Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Set up local SMTP for your .NET development environment on Windows 7

If you are developing a .NET application that sends emails than you need a way to do that without being constantly connected to the Internet. On Windows 7 with IIS 7 installed you can easily configure a local SMTP service that will intercept all the SMTP sessions initiated in your code and successfully emulate sending the outbound email by saving it as a text file in a folder on your local hard drive. This is extremely convenient and allows you to keep working on your code without interruption even when you are not connected to the Internet.

To achieve that just add a few lines in your application's .config file (could be web.config or app.config). Here is an example of such a configuration:


After adding such a configuration every time your application sends an e-mail using a .NET framework built-in SmtpClient.Send method a new file with the .eml extension will appear in the configured folder.

You can open a file with any text editor like Notepad++ for example or you can use this free EML Viewer to improve viewing experience.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Re: Can architecture emerge from continuous refactoring?

Recently I've been asked this question "Can architecture emerge from continuous refactoring?" and since this topic is very close to what I do professionally I wanted to share my thoughts about it.

What is software architecture?

I see software architecture as a parallel to a traditional architecture: it consists of knowledge about everything that is required to build a successful software product as in to successfully construct a building. In a context of a particular project architecture eventually results in a team vision and a set of documents that guide the team towards the successful completion of a project and achieving the goal. From this point of view it is obvious that if the goal itself or any of its dependencies and prerequisite are not envisioned and well defined then a team simply will not know where to go and never reach the point of success.

Can software architecture emerge successfully from continuous small refactoring?

Often there is some legacy software in place and there is not enough time to redo the whole project from scratch so the only way is to apply small refactoring steps in order to make software better from the architecture standpoint.

Hence software architecture can and should emerge successfully from continuous small refactoring. For me this is not a theory but a proven fact since that is what most of my job as a Software architect consists of: I am orchestrating my development team to apply continuous changes and refactoring to the code base in order to shape the architecture into the right direction.

Factors of success and failure of a re-architecture project

The main reason for success is for a team to be persistent and consistent on the way and for an architect to have a complete vision, fully understand the final state of the re-architecture process and the way of the architecture transformations.

Opposite to the above when an architecture transformation is not a priority target and a team is not given enough time to work on the necessary changes then the new architecture will not emerge. It's not a "rocket science" and it's exactly the same process of achieving a goal as in any other human activity.

Some other reasons of re-architecture failure could be lack of the architectural vision, poor management, lack of architecture transformation understanding but I don't consider those to be the primary reasons bur rather the missing prerequisites for a re-architecture project.

Lessons learned on the way

Even though it's somewhat useful to learn from mistakes but I'd rather learn from successful implementations since what you can learn is a way to actually achieve the success.

Re-architecture methodologies

Some people are convinced that using a right tool will guarantee the success and therefore focus on comparing and selecting the "best of the best" methodology. Lately the "agile" word became very popular in regards to that.

From my experience any agile method is just a tool that may or may not help depending on a use case. Agile for me in this context is only a synonym of "continuous, persistent and consistent" way of moving towards a project's target. Whatever method is embraced by a team will work for me as long as it allows a successful completion of a project.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to set programmatically a value of a watermarked TextBox via JavaScript - Update

Some time ago I've published an article How to set programmatically a value of a watermarked TextBox via JavaScript about some specifics of working with a text input box decorated with a TextboxWatermark Ajax Extender control from the Ajax Control Toolkit library. The technique described in the article has proven useful for a number of developers so when the new release of the Ajax Control Toolkit has recently been announced I've decided to update the article to cover some of the braking changes in Ajax Control Toolkit components.

Ajax Control Toolkit changes

One of the most significant changes in the recent Ajax Control Toolkit release that affected everything is renaming namespaces and control names. Most of the JavaScript classes in the ACT has been moved into Sys.Extended.UI and some of them renamed.

Correspondingly the AjaxControlToolkitTextboxWrapper class that is crucial for the technique described in this article is now called Sys.Extended.UI.TextBoxWrapper and this is a breaking change. Most if its methods haven't been renamed and this is a good news however the new way of using the wrapper has been introduced.

Below are the code examples demonstrating how to write the code correctly with the new version of the ACT.

First we need to acquire an instance of the Sys.Extended.UI.TextBoxWrapper class for our textbox control and this is the newly introduced technique compared to the previous version of the ACT:
// get the instance of a textbox element
var textBox = $get(textBoxId);
// use the get_Wrapper static method of the TextBoxWrapper class to get the instance of the wrapper for the textbox
var wrapper = Sys.Extended.UI.TextBoxWrapper.get_Wrapper(textBox);

In the code above first I assume that the ACT is present so I don't have to check that Sys.Extended.UI namespace is defined. Secondly the code above is safe even if the textbox is not watermarked: the get_Wrapper static method will always return the instance of the TextBoxWrapper; the new instance will be created if the textbox is not watermarked.

Now we can set or get a value of the textbox using the instance of the TextBoxWrapper:
// get the textbox value
var oldValue = wrapper.get_Value();
// set the textbox value


In a nutshell there are two major changes introduced in the new ACT release that affect the coding technique described here: the name of the textbox wrapper class has been changed; and now it's not required to check whether the textbox is watermarked to use the technique above.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Leveraging Visual Studio JavaScript IntelliSense. Part 1

One of the most useful features of the Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio 2010 is JavaScript IntelliSense that allows developers write JavaScript code faster, with fewer errors and reduce learning time of some JavaScript frameworks. Many developers already enjoy its power when code JavaScript with Microsoft ASP.NET Ajax framework and jQuery. However many developers are still not familiar with that tool and even less developers realize that it can also be used with their own code.

As convenient and powerful the JavaScript IntelliSense is as it is not intuitive to get started with mainly because of its lack of well-organized documentation and non-intuitive error diagnostics. Another obstacle is that it does not support its own XML code comments that makes it hard to use to the full extent without learning and memorizing first.

This article aims to provide with a quick reference of the most useful features of the JavaScript IntelliSense to help make it an every-day tool for the JavaScript developers.

In short words JavaScript IntelliSense provides with two main features:
  1. It enables documentation and syntax support while coding for the core JavaScript elements and third-party JavaScript libraries;
  2. It allows adding documentation and syntax support to the code being developed so other developers can use it.
In this post I cover the first feature.

Enable JavaScript IntelliSense for third party JavaScript libraries

The IntelliSense support for the core JavaScript syntax is enabled by default. In order to enable IntelliSense for third party code one needs to satisfy the following requirements:
  1. Reference a third party JavaScript file in your code, and
  2. Make sure the third party JavaScript includes Visual Studio XML code comments
The second requirement is in fact optional because JavaScript IntelliSense will work even without XML comments but will provide with less information so it actually pays off checking out before choosing a third-party JavaScript library whether it has a VS IntelliSense support. Many of the most popular JavaScript libraries such as ASP.NET Ajax, jQuery, Bing Maps, etc. do support VS IntelliSense.

Referencing another JavaScript library in your JavaScript code

Simply use a reference directive in your JavaScript code. There are a few flavors of that directive depending on the location of a third party JavaScript code. A reference directive supports file-based, assembly-based, service-based, or a page-based script references. Below are the examples illustrating those scenarios:

A -path-to portion above can be both a file path to a local or network location or a web URL to both intranet and Internet resources. In the latter case keep in mind that the Internet resource will be accessed every time Visual Studio opens a JavaScript file with a reference so it is better to cache it locally which is also much safer. In case of a service-based reference the actual URL Visual Studio has to access will be 'service-url/jsdebug' or 'service-url/js' based on the solution configuration therefore make sure that the project a service belongs to compiles without errors.

It is not necessary to reference an original JavaScript code itself (for example if it's hosted somewhere outside of your development environment) if there is a VSDOC file provided as it is with jQuery or Bing Maps libraries for example.

A VSDOC file is a JavaScript file that only includes objects definitions and functions signatures with XML comments without actual code and is a preferred way to add extensive documentation to a JavaScript library without modifying the original JavaScript code. In case there are no XML comments in the code nor VSDOC file is available simply reference an original JavaScript file and Visual Studio will parse it and provide you with the best possible IntelliSense help. If you use Microsoft ASP.NET Ajax framework add the following reference to the top of your JavaScript code:

You may have noticed that this is a reference to an embedded resource but without assembly name. Such a reference only works for so called well-known assemblies that are listed in a web.config file such as in this case a System.Web.Extensions. If you use a JavaScript library that comes in a form of a DLL containing multiple JavaScript you may consider listing it in a web.config file and save on assembly name in multiple reference directives.

IntelliSense Rules

The JavaScript IntelliSense behavior is determined by the following rules:
  1. Private class members defined inside a class constructor are not visible in IntelliSense. If you need to have IntelliSense support for private members define public getter (get_...) and/or setter (set_...) methods for them with XML comments
  2. Class methods with names beginning with underscore are considered private and not visible even if they have XML comments
  3. Public class methods can be defined in a class prototype or in a standalone code.
  4. If XML comments are not provided only a method name and a list of arguments are displayed.

IntelliSense Errors

If you don't see IntelliSense support for a JavaScript library even though you have added all the reference check out the Visual Studio Errors tab. If IntelliSense cannot load a referenced file it will display a message like 'Could not load ...' in the Errors tab. The most common reasons for IntelliSense not being able to a load a referenced file are:
  • File is not found at the location or location/file name is invalid. If the file is located on the Internet or a network share there may be a problem accessing those locations from your machine.
  • A referenced JavaScript file contains errors. If IntelliSense can not successfully parse the file it will not load it.
  • If a referenced JavaScript is an embedded resource from one of the solution's projects the project is not compiled for some reason and the DLL is not found.

This is all for the first part. In the next post I will explain how to use XML comments in your own JavaScript code to IntelliSense-enable it. If you find something missing or incorrect in this post or have suggestions what else to cover please write a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.

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