Passing Data in an ASP.NET MVC Application

The ASP.NET MVC framework provides page-level containers for passing data between controllers and views. This topic explains how to pass both weakly typed and strongly typed data in an MVC application. It also explains how to pass temporary state data between action methods.

To render a view, you call the View method of the controller. To pass data to the view, you use the ViewData property of the ViewPage class. This property returns a ViewDataDictionary object that has case-insensitive string keys. To pass data to the view, you can assign values to the dictionary, as shown in the following example:

                        Dim petList As List(Of String) = New List(Of String)
petList.Add("Gold fish")
petList.Add("Mountain lion")

ViewData("pets") = New SelectList(petList)

If you call the View method without parameters (as shown in the previous example), the controller object's ViewData property is passed to the view that has the same name as the action method.

In the view page, you can access the ViewData property to obtain data that was passed to the view. The ViewData property is a dictionary that supports an indexer that accepts dictionary keys.

The following example shows the markup for a view that displays the data in an HTML form and enables the user to modify values and make selections.

<h2><%= Html.Encode(ViewData("Message")) %></h2>
<br /><br />
<% Using Html.BeginForm("HandleForm", "Home")%>
    Enter your name: <%= Html.TextBox("name") %>
    <br /><br />
    Select your favorite color:<br />
    <%= Html.RadioButton("favColor", "Blue", true) %> Blue <br />
    <%= Html.RadioButton("favColor", "Purple", false)%> Purple <br />
    <%= Html.RadioButton("favColor", "Red", false)%> Red <br />
    <%= Html.RadioButton("favColor", "Orange", false)%> Orange <br />
    <%= Html.RadioButton("favColor", "Yellow", false)%> Yellow <br />
    <%= Html.RadioButton("favColor", "Brown", false)%> Brown <br />
    <%= Html.RadioButton("favColor", "Green", false)%> Green 
    <br /><br />
    <%=Html.CheckBox("bookType")%> I read more fiction than non-fiction.<br />
    <br /><br />
    My favorite pet: <%=Html.DropDownList("pets")%>
    <br /><br />
    <input type="submit" value="Submit" />
<% End Using%>

When you pass data between a view and a controller by using the ViewData property of the ViewPage class, the data is not strongly typed. If you want to pass strongly typed data, change the @ Page declaration of the view so that the view inherits from ViewPage(Of TModel) instead of from ViewPage, as shown in the following example:

<%@ Page Inherits="ViewPage<Product>" %>

ViewPage(Of TModel) is the strongly-typed version of ViewPage. The ViewData property of ViewPage(Of TModel) returns a ViewDataDictionary(Of TModel) object, which contains strongly typed data for the view based on a model. The model is a class that contains properties for each data item that you want to pass.

The following example shows the definition of a typical data model class named Person.

                        Public Class Person
    Private _Id As Integer
    Public Property Id() As Integer
            Return _Id
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Integer)
            _Id = value
        End Set
    End Property

    Private _Name As String
    Public Property Name() As String
            Return _Name
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As String)
            _Name = value
        End Set
    End Property

    Private _Age As Integer
    Public Property Age() As Integer
            Return _Age
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Integer)
            _Age = value
        End Set
    End Property
End Class

The following example shows a view that enables the user to modify the values of a Person object and to submit the changes for update.


<%=Html.ValidationSummary("Edit was unsuccessful. Please correct the errors and try again.")%>

<% Using Html.BeginForm() %>

            <label for="Id">Id:</label>
            <%= Html.TextBox("Id", Model.Id) %>
            <%= Html.ValidationMessage("Id", "*") %>
            <label for="Name">Name:</label>
            <%= Html.TextBox("Name", Model.Name) %>
            <%= Html.ValidationMessage("Name", "*") %>
            <label for="Age">Age:</label>
            <%= Html.TextBox("Age", Model.Age) %>
            <%= Html.ValidationMessage("Age", "*") %>
            <input type="submit" value="Save" />

<% End Using %>

    <%=Html.ActionLink("Back to List", "Index") %>

The following example shows the action method that receives a Person object from the Edit view, checks its validity again the model, updates a list of Person objects, and then redirects to the Index action.

Action methods might have to pass data to the next action, such as if an error occurs when a form is being posted. In that case, the user might be redirected to another view that displays error information.

An action method can store data in the controller's TempDataDictionary object before it calls the controller's RedirectToAction method to invoke the next action. The TempData property value is stored in session state. The next action method can get values from the TempDataDictionary object to process or to display in its own view. The value of TempData persists only from one request to the next.

The following example shows a data class that is used to trap an error and to transfer data between actions.

Public Class InsertError
    Public Property ErrorMessage() As String
    End Property
    Public Property OriginalFirstName() As String
    End Property
    Public Property OriginalLastName() As String
    End Property
End Class

' CustomersController

Public Function InsertCustomer(ByVal firstName As String, _
        ByVal lastName As String) As ActionResult
    ' Check for input errors.
    If String.IsNullOrEmpty(firstName) Or _
            String.IsNullOrEmpty(lastName) Then
        Dim err As InsertError =  New InsertError() 
        err.ErrorMessage = "Both names are required."
        err.OriginalFirstName = firstName
        err.OriginalLastName = lastName
        TempData("error") = err
        Return RedirectToAction("NewCustomer")
    End If

    ' No errors
    ' ...
    Return View()
End Function

Public Function NewCustomer() As ActionResult
    Dim err As InsertError =  CType(TempData("error"), InsertError)
    If Not err Is Nothing Then
        ' If there is error data from the previous action, display it.
        ViewData("FirstName") = err.OriginalFirstName
        ViewData("LastName") = err.OriginalLastName
        ViewData("ErrorMessage") = err.ErrorMessage
    End If

    ' ...
    Return View()
End Function

The following example shows the markup for a view that accepts user input and displays the error if one occurs.

<form action="/Home/InsertCustomer">
  <% if (ViewData["ErrorMessage"] != null) { %>
    The following error occurred while inserting the customer data:
    <br />
    <%= ViewData["ErrorMessage"] %>
    <br />
  <% } %>

  First name: 
  <input type="text" name="firstName" value="<%= ViewData["FirstName"] %>" />
  <br />
  Last name: 
  <input type="text" name="lastName" value="<%= ViewData["LastName"] %>" />
  <br />    
  <input type="submit" value="Insert" />

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