Better WPF DataBinding with CalcBinding

If you are like me, you want to bind Boolean properties to Visibility properties. We implement IValueConverter and therefore increase the complexity in the system. The new Type has to be named and placed correctly and we have to make sure that there is no value converter that already does what we just created. How can we speed up and improve binding and value conversion?

Recently I came across the very sweet WPF library CalcBinding. It allows for custom binding expressions without the need for an IValueConverter implementation. It is a markup extension that lets us write inversions and calculations directly in XAML. Those binding expressions also support two way binding automatically. That prevents the ViewModel from getting all kinds of highly View-related properties, which can obfuscate the abstract view model. Just like the CodeBehinds did in preMVVM age.
In this blog post I give you a quick run through of all the features I find most impressive. You can easily install it with “Install-Package CalcBinding”. Once you import its namespace in the XAML you can take advantage of the new binding like below.

1

The screenshot above shows a multi binding together with arithmetic expressions to produce a single result. The screenshot below shows additional calculations that can be used inside the binding expression. Remarkably, you get the back conversion for free. Not all calculations belong to the View. Keep in mind that calculations in the view can not easily be unit tested.

2

The screenshot below shows how to bind a Boolean to Visibility. Visibility is a Type that lives in View-land and I do not want view-specific Types to be dependencies of my ViewModels. I believe the ViewModel should be as pure as possible. This way I can easily reuse them to support not only WPF views in a MvvmCross solution, for example. Unfortunately MvvmCross has its own framework specific Types like MvxCommand.

3

The screenshot below shows how to use the ternary operator (?:) within the binding expression to concatenate strings. This could be useful if the binding’s StringFormat is not enough.

4

There is one more thing I would like CalcBinding to do. If you already looked into AngularJS or compiled data binding in the Universal Windows Platform, you may like how they support binding to events. Would it not be great if we could do the same in WPF? Exactly. And here is how, utilizing the CalcBinding markup extension. Unfortunately, even though I created a pull request, this is not yet included/supported in the official version of CalcBinding.

5

CalcBinding is amazing. Especially when binding bool properties, it is a huge time saver. And on the side it keeps my ViewModels much cleaner and prevents them from turning into huge CodeBehinds. The only disadvantage I found is that while Visual Studio seems to accept the extensive binding expressions, ReSharper lists them as errors in its solution wide error analysis view. Maybe we can teach it to ignore those. For now, it has a very positive cost-benefit profile and I am going to continue using it. If you like it as well, give credit to Alex141 and star his github project at the link above.

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