ASP.NET v2.0: is the non-visual components support finally back?

Note: this entry has moved.

Quite some time ago I started warning people about an important feature that was removed from ASP.NET Whidbey: non-visual components (IComponent-based classes). I logged the bug in Product Feedback, which resulted in a major number of votes that eventually draw some attention internally and resulted in the last update status which is Fixed.

Now that Whidbey Beta2 has finally hit the streets, it's time to regress the bug and see if it's really fixed. What follows is what I found (hint: another deception point).

I focus the discussion of the features that are missing on the article I published on CodeProject that showcases the full power of non-visual components and the extender provider model in v1.x.

First of all, instead of restoring the "Components Tray", they force you to right-click on the .aspx file and select View Component Designer:

That wouldn't be terribly bad, except for the consequences:

  • Extender Providers no longer work: the component is no longer officially part of the web form, but something that lives "behind" and that you have to see through a different designer. This means that the forms designer has no knowledge whatesoever about extender providers as it used to have. The following extension of built-in controls is no longer possible:

  • Designers/editors no longer work: if a designer relied on showing information from the current page, that won't work either. That's basically because the new designer surface you get is not the one for the form at all, but a new one created for non-visual components. That means that all controls on the form, which used to live in the same container (IContainer, specifically) as your own components, no longer do. Effectively, you have no way of retrieving the controls that exist on the design surface of the forms editor. This is even if the IDesignerHost service (that you can still ask for) Container property contains a Page object, and that's because it's empty of controls :S:S. The following kind of editor is no longer possible:

  • Components don't show up in the Toolbox: there's no way to make components appear in the toolbox. Even if they do show up in the Customize Toolbox dialog, and you can select them, they will never show up in the toolbox. As a consequence, there's no way to drop new components on a form. How are you supposed to use them therefore? The only way is through the components designer surface, with the problems mentioned above.

Therefore, one of the most important uses of a component, which was to extend and interact with the form's UI elements, in nicely decoupled way (you didn't need to inherit any of the built-in controls to add functionality to them), is no longer possible.

Interestingly, WinForms developers continue to enjoy this feature, and the code generation part was made more robust and clean with the introduction of partial classes. I see this as a sign of commiting with an existing feature and working to improve it where it was lacking, as opposed to starting from scratch again and leaving the customers guessing what the hell happened to their investment.

Maybe I'm just too pesimist. But this doesn't look like a fix at all for my bug, and it certainly cuts so many of the features of non-visual components that it renders them pretty much useless. Hence, it only makes sense for me to reactivate the bug and ask once more for your cooperation in voting for this feature to come back once more. Go and vote the bug if you feel this is an important feature being lost.


  • Clearly, it is NOT a fix at all!

    Sounds more like a dumb (and quite offensive) way to stop receiving complaints about the issue ("Look, you can see your non-visual components again!!!") and not addressing at all the real problem: Whidbey Beta2 is "killing" all extensible design-time support available in previous versions of ASP.NET, with no respect for all time and investment companies have invested in learning and developing commercial components/controls to take advantage of it.

    And, as you have pointed out before, that destroys one of the main achievements of the first generation of .NET framework: an UI-agnostic and consistent approach for design-time support for visual and non-visual components.

    Now, ASP.NET programmers will be become second-class citizens in the .NET component developer community, having to deal with a much less flexible design-time framework than, say, Windows Forms developers. I never believe this would happen one day: as an ASP.NET developer I will start envying my Windows Forms peers! :-)

    Very disappointing. I will be voting for this bug to be reopened immediately.

  • I agree 100%. Thanks for your support.

  • Just voted for this bug. Check my comments in

    "This makes ASP.NET component developers second-class citizens".

    By the way, the comments reflect really how (disappointed) I feel about this issue, as a .NET software consultant.

    This is not a technicality or trivial aspect of the .NET framework evolution. This is a major step BACKWARDS that breaks the consistent and feature-rich design-time model, not mention that is completely incompatible with existing solutions (e.g.: ExtenderProviders) developed for the ASP.NET 1.x, used by a considerable customer base.

    I am glad we have a MVP professional like you, with enough prestige to make this crucial issue resonate loudly to Microsoft. I hope that more outstanding professionals will get involved also.

  • can ya fix the image link file:///e:/Temp/ComponentsNotBack1.png to something in the web please?


  • I got a real pit in my stomach when I saw that 'View Component Designer' context item, because I knew then that that was their 'fix', and that was all they were going to do.

    You didn't mention about how even that only turns up on a web form that's got a code-behind. And that there's no longer provision using custom tools within projects (not that either of these are show stoppers)

  • Nope, you can't, and that was the hole point of my crusade. Unfortunately, looks like I lost :(

  • Daniel,

    I am trying to upgrade the EPICOR Manage 2000 web tools from VS2003 to VS2005.

    This abortion of the IComponent design time functionality is the crux of many of the issues which are currently defeating me.

    Thanks for posting it. I alleviates me of the necessity of concluding that I am just stupid.

    I am very sorry you we lost.

Comments have been disabled for this content.