Thursday, 5 June 2008

ASP.NET AJAX and Web Parts

Posts In This Series:

Introduction - ASP.NET AJAX and Web Parts
Ajax Web Parts Part 1 - Drag and Drop
Ajax Web Parts Part 2 - Web Part Connections
Ajax Web Parts Part 3 - Dynamic Web Parts
Ajax Web Parts Part 4 - Dynamic Web Part Connections

Download the source - Part 1
Download the source - Part 2
Download the source - Part 3
Download the source - Part 4

In my quest to create a database capable of storing anything and everything (see earlier posts), my attention over the last few months has turned from the back end to the front end UI.

One obvious way to display a set of disparate information is to use a Web Portal style framework - a set of widgets (small window components) within a tab framework - the tabs can be used to represent the general categories and each widget can be used to display a sub-set of information for that category. Since I’m coming from an ASP.NET background, Web Parts sounded like a perfect fit for the implementation of these widgets, and the Tab Control, from the ASP.NET AJAX Toolkit, sounded like the ideal way to wrap all these Web Parts together.

In theory, the creation of this Web Portal sounded like it would be a breeze - just drop a few Web Part Zones onto the Tab Control, and populate them with the Web Parts to show information from each category. In reality, as usual, things turned out to be not quite so simple. Over the next few posts I’m going to describe the creation of a simple version of this Web Portal and highlight the problems, and workarounds, involved with each stage.

To start I’ll be describing the very basics of getting Web Parts up and running, before moving onto some more complex issues, such as dynamically generating the Web Parts and creating new tab pages on demand.
The content of these posts won’t really provide any information that can’t be found elsewhere, however I hope that by bringing it all together, into a single place, that this will be of benefit to some - certainly it would have helped me. As mentioned, most of the stuff concerning the dynamic creation of Web Parts can be found in other locations and, when I can remember where I obtained information from, I’ll try and reference these other sources. One things that these posts won’t be are in-depth overviews of either Web Parts or ASP.NET AJAX - a basic knowledge of these is assumed - if you’d like more information on either of these topics, I can recommend the books shown in the reading list.

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