Preview of DotVVM Dynamic Data Released

Published: 8/8/2016 4:14:53 PM

Today we have released a very early release of ASP.NET Dynamic Data reimplementation for DotVVM.

It is the version 1.0 and we really don’t recommend to start building something important on top of this release because we expect many things will change. However, if you have small project and you’d like to try it, please go ahead and send us feedback.


Data Annotations

The main goal of this library is to generate user interface from metadata. Currently, there are two interfaces:

  • IPropertyDisplayMetadataProvider provides basic information about properties - the display name, format string, order, group name (you can split the fields into multiple groups and render each group separately).

  • IViewModelValidationMetadataProvider allows to retrieve all validation attributes for each property.



First, install the DotVVM.DynamicData NuGet package in your project.

Install-Package DotVVM.DynamicData -pre

To use Dynamic Data, add the following line to the DotvvmStartup.cs file.

var dynamicDataConfig = config.AddDynamicDataConfiguration();

This will allow to provide UI metadata using the standard .NET Data Annotations attributes.

public class EmployeeDTO
    [Display(AutoGenerateField = false)]        // this field will be hidden
    public int Id { get; set; }

    // first group of fields

    [Display(Name = "User Name", Order = 1, GroupName = "Basic Info")]
    public string UserName { get; set; }

    [Display(Name = "First Name", Order = 2, GroupName = "Basic Info")]
    public string FirstName { get; set; }  

    [Display(Name = "Last Name", Order = 3, GroupName = "Basic Info")]
    public string LastName { get; set; }

    [DisplayFormat(DataFormatString = "d")]
    [Display(Name = "Birth Date", Order = 4, GroupName = "Basic Info")]
    public DateTime BirthDate { get; set; }

    // second group of fields

    [Display(Name = "E-mail", Order = 11, GroupName = "Contact Info")]
    public string PersonalEmail { get; set; }

    [Display(Name = "Phone", Order = 12, GroupName = "Contact Info")]
    public string PersonalPhone { get; set; }




Now, when you have your DTO class decorated with data annotation attributes, you can auto-generate GridView columns.

DotVVM Dynamic Data brings the DynamicDataGridViewDecorator control. Use this decorator on GridView to initialize the Columns collection.

        <bs:GridView Type="Bordered" DataSource="{value: Employees}" />

If you want to add your own columns (e.g. the edit button) to the auto-generated ones, you can use the ColumnPlacement to specify, whether the generated columns should appear on the left side or the right side from your own columns.

    <dd:DynamicDataGridViewDecorator ColumnPlacement="Left">
        <bs:GridView Type="Bordered" DataSource="{value: Employees}">
                <!-- The auto-generated columns will appear here because ColumnPlacement is Left. -->
                <dot:GridViewTemplateColumn>   <!-- your own column -->
                    <dot:LinkButton Click="{command: _parent.Edit(Id)}">
                        <bs:GlyphIcon Icon="Pencil" />


Generating Forms

DotVVM Dynamic Data also contains the DynamicEntity control - you can use it to generate forms.

<dd:DynamicEntity DataContext="{value: EditedEmployee}" />

The control takes its DataContext and generates form fields for all properties of the object using the metadata from data annotation attributes.

If you want the form to have a custom layout, you need to use the group names and render each group separately. If you specify the GroupName property, the DynamicEntity will render only fields from this group.

<!-- This will render two columns. -->
<div class="row">
    <div class="col-md-6">
        <dd:DynamicEntity DataContext="{value: EditedEmployee}" GroupName="Basic Info" />
    <div class="col-md-6">
        <dd:DynamicEntity DataContext="{value: EditedEmployee}" GroupName="Contact Info" />

By default, the form is rendered using the TableDynamicFormBuilder class. This class renders HTML table with rows for each of the form fields.

You can write your own form builder and register it in the DotvvmStartup.cs class. The builder must implement the IFormBuilder interface.

config.ServiceLocator.RegisterSingleton<IFormBuilder>(() => new YourOwnFormBuilder());

If you have implemented your own form builder and there is a chance that it might be useful for other people, please send us PR and we'll be happy to include as part of the library.


Custom Editors

Currently, the framework supports TextBox and CheckBox editors, which can edit string, numeric, date-time and boolean values. If you want to support any other data type, you can implement your own editor and grid column.

You need to derive from the FormEditorProviderBase to implement a custom editor in the form, and to derive from the GridColumnProviderBase to implement about custom GridView column.

Then, you have to register the editor in the DotvvmStartup.cs file. Please note that the order of editor providers and grid columns matters. The Dynamic Data will use the first provider which returns CanHandleProperty = true for the property.

dynamicDataConfig.FormEditorProviders.Add(new YourEditorProvider());
dynamicDataConfig.GridColumnProviders.Add(new YourGridColumnProvider());


Loading Metadata from Resource Files

Decorating every field with the [Display(Name = "Whatever")] is not very effective when it comes to localization - you need to specify the resource file type and resource key. Also, if you have multiple entities with the FirstName property, you'll probably want to use the same field name for all of them.

That's why DotVVM Dynamic Data comes with the resource-based metadata providers. They can be registered in the DotvvmStartup.cs like this:

config.RegisterResourceMetadataProvider(typeof(Resources.ErrorMessages), typeof(Resources.PropertyDisplayNames));

The ErrorMessages and PropertyDisplayNames are RESX files in the Resources folder and they contain the default error messages and display names of the properties.


Localizing Error Messages

If you use the [Required] attribute and you don't specify the ErrorMessage or ErrorMessageResourceName on it, the resource provider will look in the ErrorMessages.resx file and if it finds the Required key there, it'll use this resource item to provide the error message.

Your ErrorMessages.resx file may look like this:

Resource Key            Value
Required                {0} is required!    
EmailAddress            {0} is not a valid e-mail address!

Localizing Property Display Names

The second resource file PropertyDisplayNames.resx contains the display names. If the property doesn't have the [Display(Name = "Something")] attribute, the provider will look in the resource file for the following values (in this order). If it finds an item with that key, it'll use the value as a display name of the field

  • TypeName_PropertyName
  • PropertyName

So if you want to use the text "Given Name" for the FirstName property in all classes, with the exception of the ManagerDTO class where you need to use the "First Name" text, your resource file should look like this:

Resource Key            Value
FirstName               Given Name
ManagerDTO_FirstName    First Name



You can find the source code on GitHub. We are really thrilled to see the feedback on this interesting feature of DotVVM.

Tomáš Herceg

I am the CEO of RIGANTI, small software development company located in Prague, Czech Republic.

I am a Microsoft Regional Director and Microsoft Most Valuable Professional.

I am the author of DotVVM, an open source .NET-based web framework which lets you build Line-of-Business applications easily and without writing thousands lines of Javascript code.

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