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Progress Update on C# Tips eBook

An updated version of my C# Tips eBook has just been released. This brings the book to around 80% complete.

The book includes useful C# Tips, design patterns, and tools.

The remaining 20% of effort will include continuing to add new content, arranging and ordering existing content, cross referencing and final proof reading.

Check out the book on Leanpub.

Beyond Simple Asserts with ApprovalTests

In a test, we are often testing (asserting) individual items such as an (int) age is correct or a string matches an expected value.

If we are practicing test-first development we’ll write our asserts first.

Approval tests allow us to go beyond simple asserts.

What if the thing we’re checking is not a simple value, for example that a pie chart image matches the input data? Or what if we want to use our human judgement to decide when something looks correct, something that is hard to codify in one or more basic asserts?

ApprovalTests for .NET can be install via NuGet. Once installed, it gives us a whole new world when it comes to checking the output of code.

For example, say we are developing a class to represent a stickman. We want to be able to tell an instance to raise left arm or raise right leg for example.

Example of Using Approval Tests

So lets start with a test:

public void ShouldHaveDefaultPosture()
    var sut = new StickMan();


And an empty StickMan:

public class StickMan

Here we’re using (the [Fact] attribute) but you could be using NUnit for example.

The first thing to notice here is there is no traditional Assert method, instead we’re using Approval Tests to verify the state of the system under test (sut).

The other think to notice is the [UseReporter] attribute that tells Approval Tests to use a diff tool to display errors when a test fails.

If we run this test, we’ll get a diff tool opened:

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Run Local Development and Store-Installed Versions of Windows Store Apps Side-by-Side

If you’ve released a Windows Store app and you want to actually use the released version yourself on the same machine you develop the app on, running the dev version from Visual Studio may overwrite the real Store-installed version.

As a workaround you can edit some files to change the package name so when you run it in dev it won’t override the store version. But you need to remember to change back when you release next version.

A while ago I came across a post using various steps to achieve this but it seem a bit complex an involved additional targets, etc.

So I hacked together my own utility: CohabitStoreApp.

It’s a low tech utility that you add as a pre-build step in your Store App project and it does 2 things:

  1. In DEBUG config, adds LOCALDEV to package identity and changed background color to red
  2. in non-DEBUG config removes LOCALDEV from package identity and restores background color

Check out the example app and the readme for more info.

Using Sass Maps to Save Time in CSS

Sass is a superset of CSS that “compiles” down to regular CSS usable by any browser. It adds features such as functions, logic, and loads more.

Sass already had the concept of lists that allow a one-dimensional list of values to be defined; Sass 3.3 introduced maps – a series of key-value pairs.

Defining a Sass Map

To define a variable called team-colors containing a map of values (in this case a map of soccer teams and their colors):

$team-colors: (
    australia: #F7AD31,
    england: #FFF,
    sweden: #FFE700,
    japan: #435AAD

Iterating over a Sass Map

Now we can iterate through all the team names and access their color values:

@each $team, $color in $team-colors{
    .#{$team} {   
        background-color: $color;

This will create a CSS class with the name of the team (using Sass interpolation syntax) and its associated background color:

.australia {
  background-color: #F7AD31;

.england {
  background-color: #FFF;

.sweden {
  background-color: #FFE700;

.japan {
  background-color: #435AAD;

There’s also a number of functions for manipulating maps such as map-get and map-has-key.


To learn how to simplify your CSS and save time writing it with Sass, check out my Pluralsight course.

New Open Source Project–Named Colors

I’ve been tinkering with an idea for a new open source project called NamedColors.

As its name suggests, it’s a list of color values (hex RGB) with associated names. In addition, a number of related “emotions” can be associated with each color.

A Named Color is defined as:


You can see the current (short) list on GitHub.

The idea is to create a number of projections for use in different programming languages / platforms. For example CSS, Sass, and .NET PCL.

The project is in its early stages at the moment, and I’m not sure what applications people will find for it – it will be interesting to see what happens.

Projections are created using T4 templates.

There are other projections planned, such as a XAML dictionary of colors and brushes.

If anyone has any other ideas for projections feel free to add an issue or send me a pull request – also for adding other named colors.

Eventually for .NET there will be a NuGet PCL available containing all the named colors and way to say “give me a sad color”, etc.

about jason

My Bio Photo

Jason Roberts is a Journeyman Software Developer, Microsoft MVP, writer, Pluralsight author, open source contributor and Windows Phone & Windows 8 app author.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in computing and is an amateur music producer and landscape photographer.

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The opinions expressed herein represent my personal opinions and do not represent my employer's views in any way.

© Copyright 2014, Jason Roberts