Creating a complete ASP.Net MVC 4.0 application with Visual Studio 2012, C# , EF 5.0 (Code First) - part 1

I have been using ASP.Net MVC, Visual Studio, C# , Entity Framework, JQuery, CSS to build web sites and applications. I have been teaching ASP.Net MVC to people from all walks of life with different experience in Web development. I have decided to write a series of posts on how to write a small ASP.Net MVC 4.0 application.I will develop this application step by step and I will explain everything that you need to know in order to develop ASP.Net MVC 4.0 applications.

There are some other posts in my blog, regarding ASP.Net MVC. You can find them here, here . Please have a look at those posts to get a feeling for ASP.Net MVC.I will repeat some of the content found in those posts in the posts that will be part of this series. If you are an experienced ASP.NET MVC developer, maybe you mus go on and read something more advanced. I will talk about advanced things later on though.This series is aimed at developers that start learning ASP.Net MVC.I assume that you have some working knowledge of HTML,CSS. It will be great if you programmed before with C# or used Visual Studio.Αs I said earlier  I will try to explain everything in detail so beginners can benefit from that.

I am going to build a web application where users can post reviews about movies. The user can list the reviews,edit the reviews and obviously create a review. The administrator will be able to post movies so other users can review it.Users can also search for movies to review. This is the general overview of the application.

I will explain more about the application as we move on. I will also show you how to deploy the application to IIS and Windows Azure towards the end.

The most important thing right now is to download and install all the tools,libary,software in your computer so you can follow along. You can download all the necessary software (tools-Visual Studio 2012 Web Edition along with a web server- , a Sql Server instance, libraries,binaries) if you download Web Platform Installer.You can download this tool from this link.

After you install it, you must search for Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web

Have a look at the picture below


Then click Add and then Install.Everything you need will be installed. Maybe you need to reboot the machine so do not worry if you will have to do this.

So now you have an IDE, Visual Studio 2012 that you can write, test and debug your code. SQL Server is also installed. We need SQL Server to persist our data back to the database. A lightweight web server IIS Express is also installed so it can execute (host our web application) our code during development.

I have installed Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate edition in my machine which is Windows 8 by the way. I have also installed the latest version of .Net Framework and I will show you later how to download more libraries when needed.I have installed SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition in my machine. As a Microsoft Certified Trainer I have access to this software but as explained earlier you need only to download Web Platform Installer and then download the Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web and install it.

Before we move on to the actual hands-on demo I would like to say a few words on how I understand ASP.Net MVC and what its main benefits/design goals are.

Obviously the first paradigm on bulding web applications on the web is Web Forms.

Web forms was the first and only way to build web application when ASP.Net was introduced to the world, ten years ago.

It replaced the classic ASP model by providing us with a strongly typed code that replaced scripting.We had/have languages that are compiled.Web forms feels like a form that you programmed with VB 6.0 for the desktop.

The main idea was to abstract the WEB.By that I mean HTML is abstracted in a way.Click events replaced "Post" operations.Since that time, web standards have strengthened and client side programming is on the rise. Developers wanted to have more control on the HTML.Web forms , as I said before handles HTML in an abstract way and is not the best paradigm for allowing full control on the HTML rendering.

ASP.Net MVC provide us with a new way of writing ASP.Net applications.It does not replace Web Forms. It is just an alternative project type.It still runs on ASP.Net and supports caching, sesions and master pages.In ASP.Net MVC applications we have no viewstate or page lifecycle. For more information on understanding the MVC application execution process have a look at this link .It is a highly extensible and testable model.

In order to see what features of ASP.Net are compatible in both Models have a look here.

MVC pattern has been around for decades and it has been used across many technologies as a design pattern to use when building UI. It is based on an architecture model that embraces the so called "seperation of concern pattern".

There are three main building blocks in the MVC pattern. The View talks to the Model. The Model has the data that the View needs to display.The View does not have much logic in them at all.

The Controller orchestrates everything.When we have an HTTP request coming in, that request is routed to the Controller . It is up to the Controller to talk to the file system,database and build the model.The routing mechanism in MVC is implemented through the System.Web.Routing assembly. Routes are defined during application startup.Have a look at the Global.asax file,when building an MVC application.

The Controller will select which View to use to display the Model to the client.It is clear that we have now a model that fully supports "seperation of concerns".The Controller is responsible for building the Model and selecting the View.

The Controller does not save any data or state. The Model is responsible for that.The Controller selects the View but has nothing to do with displaying data to the client.This is the View's job.

The Controller component is basically a class file that we can write VB.Net or C# code. We do not have Page_Load event handler routines, just simple methods which are easy to test.No code behind files are associated with the Controller classes.All these classes should be under the Controllers folder in your application.Controller type name must end with Controller (e.g ProductController).

In the Views folder we should place the files responsible for displaying content to the client.Create subfolders for every Controller. Shared folder contains views used by multiple controllers.

In this post I will use the Razor View engine rather than the WebForms View. Razor View engine is designed with MVC in mind and it is the way (as far as I am concerned) to work with ASP.Net MVC.

ASP.Net MVC does not dictate what kind of data access architecture we will use in our application. It does not also dictate how to build our business layer (domain classes and objects).

Finally ASP.Net MVC is very extensible and easy to test

Let's start building our web application

1)  I am launching VS 2012 and I will Visual C# as the programming language. I will also select ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Application from the available templates.Have a look at the picture below



I have named my application "MovieReviews" and then clicked OK.

2) From the available templates in the next screen I select Internet Application. This template will create all the necessary files in order to build the application. Click OK.

Have a look at the picture below.


 3) Have a look at the Solution Explorer to get a feeling of the files being created and the structure of the web application. Have a look at the picture below


 4) Now we can build and run the application. You can do that by pressing F5 in the Visual Studio IDE. Have a look at the picture below to see the homepage of the web application


 Now we can right-click (View->Page Source) to see the pure HTML 5 code. Have a look at the picture below


You can also see that there is ViewPort meta tag and this is very important for mobile devices.With this tag we tell the mobile browser that our site will adapt to the width of the device.

There also links to Javascript and CSS files. There is a link to the modernizer library.This Javascript library makes sure our site works with older browsers before HTML 5 existed.

So far we have talked about MVC pattern. We have talked about the application we want to build. I have explained what kind of tools we need and how to get them. Finally we have created our sample ASP.Net MVC application. The template we have chosen (Internet Application) provides us with all the necessary files in order to have a working ASP.Net MVC application out of the box.

Hope it helps !!!

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