Razor Learning Notes

Razor is still a new markup language to me, after working on ASP .NET Web Form projects for 3 years. I started to learn Razor in the beginning of this year (2015), so I decide to note down what I find interesting in my Razor learning journey and then share it here.

A Powerful HTML Helper Method: EditorFor

When I first started learning Razor, I was confused by EditorFor and TextboxFor. So, what is the difference between both of them?

TextboxFor is easy to understand. It is a helper method is used to render a TextBox on the web page no matter which type of the data is passed to the method.

EditorFor is more powerful than TextboxFor. Besides rendering a TextBox, it can also render other HTML elements based on the type of the data. For example, if the datatype is boolean, it renders a checkbox. If the datatype is calendar, it will render a textbox with calendar popup (which is not so nice looking as compared to the calendar popup created using XDSoft DateTimePicker).

Even though the datatype is specified to be DateTime, EditorFor does not provide a control for time section.
Even though the datatype is specified to be DateTime, EditorFor does not provide a control for time section.

EditorFor Accepts Custom Templates

By default, the EditorFor will create a textbox with calendar popup for data which is DateTime. We can change it to use another look-and-feel by create our own template.

So let’s say we want the EditorFor to render five dropdown boxes for each of the following components in DateTime: Year, Month, Day, Hour, and Minute.

Firstly, I create a file called DropDownDateTime.cshtml file which is in charge of the look-and-feel of the custom template. This file needs to be put under /Views/Shared/EditorTemplates. Also, please take note that the filename must be same as the corresponding data type.

@model MyProject.Models.DropDownDateTime
@{
    List<SelectListItem> years = new List<SelectListItem>();
    int prevYearCount = Model.PreviousYearCount;
    int nextYearCount = Model.NextYearCount;
    for (int i = Model.DateTime.Year - prevYearCount; i <= Model.DateTime.Year + nextYearCount; i++)
    {
        years.Add(new SelectListItem() { 
            Text = i.ToString(), 
            Value = i.ToString(), 
            Selected = (i == Model.DateTime.Year ? true : false) });
    }

    List<SelectListItem> months = new List<SelectListItem>();
    for (int i = 1; i <= 12; i++)
    {
        months.Add(new SelectListItem() {
            Text = i.ToString("00"), 
            Value = i.ToString(), 
            Selected = (i == Model.DateTime.Month ? true : false) });
    }
 
    List<SelectListItem> days = new List<SelectListItem>();
    for (int i = 1; i <= 31; i++)
    {
        days.Add(new SelectListItem() { 
            Text = i.ToString("00"), 
            Value = i.ToString(), 
            Selected = (i == Model.DateTime.Day ? true : false) });
    }

    List<SelectListItem> hours = new List<SelectListItem>();
    for (int i = 0; i < 24; i++)
    {
        hours.Add(new SelectListItem() { 
            Text = i.ToString("00"), 
            Value = i.ToString(), 
            Selected = (i == Model.DateTime.Hour ? true : false) });
    }

    List<SelectListItem> minutes = new List<SelectListItem>();
    for (int i = 0; i < 60; i += 15)
    {
        minutes.Add(new SelectListItem() { 
            Text = i.ToString("00"), 
            Value = i.ToString(), 
            Selected = (i == Model.DateTime.Minute ? true : false) });
    }
}

@Html.DropDownList("years", years)
@Html.DropDownList("months", months)
@Html.DropDownList("days", days) at 
@Html.DropDownList("hours", hours) : 
@Html.DropDownList("minutes", minutes)

So, with the help of this template, whenever I pass in a data which has DropDownDateTime as its type, EditorFor will automatically render the five dropdown lists, as shown in the screenshot below.

Yup, customized look-and-feel for DateTime picker.
Yup, customized look-and-feel for DateTime picker.

Razor and Content

When I am building apps using ASP .NET Web Forms, I often need to add some server codes within the HTML in .aspx file. For example,

<h2>Animes</h2>

<ul>
    <% foreach (var anime in animeCollection) { %>
        <li><%= anime.Name %></li>
    <% } %>
</ul>

In Razor, we do not need to explicitly denote the start and end of the server blocks within our HTML. The Razor parser is smart enough to implicitly identify when a server block ends by looking for HTML tags. Hence, Razor is able to keep the HTML clean, as shown in the sample coe below.

<h2>Animes</h2>

<ul>
    @foreach (var anime in animeCollection) {
        <li>@anime.Name</li>
    }
</ul>

However, there are sometimes where the Razor parser cannot do the job properly, especially when we need to mix Razor and Javascript code. For example, when we are rendering diagram using Google Charts, as shown in the sample below.

@{ int counter = 0; }


    var data = new google.visualization.DataTable();

    data.addColumn('string', 'Sales Date');
    data.addColumn('number', 'Sales');

    data.addRows([
        @foreach (var record in dailySalesSummaryRecords)
        {
            counter++;
            if (counter == dailySalesSummaryRecords.Count())
            {
                @:['@record.Key', @record.TotalSales.ToString("0.00")]
            }
            else
            {
                @:['@record.Key', @record.TotalSales.ToString("0.00")],
            }
        }]
    );
    
    ...

The two lines highlighted above are Razor code within JS. Both of them are actually doing the same thing. Just that one of them has no trailing comma which is to avoid browsers like Internet Explorer 8 to throw errors.

The @: Character Sequence is used to explicitly tell Razor to interpret the following line of content as content. However, @: can only work on single line. So for scenarios with multiple lines of content, we need to do something as follows.

...
@: Line one of content
@: Line two of content
@: Line three of content
...

Alternatively, we can just use <text> Tag to effectively mark the start and end of content.

...
<text>
    Line one of content
    Line two of content
    Line three of content
</text>
...

To read more about @: Character Sequence and <text> Tag, please refer to a detailed blog post about them on ScottGu’s Blog.

Razor Encodes String by Default

Yes, Razor encodes string by default. So what should we do if we want rendering without encoding? Well, we can do something as follows.

@Html.Raw(" alert('Hello World!'); ")

<text> Tag, Html.Raw, and Encoding

There is a very interesting discussion on Stack Overflow about how to correctly doing encoding/decoding in Razor with JavaScript. It starts with a question on how to avoid the apostrophe characters in s.Name to be rendered as ‘.

    $(function () { 
        $('#calendar').fullCalendar({
        header: { left: '', center: 'title', right: 'month,agendaWeek,agendaDay' },
        month: 5,
        year: 2011,
        editable: false,
        events: [
            @foreach (var s in ViewBag.Sessions)
            {
                @:{
                @:title: '@s.Name',
                @:start: new Date(@s.Starts.Year, @s.Starts.Month-1, @s.Starts.Day),
                @:end: new Date(@s.Ends.Year, @s.Ends.Month-1, @s.Ends.Day)
                @:},
            }
        ]});
    });

First of all, we change the code to use <text> because the content is multiple lines. Using @: repeatedly seems a bit strange to me.

<text>
    {
        title: '@s.Name'
        start: new Date(@s.Starts.Year, @s.Starts.Month-1, @s.Starts.Day),
        end: new Date(@s.Ends.Year, @s.Ends.Month-1, @s.Ends.Day)
    }
</text>

Next, we will apply Html.Raw so that apostrophes won’t be encoded as ‘.

<text>
    {
        title: '@Html.Raw(s.Name)'
        start: new Date(@s.Starts.Year, @s.Starts.Month-1, @s.Starts.Day),
        end: new Date(@s.Ends.Year, @s.Ends.Month-1, @s.Ends.Day)
    }
</text>

However, without encoding apostrophes, we may break the JavaScript code with the existence of apostrophes characters, such as

title: 'Jiahao's Birthday'

So, we need to still encode it using JavaScriptStringEncode.

<text>
    {
        title: '@Html.Raw(HttpUtility.JavaScriptStringEncode(s.Name))'
        start: new Date(@s.Starts.Year, @s.Starts.Month-1, @s.Starts.Day),
        end: new Date(@s.Ends.Year, @s.Ends.Month-1, @s.Ends.Day)
    }
</text>

Wait… We don’t want apostrophes to be encoded as ‘ in the first place? Why do we doing encoding now?

This is because JavaScriptStringEncode, a newly introduced method in .NET 4, will encode apostrophes not as &#39 which is something not human-friendly, but it will encode it as \’. So yup, this solve the problem.

JavaScriptStringEncode is a great feature which helps us to handle encoding C# string to a JavaScript string. It is able to escape not only apostrophes, but also double quotes (“), question marks (?), backslash (\), and ampersand (&).

Summer 2015 Self-Learning Project

This article is part of my Self-Learning in this summer. To read the other topics in this project, please click here to visit the project overview page.

Summer Self-Learning Banner

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