XAML Power Toys for Visual Studio 2017 & 2019 (Community, Professional and Enterprise versions) is a Visual Studio extension that enables developers to rapidly generate data entry forms from view models or entity objects for Xamarin Form, WPF, UWP, and Silverlight 5.
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At the writing of this, the primary scenario for Xamarin Forms is pages that don’t require Platform specific features to accomplish the layout, navigation, animation, or functional implementation.
This tool is designed to enable the developer to rapidly create cross-platform data bound, data entry forms.
While adopting the MVVM pattern is not a requirement to create forms with the tool, it is designed to fully support creating forms with a view model as the BindingContext or DataContext. Using the MVVM pattern has long been a best practice for developing XAML applications, this tool’s happy path is, form development against view models.
The XAML that the tool generates, is similar to clean hand-coded XAML. Clean XAML is easily styleable since few if any Element properties have values set.
- Rapid Data Entry Form Creation from View Model or Entity Class
Rapid Data Entry Form Creation
NOTE: the below images and property names in this documentation, were taken from a Xamarin Forms application. When using the tool for WPF, some options will not be displayed or different ones will be displayed.
Creating a data-bound, data entry form with XAML Power Toys is very simple. You’ll use drag and drop to specify the desired data form controls on a friendly layout surface.
The end result will be a data entry form that renders well across platforms, with all data bindings, format strings, etc. set the way you would have you hand-coded the form.
- Start XAML Power Toys
- Select Source Class
- Optionally Set Form Options
- Drag and Drop Properties to Layout Surface
- Optionally Set Control Options
- Optionally Set Generate UI Options
- Generate UI
Start XAML Power Toys
From a XAML file in a Xamarin Forms or WPF project, right click in the editor where you want your form to be inserted.
NOTE: You must build your solution if you’ve made changes to any view model or entity class BEFORE opening XAML Power Toys. This tool uses reflection to load up your solution’s view models and entity classes.
Select Source Class
After clicking the XAML Power Toys command in the context menu, the below Select Source Class dialog appears.
Beginning in version 1.2.18 by way of a feature request, internal classes now appear in the select class listing. This new internal scope selection only applies to the assembly that XAML Power Toys was launched from.
When the dialog opens: it loads the left list box will all classes where their name ends with ViewModel; case insensitive, and it loads up all classes by assembly, namespace, class name in the tree view on the right.
It attempts to locate a view model for the active XAML file by naming convention.
If one is found, it will be selected in the ViewModels list box on the left and the Next… button will be enabled.
If one is not found by naming convention, the Next… button will be disabled until you selected either a view model from the ViewModels list box or a class from the Assemblies tree view.
After clicking the Next… button the XAML Power Toys Form Layout Tool dialog will appear.
Form Layout Tool
- On the left:
- The icon at the top indicates the platform this form is targeting. In this case, Xamarin Forms.
- The selected type name is displayed. In this example PersonEditorViewModel.
- Each of the selected type properties are displayed in the list box.
- The (r) indicates a read-only property.
- Below the class properties are a list of Unbound Controls that can be added to form.
- On the top:
- Very top right are + and – buttons for zooming the tool in or out.
- The rendered Label Position is set by selecting the position you want the form label to appear.
- The Show Expanded View check box, will cause the items on the right side to expand or contract.
- The Show Advanced Options check box, will cause the Advance Options to be displayed for each item.
- The Column Root Object radio button group allows the developer to select the root control for the form.
- The properties in BOLD, are drillable. To drill into a property, double click the BOLD name.
- After drilling into a property, that class’s properties will be displayed as pictured below.
- To return to the parent class, click the black, back arrow icon.
- To add controls to your form, drag and drop a property from the list box to the layout surface.
- In the below image, I’ve dragged the FirstName and LastName properties to the layout surface:
- The Path for the Entry control Text property is set to Person.FirstName.
- The Control Label and Placeholder text have been defaulted by splitting the property name at each capital letter.
- The Control has been defaulted based on the property data type. You can change it if required for your application.
- The Keyboard as been defaulted based on the property data type. You can change it if required for your application.
- You can reorder the controls by dragging them up or down in the layout surface.
- You can remove a control by dragging it back to the properties listing it was dragged from.
Generate UI I’m now happy with my two field form. It will be rendered in a stack layout and have the control labels positioned above each control.
Click the Next… button and the XAML UI Generation Options are displayed.
You can optionally wrap the form in a top-level control. For example, a scroll viewer for mobile forms.
You can optionally add names to all your controls.
You can optionally add a form header to the generated UI.
Click the Generate UI button and the following form will be inserted into your XAML file where you opened the context menu.
If run the Xamarin Forms UWP application, the UI looks like this:
Example Forms Created With XAML Power Toys
With a little styling, these forms would look great and took less than a minute to create each one.
|IOS TableView Form||Country BindablePicker|
|IOS Form With Images||Book Detail Form|
How to create a form with City State Zip controls next to each other
Have a look at the above application sample images that have the City, State, and Zip on the same row.
The below image pictures the required settings to accomplish this.
Table Section Title
This form’s Column Root Object is a Table View. Table views group controls in sections. In the below image, all fields are grouped in the “Address” section.
- Control Label is changed to City State Zip
- Include Next Control In Row is checked (this causes State to be placed next to City)
- Changed the Row Item Width to * (star)
- Show Label is unchecked (prevents the label from being rendered)
- Include Next Control In Row is checked (this causes Zip to be placed next to State)
- Left Row Item Width to Auto, you could also specify a numeric control width
- Show Label is unchecked (prevents the label from being rendered)
- Set the Row Item Width to Auto, you could also specify a numeric control width
The BindablePicker control is one I created and blogged about here.
You can also get the BindablePicker and see many usage examples in the Xamarin Forms Bindable Picker repo here.
You can see two of the supported scenarios:
- States is bound to a list of Strings
- Countries is bound to a list of Country objects. Notice for Country, the DisplayMemberPath and SelectedValuePath are both set.
The States and Countries collections are exposed on the view model, making the task of setting up data bindings trivial.