Lesson 63 - Using a Tools-Centric Approach to Building a Database Application

Tutorial Series: Free C# Fundamentals via ASP.NET Web Apps

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When developing software, you often have to choose between taking a primarily “Tools Driven” approach, versus a “Maintenance Driven” approach. Simply put, Tools Driven development relies on external toolsets that make it easier to quickly write the application and get it up and running, but at the cost of understanding the system at a deep level. That’s because you’re off-loading a lot of responsibility of writing code and making relevant connections between elements in your software to the tool in question. The maintenance approach is the opposite of that. It focuses on developing a robust system that can respond to change easier because it doesn’t rely on outside tools (that might change) and is written with an understanding of how the system operates at a deeper level.

Step 1: Demonstrating a Tools-Driven Approach

This lesson will show how a Tools Driven approach will get you up and running in a short amount of time. To start this lesson, use the LocalDbExample we left off with in Lesson 60 as the starting point, excluding the Entity model, as well as the database connection to “ACME.mdf”:


Step 2: Add an sqlDataSource Control

Refer again to the Data section of the ToolBox which holds a variety of ASP.NET Data Controls. There are basically two different kinds of these control:

  1. Data Sources - Responsible for locating data
  2. Data Controls - Responsible for reading and displaying data

Data Source components are not viewable to the end-user. For example, when you drag and drop a SqlDataSource onto the Design surface, it's just there to provide information to other Controls for our form:


If you click on the arrow beside the SqlDataSource and select “Configure Data Source…”, you will be taken to a setup wizard which lets you make a database connection. First, click on “New Connection”:


And from here, click on “Change”:


And set the database to a local SQL Server Database File:


Then browse to the “App_Data” folder and select the “ACME.mdf” file (local to the folder it is stored to on your computer), and then test that the connection is valid by clicking on “Test Connection”:



If you are attempting to use an older version of a SQL Server file on a newer version of Visual Studio, you may encounter an error when testing the connection. The error would say that the database file is not compatible:


If this happens, go ahead and click OK. Then, back in the "Add Connection" dialog, click OK to attempt to add this file to your project. The following message will appear:


Click Yes to confirm that you would like to upgrade the database file to the current version. However, note that this will not work in every case, but it will for this example.

If the test does resolve correctly, click on the “OK” button and continue clicking on “Next” until you get to this screen, making sure to select the Customers table and having the asterisk selected, which will select all columns in the table:


Click “Next” and on the next screen you can test a query to return results from the database:


Step 3: See the Query String Added to Default.aspx Source Markup

Click on “Finish” to finalize setting up this sqlDataSource. If you go back to the markup in Default.aspx you will now see this query string that gets sent to the database whenever the sqlDataSource asked to return data:


Step 4: Set sqlDataSource as the GridView’s Data Source

Back in the Design view, click and drag from the ToolBox a GridView Control onto the Design surface and choose sqlDataSource1 where it says “Choose Data Source”:


It will then fill in the header information with each database column name, in the GridView:


Now when you go to run the application – without having written any code of our own – we get the same output that we got with a more hands-on approach:


Step 5: Limitations of the Tools Driven Approach

You may be wondering at this point why you wouldn't use this Tools Driven approach all the time. After all, it's faster and we got the same results. The Tools Driven approach is fast but it's a bad long-term strategy. It might work for a small, departmental application where you only have a few users and you don't expect a lot of change. However, if you have a large application and you expect there to be ongoing maintenance and changes to the application over time, this is not the right approach for building that application. We looked at this approach here in order to contrast it with a better long-term approach in the next lesson. Having said that, let’s demonstrate an even easier Tools Driven approach to achieving the results we demonstrated in this lesson.

Step 6: Let Visual Studio Automatically Setup the Data Binding

First, right-click on the project in the Solution Explorer and from the menu select:

Add > New Item

And then add a new .aspx Web Form:


Navigate to the Server Controls Window, then click and drag the Customers database table directly onto the Design surface for WebForm1.aspx:


After a moment, you will see that Visual Studio recognized what you wanted to do, and automatically set up the sqlDataSource and connected it to the GridView:


Visual Studio makes the Tools Driven approach very simple for developers who want to create a database for smaller, less complex needs. And if that's your application, then Tools Driven may be the best course for you. However, if your application is expected to need change, then it's best to steer clear of this method, even though it's tempting because of its simplicity. In the next lesson we'll learn about the Maintenance Driven approach, which will yield more benefits for developers looking to have more control over their application. Ultimately, you should learn both methods because each have their place in different cases.

Related Articles in this Tutorial:

Lesson 1 - Series Introduction

Lesson 2 - Installing Visual Studio 2015

Lesson 3 - Building Your First Web App

Lesson 4 - Understanding What You Just Did

Lesson 5 - Working with Projects in Visual Studio

Lesson 6 - Simple Web Page Formatting in Visual Studio

Challenge 1

Solution 1

Lesson 7 - Variables and Data Types

Lesson 8 - Data Type Conversion

Lesson 9 - Arithmetic Operators

Lesson 10 - C# Syntax Basics

Challenge 2 - ChallengeSimpleCalculator

Solution - ChallengeSimpleCalculator

Lesson 11 - Conditional If Statements

Lesson 12 - The Conditional Ternary Operator

Challenge 3 - ChallengeConditionalRadioButton

Solution - Challenge Conditional RadioButton

Lesson 13 - Comparison and Logical Operators

Lesson 13 Challenge - First Papa Bob's Website

Solution - Challenge First Papa Bob's Website

Lesson 14 - Working with Dates and Times

Lesson 15 - Working With Spans of Time

Lesson 16 - Working with the Calendar Server Control

Challenge 4 - Challenge Days Between Dates

Solution - Challenge Days Between Dates

Lesson 17 - Page_Load and Page.IsPostBack

Lesson 18 - Setting a Break Point and Debugging

Lesson 19 - Formatting Strings

Challenge 5 - Challenge Epic Spies Assignment

Solution - Challenge Epic Spies Assignment

Lesson 20 - Maintaining State with ViewState

Lesson 21 - Storing Values in Arrays

Lesson 22 - Understanding Multidimensional Arrays

Lesson 23 - Changing the Length of an Array

Challenge 6 - Challenge Epic Spies Asset Tracker

Solution - Challenge Epic Spies Asset Tracker

Lesson 24 - Understanding Variable Scope

Lesson 25 - Code Blocks and Nested If Statements

Lesson 26 - Looping with the For Iteration Statement

Challenge 7 - Challenge For Xmen Battle Count

Solution - Challenge For Xmen Battle Count

Lesson 27 - Looping with the while() & do...while() Iteration Statements

Lesson 28 - Creating and Calling Simple Helper Methods

Lesson 29 - Creating Methods with Input Parameters

Lesson 30 - Returning Values from Methods

Lesson 31 - Creating Overloaded Methods

Lesson 32 - Creating Optional Parameters

Lesson 33 - Creating Names Parameters

Lesson 34 - Creating Methods with Output Parameters

Challenge 8 - Challenge Postal Calculator Helper Methods

Solution - Challenge Postal Calculator Helper Methods

Mega Challenge Casino

Solution - Mega Challenge Casino

Lesson 35 - Manipulating Strings

Challenge 9 - Phun With Strings

Solution - Challenge Phun With Strings

Lesson 36 - Introduction to Classes and Objects

Challenge - Hero Monster Classes Part 1

Solution - Hero Monster Classes Part 1

Challenge - Hero Monster Classes Part 2

Solution - Challenge Hero Monster Classes Part 2

Lesson 37 - Creating Class Files Creating Cohesive Classes and Code Navigation

Lesson 38 - Understanding Object References and Object Lifetime

Lesson 39 - Understanding the .NET Framework and Compilation

Lesson 40 - Namespaces and Using Directives

Lesson 41 - Creating Class Libraries and Adding References to Assemblies

Lesson 42 - Accessibility Modifiers, Fields and Properties

Lesson 43 - Creating Constructor Methods

Lesson 44 - Naming Conventions for Identifiers

Lesson 45 - Static vs Instance Members

Challenge 10 - Challenge Simple Darts

Solution - Challenge Simple Darts

Lesson 46 - Working with the List Collection

Lesson 47 - Object Initializers

Lesson 48 - Collection Initializers

Lesson 49 - Working with the Dictionary Collection

Lesson 50 - Looping with the foreach Iteration Statement

Lesson 51 - Implicitly-Typed Variables with the var Keyword

Challenge 11 - Challenge Student Courses

Solution - Challenge Student Courses

Mega Challenge War

Solution - Mega Challenge War

Lesson 52 - Creating GUIDs

Lesson 53 - Working with Enumerations

Lesson 54 - Understanding the switch() Statement

Lesson 55 - First Pass at the Separation of Concerns Principle

Lesson 56 - Understanding Exception Handling

Lesson 57 - Understanding Global Exception Handling

Lesson 58 - Understanding Custom Exceptions

Lesson 59 - Creating a Database in Visual Studio

Lesson 60 - Creating an Entity Data Model

Lesson 61 - Displaying the DbSet Result in an ASP.NET GridView

Lesson 62 - Implementing a Button Command in a GridView

Lesson 63 - Using a Tools-Centric Approach to Building a Database Application

Lesson 64 - Using a Maintenance-Driven Approach to Building a Database Application

Lesson 65 - Creating a New Instance of an Entity and Persisting it to the Database

Lesson 66 - Package Management with NuGet

Lesson 67 - NuGet No-Commit Workflow

Lesson 68 - Introduction the Twitter Bootstrap CSS Framework

Lesson 69 - Mapping Enum Types to Entity Properties in the Framework Designer

Lesson 70 - Deploying the App to Microsoft Azure Web Services Web Apps

Papa Bob's Mega Challenge

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 1 - Setting up the Solution

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 2 - Adding an Order to the Database

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 3 - Passing an Order from the Presentation Layer

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 4 - Creating the Order Form

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 5 - Adding Enums

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 6 - Creating an Order with Validation

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 7 - Calculating the Order Price

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 8 - Displaying the Price to the User

Papa Bob's Mega Solution Part 9 - Creating the Order Management Page


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