XAML Bindings in Windows Phone 8

I thank my friend Suchit Khanna for co-authoring this article with me

Data is an ubiquitous entity in today’s world of application development, present in some form or the other, and your application should have an intuitive UI that is able to bind to data as well as respond to any form of change in it. Well this what you will learn in this chapter how to bind to data in Windows Phone 7, so without any further delay lets jump onto code.

First let us write a model class that would contain information about a student:


public class Student
 {

public string Name { get; set; }

public int Age { get; set; }

public int StudentId { get; set; }

public string SchoolName { get; set; }

}

So you can see here that class student has simple 4 properties that tell about the name, age, student id and school name of a given student.

Next you need to create a UI for this student class so that these properties can be represented on that UI.

Go to MainPage.xaml and divide the content panel grid into two rows, next add a StackPanel control on the first row of the grid and add ListBox on the second row of the grid, so your xaml code should look like:


<!--LayoutRoot is the root grid where all page content is placed-->
 <Grid x:Name="LayoutRoot" Background="Transparent">
 <Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <RowDefinition Height="Auto"/>
 <RowDefinition Height="*"/>
 </Grid.RowDefinitions>

<!--TitlePanel contains the name of the application and page title-->
 <StackPanel x:Name="TitlePanel" Grid.Row="0" Margin="12,17,0,28">
 <TextBlock x:Name="ApplicationTitle" Text="STUDENT LIST" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextNormalStyle}"/>
 </StackPanel>

<!--ContentPanel - place additional content here-->
 <Grid x:Name="ContentPanel" Grid.Row="1" Margin="12,0,12,0">
 <Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <RowDefinition Height="auto"/>
 <RowDefinition />
 </Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <StackPanel Grid.Row="0" DataContext="{Binding ElementName=studentListing, Path=SelectedItem}">

 </StackPanel>
 <ListBox x:Name="studentListing" Grid.Row="1" BorderBrush="WhiteSmoke" BorderThickness="3">

 </ListBox>
 </Grid>
 </Grid>

Do not focus on the DataContext snippet for the time being now, you will come to know about later in chapter.

You need to display the list of students available with you on the UI for which you will make use of ListBox control.

Now comes the interesting part, the student class which you wrote in previous step has many properties and from that in the ListBox control you only want to display the name of the student, so how do you go about implementing this? Well you need to specify the template for the ListBox where you will specify that bind the control in the template which you specified to the name property of the Student:


<ListBox x:Name="studentListing" Grid.Row="1" BorderBrush="WhiteSmoke" BorderThickness="3">
<ListBox.ItemTemplate>
 <DataTemplate>
<TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=Name}" />
</DataTemplate>
</ListBox.ItemTemplate>
</ListBox>

As mentioned you specified the ItemTemplate for the ListBox to tell how the ListBoxItems should look like, this case we are using TextBlock control to display each of the items from the list and binding the Text property of the control to Name property of the Student.

Path property tells where to find the data in the Binding object (in your case the Binding object is the Student).

So analogy drawn is that List<student> in the C# code is represented with a ListBox control on UI and we are specifying that bind Text property to Name property of student which represents individual items.

Let us add some code behind file, MainPage.xaml.cs where we create a list of students and show it on ListBox:


IEnumerable<Student> RetrieveStudentsList()
 {
 return new List<Student>()
 {
 new Student{Age = 5, Name = "Akash", SchoolName = "ABC Public School", StudentId = 1},
 new Student{Age = 6, Name = "Sachin", SchoolName = "ABC Public School", StudentId = 2},
 new Student{Age = 10, Name = "Javed", SchoolName = "XYZ Public School", StudentId = 3}
 };
 }

The above function returns a simple collection of 3 student details and now you will pass this to the ListBox:


studentListing.ItemsSource = RetrieveStudentsList();

This line sets the data for ListBox and running your application should result as:

image

So far so good, you displayed the list of students, but now we need to show the details of each of these students.

The stack panel control which we added in the previous step will be used now to show the details of the selected student in the ListBox. Your stack panel control should now look like:


<!--ContentPanel - place additional content here-->
 <Grid x:Name="ContentPanel" Grid.Row="1" Margin="12,0,12,0">
 <Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <RowDefinition Height="auto"/>
 <RowDefinition />
 </Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <StackPanel Grid.Row="0" DataContext="{Binding ElementName=studentListing, Path=SelectedItem}">
 <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal">
 <TextBlock Text="Name : " />
 <TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=Name}" />
 </StackPanel>
 <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal">
 <TextBlock Text="Age : " />
 <TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=Age}" />
 </StackPanel>
 <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal">
 <TextBlock Text="School : "/>
 <TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=SchoolName}" />
 </StackPanel>
 </StackPanel>
 <ListBox x:Name="studentListing" Grid.Row="1" BorderBrush="WhiteSmoke" BorderThickness="3">
 <ListBox.ItemTemplate>
 <DataTemplate>
 <TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=Name}" />
 </DataTemplate>
 </ListBox.ItemTemplate>
 </ListBox>
 </Grid>

You will see that the stack panel control does the job of showing the details of the selected student, if you notice the parent stack panel control does the job of binding to the ListBox control:


<StackPanel Grid.Row="0" DataContext="{Binding ElementName=studentListing, Path=SelectedItem}">

Here in binding we have told that the data source for this stack panel is the list box control, which we specified by telling the element name, studentListing is the x:name of our ListBox control.

But this is a collection which we bound to our stack panel, we need to look for a particular item’s details, which we will show in the stack panel, for that we specify the path to be selected Item proeprty of the list box control:

Path=SelectedItem

Now since the selected item is an instance of Student class we have specified binding to properties of the selected student on the textblocks in the stack panel. Now you can press F5 to run the application to see how it looks like:

image

On selecting items on the ListBox we can see details of the same.

This completes the listing of our student.

Binding Image

Let us add over what we have built so far, you can add images to the students details and bind this on UI.

For this go ahead and add a new property to the Student class that we built:


public ImageSource StudentImage { get; set; }

This property will be used to set the image for student; for the sample sake you can write a private function that would return a BitmapImage every time.


private ImageSource GetImage()
 {
 return new BitmapImage(new Uri("student.png", UriKind.Relative));
 }

Let us refactor the xaml code so far to accommodate the new feature we are building , to the image of selected student.

The xaml code on MainPage.xaml file should look like this now:


<!--ContentPanel - place additional content here-->
 <Grid x:Name="ContentPanel" Grid.Row="1" Margin="12,0,12,0">
 <Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <RowDefinition Height="auto"/>
 <RowDefinition />
 </Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <Grid Grid.Row="0" DataContext="{Binding ElementName=studentListing, Path=SelectedItem}">
 <Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <RowDefinition />
 <RowDefinition />
 <RowDefinition />
 </Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
 <ColumnDefinition/>
 <ColumnDefinition/>
 </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
 <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal" Grid.Row="0">
 <TextBlock Text="Name : " />
 <TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=Name}" />
 </StackPanel>
 <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal" Grid.Row="1">
 <TextBlock Text="Age : " />
 <TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=Age}" />
 </StackPanel>
 <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal" Grid.Row="2">
 <TextBlock Text="School : "/>
 <TextBlock Text="{Binding Path=SchoolName}" />
 </StackPanel>
 <Image Grid.RowSpan="3" Height="100" Grid.Column="1" Source="{Binding Path=StudentImage}" />
 </Grid>

The only difference you see this time from previous code being that we have laid out the UI in a nested Grid instead of the Stack Panel and added a new Image control which bound to the new Property you created in the Student class:


<Image Grid.RowSpan="3" Height="100" Grid.Column="1" Source="{Binding Path=StudentImage}" />

Run the application to see the output:

image

You can see that we have achieved binding an image to our application for student details.

XML binding

In this section we will take an example of how to parse an xml and display it on UI, the task is to built an application that would teach a new word every day to the user.

For this you are given an rss feed of yahoo: http://xml.education.yahoo.com/rss/wotd/

You need to parse the rss feed which is an xml file and show the data on UI.

Create new project named ‘WordOfDay’ ; next the go to your xaml page add the following code:


<!--TitlePanel contains the name of the application and page title-->
 <StackPanel x:Name="TitlePanel" Grid.Row="0" Margin="12,17,0,28">
 <TextBlock x:Name="ApplicationTitle" Text="Word Of the Day" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextNormalStyle}"/>
 <TextBlock x:Name="txtWord" Text="{Binding Title}" Margin="9,-7,0,0" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextTitle2Style}"/>
 </StackPanel>

<!--ContentPanel - place additional content here-->
 <Grid x:Name="ContentPanel" Grid.Row="1" Margin="12,0,12,0">
 <Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <RowDefinition Height="Auto" />
 <RowDefinition />
 </Grid.RowDefinitions>
 <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal">
 <TextBlock Text="Date Published : " />
 <TextBlock x:Name="txtPublishDate" />
 </StackPanel>
 <TextBlock Grid.Row="2" x:Name="txtSummary" />
 </Grid>
 </Grid>

There is nothing much complicated here, the real work happens in the code behind file:

First we need to add reference to the System.ServiceModel.Syndication which should be found at:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Silverlight\v4.0\Libraries\Client

Now after adding the reference, add following code :


private readonly WebClient _webClient;

// Constructor
 public MainPage()
 {
 InitializeComponent();
 _webClient = new WebClient();
 _webClient.DownloadStringCompleted += OnWebClientDownloadStringCompleted;
 _webClient.DownloadStringAsync(new Uri("http://xml.education.yahoo.com/rss/wotd/"));
 }

private void OnWebClientDownloadStringCompleted(object sender, DownloadStringCompletedEventArgs e)
 {
 var rssFeed = e.Result;
 ParseFeed(rssFeed);
 }

private void ParseFeed(string _rssFeed)
 {
 if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(_rssFeed))
 MessageBox.Show("Could not retrieve the data...");
 else
 {
 XmlReader reader = XmlReader.Create(new StringReader(_rssFeed));
 SyndicationFeed feed = SyndicationFeed.Load(reader);

var iterator = feed.Items.GetEnumerator();
 SyndicationItem item = null;

if (iterator.MoveNext())
 item = iterator.Current;

if (item != null)
 {
 txtWord.Text = item.Title.Text;
 txtSummary.Text = item.Summary.Text;
 txtPublishDate.Text = item.PublishDate.Date.ToString();
 }
 }
 }

&nbsp;

The WebClient instance helps to download the rss feed from the given uri, the call: DownloadStringAsync(..) is a asynchornous call so we need to subscribe to DownloadStringCompleted event where we read read the result received from the feed.

On the callback function the result is parsed with the help of ParseFeed(…) function which reads the string using XmlReader and the .NET framework for Windows Phone comes with the SyndicationFeed class which helps to read and interpret any rss feed.

Next you iterate over the syndication feed to get individual syndication items and read the title/summary/publish date of each of these syndication items.

Press F5 and you should see the application running:

image

So here we go, we have successfully read a rss feed and displayed it on the UI, thus creating our word of the day application.

In this way you can work with XAML bindings in Windows Phone 8. I hope you find this post useful. Thanks for reading.

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