoid a lot of repetitive event-handling code. They deal with text captions and enabled/disabled state synchronizations. Let’s have a look at the ICommand interface:

namespace System.Windows.Input {

   public interface ICommand {
      event EventHandler CanExecuteChanged;
      bool CanExecute(object parameter);
      void Execute(object parameter);
   } // interface

} // namespace

The interface ICommand is inherited by RoutedCommand and indirectly by RoutedUICommand. RoutedUICommand has an additional descriptive text property, which RoutedCommand does not have. Besides this they are the same. RoutedUICommand inherits from RoutedCommand and is used for commands that display some text in the UI like menu items or tooltips.

namespace System.Windows.Input {

   public class RoutedUICommand : RoutedCommand {
      public RoutedUICommand();
      public RoutedUICommand(string text, string name, Type ownerType);
      public RoutedUICommand(string text, string name, Type ownerType, InputGestureCollection inputGestures);
      public string Text { get; set; }       // Text that describes this command.
   } // class

} // namespace

RoutedCommand is the only class in WPF that inherits from ICommand. All other classes are derived from RoutedCommand. An important feature of RoutedCommand in WPF is the so-called bubbling behavior. When you have a button in a StackPanel, then events will be executed in that order: Button -> StackPanel -> Window. I will keep it simple here and explain that behavior in another posts.

WPF has prebuild commands like Cut, Copy, Paste, Open and Print. There is no code behind these commands. You have to bind them to your code. Bubbling does play a big role here. You could press Ctrl+C to copy a text. The same command could be part of a TextBox and a window menu. The bubbling can be used to place the same command in two different places. The key input triggers the window command and provides enough information to process it.
Prebuild commands define a standard and generally increase code reusability.

Notice that RoutedCommand has its enhanced versions of CanExecute() and Execute():

namespace System.Windows.Input {

   public class RoutedCommand : RoutedCommand {
      public RoutedCommand();
      public RoutedCommand(string name, Type ownerType);
      public RoutedCommand(string name, Type ownerType, InputGestureCollection inputGestures);
      public InputGestureCollection InputGestures { get; }
      public string Name { get; }
      public Type OwnerType { get; }

      public event EventHandler CanExecuteChanged;
      public bool CanExecute(object parameter, IInputElement target);
      public void Execute(object parameter, IInputElement target);
   } // class

} // namespace

This is confusing. You naturally expect the same definition as in ICommand. The answer must be that the interface ICommand is implemented explicitly. Thus the interface method is hidden and can only be accessed indirectly via an interface variable. See below example:

public interface IMyInterface {
    void hello(object o);
} // interface

public class MyClass : IMyInterface {
  public void hello(object i, string s) { }
  void IMyInterface.hello(object o) {}
} // class

static void Main(string[] args) {
  MyClass x = new MyClass();       
  x.hello("abc", "abc");  // interface not accessible
  IMyInterface c = x;
  c.hello("abc");  // class not accessible
}

There are several groups (static classes) of prebuild commands in WPF.
ApplicationCommands provides classical commands that are in most applications (eg. Cut, Copy, Paste, Save, New, Print).
NavigationCommands provide commands for navigation that you know from browsers (eg. BrowseForward, BrowseBack).
EditingCommands are known from text editors (eg. Delete, MoveToDocumentEnd, MoveRightByWord, DecreaseFontSize).
ComponentCommands are used to move the cursor around (some duplicates are in EditingCommands; eg. MoveDown, MoveFocusBack, ExtendSelectionDown).
MediaCommands are self-explanatory (eg. Play, Pause, Record, BoostBass, ChannelDown).

These classes are static, there can only one instance in your application. They all have default keystrokes. For instance Ctrl+C is predefined for Copy. When you bind them to a command source and add that command source to a window, then the key combination becomes active. You don’t even need a visible control. An additional feature is that key combinations of commands are automatically shown in menus.

We had some theory now. Let’s get practical:

<Window x:Class="DemoApp.MainWindow"
        xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
        xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
        Title="MainWindow" Height="200" Width="200">
    <StackPanel>
        <Button Command="{x:Static ApplicationCommands.New}" CommandParameter="NewProjectX" Content="New" FontSize="20" />
    </StackPanel>
</Window>
using System;
using System.Windows;
using System.Windows.Input;

namespace DemoApp {

  public partial class MainWindow : Window {

    public MainWindow() {
      InitializeComponent();

      CommandBinding lCommandBinding = new CommandBinding(ApplicationCommands.New);
      lCommandBinding.Executed += Button_Pressed;
      CommandBindings.Add(lCommandBinding); // add the binding object to our main "window" instance
    } //

    private void Button_Pressed(object sender, ExecutedRoutedEventArgs e) {
      MessageBox.Show(sender.ToString() + " did send the message: " + e.Parameter.ToString() + Environment.NewLine + "OriginalSource: " + e.OriginalSource);
    } //

  } // class
} // namespace

Window1

Window2

You don’t have to add the command in your C# code. You can add it directly in XAML. This can be more comfortable. Unfortunately there is a downside as well. The IntelliSense support suffers and I personally believe that it is more error-prone.

<Window x:Class="DemoApp.MainWindow"
        xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
        xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
        Title="MainWindow" Height="200" Width="200">
    <Window.CommandBindings>
        <CommandBinding Command="{x:Static ApplicationCommands.New}" Executed="Button_Pressed" />
    </Window.CommandBindings>
    <StackPanel>
        <Button Command="{x:Static ApplicationCommands.New}" CommandParameter="NewProjectX" Content="New" FontSize="20" />
    </StackPanel>
</Window>
using System;
using System.Windows;
using System.Windows.Input;

namespace DemoApp {

  public partial class MainWindow : Window {

    public MainWindow() {
      InitializeComponent();

      //CommandBinding lCommandBinding = new CommandBinding(ApplicationCommands.New);
      //lCommandBinding.Executed += Button_Pressed;
      //CommandBindings.Add(lCommandBinding); // add the binding object to the window
    } //

    private void Button_Pressed(object sender, ExecutedRoutedEventArgs e) {
      MessageBox.Show(sender.ToString() + " did send the message: " + e.Parameter.ToString() + Environment.NewLine + "OriginalSource: " + e.OriginalSource);
    } //

  } // class
} // namespace

The next example adds a menu. The shortcut Ctrl+N is automatically shown. There is a slight change for the button as well. The object content (text) now binds to itself and uses the text from the command. The advantage is that you hardcode less and become more flexible on multi-language support later on.
You don’t have to change anything in the C# source code.

<Window x:Class="DemoApp.MainWindow"
        xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
        xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
        Title="MainWindow" Height="200" Width="200">
    <Window.CommandBindings>
        <CommandBinding Command="{x:Static ApplicationCommands.New}" Executed="Button_Pressed" />
    </Window.CommandBindings>
    <StackPanel>
        <Menu>
            <MenuItem Header="_File">
                <MenuItem Command="{x:Static ApplicationCommands.New}" CommandParameter="NewProject_Y"/>
            </MenuItem>
        </Menu>
        <Separator/>
        <Button Command="{x:Static ApplicationCommands.New}" CommandParameter="NewProject_X" Content="{Binding RelativeSource={RelativeSource Self}, Path=Command.Text}" FontSize="20" />
    </StackPanel>
</Window>

Window3

Window4

Final note: Do not use the old school WinForms like approach anymore:

<Button Click="Button_Click" CommandParameter="NewProject_C" FontSize="20">Click</Button>
private void Button_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e) { MessageBox.Show("Button clicked"); } 

The next post will follow-up on custom commands.

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About Bastian M.K. Ohta

Happiness only real when shared.

Posted on April 8, 2014, in Advanced, Basic, C#, DataBinding, WPF and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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