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Programming ASP.NET 3.5, 4th Edition by Jesse Liberty, Dan Hurwitz, Dan Maharry

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TextBox Control

You can use the TextBox control for both user input and read-only text display. You can configure it to be single-line or multiline, or to act as a password entry box, hiding the text being typed in it. If you set it to multiline, it automatically wraps the text it contains unless the Wrap property is set to false. Its Text property sets and retrieves the text content within the box. The text it contains can exceed the length of the control displayed on the page, in which case the beginning of the text is scrolled off to the left of the box.

Table 4-2 lists the frequently used properties of the TextBox control. If you omit any of these values from the control, the default value will apply. All the properties listed in the table are read/write properties.

Table 4-2. Some properties specific to the TextBox control

Name

Type

Values

Description

AutoPostBack

Boolean

true, false

Determines whether automatic postback to the server will occur if the user changes the contents of the control and then selects another control on the form. If false, the postback to the server will not occur until the page is posted, either by a button or by another control with AutoPostBack set to true. Default is false.

Columns

Int32

0, 1, 2, etc.

Width of the text box as measured in the width of the widest characters in the current font. Default is 0, which indicates that the property is not set. Use the Width property for fine-grained control instead.

MaxLength

Int32

0, 1, 2, etc.

Maximum number of characters allowed. If MaxLength is greater than Columns, and if the current length of the value of the text box is larger than Columns, only a portion of the string will display, and users must use the Home, End, or arrow key to see all of the text.

The default value is 0, which does not impose a limit on the number of characters entered into the text box.

ReadOnly

Boolean

true, false

If true, the contents cannot be changed by the user, although there is no visual indication to this effect. The contents of the text box can still be changed programmatically, however. Default is false.

Rows

Int32

0, 1, 2, etc.

Number of lines of text in a multiline text box. The default is 0, which imposes no limit on the number of lines. Has an effect only if TextMode is set to MultiLine.

Text

String

 

Content of the TextBox.

TextMode

TextBoxMode

SingleLine, MultiLine, Password

SingleLine, the default value, displays a single line of text. MultiLine allows multiple lines of text and displays a vertical scroll bar, even for Rows = 1. The text wraps automatically to fit the width of the box. The Enter key enters a carriage return/line feed. The mouse or Tab key causes focus to leave the box. Password displays any text entered as a nonalphanumeric character (which one is specific to the browser you’re using) and then clears the text box on posting. The value is not case-sensitive. Note that for security reasons, this mode makes the Text property not settable from code.

ValidationGroup

String

 

Specifies which validation group, if any, this control is a member of. See Chapter 11 for a discussion of validation.

Wrap

Boolean

true, false

Indicates whether text within a multiline text box should wrap. If false, the text box will have a horizontal scroll bar. Default is true.

In addition to the events inherited from the WebControl class, such as Init, Load, and PreRender, the TextBox control raises the TextChanged event when the contents of the text box have changed and the control loses focus. This is not a postback event unless the AutoPostBack property is set to true.

When a TextBox control is declared in a content file (.aspx or .ascx), the TextChanged event handler method is specified with the OnTextChanged attribute. TextChanged is the default event handler created by VS2008 when you double-click a TextBox in Design view. This event handler is passed a standard EventArgs argument.

TextBox Behavior

The following example demonstrates the basic use of a TextBox, including handling the TextChanged event. This example has two text boxes: one to input text, and a second, read-only control to echo the contents of the first box. The finished web page should look something like that shown in Figure 4-3, after changing the text in the input box.

TextBoxDemo.aspx

Figure 4-3. TextBoxDemo.aspx

Add to your C4_BasicControls site a new web form called TextBoxDemo.aspx. Drag two TextBox controls onto the page. Set the ID property of the first to txtInput and the second to txtEcho. Set the AutoPostBack property of txtInput to true so that the form will automatically post back whenever the contents of the control changes. Set the BackColor property of txtEcho to LightGray and the ReadOnly property to true. The former will give a visual clue that the latter has been set, and txtEcho won’t accept text. Finally, add some text to txtInput.

To echo the contents of txtInput in txtEcho, you’ll make use of the TextChanged event of txtInput. This event fires when the contents of a text box changes and then the text box loses focus. To bind this event with the method to copy the text to txtEcho, switch to Design view and double-click the TextBox. The OnTextChanged attribute will be added to the txtInput declaration in the content file, and the code-behind file will open with a code skeleton in place of the event handler. Enter the highlighted line of code from Example 4-5.

Example 4-5. The TextChanged event handler in TextBoxDemo.aspx.cs

using System;
using System.Web.UI;

public partial class TextBoxDemo : Page
{
   protected void txtInput_TextChanged(object sender, EventArgs e)
   {
      txtEcho.Text = txtInput.Text;
   }
}

The final markup for TextBoxDemo.aspx is shown in Example 4-6.

Example 4-6. Markup for TextBoxDemo.aspx

<%@ Page Language="C#" AutoEventWireup="true" 
   CodeFile="TextBoxDemo.aspx.cs" Inherits="TextBoxDemo" %>

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"
   "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head runat="server">
   <title>Textbox Demo</title>
</head>
<body>
   <form id="form1" runat="server">
   <div>
      <asp:TextBox ID="txtInput" runat="server" AutoPostBack="true"
         OnTextChanged="txtInput_TextChanged" Text="Enter some text" />
      <asp:TextBox ID="txtEcho" runat="server"
         BackColor="lightgray" ReadOnly="true" />
   </div>
   </form>
</body>
</html>

Run the page and you’ll see that txtInput contains “Enter some text”. When you change the contents of the control and tab out of the text box, the page will be posted back, the TextChanged event will be raised, and the event handler specified in the OnTextChanged attribute, txtInput_TextChanged, will execute, populating txtEcho.

TextBox Extenders

The TextBox control serves its purpose very well, but it gives users no help or hints on how to complete the information that is required of them. For example, in what format should a date be given? Is this a good password? The AJAX Control Toolkit contains several TextBox extender controls to provide this functionality and alternative ways to change the value in a TextBox without typing it in directly:

Autocomplete

This extender control displays a list of possible values for the TextBox based on the text already added to the box. This list is generated on the fly by querying a web service in the background.

Calendar

For TextBoxes that require a date value, the CalendarExtender displays a standard Calendar control (see Chapter 5 for more on that) next to the TextBox as soon as the TextBox gets the focus. The user can then choose a date from the Calendar and that date as a string is then shown in the TextBox in the format you specify.

FilteredTextBox

This allows you to specify a list of the characters that may be added to the value in the text box. Characters that are not in the list won’t be allowed into the box.

MaskedEditExtender

This specifies a format for the string to be added to the TextBox. For example, if the extender specifies a 10-digit ISBN string, the MaskedEditExtender will add hyphens between the appropriate numbers to create the correct string.

NumericUpDownExtender

This extender control adds “up” and “down” buttons to the side of the TextBox that increase and decrease a numeric value (if there is one) in the TextBox. You can also define sequences of non-numeric values for the TextBox. Clicking the buttons then calls a web service in the background that tells the extender which is the next or previous value in the sequence.

PasswordStrength

For TextBox controls where users need to add a password, PasswordStrength provides feedback to users as they type regarding how strong the password they’ve entered is so far and what they’ll need to add to the string to make it the required strength.

PopupControlExtender

A more generic version of the CalendarExtender control, this extender allows you to associate another control or group of controls with a text box to make setting the value for the text box simpler. Indeed, this can extend almost any ASP.NET server control, as you’ll see at the end of this chapter.

Slider

This defines a range of numeric values to which the TextBox can be set and then replaces the text box with a slider graphic which the user can drag to the appropriate value. We cover sliders separately at the end of this chapter.

TextBoxWatermarkExtender

This displays hint text in the TextBox that is visible when the text box contains no user-entered or programmatically set value. The watermark disappears as soon as the user clicks on the TextBox.

To demonstrate how you can use some of these extender controls with a TextBox, the next example extends TextBoxDemo.aspx to make it easier to enter a date into a TextBox. Add to the C4_BasicControls website a new AJAX web form called TextBoxDemoWithAJAX.aspx. Next, add the highlighted code from Example 4-6 to TextBoxDemoWithAJAX.aspx below the ScriptManager control, and then add the event handler code for txtInput_OnTextChanged from Example 4-5 to TextBoxDemoWithAJAX.aspx.cs.

The first change is to replace the “Enter some text” text in txtInput with a watermark saying the same thing, so the user doesn’t have to delete it before she can actually write what she wants there.

With TextBoxDemoWithAJAX.aspx in Source view, drag a TextBoxWatermarkExtender from the Toolbox onto the page underneath the two TextBoxes. Set the TargetControlId for the extender to txtInput and the WatermarkText to “Enter a Date”. Delete the Text property from txtInput, as it’s no longer necessary, and then run the page. You’ll see the watermark in the TextBox disappear as soon as you click it. If you delete the contents of the TextBox and click elsewhere on the page, the watermark will reappear.

To differentiate the watermark from text you’ve actually typed in, you can define a CSS class for watermarks and set the extender’s WatermarkCssClass property to that. For example, the following CSS style works quite well:

<style type="text/css">
   .watermark
   {
      color : Gray;
      background-color : #dddddd;
      font-size: smaller;
      font-style:italic;
   }
</style>

Tip

You can add an AJAX Toolkit Extender control to an ASP.NET server control in Design view if you prefer. Select the target control for the extender on the page and a small arrow appears by its top-right corner. Clicking this smart tag will expand the control’s Common Tasks dialog. You’ll see an option to Add Extender. Clicking this will present another dialog box showing all the available extenders for that type of control. Select one and click OK.

Note, however, that not all of the properties of the AJAX Control Toolkit controls are visible in the Properties window in Design view, so you’ll still need to use IntelliSense in Source view to see all of those.

With the hint text now a watermark, you can use a couple of other extenders to help users specify a date they want in the format you want. You could just use a Calendar control (see Chapter 5), it’s true, but this is neater and also allows the user to just type the date straight into the box.

Drag a CalendarExtender onto the page under the TextBoxWatermarkExtender. Set its TargetControlId to txtInput. Now run the page and see that when the TextBox gets the focus, a calendar appears below it, as shown in Figure 4-4. Now you can select the date from the calendar or type it directly into the TextBox.

The CalendarExtender at work

Figure 4-4. The CalendarExtender at work

Once you’ve selected a date from the calendar, the TextBox reflects that in its default format: MM/dd/yyyy. To change the format, use the Format property of the CalendarExtender. For example, set format="dd/MM/yy". A list of CalendarExtender’s useful properties appears in Table 4-3.

Table 4-3. CalendarExtender properties

Name

Type

Value range

Description

Animated

Boolean

true, false

True if the calendar should pop up with an animation. False if it should just appear. Default is false.

CssClass

String

 

Specifies the CSS class that should be applied to the calendar when it is visible.

FirstDayOfWeek

String

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.

Specifies the day to display as the first day of the week on the calendar.

Format

String

Use the same format strings as the standard .NET DateTime object.

Specifies the format of the selected date to be used in the text box after the date has been selected.

PopupButtonID

String

 

Specifies the ID of a button control that must be clicked before the calendar appears. If this is set, the calendar will not appear if the text box simply gets the focus. To display the calendar, users have to click the button first.

The CalendarExtender helps people write the date in the format you want, but it doesn’t preclude them from writing their own version of the date directly into the TextBox. You could use a watermark to give a better hint, but an additional route is to enforce the desired format with the MaskedEditExtender and then check the entry with the MaskedEditValidator. (See more on validation in Chapter 11.)

Drag a MaskedEditExtender onto the page under the CalendarExtender. Set its TargetControlId property to txtInput, its MaskType property to date, its Mask to 99/99/9999, and its ErrorTooltipEnabled to True so that the validator’s errors are visible. Now drag a MaskedEditValidator onto the page under the MaskedEditExtender. Set its ControlToValidate property to txtInput, its ControlExtender property to the ID of the MaskedEditExtender control, and its Display to “dynamic” so messages are inserted as appropriate. Then add messages with EmptyValueMessage, InvalidValueMessage, and ToolTipMessage properties. These additions, along with the code for the other extenders, are shown in Example 4-7.

Example 4-7. Full source code for TextBoxDemoWithAJAX.aspx.cs

<%@ Page Language="C#" AutoEventWireup="true"
   CodeFile="TextBoxDemoWithAJAX.aspx.cs"
   Inherits="TextBoxDemoWithAJAX" %>

<%@ Register Assembly="AjaxControlToolkit"
   Namespace="AjaxControlToolkit" TagPrefix="cc1" %>

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"
   "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head runat="server">
   <title>TextBoxes With Ajax</title>

   <script type="text/javascript">
      function pageLoad() {
      }

   </script>

   <style type="text/css">
      .watermark
      {
         color: Gray;
         background-color: #dddddd;
         font-size: smaller;
         font-style: italic;
      }
   </style>
</head>

<body>
   <form id="form1" runat="server">
   <div>
      <asp:ScriptManager ID="ScriptManager1" runat="server" />

      <asp:TextBox ID="txtInput" runat="server" AutoPostBack="true"
         OnTextChanged="txtInput_TextChanged" Text="Enter some text" />
      <asp:TextBox ID="txtEcho" runat="server"
         BackColor="lightgray" ReadOnly="true" />

      <cc1:TextBoxWatermarkExtender ID="TextBoxWatermarkExtender1"
         runat="server" TargetControlID="txtInput"
         WatermarkText="Enter a date" WatermarkCssClass="watermark" />
      <cc1:CalendarExtender ID="CalendarExtender1" runat="server"
         TargetControlID="txtInput" Format="MM/dd/yyyy" />
      <cc1:MaskedEditExtender ID="MaskedEditExtender1" runat="server"
         TargetControlID="txtInput" Mask="99/99/9999" MaskType="Date"
         ErrorTooltipEnabled="True" CultureInfo="en-us" />
      <cc1:MaskedEditValidator ID="MaskedEditValidator5"
         runat="server" ControlExtender="MaskedEditExtender1"
         ControlToValidate="txtInput"
         EmptyValueMessage="Date is required"
         InvalidValueMessage="Date is invalid"
         Display="Dynamic" TooltipMessage="Enter a date" />
   </divgt;
   </form>
</body>
</html>

Now run the page. See how the MaskedEditExtender applies itself to the TextBox when you type directly into the text box, and fits in nicely with CalendarExtender.

Warning

This example leaves the date format at the default, but it must be set anyway in the CalendarExtender to agree with the MaskedEditExtender. If you decide to use a different format, or if your users don’t all use the same culture settings as you do, make sure the CalendarExtender and MaskedEditExtender controls agree on the format using the CultureName property for the MaskedEditExtender and the Format property for the CalendarExtender.

When the page is posted back and the selected date is reflected in txtEcho, txtEcho by default will show the date in the default format for the default culture on the server. You might need to experiment with culture and format values, before the extenders and txtEcho all show the same date in the same format. See http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/5hh873ya.aspx for more on cultures and dates in general and http://asp.net/learn/ajax-videos/video-131.aspx for more on how this applies to the MaskedEdit controls in particular.

A list of useful properties for the MaskedEditExtender is given in Table 4-4. Note that it validates only numbers, times, and dates. For any other specific value you’ll need one of the other Validation controls covered in Chapter 11.

Table 4-4. Useful MaskedEditExtender properties

Name

Type

Value range

Description

Mask

String

A sequence of the characters in Table 4-5

Defines the format of the string to be entered in the text box. For example, 99/99/9999 for a date, or LL99LLL for a current UK vehicle registration number.

Filtered

String

 

A string containing the characters allowed in place of “C” in the Mask property.

MaskType

 

None, Number, Date, Time, DateTime

Specifies what the value entered into the target TextBox will be verified as unless set to None, in which case no verification is made.

Autocomplete

Boolean

true, false

True to add in a default value to the TextBox.

AutoCompleteValue

String

 

Default value for AutoComplete if MaskType is set to None.

AcceptAMPM

Boolean

true, false

True to display an A.M. or P.M. sign for values with MaskType=time.

AcceptNegative

 

left, right, none

For MaskType=number, set to none if the minus sign is not allowed, and set to left or right if it is allowed and should be shown to the side of the number.

DisplayMoney

 

left, right, none

For MaskType=number, set to none if the local currency symbol is not allowed, and set to left or right if it is allowed and should be displayed to the side of the number.

ErrorTooltipEnabled

Boolean

true, false

True if a tool tip message should be shown when the user holds the mouse pointer over the targeted TextBox control.

Table 4-5. Mask characters

Character

Represents

9

Only a numeric character

L

Only a letter

$

Only a letter or a space

C

Only a custom character defined in the Filtered property

A

Only a letter or a custom character

N

Only a numeric or custom character

?

Any character

/

Date separator

:

Time separator

.

Decimal separator

,

Thousand separator

\

Any C# escape character

X{y}

Indicates the character represented by X should be repeated y times in the mask

An escape character in C# is a backslash (\) , followed by one of a small set of letters which allow you to specify a character in a string you wouldn’t otherwise be able to use. For example, you use a double quote (") to specify the beginning and end of a string. If you want to use a double quote in a string, you can escape it as \":

string a = "Dave said, \"How much is that book?\" to the shopkeeper."

The full set of C# escape characters is available at http://blogs.msdn.com/csharpfaq/archive/2004/03/12/88415.aspx.

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