Alexa.Tip – Using Entity Framework in Your C# Alexa Skill Lambda

In this Alexa.Tip series, we explore some little bits of code that can make your life easier in developing Alexa Skills in many languages including C# + .NET, node.jS + TypeScript, Kotlin, etc. We look at concepts that developers might not be aware of, design patterns that and how they can be applied to voice application development, best practices, and more!

In the previous Alexa.Tip, we explored Accessing Lambda Environment Variables in .NET in order to access a secure connection string and initialize a DbContext to use.

If you don’t know how to access Lambda Environment variables already, PLEASE read that post first as this post’s samples will NOT show the use of hard coded connection strings – let’s follow some best practices! ūüėÄ

Alright, let’s get into it. If you’re developing Alexa Skills in .NET, you probably need to access data somewhere! At least if you’re building a real-world scale voice application. Also, if you’re a .NET developer, you’re probably used to accessing data through Entity Framework at this point rather than using some of the AWS SDKs and data services such as DynamoDB.

It’s super easy…

Initial Skill

First off, this example uses a super basic skill where the only custom intent is to get facts about animals. Here’s the intent setup in the UI:
AnimalFactIntent_Full

You can also find the interactionModel.json here:
https://github.com/SuavePirate/Cross-Platform-Voice-NET/blob/master/src/End/AnimalFacts/AnimalFacts/InteractionModels/alexaInteractionModel.json

Let’s start by abstracting some handlers out so we aren’t writing everything in our Function class – this isn’t JavaScript after all:

WelcomeHandler.cs

public class WelcomeHandler : IResponseHandler
{
    public SkillResponse GetResponse(SkillRequest input)
    {
        return ResponseBuilder.Ask("Welcome to the animal facts voice app! You can ask me about all kinds of animals - try saying, tell me about dogs.");
    }
}

AnimalFactHandler.cs

public class AnimalFactHandler : IAsyncResponseHandler
{
    public async Task<SkillResponse> GetResponse(SkillRequest input)
    {
        // TODO: Do something with data to get the fact.
    }    
}

Then we can setup our Function:

Function.cs

public class Function
{
    // using these interfaces can help us use something like Moq to unit test this bad boy.
    private readonly IResponseHandler _welcomeHandler;
    private readonly IAsyncResponseHandler _animalFactHandler;

    public Function() 
    {
        _welcomeHandler = new WelcomeHandler();
        _animalFactHandler = new AnimalFactHandler();
    }  

    public async Task<SkillResponse> FunctionHandler(SkillRequest input, ILambdaContext context)
    {
        var requestType = input.GetRequestType();

        if (requestType == typeof(IntentRequest))
        {
            if ((input.Request as IntentRequest).Intent.Name == "AnimalFactIntent")
            { 
                return await _animalFactHandler.GetResponse(input);
            }
        }
        else if (requestType == typeof(Alexa.NET.Request.Type.LaunchRequest))
        {
            return _welcomeHandler.GetResponse(input);
        }    

        return ResponseBuilder.Ask("I'm not sure I know how to do that. Try asking me for an animal fact!");
    }
}

So we have a basic setup, but we need to actually implement something in the AnimalFactHandler. In this case, we want to do a SQL search for a fact about the animal that was asked about!

SO let’s start wiring up Entity Framework to this skill:

Add Models and Context

Let’s create a model for our AnimalFact entity to represent our table:

AnimalFact.cs

public class AnimalFact
{
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string AnimalName { get; set; }
    public string Fact { get; set; }
}

And now let’s create a DbContext implementation with our AnimalFact:

AnimalContext

public class AnimalContext : DbContext
{
    public DbSet<AnimalFact> AnimalFacts { get; set; }
    public AnimalContext(DbContextOptions options)
        : base(options)
    {

    }

    public AnimalContext()
    {

    }
}

NOTE: If you are NOT also using this AnimalContext in a web app that handles the migrations, you’ll need to add either a web app or a console project with .NET Core to handle the migrations since it needs to be an executable project type. The assumption here is that you already have a project running these migrations so you can actually add data to it, but if you are starting here, simply create a new .NET Core web app project or Console app, reference your DbContext from a shared library between the Labmda project and the app project, then run your migrations from the app project.

From here on out, we assume you have the db created from your context and some data in it.

Updating the Skill Lambda

Now that we have a DbContext, let’s add it to our Function and AnimalFactHandler in order to search for the fact!

Let’s go to the AnimalFactHandler and setup the class to take the AnimalContext in the constructor so we can easily unit test and then use the slot value from the request to query for the animal:

AnimalFactHandler.cs

public class AnimalFactHandler : IAsyncResponseHandler
{
    private readonly AnimalContext _context;
    public AnimalFactHandler(AnimalContext context)
    {
        _context = context;
    }

    public async Task<SkillResponse> GetResponse(SkillRequest input)
    {
        // get the animal name from the slot
        var intent = (input.Request as IntentRequest).Intent;
        var animal = intent.Slots["Animal"].Value;

        // query for the fact
        var animalFact = _context.AnimalFacts
                            .Where(a => a.AnimalName.ToLower() == animal.ToLower())
                            .FirstOrDefaultAsync();

        // we found the animal!
        if (animalFact != null)
        {
            return ResponseBuilder.Tell(animalFact.Fact);
        }

        // couldn't find the animal - return a decent response
        return ResponseBuilder.Ask("I don't know about that animal. Try asking me about a different one!");
    }    
}

Now that we have the updated handler, let’s update the entry point to initialize and pass in the AnimalContext.

Function.cs

public class Function
{
    // using these interfaces can help us use something like Moq to unit test this bad boy.
    private readonly IResponseHandler _welcomeHandler;
    private readonly IResponseHandler _animalFactHandler;
    private readonly AnimalContext _context;

    public Function() 
    {
        var connectionString = Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("DatabaseConnectionString");
        var timeoutSetting = Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("DatabaseCommandTimeout");
        var optionsBuilder = new DbOptionsBuilder<AnimalFactContext>()
            .UseSqlServer(connectionString, providerOptions => providerOptions.CommandTimeout(int.Parse(timeoutSetting)));
        _context = new AnimalFactContext(optionsBuilder.Build());
        _welcomeHandler = new WelcomeHandler();
        _animalFactHandler = new AnimalFactHandler(_context);
    }  

    public SkillResponse FunctionHandler(SkillRequest input, ILambdaContext context)
    {
        var requestType = input.GetRequestType();

        if (requestType == typeof(IntentRequest))
        {
            if ((input.Request as IntentRequest).Intent.Name == "AnimalFactIntent")
            { 
                return _animalFactHandler.GetResponse(input);
            }
        }
        else if (requestType == typeof(Alexa.NET.Request.Type.LaunchRequest))
        {
            return _welcomeHandler.GetResponse(input);
        }    

        return ResponseBuilder.Ask("I'm not sure I know how to do that. Try asking me for an animal fact!");
    }
}

Now we can publish this and check out our results!

Results

For example, I’ll use Swagger to create an animal fact, and then ask for it!

Boom – created:
create_dog_fact.PNG

And now let’s ask for it!

dog_fact_response

Conclusion

Adding data-driven responses to your custom Alexa Skills is dead easy using techniques you may already be familiar with if you are a .NET web developer! Show me what you’ve built with .NET and Alexa in the comments!


If you like what you see, don’t forget to follow me on twitter @Suave_Pirate, check out my GitHub, and subscribe to my blog to learn more mobile and AI developer tips and tricks!

Interested in sponsoring developer content? Message @Suave_Pirate on twitter for details.


voicify_logo
I’m the Director and Principal Architect over at Voicify. Learn how you can use the Voice Experience Platform to bring your brand into the world of voice on Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, chat bots, and more: https://voicify.com/


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.NET Flux Toolkit Nuget Announcement

Last week I mentioned that I was going to be publishing some of my GitHub library projects on Nuget to make them easier to integrate into your projects – Here’s the newest library for using the Flux in your .NET applications such as Xamarin, UWP, WPF, WinForms, and even ASP.NET.

Nuget: https://www.nuget.org/packages/FluxToolkit/
GitHub: https://github.com/SuavePirate/FluxToolkit/

Here’s how to get started!

FluxToolkit

A super simple library to enable the implementation of Flux in .NET Applications such as Xamarin, UWP, WPF, and more. It contains some base level Flux components to help you get started with your implementation faster.

What is Flux?

Flux is a design pattern created by Facebook with the purpose of creating robust data-driven UI components and handles the flow of data between components and outward to services.

Components

Flux consists of 4 major components – Stores, Actions, Components, and the Dispatcher

Stores

Stores are responsible for containing and managing data for a single domain or data type. Stores listen to the dispatcher for certain events and use the data from the dispatcher to update their data, handle errors, and then pass that update down to the components that are subscribed to the store.

Actions

Actions are responsible for piping events through the dispatcher. Actions are invoked from Components or from background processes. They can also handle some small business logic such as data mapping or talking to external services.

Components

Components are the UI and UI logic layers. They are responsible for displaying views to the users and for handling user events. They invoke Actions and subsribe to Stores to handle updates to the data.

Dispatcher

A single dispatcher is responsible for the Pub/Sub mechanism of events invoked from Actions. Stores subscribe to events by name through the Dispatcher.

How does it work with MVVM and data binding?

ViewModels can be considered part of the Component layer but are separated from the actual UI/Views. This means that the ViewModels are responsible for invoking Actions, and subscribing to Stores. The Views themselves are only responsible for showing the UI and communicating to the ViewModel.

Getting Started

Install

The FluxToolkit is available on Nuget: https://www.nuget.org/packages/FluxToolkit It has no external dependencies and should work with any .NET Standard library or project including Xamarin, Xamarin.Forms, UWP, WPF, and even WinForms. It has not been used for web application development, but it is compatible with ASP.NET projects.

Install the nuget package with the nuget package manager or via the Package Manager command line:

Install-Package FluxToolkit

Create your Stores

Use the¬†StoreBase¬†class from the FluxToolkit to implement your unique stores for your different data types. It contains a generic¬†Data¬†field based on the¬†TData¬†type you pass into the definition. Now you don’t have to worry about communicating to the dispatcher for pub/sub – simply call the base methods for¬†Subsribe¬†and¬†Unsubscribe.

Ensure that you are not using multiple instances of your Stores, but rather should be using either a Singleton or Inversion of Control with Dependency Injection to pass the implementation of your Store to the Components that require it through the constructor. Constantly creating new Stores can cause memory leaks due to the event subscriptions.

Here’s an example store implementation:

    /// <summary>
    /// Event store for holding and managing todo items
    /// </summary>
    public class TodoStore : StoreBase<ObservableCollection<Todo>>
    {
        /// <summary>
        /// Creates a new store and handles subscriptions to the dispatcher
        /// </summary>
        public TodoStore()
        {
            Subscribe<string>(TodoActionTypes.ADD_TODO);
            Subscribe(TodoActionTypes.DELETE_COMPLETED_TODOS);
            Subscribe<string>(TodoActionTypes.DELETE_TODO);
            Subscribe<Todo>(TodoActionTypes.EDIT_TODO);
            Subscribe(TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_ALL_TODOS);
            Subscribe<string>(TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_TODO);

            Data = new ObservableCollection<Todo>();
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// Processes an event from the dispatcher before emitting it.
        /// </summary>
        /// <typeparam name="TData"></typeparam>
        /// <param name="eventType"></param>
        /// <param name="data"></param>
        protected override void ReceiveEvent<TData>(string eventType, TData data)
        {
            try
            {
                Error = null;
                switch (eventType)
                {
                    case TodoActionTypes.ADD_TODO:
                        Data.Add(new Todo
                        {
                            Id = Guid.NewGuid().ToString(),
                            Text = data as string,
                            IsComplete = false
                        });
                        break;
                    case TodoActionTypes.DELETE_COMPLETED_TODOS:
                        var itemsToRemove = Data.Where(t => t.IsComplete);
                        foreach(var item in itemsToRemove.ToList())
                        {
                            Data.Remove(item);
                        }
                        break;
                    case TodoActionTypes.DELETE_TODO:
                        var itemToRemove = Data.FirstOrDefault(t => t.Id == data as string);
                        if (itemToRemove != null)
                            Data.Remove(itemToRemove);
                        break;
                    case TodoActionTypes.EDIT_TODO:
                        var itemToEdit = Data.FirstOrDefault(t => t.Id == (data as Todo).Id);
                        if (itemToEdit != null)
                            itemToEdit.Text = (data as Todo).Text;
                        break;
                    case TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_ALL_TODOS:
                        var areAllComplete = !Data.Any(t => !t.IsComplete);
                        foreach(var todo in Data)
                        {
                            todo.IsComplete = !areAllComplete;
                        }
                        break;
                    case TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_TODO:
                        var itemToToggle = Data.First(t => t.Id == (data as string));
                        if (itemToToggle != null)
                            itemToToggle.IsComplete = !itemToToggle.IsComplete;
                        break;

                }
            }
            catch (Exception ex)
            {
                // if something goes wrong, set the error before emitting
                Error = ex.Message;
            }
           
            base.ReceiveEvent(eventType, data);
        }
    }

Create your Actions

Create an Actions class for each of your main data types. These actions will call to the Dispatcher to fire events and will also need to implement IActions in order to properly handle the pub/sub mechanism.

    /// <summary>
    /// Actions to be taken against Todo items
    /// </summary>
    public class TodoActions : IActions
    {
        public void AddTodo(string text)
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions, string>(this, TodoActionTypes.ADD_TODO, text);
        }

        public void DeleteCompletedTodos()
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions>(this, TodoActionTypes.DELETE_COMPLETED_TODOS);
        }

        public void DeleteTodo(string id)
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions, string>(this, TodoActionTypes.DELETE_TODO, id);
        }

        public void EditTodo(string id, string text)
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions, Todo>(this, TodoActionTypes.EDIT_TODO, new Todo
            {
                Id = id,
                Text = text
            });
        }

        public void StartEditingTodo(string id)
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions, string>(this, TodoActionTypes.START_EDITING_TODO, id);
        }

        public void StopEditingTodo()
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions>(this, TodoActionTypes.STOP_EDITING_TODO);
        }

        public void ToggleAllTodos()
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions>(this, TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_ALL_TODOS);
        }

        public void ToggleTodo(string id)
        {
            Dispatcher.Send<IActions, string>(this, TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_TODO, id);
        }
        
    }

Define your ActionTypes

For each of your data types, you’ll need to define some¬†ActionTypes¬†which translate to the¬†id¬†or¬†name¬†of the events your¬†Actions¬†are invoking through the¬†Dispatcher.

    /// <summary>
    /// Different types of actions that can be completed within the context of Todo items
    /// </summary>
    public class TodoActionTypes
    {
        public const string ADD_TODO = "add_todo";
        public const string DELETE_COMPLETED_TODOS = "delete_completed_todos";
        public const string DELETE_TODO = "delete_todo";
        public const string EDIT_TODO = "edit_todo";
        public const string START_EDITING_TODO = "start_editing_todo";
        public const string STOP_EDITING_TODO = "stop_editing_todo";
        public const string TOGGLE_ALL_TODOS = "toggle_all_todos";
        public const string TOGGLE_TODO = "toggle_todo";
        public const string UPDATE_DRAFT = "update_draft";
    }

Wire up your Components (with MVVM or without)

Have your components subscribe to the Stores that are appropriate for the data need, and invoke the Actions they need. This is a great place to place inject your Stores and Actions into the constructor of your Componentswhether it is through a ViewModel or an Activity, ViewController, or Xamarin.Forms.Page.

    public class TodoListPageViewModel : BasePageViewModel
    {
        private readonly TodoStore _todoStore;
        private readonly TodoActions _todoActions;
        private ObservableCollection<Todo> _items;
        private ICommand _createCommand;
        private ICommand _toggleCommand;
        private ICommand _toggleAllCommand;
        private ICommand _deleteCommand;
        private ICommand _deleteCompletedCommand;
        private ICommand _editCommand;
        private ICommand _populateCommand;

        public ICommand CreateCommand
        {
            get
            {
                return _createCommand ??
                    (_createCommand = new RelayCommand(async () =>
                    {
                        var result = await UserDialogs.Instance.PromptAsync(string.Empty, "New", "Done", "Cancel", "Todo...");
                        if (result.Ok)
                        {
                            _todoActions.AddTodo(result.Text);
                        }
                    }));
            }
        }

        public ICommand EditCommand
        {
            get
            {
                return _editCommand ??
                    (_editCommand = new RelayCommand<Todo>(async (t) =>
                    {
                        var result = await UserDialogs.Instance.PromptAsync(new PromptConfig()
                            .SetText(t.Text)
                            .SetTitle("Edit")
                            .SetOkText("Done")
                            .SetCancelText("Cancel")
                            .SetPlaceholder("Todo..."));
                        if (result.Ok)
                        {
                            _todoActions.EditTodo(t.Id, result.Text);
                        }
                    }));
            }
        }

        public ICommand ToggleCommand
        {
            get
            {
                return _toggleCommand ??
                    (_toggleCommand = new RelayCommand<Todo>((t) =>
                    {
                        _todoActions.ToggleTodo(t.Id);
                    }));
            }
        }

        public ICommand ToggleAllCommand
        {
            get
            {
                return _toggleAllCommand ??
                    (_toggleAllCommand = new RelayCommand(() =>
                    {
                        _todoActions.ToggleAllTodos();
                    }));
            }
        }

        public ICommand DeleteCommand
        {
            get
            {
                return _deleteCommand ??
                    (_deleteCommand = new RelayCommand<Todo>((t) =>
                    {
                        _todoActions.DeleteTodo(t.Id);
                    }));
            }
        }

        public ICommand DeleteCompletedCommand
        {
            get
            {
                return _deleteCompletedCommand ??
                    (_deleteCompletedCommand = new RelayCommand(() =>
                    {
                        _todoActions.DeleteCompletedTodos();
                    }));
            }
        }

        public ICommand PopulateCommand
        {
            get
            {
                return _populateCommand ??
                    (_populateCommand = new RelayCommand(() =>
                    {
                        for(var i = 1; i < 20; i++)
                        {
                            _todoActions.AddTodo($"New Item {i}");
                            Task.Delay(200);
                        }
                    }));
            }
        }

        public ObservableCollection<Todo> Items
        {
            get
            {
                return _todoStore.Data;
            }
        }

        public TodoListPageViewModel(TodoStore todoStore, TodoActions todoActions)
        {
            _todoStore = todoStore;
            _todoActions = todoActions;
            _todoStore.OnEmitted += TodoStore_OnEmitted;
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// Processes events from the todo store and updates any UI that isn't handled automatically
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="sender"></param>
        /// <param name="e"></param>
        private void TodoStore_OnEmitted(object sender, StoreEventArgs e)
        {
            switch (e.EventType)
            {
                case TodoActionTypes.ADD_TODO:
                    if(_todoStore.Error == null)
                    {
                        UserDialogs.Instance.Toast("Item added");
                    }
                    break;
                case TodoActionTypes.DELETE_COMPLETED_TODOS:
                    if (_todoStore.Error == null)
                    {
                        UserDialogs.Instance.Toast("Items deleted");
                    }
                    break;
                case TodoActionTypes.DELETE_TODO:
                    if (_todoStore.Error == null)
                    {
                        UserDialogs.Instance.Toast("Item deleted");
                    }
                    break;
                case TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_ALL_TODOS:
                    if (_todoStore.Error == null)
                    {
                        UserDialogs.Instance.Toast("Items toggled");
                    }
                    break;
                case TodoActionTypes.TOGGLE_TODO:
                    if (_todoStore.Error == null)
                    {
                        UserDialogs.Instance.Toast("Item toggled");
                    }
                    break;
            }
            if(_todoStore.Error != null)
            {
                UserDialogs.Instance.ShowError(_todoStore.Error);
            }
        }
    }

Contributing

Want to add additional examples or more tooling to help people develop their apps with Flux? Fork this repository and create a pull request!

Additional Resources

 

If you like what you see, don’t forget to follow me on twitter @Suave_Pirate, check out my GitHub, and subscribe to my blog to learn more mobile developer tips and tricks!

Interested in sponsoring developer content? Message @Suave_Pirate on twitter for details.

Xamarin.Tip – Mvvm Light and Dependency Injection

Inversion of Control and Dependency Injection are some design principles that help make our applications more flexible and scalable. They both help us separate our implementations and make it easy to substitute drastic changes to our implemented data or business logic whether it be for writing unit tests or product improvement.

Xamarin is a platform where IoC and DI fit extremely well. I’ve talked about this concept a few other times in both my blogs and videos about the Onion Architecture in Xamarin as well as how to call Platform Specific code from a Portable Class Library. You can find those posts and videos here:

  1. Onionizing Xamarin Part 6
  2. [VIDEO] Xamarin.Tips: Calling Platform-Specific Code from a PCL (Dependency Injection)

In this post, I want to talk about using DI with Mvvm Light at a VERY basic level.

First, let’s define an interface for a service we might use:

IUserService.cs

public interface IUserService
{
    Task<User> GetCurrentUserAsync();
}

Now let’s create two different implementations. One that will be the service used in the application and the other that will be used for testing.

UserService.cs

public class UserService : IUserService
{
    // makes a call to a web api to get a user
    public async Task<User> GetCurrentUserAsync()
    {
        using (var client = new HttpClient())
        {
            var response = await client.GetAsync("https://mywebapi.mydomain/api/currentuser");
            var content = await response.Content.ReadAsStringAsync();
            return JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<User>(content);
        }
    }
}

TestUserServices.cs

public class TestUserService : IUserService
{
    public Task<User> GetCurrentUserAsync()
    {
        return Task.FromResult(new User { Name = "Test User" });
    }
}

Now we need a ViewModel that will use this service. We define a private readonly IUserService and then inject the implementation that we want in the constructor of the ViewModel.

CurrentUserViewModel.cs

public class CurrentUserViewModel : ViewModelBase
{
    // use the interface as the service and inject the implementation in the constructur
    private readonly IUserService _userService;
    private User _user;

    public User User
    {
        get
        {
            return _user;
        }
        set
        {
            Set(ref _user, value);
        }
    }

    public CurrentUserViewModel(IUserService userService)
    {
        _userService = userService;
    }

    public async Task UpdateUserAsync()
    {
        User = await _userService.GetCurrentUserAsync();
    }
}

Now let’s define an IoCConfig that handles registering dependencies and implementations.

IoCConfig.cs

public class IoCConfig
{
    public IoCConfig()
    {
        // use SimpleIoc from MvvmLight as our locator provider
        ServiceLocator.SetLocatorProvider(() => SimpleIoc.Default);
    }

    // register the real implementation
    public void RegisterServices()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IUserService, UserService>();
    }

    // register the test implementation
    public void RegisterTestServices()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IUserService, TestUserService>();
    }

    // register the view model
    public void RegisterViewModels()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<CurrentUserViewModel>();
    }
}

Now that we can register our Services as well as our ViewModels, the dependency resolver from SimpleIoc can retrieve an instance of CurrentUserViewModel with whichever version of IUserService is registered depending on whether we call RegisterServices or RegisterTestServices.

Now we can retrieve our instance of the CurrentUserViewModel by calling

var currentUserViewModel = ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<CurrentUserViewModel>();

MvvmLight recommends using a ViewModelLocator to get the instance of your ViewModels:

ViewModelLocator.cs

public class ViewModelLocator
{
    private readonly IoCConfig _iocConfig;
    public CurrentUserViewModel CurrentUser
    {
        get
        {
            return ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<CurrentUserViewModel>();
        }
    }

    public ViewModelLocator()
    {
        _iocConfig = new IoCConfig();
        _iocConfig.RegisterServices();
        //_iocConfig.RegisterTestServices();
        _iocConfig.RegisterViewModels();
    }

}

It’s recommended to either create your ViewModelLocator at the app start up, or if you’re using Xamarin.Forms, register it as a Resource in your App.xaml

<Application ...     xmlns:locator="clr-namespace:YOUR_LOCATOR_LOCATION">
    <Application.Resources>
        <ResourceDictionary>
            <locator:ViewModelLocator x:Key="Locator"/>
        </ResourceDictionary>
    </Application.Resources>
</Application>

Now in your XAML pages, you can automatically wire up your view model.

MainPage.xaml

<ContentPage ...     BindingContext="{Binding Source={StaticResource Locator}, Path=CurrentUser}"     Title="{Binding User.Name}">
...
</ContentPage>

In order to change to your testing data, you can just switch which call to your IoCConfig is made for registering your dependency without having to make any changes to any of your other layers or UI!

If you like what you see, don’t forget to follow me on twitter @Suave_Pirate, check out my GitHub, and subscribe to my blog to learn more mobile developer tips and tricks!

Interested in sponsoring developer content? Message @Suave_Pirate on twitter for details.

Onionizing Xamarin Part 6

For those who just want code: https://github.com/SuavePirate/Xamarin.Onion 

Don’t forget:

  1. Part 1 on the general project structure: Onionizing Xamarin Part 1
  2. Part 2 on our Domain and Application layers: Onionizing Xamarin Part 2
  3. Part 3 on our Infrastructure layer: Onionizing Xamarin Part 3
  4. Part 4 on our Client layer and Xamarin.Forms implementation: Onionizing Xamarin Part 4
  5. Part 5 on creating custom Platform specific logic: Onionizing Xamarin Part 5

A strong and scale-able architecture is important in applications, especially in Mobile Apps. APIs and SDKs are constantly changing, new technology is constantly released, and team sizes are always changing. A solid Onion Architecture can save a development team a lot of time by making it simple to change service implementations, restrict access to certain areas, making logic flow easy to follow, and making testing isolated blocks of code easier.

Some of the important topics this will cover:

  • Separation of Concerns
  • Inversion of Control
  • Dependency Injection
  • Model-View-ViewModel
  • Testability
  • Why all these things are important

Part 6

In this section, we will talk briefly about building useful tests for our solution, and why the Onion pattern makes it easy to break tests out into individual layers.

In this example, we will add a test project whose purpose it to just test the Business layer within our Infrastructure.

Tests.Business

Let’s start with by adding a nUnit project to our solution, or by adding the nuget package to a class library. Xamarin has great documentation on this:¬†https://developer.xamarin.com/guides/cross-platform/application_fundamentals/installing-nunit-using-nuget/

In our project, we also want to install MvvmLight, just like in our Client and Platform layers. We will also need to add references to our Domain.Models, Domain.Interfaces, Application.Models, Application.Interfaces, and Infrastructure.Business projects.

In order to test our Infrastructure.Business project, we will need to create mock versions of our Data project. In our test project, we can create Repository implementations with mock data for each set that we need. For example:

MockGenericRepository.cs

public class MockGenericRepository : IGenericRepository
{
    private List _data;
    public MockGenericRepository()
    {
        _data = new List();
    }

    public void Add(T entity)
    {
        _data.Add(entity);
    }

    public void AddRange(IEnumerable entities)
    {
        _data.AddRange(entities);
    }

    public Task CommitAsync()
    {
        return Task.FromResult(false); // we don't need to explicitly save changes
    }

    public Task FindAsync(Func<T, bool> predicate)
    {
        var entity =_data.Where(predicate).FirstOrDefault();
        return Task.FromResult(entity);
    }

    public Task<IEnumerable> GetAsync(Func<T, bool> predicate)
    {
        var entities =_data?.Where(predicate);
        return Task.FromResult(entities);
    }

    public void Remove(T entity)
    {
        _data.Remove(entity);
    }
}

and MockUserRepository.cs

public class MockUserRepository : MockGenericRepository, IUserRepository
{
    public MockUserRepository()
    : base()
    {
    }
}

Now that we have some mock implementations, we can set up our tests against our Business logic.

UserBusinessTests.cs

public class UserBusinessTest
{
    private IUserService _userService;

    [SetUp]
    public void StartUpIoC ()
    {
        ServiceLocator.SetLocatorProvider(() => SimpleIoc.Default);
        SimpleIoC.Default.Register<IUserService, UserService>();
        SimpleIoC.Default.Register<IUserRepository, MockUserRepository>();

        _userService = SimpleIoC.Default.GetInstance();
    }

    [Test ()]
    public async void AddUserTest()
    {
        var result = await _userService.CreateUserAsync(new NewUser
            {
                Email = "test@test.com",
                FullName = "Testy McTest"
            });
        Assert.IsNotNull(result.Data);
    }
}

Now we can test against any of the business logic in our application with a mock layer. The same practice can be applied to test any other layer in the solution as well. The data layer can be tested by mocking the business layer, and so on.

Conclusion

Looking back at all of the components of our Onion Architecture, one might think, “Wow, that’s a lot of code to do a simple task”. It’s important to remember that this architecture is not for every project. It’s focus is on scalability and testability. If your project has the potential to grow into something quite complicated, with many developers involved, this type of solution might work best for you. However, if you’re working on something quick to get out the door, maybe getting right to the point is easier and best for you.

The best parts about the Onion Architecture are its abilities to make drastic changes to tools or services used, without having to rewrite anything but that components implementation as well as making it easy to test individual layers without affecting the others or using real data. It also allows for closer monitoring and management of the codebase; keeping people from making calls directly from one layer to another. The only thing you have to emphasize is, “Are you adding a reference to another project to get something done? If so, you might be doing it wrong”.

Onionizing Xamarin Part 5

For those who just want code: https://github.com/SuavePirate/Xamarin.Onion 

Don’t forget:

  1. Part 1 on the general project structure: Onionizing Xamarin Part 1
  2. Part 2 on our Domain and Application layers: Onionizing Xamarin Part 2
  3. Part 3 on our Infrastructure layer: Onionizing Xamarin Part 3
  4. Part 4 on our Client layer and Xamarin.Forms implementation: Onionizing Xamarin Part 4

A strong and scale-able architecture is important in applications, especially in Mobile Apps. APIs and SDKs are constantly changing, new technology is constantly released, and team sizes are always changing. A solid Onion Architecture can save a development team a lot of time by making it simple to change service implementations, restrict access to certain areas, making logic flow easy to follow, and making testing isolated blocks of code easier.

Some of the important topics this will cover:

  • Separation of Concerns
  • Inversion of Control
  • Dependency Injection
  • Model-View-ViewModel
  • Testability
  • Why all these things are important

Part 5

In this section, we will look at how to expand our Inversion of Control container with platform specific code. Specifically, we will implement some pieces of the HockeyApp SDK so that we can make calls to it from our Client or Infrastructure layers.

Our example will focus on just Android, but the same principles can be applied to any of the unique platform projects.

Platforms.Android

First thing we need to do is make sure we also install the MvvmLight nuget package in your Android project, as well as the HockeyApp Xamarin package.

From here, we can go back to our Application.Interface layer and create a new service:

ICrashAnalyticsService.cs

public interface ICrashAnalyticsService
{
    void Initialize();
    void GetFeedback();
}

Setting it up generic like this allows us to switch providers from HockeyApp to some other service should that be a need in the future.

Back in our Android project, let’s implement the ICrashAnalyticsServicewith our HockeyApp logic.

HockeyAppService.cs

public class HockeyAppService : ICrashAnalyticsService
{
    private const string HOCKEYAPP_KEY = "YOUR_HOCKEYAPP_KEY";
    private readonly Android.App.Application _androidApp;
    private readonly Activity _context;
    public HockeyAppService(Activity context, Android.App.Application androidApp)
    {
        _context = context;
        _androidApp = androidApp;
    }
    public void GetFeedback()
    {
        FeedbackManager.ShowFeedbackActivity(_context.ApplicationContext);
    }

    public void Initialize()
    {
        CrashManager.Register(_context, HOCKEYAPP_KEY);
        MetricsManager.Register(_androidApp, HOCKEYAPP_KEY);
        UpdateManager.Register(_context, HOCKEYAPP_KEY);
        FeedbackManager.Register(_context, HOCKEYAPP_KEY);
    }
}

Now we can create an IoCConfig class specific to our Android project. Because SimpleIoC uses a singleton for its container, we can register classes in our platform specific classes before our registrations in the Client layer.

AndroidIoCConfig.cs

public class AndroidIoCConfig
{
    public void RegisterAndroidServices(Android.App.Application application, Activity activity)
    {
        var hockeyService = new HockeyAppService(activity, application);
        hockeyService.Initialize();
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<ICrashAnalyticsService>(() => hockeyService);
    }
}

Don’t forget to add a reference to the Application.Interfaces project in your platform project.

Lastly, let’s update our MainActivity to initialize our AndroidIoCConfig before we start up the ¬†Xamarin.Forms app:

MainActivity.cs

public class MainActivity : global::Xamarin.Forms.Platform.Android.FormsAppCompatActivity
{
    protected override void OnCreate(Bundle bundle)
    {
        TabLayoutResource = Resource.Layout.Tabbar;
        ToolbarResource = Resource.Layout.Toolbar;

        base.OnCreate(bundle);
        global::Xamarin.Forms.Forms.Init(this, bundle);
        InitializeIoC();
        LoadApplication(new App());
    }

    private void InitializeIoC()
    {
        var container = new AndroidIoCConfig();
        container.RegisterAndroidServices(Application, this);
    }
}

Now we can make calls to our ICrashAnalyticsService from the Client layer, and use the Android specific logic. For example, we can pass the ICrashAnalyticsService into the constructor of a ViewModel, and call the GetFeedback() method to get access to the HockeyApp Feedback view.

ExampleViewModel.cs

public class ExampleViewModel : BasePageViewModel
{
    private readonly ICrashAnalyticsService _crashAnalyticsService;
    private ICommand _feedbackCommand;

    public ICommand FeedbackCommand
    {
        get
        {
            return _feedbackCommand ??
                (_feedbackCommand = new RelayCommand(() =>
                {
                    _crashAnalyticsService.GetFeedback();
                }));
        }
    }
}

It’s all that simple! The same pattern can be applied to anything that needs to be platform specific.

What’s Next

In the next and final segment, we will look at building mock implementation of our Infrastructure layer and using them to test layers individually in Unit tests.

Next: Onionizing Xamarin Part 6

Onionizing Xamarin Part 4

For those who just want code: https://github.com/SuavePirate/Xamarin.Onion 

Don’t forget:

  1. Part 1 on the general project structure: Onionizing Xamarin Part 1
  2. Part 2 on our Domain and Application layers: Onionizing Xamarin Part 2
  3. Part 3 on our Infrastructure layer: Onionizing Xamarin Part 3

A strong and scale-able architecture is important in applications, especially in Mobile Apps. APIs and SDKs are constantly changing, new technology is constantly released, and team sizes are always changing. A solid Onion Architecture can save a development team a lot of time by making it simple to change service implementations, restrict access to certain areas, making logic flow easy to follow, and making testing isolated blocks of code easier.

Some of the important topics this will cover:

  • Separation of Concerns
  • Inversion of Control
  • Dependency Injection
  • Model-View-ViewModel
  • Testability
  • Why all these things are important

Part 4

In this section, we will look at the code for our actual Xamarin.Forms client implementation along with talking about building other Non-Xamarin clients into our solution, and sharing as much code between them as possible. This are our Client layer, and will include setting up our Views, ViewModels, IoC container, and start up process.

Client Layer

First thing is first, let’s build our ViewModels. These ViewModels are going to interface with our Application layer by making calls to our defined Service Interfaces that will be injected into the constructors of our ViewModels.

Some things to note: We are using MVVM Light in this example to make our MVVM and IoC easier to get going. So things such as the ViewModelBase class and the Set() method are coming from that library. You can choose to utilize a different library, or roll your own pretty easily. In either case, the principles are the same.

Let’s first abstract some universal properties into a BasePageViewModel.cs

public class BasePageViewModel : ViewModelBase
{
    private bool _isLoading;
    private bool _isEnabled;
    private string _title;
    private ObservableCollection<string> _errors;

    public bool IsLoading
    {
        get
        {
            return _isLoading;
        }
        set
        {
            Set(() => IsLoading, ref _isLoading, value);
        }
    }
    public bool IsEnabled
    {
        get
        {
            return _isEnabled;
        }
        set
        {
            Set(() => IsEnabled, ref _isEnabled, value);
        }
    }
    public ObservableCollection<string> Errors
    {
        get
        {
            return _errors;
        }
        set
        {
            Set(() => Errors, ref _errors, value);
        }
    }

    public string Title
    {
        get
        {
            return _title;
        }
        set
        {
            Set(() => Title, ref _title, value);
        }
    }
    public BasePageViewModel()
    {
        IsEnabled = true;
        IsLoading = false;
    }

    public override void Cleanup()
    {
        base.Cleanup();
        Errors = null;
    }
}

 

From here let’s make a ViewModel for each of our pages (in this example, we will just look at one “MainPage”)

MainPageViewModel.cs

public class MainPageViewModel : BaseViewModel
{
    private readonly IUserService _userService;
    private string _bodyTitle;
    private string _bodyText;
    public string BodyTitle
    {
        get
        {
            return _bodyTitle;
        }
        set
        {
            Set(() => BodyTitle, ref _bodyTitle, value);
        }
    }

    public string BodyText
    {
        get
        {
            return _bodyText;
        }
        set
        {
            Set(() => BodyText, ref _bodyText, value);
        }
    }

    private async void Initialize()
    {
        IsLoading = true;
        await Task.Delay(2000); // simulate load time
        var users = await _userService.GetValidUsers();
        if(users?.Data == null || users.Data.Count() == 0)
        {
            var user = await _userService.CreateUserAsync(new NewUser
            {
                FullName = "Felipe Fancybottom",
                Email = "feffancy@fancybottoms.com"
            });

            BodyText = user.Data.Email;
            BodyTitle = user.Data.FullName;
        }
        else
        {
            BodyText = users.Data.First().Email;
            BodyTitle = users.Data.First().FullName;
        }
        IsLoading = false;
    }

    public MainPageViewModel(IUserService userService)
    {
        _userService = userService;

        Title = "Onion Template";
        BodyTitle = "Loading Name";
        BodyText = "Loading Email";
        Initialize();
    }
}

Notice how we injected the IUserService in the constructor, and use that to lazy load some data into our bindable properties. When we create our view and set the BindingContext to this ViewModel, we will see the UI automatically update when those do. This example does it async right from the constructor, but you can load your data and set up your initial properties any way you’d like.

The next step is to initialize our Inversion of Control, Dependency Injection, and ViewModelLocator to tie all our layers together and allow us to automatically set the BindingContext of our Page.

If it makes sense to you, you can break the IoC set up into a separate project that references all the previous layers. For the sake of simplicity, we are going to do it in the same project as our Xamarin.Forms project.

IoCConfig.cs

public class IoCConfig
{
    public IoCConfig()
    {
        ServiceLocator.SetLocatorProvider(() => SimpleIoc.Default);
    }

    public void RegisterViewModels()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<MainViewModel>();
    }

    public void RegisterRepositories()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IUserRepository, UserRepository>(); // this is where you would change the registration to use a different repository
    }

    public void RegisterServices()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IUserService, UserService>();
    }

    public void RegisterProviders()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IUserDataProvider, UserDataProvider>();
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<ICloudStorageProvider, AzureStorageDataProvider>(); // this is where you would change the registration to use a different provider
    }

    public void RegisterStores()
    {
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IUserStore, UserStore>();
        SimpleIoc.Default.Register<IStoreManager, StoreManager>();
    }
}

The purpose of this class is to wire up our dependencies as well as our actual container for the ServiceLocator. This example is using SimpleIoc which is packaged with MVVM Light.

Now that we have our other layers glued together, we just need to create our ViewModelLocator to automatically handle our bindings, then make calls to the IoCConfig when the ViewModelLocator is initialized.

ViewModelLocator.cs

public class ViewModelLocator
{
    public MainPageViewModel MainPage
    {
        get
        {
            return ServiceLocator.Current.GetInstance<MainPageViewModel >();
        }
    }
    public ViewModelLocator()
    {
        var iocConfig = new IoCConfig();
        iocConfig.RegisterRepositories();
        iocConfig.RegisterProviders();
        iocConfig.RegisterServices();
        iocConfig.RegisterViewModels();
        iocConfig.RegisterStores();
    }
}

In our constructor, we initialize our IoC, and also provide properties for each of our ViewModels, so that we can bind it easily in our XAML.

The last two steps here are to add a Resource in our App.xaml to our ViewModelLocator, and create our Page.

App.xaml


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Application xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms" xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml" x:Class="OnionTemplate.App">
    <Application.Resources>
        <!-- Application resource dictionary -->
        <ResourceDictionary>
                <vm:ViewModelLocator xmlns:vm="clr-namespace:NAMESPACEOF.VIEWMODELLOCATOR;assembly=YOURPACKAGENAME" x:Key="Locator" />
        </ResourceDictionary>
    </Application.Resources>
</Application>

Now that we have our resource, let’s create our page and wire up the BindingContext in our XAML.

MainPage.xaml


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<ContentPage xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms" xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml" x:Class="NAMESPACE.MainPage" BindingContext="{Binding Source={StaticResource Locator}, Path=Main}" Title="{Binding Title}">
    <ContentPage.Content>
        <StackLayout Orientation="Vertical" HorizontalOptions="Center" VerticalOptions="Center">
            <Label Text="{Binding BodyTitle}"/>
            <Label Text="{Binding BodyText}"/>
            <ActivityIndicator IsRunning="True" IsVisible="{Binding IsLoading}"/>
        </StackLayout>
    </ContentPage.Content>
</ContentPage>

There is nothing required to write in our code behind (MainPage.xaml.cs) since it is all automatically wired up.

Last but not least, set our page in our App.xaml.cs:

App.xaml.cs


public partial class App : Xamarin.Forms.Application
{
    public App()
    {
        InitializeComponent();

        MainPage = new NavigationPage(new MainPage());
    }
}

At this point, we should be able to run the application (assuming that the Xamarin.Forms app is started off in each platform the way the template sets it up).

So we have our Xamarin.Forms implementation. But what about other applications that can’t use Xamarin.Forms? Web apps? Xamarin.Mac apps? Cloud apps? WPF?

Here is one of the coolest parts of the entire Onion pattern. We can go ahead and add more projects into our Client layer. These layers can use the same models, interfaces, and in some cases, implementations! For projects where we would need completely different logic, such as a Web App for example, we can implement multiple versions of the Domain and Application layers.

In our web app, we could create another project in the Infrastructure layer (say Infrastructure.WebData) that uses Entity Framework and SQL. Then in our IoCConfig of our Web App, we call to register our Infrastructure.WebData implementations for our Domain.Interfaces.

As long as each project in the Client layer serves the same purpose of configuring Views, and starting up our application with our Inversion of Control, any type of application can live here and follow the same pattern.

The Client layer can also contain abstractions of controls or other utilities that can be referenced by the core Client projects.

What’s Next

In the next segment, we will look at how to integrate our individual mobile platforms, and how to inject custom platform-specific code with some examples using the HockeyApp SDK.

 

Next: Onionizing Xamarin Part 5