This article is part of a series of posts about various aspects of writing web controls for ASP.Net using an ad rotator as an example. The AdRotator WebControl Example post has links to related posts and downloads.

I really wanted to make it possible for the control to be added completely declaratively. Much the same way as you can create a list box with list items declaratively.

<asp:ListBox ID="2" runat="server">
    <asp:ListItem>Option1</asp:ListItem>
    <asp:ListItem>Option1</asp:ListItem>
</asp:ListBox>

This actually turned out to be really easy after I found a great example from Microsoft, Web Control Collection Property Example. I'd advise getting straight into that if you are implementing this and need more detail. I will just briefly describe what I had to implement for the AdRotator Control.

Attributes

I regularly set public properties on a web control with the appropriate type converters declaratively. For example where the public properties Height and Width declared as below.

public class AdRotator : WebControl
{
    public new string Width { get; set; }
    public new string Height { get; set; }
    ...
}

They can be set declaratively in ASP.Net web files

<x:AdRotator ID="AdRotator1" runat="server" Height="100" Width="100" />

Children

When it came to adding the child data, I had already implemented a strongly typed public data source property on the AdRotator control, so all I really needed to do to get it working was add attribute meta data to some classes and properties.

On the actual control I had to add meta data about the type of child elements we the control will support.

[DefaultProperty("Images")]
[ParseChildren(true, "Images")]
...
public class AdRotator : WebControl

On the property "Images" I added the following metadata. I didn't need it all, the "Category" for example is used when the object is displayed in a property list control. The attribute classes and CollectionEditor are all in the System.ComponentModel.Design namespace and the UITypeEditor is in System.Drawing.Design namespace. As the collection we are exposing is strongly typed we don't need to extend the CollectionEditor class.

[Category("Behavior")]
[Description("Image URL collection")]
[DesignerSerializationVisibility(DesignerSerializationVisibility.Content)]
[Editor(typeof(CollectionEditor), typeof(UITypeEditor))]
[PersistenceMode(PersistenceMode.InnerDefaultProperty)]
public List<ImageItem> Images

The ImageItem class also need some additional meta data.

[TypeConverter(typeof(ExpandableObjectConverter))]
public ImageItem() : this(string.Empty, string.Empty, string.Empty)
{

    public ImageItem(string linkUrl, string imageUrl, string displayTime)
    {
        LinkUrl = linkUrl;
        ImageUrl = imageUrl;
        DisplayTime = displayTime;
    }

    [Category("Behavior")]
    [DefaultValue("")]
    [Description("Anchor Href Url")]
    [NotifyParentProperty(true)]
    public string LinkUrl { get; set; }

    ...

}

Finally

By the time the RenderContents method is fired, the Images property is fully populated with all the items we declaratively added. When we are declaring the image items we are getting nice intellisense. That's everything we set out to do.

ad_rotator_intellisense_example1

Although I didn't go into much detail here we did get everything I wanted in the AdRotator example. I find this quite interesting as the concept of XML based object declarations was build into the XAML SilverLight and WPF technologies.

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