Tuesday 24 December 2013

WPF DataGrid - Custom template for generic columns

Recently I had to bind a WPF DataGrid to a System.Data.DataSet. This is quite straightforward and there are many tutorials on how to achieve this.

By default all table columns are auto-generated using 4 predefined templates (Text, Hyperlink, CheckBox, and ComboBox) that support read-only and edit modes. If you wish to customize the way some columns are rendered you can also define a custom template and assign it to some columns by hooking into the AutoGeneratingColumns event of the DataGrid as described here.

Problem with generic columns

As you can see creating custom templates for columns is pretty straightforward as long as column names are fixed. If your WPF app uses a table that doesn't change dynamically you are all good. The problem starts when you use your datagrid to display tables, whose columns` names change e.g. tables loaded from a file at runtime. This is because you can't use the column name in your custom template.

Solution 1 - Create template programmatically

In this solution you build your custom template in code and assign it to the chosen column at runtime, in the AutoGeneratingColoumn event handler.
private void DataGrid_AutoGeneratingColumn(object sender, DataGridAutoGeneratingColumnEventArgs e)
    // First get the corresponding DataColumn
    var colName = e.PropertyName;
    var table this.DataContext as DataTable;
    var tableColumn = table.Columns[colName];

    // choose columns to customize e.g. by type
       var templateColumn = new DataGridTemplateColumn();
       templateColumn.Header = colName;
       templateColumn.CellTemplate = this.BuildCustomCellTemplate(colName);
       templateColumn.SortMemberPath = colName;
       e.Column = templateColumn;

// builds custom template
private DataTemplate BuildCustomCellTemplate(string columnName)
    var template = new DataTemplate();

    var button = new FrameworkElementFactory(typeof (Button));
    template.VisualTree = button;

    var binding = new Binding();
    binding.Path = new PropertyPath(columnName);
    button.SetValue(ContentProperty, binding);

    return template;
The code above would create the following template for selected columns:

Obviously this is just an example - in real life you would need more than just a button that does nothing. In your code you can define full templates, use binding converters, assign commands etc. However, the code gets pretty complex. Therefore this solution is suitable for simple templates.

Solution 2 - Create template skeleton

Alternatively, you can create the template skeleton in XAML and replace all bindings in your event handler:

And the event handler:
private void DataGrid_AutoGeneratingColumn(object sender, DataGridAutoGeneratingColumnEventArgs e)

       // Create wrapping template in code and populate all bindings accordingly 
       string xaml = @"";
       var template = (DataTemplate)XamlReader.Load(string.Format(xaml, "{Binding " + colName + "}", "{StaticResource customCellTemplate}"));
       templateColumn.CellTemplate = template;
The advantage of this approach is that you can create more complex templates in XAML and in your event handler code only populate all required bindings. The limitation of this method is that the custom template needs to be defined at the application level. I found this solution here.

Monday 2 December 2013

Claims based authorization in MVC4

Recently I worked on a sample MVC4 application that was using Claims based authentication. I used the Identity and Access Visual Studio extension to help me configuring Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) in my app. In short, the tool updates your web.config by adding sections system.identityModel and system.identityModel.services to enable WIF. In result, my application is redirecting all unauthenticated users to my Identity Provider, which then generates a security token that is returned back to my app.

Once I had the authentication part done I started working on the authorization. I wanted it to be role-based i.e. very similar to what you use by default in the default MVC model:

[Authorize(Roles = "Administrator")]
public class AdminController : Controller
    // Controller code here
In theory, if your Identity Provider issues a token containing the Identity Role claim (http://schemas.microsoft.com/ws/2008/06/identity/claims/role) with the value of user's current role the above default authorization code should work. And it actually does! This is because some basic claims from the token are automatically used to populate the user's identity object, including roles. So when your app's authorization code checks user's role it will use values provided in the token (if any were provided).

Membership database issue

The above solution worked fine for me at the beginning. What I was not aware of is the fact that, by default, the Authorize attribute also connects to you Membership database, regardless the token content. By default as membership database MVC uses the local ASPNETDB.mdf file. I realized that when I moved the application to a different server, without moving the mdf file. Suddenly I started getting the following SQL exception when calling the Authorize attribute:
A network-related or instance-specific error occurred while establishing a connection to SQL Server. The server was not found or was not accessible. Verify that the instance name is correct and that SQL Server is configured to allow remote connections. (provider: SQL Network Interfaces, error: 26 - Error Locating Server/Instance Specified)
I guess there is an easy way to configure ASP not to connect to the database if roles are provided in the token. However, I decide to take a different approach to have more control over the code.

Custom authorization attribute

I decided to write a custom Authorization attribute, that would search for user's role directly in claims provided in the token:
public class ClaimsAuthorizeAttribute : AuthorizeAttribute
    private string claimType;
    private string claimValue;

    public ClaimsAuthorizeAttribute(string type, string value)
        this.claimType = type;
        this.claimValue = value;
    public override void OnAuthorization(AuthorizationContext filterContext)
        var identity = (ClaimsIdentity)Thread.CurrentPrincipal.Identity;
        var claim = identity.Claims.FirstOrDefault(c => c.Type == claimType && c.Value == claimValue);
        if (claim != null)
This approach is more flexible as it allows me to use different types of claims for authorization in future, not only role. The usage of the attribute is still very simple:
[ClaimsAuthorize(ClaimTypes.Role, "Administrator")]
public class AdminController : Controller
    // Controller code here

Additional notes

When using claims based authorization it is often advised to use the existing ClaimsPrincipalPermission attribute together with the configured ClaimsAuthorizationManager. In my case this seemed like an overkill, especially that I wanted to keep the code similar to the default authorization model.

Saturday 14 September 2013

OMPM - SQL-DMO Install Required

When trying to run the Office Migration Planning Manager for Office 2010 on a machine that has Sql Server 2008 or later installed you will often get the following error message:

SQL-DMO Install Required: This operation requires the SQL Server ODBC Driver, version 3.80 or later, which comes with SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server Express.

This is caused by a missing dependency - SQL-DMO has been deprecated and is no longer part of the Sql Server. When you search the Web looking for solution you will be advised to install the "Backward Compatibility Components" which are part of the "Feature Pack for Microsoft SQL Server 2005". So I did. However, this caused another error:

Runtime Error!
An Application has made an attempt to load the C runtime library incorrectly.
Please contact the application's support Sql server team for more information.

Investigating this took me some time. It came out that when you search for "Feature Pack for Microsoft SQL Server 2005" in the Microsoft Download Center the first result you get is actually outdated. There is another download link at the bottom of the search results list, that points to the latest version:

Correct version: Feature Pack for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 SP4.

Installing this one fixed all issues and allowed me to run the OMPM. I had a 64x version of Sql Server 2008 R2.

Friday 31 May 2013

How to read and write Excel cells with OpenXML and C#

Recently I needed to update an Excel spreadsheet and then retrieve some recalculated values. The tricky part was that some cells that I needed to retrieve information from were formula cells (e.g. =A1+5). I needed to update some other cells first and then get the value of recalculated formula.

Unfortunately, this is not directly possible with OpenXML. If you simply try updating some cells and then retrieving the relying ones, you will get the original values for those cells, not recalculated. . This is because formula cells don't store any values, just... formulas. You can only force recalculation by opening your document in the Excel application.

Knowing this I implemented a Refresh method, that opens the Excel app in background and then closes it immediately and saves changes. Below I present my sample code.

In order to compile the following code you will need the Microsoft.OpenXML SDK 2.0 (DocumentFormat.OpenXML NuGet package) and reference to Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel (used for opening the Excel app to recalculate formulas).

Let's start with an interface for my ExcelDocument class:

/// <summary>
/// Interface defining Excel Document methods
/// </summary>
public interface IExcelDocument
    /// <summary>
    /// Reads a value of a spreadsheet cell
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="sheetName">Name of the spreadsheet</param>
    /// <param name="cellCoordinates">Cell coordinates e.g. A1</param>
    /// <returns>Value of the specified cell</returns>
    CellValue ReadCell(string sheetName, string cellCoordinates);

    /// <summary>
    /// Updates a value of a spreadsheet cell
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="sheetName">Name of the spreadsheet</param>
    /// <param name="cellCoordinates">Cell coordinates e.g. A1</param>
    /// <param name="cellValue">New cell value</param>
    void UpdateCell(string sheetName, string cellCoordinates, object cellValue);

    /// <summary>
    /// Refreshes the workbook to recalculate all formula cell values
    /// </summary>
    void Refresh();
Once we have the interface we need its implementation:
public class ExcelDocument : IExcelDocument
    private readonly string _filePath;

    public ExcelDocument(string filePath)
        _filePath = filePath;

    /// <see cref="IExcelDocument.ReadCell" />
    public CellValue ReadCell(string sheetName, string cellCoordinates)
        using (SpreadsheetDocument excelDoc = SpreadsheetDocument.Open(_filePath, false))
            Cell cell = GetCell(excelDoc, sheetName, cellCoordinates);
            return cell.CellValue;

    /// <see cref="IExcelDocument.UpdateCell" />
    public void UpdateCell(string sheetName, string cellCoordinates, object cellValue)
        using (SpreadsheetDocument excelDoc = SpreadsheetDocument.Open(_filePath, true))
            // tell Excel to recalculate formulas next time it opens the doc
            excelDoc.WorkbookPart.Workbook.CalculationProperties.ForceFullCalculation = true;
            excelDoc.WorkbookPart.Workbook.CalculationProperties.FullCalculationOnLoad = true;
            WorksheetPart worksheetPart = GetWorksheetPart(excelDoc, sheetName);
            Cell cell = GetCell(worksheetPart, cellCoordinates);
            cell.CellValue = new CellValue(cellValue.ToString());

    /// <summary>Refreshes an Excel document by opening it and closing in background by the Excep Application</summary>
    /// <see cref="IExcelDocument.Refresh" />
    public void Refresh()
        var excelApp = new Application();
        Workbook workbook = excelApp.Workbooks.Open(Path.GetFullPath(_filePath));

    private WorksheetPart GetWorksheetPart(SpreadsheetDocument excelDoc, string sheetName)
        Sheet sheet = excelDoc.WorkbookPart.Workbook.Descendants<Sheet>().SingleOrDefault(s => s.Name == sheetName);
        if (sheet == null)
            throw new ArgumentException(
                String.Format("No sheet named {0} found in spreadsheet {1}", sheetName, _filePath), "sheetName");
        return (WorksheetPart) excelDoc.WorkbookPart.GetPartById(sheet.Id);

   private Cell GetCell(SpreadsheetDocument excelDoc, string sheetName, string cellCoordinates)
        WorksheetPart worksheetPart = GetWorksheetPart(excelDoc, sheetName);
        return GetCell(worksheetPart, cellCoordinates);

    private Cell GetCell(WorksheetPart worksheetPart, string cellCoordinates)
        int rowIndex = int.Parse(cellCoordinates.Substring(1));
        Row row = GetRow(worksheetPart, rowIndex);

        Cell cell = row.Elements<Cell>().FirstOrDefault(c => cellCoordinates.Equals(c.CellReference.Value));
        if (cell == null)
            throw new ArgumentException(String.Format("Cell {0} not found in spreadsheet", cellCoordinates));
        return cell;

    private Row GetRow(WorksheetPart worksheetPart, int rowIndex)
        Row row = worksheetPart.Worksheet.GetFirstChild<SheetData>().
                                Elements<Row>().FirstOrDefault(r => r.RowIndex == rowIndex);
        if (row == null)
            throw new ArgumentException(String.Format("No row with index {0} found in spreadsheet", rowIndex));
        return row;
I hope the code is self-explanatory and doesn't require more comments. You can optimize it for you needs e.g. when updating/reading multiple cells at once you may want to open the doc only once. Currently my code opens it and closes for each read/update request.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Preparation materials for MCSD Web Applications certification

I'm happy to announce that today I've become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) in Web Applications area. To achieve that I needed to pass 3 exams. Here is my short summary of each of them together with some useful preparation materials:

70-480 - Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3

This exam begins your journey to the MCSD certificate. In general it covers exactly what is named in its title: HTML5 & CSS3. You could also use some jQuery knowledge. If you are a web developer with multiple years of experience this should be a piece of cake for you. In case you need to refresh your memory on some topics I recommend watching the free video tutorial at the Microsoft Virtual Academy:

70-486 - Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications

This exam tests your knowledge of the Asp.Net MVC4 framework. To be honest I can't really remember if it includes WebApi questions, but it's worth to learn it anyway, as it's required for the last exam. Again, if you worked on several MVC4 projects there is nothing to be afraid of.

Before I took this exam I browsed the following book to make sure I'm not missing anything:

70-487 - Developing Windows Azure and Web Services

For me this was the hardest exam. It is because it covers a wide range of different topics. All required technologies are somehow related, but at the same time they are independent frameworks:
  • Windows Azure
  • WCF
  • MVC4 WebApi
  • Entity Framework
  • Other Data Access
Despite the exam`s title I was under impression that there were not that many questions related to Windows Azure. The basic overview of Azure features would suffice to answer most of them. There was a lot of questions related to WCF & Data Access though. Luckily there are excellent study guides available. Here are 2 that I liked most:
  • Study Guide #1
    My personal favourite; it relays strongly on pluralsight video trainings, which are usually very good.
  • Study Guide #2
    A nice alternative for those of you who don't have access to pluralsight. Most links are referencing free online materials.
If you read/watch all linked materials you will be good to go ;) Good luck future MCSDs!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

XAML ListView - scroll SelectedItem to the middle

In the Windows Store app that I recently worked on I used several ListViews to present some data. I had 2 requirements for those lists:
  • The selected item should be always visible
  • In addition it should be displayed in the middle of the list when possible (it's not possible for the first element).
This is what I wanted to achieve:

The first requirement is quite easy to fulfill by using ListView.ScrollIntoView() method. However, this doesn't satisfy the second requirement, as you don't have any control on where exactly the item will appear.


Instead of working with the ListView directly I worked with the included ScollView control. Here is my method for scrolling with some comments:
public void ScrollToSelected(ListView list, Object selected)
    var scrollViewer = list.GetFirstDescendantOfType<ScrollViewer>();
    if (scrollViewer == null) return;

    // Calculate the offset to be used for scrolling.
    // In my case I use ViewPort height, index of the selected item and a fixed value 3 to adjust the result
    double halfList = scrollViewer.ViewportHeight/2;
    int itemIndex = list.Items.IndexOf(selected);
    double scrollOffset = itemIndex - halfList + 3;

    // If offset happens to be bigger than scrollable height use the scrollable height
    // Possible for items from the end of the list
    if (scrollOffset > scrollViewer.ScrollableHeight)
        scrollOffset = scrollViewer.ScrollableHeight;

    // scroll to calculated offset

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Windows Store - Your app doesn’t meet requirement 4.1

Recently I uploaded my first Windows 8 app to the Windows Store. At first, my app didn't pass the certification process because of the following issue (Notes from Testers):
The app has declared access to network capabilities and no privacy statement was provided in the Description page. The app has declared access to network capabilities and no privacy statement was provided in the Windows Settings Charm.

Luckily for me the issue is widely described here. In short, if your app uses internet you need to define a privacy policy. the privacy policy needs to be linked from the app description page and also avaiable from the Settings Charm.


This is what you need to do to satisfy this requirement:
  1. Create a webpage describing your privacy policy (how you use user data etc.).
  2. Deploy that webpage to any server, so it's available to everybody who wants to read it.
  3. Add a link to your privacy page on the app`s description page in the Windows Store Developer Center:
  4. Add a link to the privacy policy page to your Settings Charm.
    Here is how I do it (basing on this post):
    1. Open the App.xaml.cs file
    2. Reference the following namespace:
      using Windows.UI.ApplicationSettings;
    3. Create following methods for adding the new action called 'Privacy Policy" to your Settings pane:
      private void AddPrivacyPolicy(SettingsPane sender, SettingsPaneCommandsRequestedEventArgs args)
          var privacyPolicyCommand = 
              new SettingsCommand("privacyPolicy", "Privacy Policy", (uiCommand) => ShowPolicyPage());
      private async void ShowPolicyPage()
          var uri = new Uri("http://YOUR-SERVER/privacy-policy.html")
          await Launcher.LaunchUriAsync(uri);
    4. In the OnLaunched method register the newly created method:
      SettingsPane.GetForCurrentView().CommandsRequested += AddPrivacyPolicy;
  5. Rebuild your package and resubmit to the Windows Store. At this time that issue should be resolved.
When adding a Privacy Policy item to the Settings Charm you may consider using the Callisto project and its Settings Flyout support. It makes complex customization of that Settings Pane easier. In my case however it was shorter to add that single command in a regular way.

BTW I was really surprized how quick the certification process was - it took only 8h from the moment of submission! It's a huge improvment comparing to my experience with WP7 apps. I hope it stays that way.

Thursday 25 April 2013

XAML - SelectedItem in ComboBox doesn't work

I'm currently working on a small Windows Store app. The app uses mainly default controls, with ComboBox being one of them. Recently I had a problem with selecting a default value in my ComboBox.

My XAML code looked like this:

In the design view this actually showed the correct selected item, however it didn't work when the app was ran.


The solution was actually very trivial. If you take a look at my code you'll see that the SelectedItem property is defined before the ItemSource property. It came out that the order does matter, so the SelectedItem should be defined after the ItemSource.