Electron.NET: Save Dialog & File Writing

This post is another expansion of my Electron.NET sample to show how to prompt the user with a save dialog and write a file to disk. The sample code before any changes can be found here. As with all the posts I have done on Electron.NET the API Demos repo helped out a lot.

For this example, we will be adding an export button to the contact detail page that will export the contact as JSON.

Dialog Controller

Following how the API Demo is setup I added a DialogController with the following code.

public class DialogsController : Controller
{
    private static bool saveAdded;

    public IActionResult Index()
    {
        if (!HybridSupport.IsElectronActive || saveAdded) return Ok();

        Electron.IpcMain.On("save-dialog", async (args) =>
        {
            var mainWindow = Electron.WindowManager.BrowserWindows.First();
            var options = new SaveDialogOptions
            {
                Title = "Save contact as JSON",
                Filters = new FileFilter[]
                {
                    new FileFilter { Name = "JSON", 
                                     Extensions = new string[] {"json" } }
                }
            };

            var result = await 
                  Electron.Dialog.ShowSaveDialogAsync(mainWindow, options);
            Electron.IpcMain.Send(mainWindow, "save-dialog-reply", result);
        });

        saveAdded = true;

        return Ok();
    }
}

The setup above tells Electron when it receives a save-dialog request to show the operating system’s save dialog with the options specified. When the user completes the dialog interaction then it is set up so Electron will send out a save-dialog-reply message so anything listing can act on the user’s selection.

The bits with saveAdded is to work around an issue I was having with the dialog being shown multiple times. There is something off about my setup that I haven’t had time to track down, but I felt like even with this one querk this post is still valuable.

Next, I added the following import to the _Layout.cshtml file.

<link rel="import" href="Dialogs">

As I am writing this I am wondering if this could be the cause of my multiple dialog issues? Maybe this should just be on the contact detail page?

Contact Detail Page Changes

The rest of the changes are in the Views/Contacts/Details.cshtml. The first thing I did was add a new div and button at the bottom of the page. Based on the look of the existing page it isn’t the prettiest looking thing, but the look of the UI isn’t really the point of this post. Here is the code for the new div. Make note that the button has a specific ID.

<div>
    <button id="save-dialog" class="btn">Export</button>
</div>

Finally, the following script section was added.

<script>
    (function(){
        const { ipcRenderer } = require("electron");
        const fs = require('fs');
        var model = '@Html.Raw(Json.Serialize(@Model))';

        document.getElementById("save-dialog")
                .addEventListener("click", () => {
            ipcRenderer.send("save-dialog");
        });

        ipcRenderer.on("save-dialog-reply", (sender, path) => {
            if (!path) return;

            fs.writeFile(path, model, function (err) {
                console.log(err);
                return;
            });
        });
       
    }());
</script>

On the server side, the model is converted to JSON and stored which will be used when writing the file. If anyone has a better way of doing this part I would love to hear about it in the comments. I’m referring to this bit of code.

var model = '@Html.Raw(Json.Serialize(@Model))';

Next, a click event is added to the export button which when fired sends a message to show the save dialog defined in the controller.

document.getElementById("save-dialog")
        .addEventListener("click", () => {
                                     ipcRenderer.send("save-dialog");
                                   });

Finally, a callback is added for the message that the user has finished with the dialog that was shown.

ipcRenderer.on("save-dialog-reply", (sender, path) => {
    if (!path) return;

    fs.writeFile(path, model, function (err) {
        console.log(err);
        return;
    });
});

In the callback, if the user entered a path then the JSON for the model is written to the selected path.

Wrapping Up

While writing a contact to JSON might not be the most useful thing in the world the same idea could be used to with the information to a vCard file.

After working on this example I finally feel like I am getting a better hold on how Electron is working. Hopefully, this series is helping you feel the same. The completed code can be found here.

Electron.NET: Tray Icon

This post is a continuation of my exploration of Electron.NET which started with this post. Today I’m going to take the existing sample project and expand it to include a tray icon. As with the post on customizing the application level menus, this post relied heavily on the Electon.NET API Demos repo.

Add an Icon

The first step I took was to find an icon I wanted to show in the tray area. Since this is just a sample application I didn’t spend a lot of time on this. Once you have your icon it needs to be added to your project. Following the example, in the API Demo, I add an Assets directory to the top level of the project and copied in my Stock-Person.png file. This directory and file need to end up in the output of the builds which can be done by adding the following to the csproj file.

<ItemGroup>
  <None Update="Assets\Stock-Person.png">
    <CopyToOutputDirectory>PreserveNewest</CopyToOutputDirectory>
  </None>
</ItemGroup>

In Visual Studio this can be done via the UI, but since I am sticking to VS Code for this project I did the edit manually.

Tray Controller

Add a TrayController to the Controllers directory which will be used to hold all the code needed to add the tray icon. The following is the full class.

public class TrayController : Controller
{
    public IActionResult Index()
    {
        if (!HybridSupport.IsElectronActive ||
            Electron.Tray.MenuItems.Count != 0)
        {
            return Ok();
        }

        var menu = new MenuItem[] {
            new MenuItem 
        { 
          Label = "Create Contact", 
          Click = () => Electron
                            .WindowManager
                        .BrowserWindows
                .First()
                .LoadURL($"http://localhost:{BridgeSettings.WebPort}/Contacts/Create")
        },
            new MenuItem 
        { 
          Label = "Remove", 
          Click = () => Electron.Tray.Destroy()
            }
        };

        Electron.Tray.Show("/Assets/Stock-Person.png", menu);
        Electron.Tray.SetToolTip("Contact Management");

        return Ok();
    }
}

Most of the code above is dealing with building an array of MenuItem which will be options when right-clicking the tray icon. In this case of this sample, there will be two menu items one for creating a contact and the other to remove the tray icon.

Electron.Tray.Show is the bit that actually shows the tray icon and it takes a path for the icon to display and the menu items to show. The last bit is a call to Electron.Tray.SetToolTip which, not surprisingly, sets the tooltip on the tray icon.

Include the tray icon

The final change is to make sure the code to show the tray icon gets run when the application starts. Open the _Layout.cshtml file in the Views/Shared directory. In the head tag add the following which will cause the application to call the Index action on the TrayController.

<link rel="import" href="Tray">

Wrapping Up

As with everything I have tried so far, Electon.NET makes it easy to add a tray icon to your applications. If you are a .NET developer so far I haven’t found any downsides to using Electron.NET. If you have hit any walls with this tool leave a comment. The finished code for this post can be found here.

Electron.NET: Custom Application Menus

This post will take the existing sample Electron.NET application used in Create a Desktop Application using ASP.NET Core and Electron.NET and Electron.NET with a Web API and expand it to customize the application menu. I leaned heavily on the Electron.NET API Demos repo to guide how this should be done. The code before any changes can be found here.

Menu Controller

While not a requirement I follow the API Demo example of putting the application level menus in its own controller. Add a MenusController to the Controllers directory. The following is the full class.

public class MenusController : Controller
{
    public IActionResult Index()
    {
        if (HybridSupport.IsElectronActive)
        {
            var menu = new MenuItem[] {
            new MenuItem { Label = "Edit", Submenu = new MenuItem[] {
                new MenuItem { Label = "Undo", Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+Z", Role = MenuRole.undo },
                new MenuItem { Label = "Redo", Accelerator = "Shift+CmdOrCtrl+Z", Role = MenuRole.redo },
                new MenuItem { Type = MenuType.separator },
                new MenuItem { Label = "Cut", Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+X", Role = MenuRole.cut },
                new MenuItem { Label = "Copy", Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+C", Role = MenuRole.copy },
                new MenuItem { Label = "Paste", Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+V", Role = MenuRole.paste },
                new MenuItem { Label = "Select All", Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+A", Role = MenuRole.selectall }
            }
            },
            new MenuItem { Label = "View", Submenu = new MenuItem[] {
                new MenuItem
                {
                    Label = "Reload",
                    Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+R",
                    Click = () =>
                    {
                        // on reload, start fresh and close any old
                        // open secondary windows
                        Electron.WindowManager.BrowserWindows.ToList().ForEach(browserWindow => {
                            if(browserWindow.Id != 1)
                            {
                                browserWindow.Close();
                            }
                            else
                            {
                                browserWindow.Reload();
                            }
                        });
                    }
                },
                new MenuItem
                {
                    Label = "Toggle Full Screen",
                    Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+F",
                    Click = async () =>
                    {
                        bool isFullScreen = await Electron.WindowManager.BrowserWindows.First().IsFullScreenAsync();
                        Electron.WindowManager.BrowserWindows.First().SetFullScreen(!isFullScreen);
                    }
                },
                new MenuItem
                {
                    Label = "Open Developer Tools",
                    Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+I",
                    Click = () => Electron.WindowManager.BrowserWindows.First().WebContents.OpenDevTools()
                },
                new MenuItem
                {
                    Type = MenuType.separator
                },
                new MenuItem
                {
                    Label = "App Menu Demo",
                    Click = async () => {
                        var options = new MessageBoxOptions("This demo is for the Menu section, showing how to create a clickable menu item in the application menu.");
                        options.Type = MessageBoxType.info;
                        options.Title = "Application Menu Demo";
                        await Electron.Dialog.ShowMessageBoxAsync(options);
                    }
                }
            }
            },
            new MenuItem { Label = "Window", Role = MenuRole.window, Submenu = new MenuItem[] {
                 new MenuItem { Label = "Minimize", Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+M", Role = MenuRole.minimize },
                 new MenuItem { Label = "Close", Accelerator = "CmdOrCtrl+W", Role = MenuRole.close }
                 }
            },
            new MenuItem { Label = "Contacts", Role = MenuRole.window, Submenu = new MenuItem[] {
                 new MenuItem { Label = "Create", 
                                Accelerator = "Shift+CmdOrCtrl+C",
                                Click = () => Electron.WindowManager.BrowserWindows.First().LoadURL($"http://localhost:{BridgeSettings.WebPort}/Contacts/Create")
                              }
                 }
            }
        };

            Electron.Menu.SetApplicationMenu(menu);
        }

        return Ok();
    }
}

What the above comes down to is building an array of MenuItem types and then using Electron.Menu.SetApplicationMenu(menu) to pass the array to Electron which handles replacing the default set of menus with the ones defined in the array.

For most of the items that were on the default set of menus all that is needed to add back the default functionality is to set the Role to the function you want. For example in the above for a Copy menu item, we can assign Role to MenuRole.copy and Electron will handle the implementation of a copy without us having to write any additional code.

Navigate to a page from the application menu

One thing I wanted to be able to do was from a menu create a new contact. It was easy enough to add a top-level menu for Contacts and a sub-item for Create. It took me a while, but I finally figured out how to build a URL that would work. The following code is the menu items for the Contacts menu.

new MenuItem { Label = "Contacts", Role = MenuRole.window, Submenu = new MenuItem[] {
     new MenuItem { Label = "Create", 
                    Accelerator = "Shift+CmdOrCtrl+C",
                    Click = () => Electron.WindowManager.BrowserWindows.First().LoadURL($"http://localhost:{BridgeSettings.WebPort}/Contacts/Create")
                  }
     }
}

The ASP.NET Core backend is running on localhost, the key that took me a while to locate was the port. In the end, I found that the port being used can be found using BridgeSettings.WebPort.

Include the menu

The final change that is needed is to make sure the new set of menus get rendered. For the sample application open the _Layout.cshtml file in the Views/Shared directory. Inside the head tag add the following line which will force a call to the MenusController when the application loads.

<link rel="import" href="menus">

Wrapping Up

Customizing the application menu ended up being pretty easy. If I hadn’t wanted to navigate to a specific page I would have been done in no time, but hitting the issue with navigation helped me learn more about how Electron.NET is working. You can check out the finished code here.

Electron.NET with a Web API

This post will be expanding on the introduction to Electron.NET that I did here to add in a Web API hit to pull some data as well as the UI on the Electron side to use this data. The code before any changes can be found here.

API Creation

To create the API I used the following from the command prompt in the folder where I wanted the new project to be created.

dotnet new webapi

API Data

Now that the API project is created we need to add in the ability to interact with a database with Entity Framework Core. Adding in Entity Framework Core ended up turning into a post of its own when you can read here.

The model and DB Context of the API project match what was in the blog post I linked above, but I am going to include them here. The following is the model.

public class Contact
{
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public string Address { get; set; }
    public string City { get; set; }
    public string Subregion { get; set; }
    public string PostalCode { get; set; }
    public string Phone { get; set; }
    public string Email { get; set; }
}

Next, is the DB Context, which is empty other than the DB Set for the contacts table.

public class ContactsDbContext : DbContext
{
    public DbSet<Contact> Contacts { get; set; }

    public ContactsDbContext(DbContextOptions<ContactsDbContext> options)
        : base(options)
    {

    }
}

With our model and context setup, we can run the following two commands to add the initial migration and apply the migration to the database.

dotnet ef migrations add Contacts
dotnet ef database update

API Endpoints

The API is just going to handle the basic CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations for contact. Instead of hand coding the controller we are going to use some code generation provided by Microsoft. First, we need to add the Microsoft.VisualStudio.Web.CodeGeneration.Design NuGet package to the API project using the following command in a command prompt set to the root of the API project.

dotnet add package Microsoft.VisualStudio.Web.CodeGeneration.Design

Now with the above package installed, we can use the following command to generate a controller with the CRUD operations already implemented.

dotnet aspnet-codegenerator controller -name ContactsController --model Contact --dataContext ContactsDbContext -outDir Controllers -api

There is a lot of switches when using aspnet-codegenerator. The following is a rundown of the ones used above.

  • controller tells the code generator we are creating a controller
  • name defines the name of the resulting controller
  • model is the model class that will be used for the generation
  • dataContext is the DB Context that will be used for the generation
  • outDir is the directory the output will be in relative to the current directory of your command prompt
  • api tells the code generator this controller is for a REST style API and that no views should be generated

With the code generation complete the API should be good to go.

Electron Model

Over in the Electron project, we need a model to match the data the API is returning. This could be the point where a third project is added to allow the API and the Electron app to share common items, but just to keep the example simple I’m just going add a copy of the contact model from the API project to the Electron project.  The following is the full contact model class.

public class Contact
{
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public string Address { get; set; }
    public string City { get; set; }
    public string Subregion { get; set; }
    public string PostalCode { get; set; }
    public string Phone { get; set; }
    public string Email { get; set; }
}

Electron Views

Now that we have a model in our Electron project we need to create the views that go along with it. Start by adding the code generation package like we did above using the following command.

dotnet add package Microsoft.VisualStudio.Web.CodeGeneration.Design

Unfortunately, controller generation needs a DBContext to work which our project doesn’t have, so we have to take the long way about to generate our views and then manually create a controller to go with them. In order to get view generation to work, I had to add references to the Entity Framework Core Tools package using the following command.

dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools

In the csproj file add the following .NET CLI tool reference.

<DotNetCliToolReference Include="Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools.DotNet" Version="2.0.2" />

Now the project is ready to use the command prompt to generate the views we will need for our CRUD operations related to our contacts. Use the following commands to create the full range of views needed (Create, Edit, List, Delete, Details).

dotnet aspnet-codegenerator view Create Create --model Contact --useDefaultLayout -outDir Views/Contacts

dotnet aspnet-codegenerator view Edit Edit --model Contact --useDefaultLayout -outDir Views/Contacts

dotnet aspnet-codegenerator view Index List --model Contact --useDefaultLayout -outDir Views/Contacts

dotnet aspnet-codegenerator view Delete Delete --model Contact --useDefaultLayout -outDir Views/Contacts

dotnet aspnet-codegenerator view Details Details --model Contact --useDefaultLayout -outDir Views/Contacts

Again there is a lot of switches when using aspnet-codegenerator. The following is a rundown of the ones used above.

  • view  tells the code generator we are creating a view
  • the next two items are the name of the view and the name of the view template
  • model is the model class that will be used for the generation
  • useDefaultLayout uses the default layout (surprise!)
  • outDir is the directory the output will be in relative to the current directory of your command prompt

The Index.cshtml generated above comes with links for Edit, Details, and Delete that won’t work as generated. Open the file and make the following changes to pass the key of the contact trying to be opened.

Before:
@Html.ActionLink("Edit", "Edit", new { /* id=item.PrimaryKey */ }) |
@Html.ActionLink("Details", "Details", new {/* id=item.PrimaryKey */ }) |
@Html.ActionLink("Delete", "Delete", new { /* id=item.PrimaryKey */ })

After:
@Html.ActionLink("Edit", "Edit", new {  id=item.Id }) |
@Html.ActionLink("Details", "Details", new { id=item.Id }) |
@Html.ActionLink("Delete", "Delete", new { id=item.Id })

Electron Controller

With the views complete let’s add a ContactsController.cs to the Controllers directory. The code for the controller follows, but I’m not going to go into the details. I took a controller from another contact base project and just replaces all the Entity Framework stuff with calls to the API we created above. Please don’t use this as an example of how something like this should be done it is just quick and dirty to show that it can work.

public class ContactsController : Controller
{
    private string _apiBaseUrl = "http://localhost:5000/api/contacts/";

    // GET: Contacts
    public async Task<IActionResult> Index()
    {
        using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
        {
            return View(JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<List<Contact>>(await (await client.GetAsync("")).Content.ReadAsStringAsync()));
        }
    }

    // GET: Contacts/Details/5
    public async Task<IActionResult> Details(int? id)
    {
        if (id == null)
        {
            return NotFound();
        }

        using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
        {
            var contact = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<Contact>(await (await client.GetAsync(id.ToString())).Content.ReadAsStringAsync());

            if (contact == null)
            {
                return NotFound();
            }

            return View(contact);
        }
    }

    // GET: Contacts/Create
    public IActionResult Create()
    {
        return View();
    }

    // POST: Contacts/Create
    [HttpPost]
    [ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
    public async Task<IActionResult> Create([Bind("Id,Address,City,Email,Name,Phone,PostalCode,State")] Contact contact)
    {
        if (ModelState.IsValid)
        {
            using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
            {
                await client.PostAsync("", new StringContent(JsonConvert.SerializeObject(contact), Encoding.UTF8, "application/json"));
            }

            return RedirectToAction("Index");
        }
        return View(contact);
    }

    // GET: Contacts/Edit/5
    public async Task<IActionResult> Edit(int? id)
    {
        if (id == null)
        {
            return NotFound();
        }

        using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
        {
            var contact = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<Contact>(await (await client.GetAsync(id.ToString())).Content.ReadAsStringAsync());

            if (contact == null)
            {
                return NotFound();
            }

            return View(contact);
        }
    }

    // POST: Contacts/Edit/5
    [HttpPost]
    [ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
    public async Task<IActionResult> Edit(int id, [Bind("Id,Address,City,Email,Name,Phone,PostalCode,State")] Contact contact)
    {
        if (id != contact.Id)
        {
            return NotFound();
        }

        if (ModelState.IsValid)
        {
            using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
            {
                await client.PutAsync(id.ToString(), new StringContent(JsonConvert.SerializeObject(contact), Encoding.UTF8, "application/json"));
            }
            return RedirectToAction("Index");
        }
        return View(contact);
    }

    // GET: Contacts/Delete/5
    public async Task<IActionResult> Delete(int? id)
    {
        if (id == null)
        {
            return NotFound();
        }

        using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
        {
            var contact = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<Contact>(await (await client.GetAsync(id.ToString())).Content.ReadAsStringAsync());

            if (contact == null)
            {
                return NotFound();
            }

            return View(contact);
        }

    }

    // POST: Contacts/Delete/5
    [HttpPost, ActionName("Delete")]
    [ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
    public async Task<IActionResult> DeleteConfirmed(int id)
    {
        using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
        {
            await client.DeleteAsync(id.ToString());
            return RedirectToAction("Index");
        }
    }

    private async Task<bool> ContactExists(int id)
    {
        using (var client = new HttpClient { BaseAddress = new Uri(_apiBaseUrl) })
        {
            return JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<Contact>(await (await client.GetAsync("id")).Content.ReadAsStringAsync()) != null;
        }
    }
}

Electron Add Link To Navigation

The final step to add a link to the list of contacts to the navigation bar of the application. Open the _Layout.cshtml and in the unordered list for the nav bar add the following line.

<li><a asp-area="" asp-controller="Contacts" asp-action="Index">Contacts</a></li>

Wrapping Up

That is all the changes to get the application up and running. If you run the API and then use dotnet electronize start from a command prompt in the ElectronTest project root all should be good to go.

The completed code can be found here.

Create a Desktop Application using ASP.NET Core and Electron.NET

Electron is a cross-platform (Windows, Linux, and Mac) library for building desktop applications using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Even if you have never head of Electron I’m sure you have used some of the desktop applications it has been used to build such as Visual Studio Code, Atom, Slack.

Electron.NET provides a wrapper around Electron with an ASP.NET Core MVC application in the mix. Here is the reason why this was done from the creates of the project.

Well… there are lots of different approaches how to get a X-plat desktop app running. We thought it would be nice for .NET devs to use the ASP.NET Core environment and just embed it inside a pretty robust X-plat enviroment called Electron. Porting Electron to .NET is not a goal of this project, at least we don’t have any clue how to do it. We just combine ASP.NET Core & Electron.

Project Creation

Seems only fitting to use VS Code for this post since it is built using the same base library. From the command line create a new ASP.NET Core MVC application using the following command.

dotnet new mvc

Make note that it is important at this time that you use the MVC template when attempting this and not a Razor Page application. This is more of a warning if you are using Visual Studio to do your project creation and not the CLI command above.

Next, we need to reference the ElectronNET.API NuGet package which can be added using the following command.

dotnet add package ElectronNet.API

Then, open the csproj and add a reference for the Electron.NET CLI tool which should match the following.

<ItemGroup>
     <DotNetCliToolReference Include="ElectronNET.CLI" Version="0.0.9" />
</ItemGroup>

After that make sure and restore packages using the following command.

dotnet restore

Wire-up Election.NET

Open Program.cs and add UseElectron(args) to the WebHost builder chain.

WebHost.CreateDefaultBuilder(args)
    .UseElectron(args)
    .UseStartup<Startup>()
    .Build();

Net, open Startup.cs and add the following line to the bottom of the Configure function. This is what will open the Electron window on startup.

Task.Run(async () => await Electron.WindowManager.CreateWindowAsync());

Finally, run the following from the command prompt to get the project ready to run under Electron. This should only need to be done once.

dotnet electronize init

Run the application

At this point, the application is ready to go. The neat part is you can just hit F5 and it will run like any normal ASP.NET Core application (this would change when you get into Electron specific calls I’m sure) or if you run the following command it will run inside of the Electron shell.

dotnet electronize start

Wrapping up

It was surprisingly simple to get a new application up and running, of course so far the app isn’t anything other than a web site hosted in Electron. My plan is to take this base application and create my normal basic contacts application, which will be the next post. From there I may look into layering in some Electron features.

The completed code can be found here.