Customizing C# Object Member Display During Debugging

In a previous post I wrote about Customising the Appearance of Debug Information in Visual Studio with the DebuggerDisplay Attribute. In addition to controlling the high level  debugger appearance of an object we can also exert a lot more control over how the object appears in the debugger by using the DebuggerTypeProxy attribute.

For example, suppose we have the following (somewhat arbitrary) class:

class DataTransfer
{
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public string ValueInHex { get; set; }
}

By default, in the debugger it would look like the following:

Default Debugger View

To customize the display of of the object members, the DebuggerTypeProxy attribute can be applied.

The first step is to create a class to act as a display proxy. This class takes the original object as part of the constructor and then exposes the custom view via public properties.

For example, suppose that we wanted a decimal display of the hex number that originally is stored in a string property in the original DataTransfer object:

class DataTransferDebugView
{
    private readonly DataTransfer _data;

    public DataTransferDebugView(DataTransfer data)
    {
        _data = data;
    }

    public string NameUpper => _data.Name.ToUpperInvariant();
    public string ValueDecimal
    {
        get
        {
            bool isValidHex = int.TryParse(_data.ValueInHex, System.Globalization.NumberStyles.HexNumber, null, out var value);

            if (isValidHex)
            {
                return value.ToString();
            }

            return "INVALID HEX STRING";
        }
    }
}

Once this view object is defined, it can be selected by decorating the DataTransfer class with the DebuggerTypeProxy attribute as follows:

[DebuggerTypeProxy(typeof(DataTransferDebugView))]
class DataTransfer
{
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public string ValueInHex { get; set; }
}

Now in the debugger, the following can be seen:

Custom debug view showing hex value as a decimal

Also notice in the preceding image, that the original object view is available by expanding the Raw View section.

To learn more about C# attributes and even how to create your own custom ones, check out my C# Attributes: Power and Flexibility for Your Code course at Pluralsight.

MSTest V2

In the (relatively) distant past, MSTest was often used by organizations because it was provided by Microsoft “in the box” with Visual Studio/.NET. Because of this, some organizations trusted MSTest over open source testing frameworks such as NUnit. This was at a time when the .NET open source ecosystem was not as advanced as it is today and before Microsoft began open sourcing some of their own products.

Nowadays MSTest is cross-platform and open source and is known as MSTest V2, and as the documentation states: “is a fully supported, open source and cross-platform implementation of the MSTest test framework with which to write tests targeting .NET Framework, .NET Core and ASP.NET Core on Windows, Linux, and Mac.”.

MSTest V2 provides typical assert functionality such as asserting on the values of: strings, numbers, collections, thrown exceptions, etc. Also like other testing frameworks, MSTest V2 allows the customization of the test execution lifecycle such as the running of additional setup code before each test executes. The framework also allows the creation of data driven tests (a single test method executing  multiple times with different input test data) and the ability to extend the framework with custom asserts and custom test attributes.

You can find out more about MSTest V2 at the GitHub repository, the documentation, or check out my Pluralsight course: Automated Testing with MSTest V2.

Prevent Secrets From Accidentally Being Committed to Source Control in ASP.NET Core Apps

One problem when dealing with developer “secrets” in development is accidentally checking them into source control. These secrets could be connection strings to dev resources, user IDs, product keys, etc.

To help prevent this from accidentally happening, the secrets can be stored outside of the project tree/source control repository. This means that when the code is checked in, there will be no secrets in the repository.

Each developer will have their secrets stored outside of the project code. When the app is run, these secrets can be retrieved at runtime from outside the project structure.

One way to accomplish this in ASP.NET Core  projects is to make use of the Microsoft.Extensions.SecretManager.Tools NuGet package to allow use of the command line tool. (also if you are targeting .NET Core 1.x , install the Microsoft.Extensions.Configuration.UserSecrets NuGet package).

Setting Up User Secrets

After creating a new ASP.NET Core project, add a tools reference to the NuGet package to the project, this will add the following item in the project file:

<DotNetCliToolReference Include="Microsoft.Extensions.SecretManager.Tools" Version="2.0.0" />

Build the project and then right click the project and you will see a new item called “Manage User Secrets” as the following screenshot shows:

Managing user secrets in Visual Studio

Clicking menu item will open a secrets.json file and also add an element named UserSecretsId to the project file. The content of this element is a GUID, the GUID is arbitrary but should be unique for each and every project.

<UserSecretsId>c83d8f04-8dba-4be4-8635-b5364f54e444</UserSecretsId>

User secrets will be stored in the secrets.json file which will be in %APPDATA%\Microsoft\UserSecrets\<user_secrets_id>\secrets.json on Windows or ~/.microsoft/usersecrets/<user_secrets_id>/secrets.json on Linux and macOS. Notice these paths contain the user_secrets_id that matches the GUID in the project file. In this way each project has a separate set of user secrets.

The secrets.json file contains key value pairs.

Managing User Secrets

User secrets can be added by editing the json file or by using the command line (from the project directory).

To list user secrets type: dotnet user-secrets list At the moment his will return “No secrets configured for this application.”

To set (add) a secret: dotnet user-secrets set "Id" "42"

The secrets.json file now contains the following:

{
  "Id": "42"
}

Other dotnet user-secrets  commands include:

  • clear - Deletes all the application secrets
  • list - Lists all the application secrets
  • remove - Removes the specified user secret
  • set - Sets the user secret to the specified value

Accessing User Secrets in Code

To retrieve users secrets, in the startup class, access the item by key, for example:

public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
    services.AddMvc();

    var secretId = Configuration["Id"]; // returns 42
}

One thing to bear in mind is that secrets are not encrypted in the secrets.json file, as the documentation states: “The Secret Manager tool doesn't encrypt the stored secrets and shouldn't be treated as a trusted store. It's for development purposes only. The keys and values are stored in a JSON configuration file in the user profile directory.” & “You can store and protect Azure test and production secrets with the Azure Key Vault configuration provider.”

There’s a lot more information in the documentation and if you plan to use this tool you should read through it.

FeatureToggle v4 Released

Version 4 of FeatureToggle is now released. This release adds initial support for .NET Core.

Example code.

Release notes.

Breaking Changes:

  • Min framework now 4.6.1 / .NET Standard 1.4
  • Windows 8.n, Windows phone 8.n, Windows Phone Silverlight 8.n no longer supported
  • Namespace changes: most types needed for application developers are now under root FeatureToggle namespace
  • Types not usually required by client code moved to FeatureToggle.Internal
  • Windows UWP now supported explicitly from build 14393

.NET Core Limitations/Specifics

This is in some ways somewhat of an interim release, it is envisaged that when version 5 comes around the implementation will move to a pure .NET Standard implementation.

Getting Started Testing .NET Core Code with xUnit.net

xUnit.net is a testing framework that can be used to write automated tests for .NET (full) framework and also .NET Core.

To get started, first create a .NET Core application, in the following example a .NET Core console app.

Creating a .NET core console project

A testing project can now be added to the solution:

Adding an xUnit test project in Visual Studio 2017

This test project will come pre-configured with the relevant NuGet packages installed to start writing test code, though you may want to update the pre-configured packages to the newest NuGet versions.

The xUnit Test Project template will also create the following default test class:

using System;
using Xunit;

namespace ConsoleCalculator.Tests
{
    public class UnitTest1
    {
        [Fact]
        public void Test1()
        {

        }
    }
}

Notice in the preceding code, the Test1 method is decorated with the [Fact] attribute. This is an xUnit.net attribute that tells a test runner that it should execute the method, treat it as a test, and report on if the test passed or not.

Next add a project reference from the test project to the project that contains the code that is to be tested, this gives the test project access to the production code.

In the production project, the following class can be added:

namespace ConsoleCalculator
{
    public class Calculator
    {
        public int Add(int a, int b)
        {            
            return a + b;
        }
    }
}

Now the test class can be renamed (for example to “CalculatorTests”) and the test method changed to create a test:

using Xunit;

namespace ConsoleCalculator.Tests
{
    public class CalculatorTests
    {
        [Fact]
        public void ShouldAddTwoNumbers()
        {
            Calculator calculator = new Calculator();

            int result = calculator.Add(7, 3);

            Assert.Equal(10, result);
        }
    }
}

In the preceding code, once again the [Fact] attribute is being used, then the thing being tested is created (the Calculator class instance). The next step is to perform some kind of action on the thing being tested, in this example calling the Add method. The final step is to signal to the test runner if the test has passed or not, this is done by using one of the many xUnit.net Assert methods; in the preceding code the Assert.Equal method is being used. The first parameter is the expected value of 10, the second parameter is the actual value produced by the code being tested. So if  result is 10 the test will pass, otherwise it will fail.

One way to execute tests is to use Visual Studio’s Test Explorer which can be found under the Test –> Windows –> Test Explorer menu item. Once the test project is built, the test will show up and can be executed as the following screenshot shows:

Running xUnit tests in Visual Studio Test Explorer

To learn more about how to get started testing .NET Core code check out my Testing .NET Core Code with xUnit.net: Getting Started Pluralsight course or check out the docs.

Testing ASP.NET Core Controllers in Isolation with Mock Objects and Moq

In previous posts we saw how to get started testing ASP.NET Core MVC controllers and also how to use the Moq mocking library in .NET Core tests.

If there is code in controllers that needs testing, but the controller has a dependency, for example passed into the constructor, it may not make sense to use the real version of the dependency. In these cases Moq can be used to create a mock version of the dependency and pass it to the controller that needs testing.

As an example suppose we have the following controller code:

public class HomeController : Controller
{
    private readonly ISmsGateway _smsGateway;

    public HomeController(ISmsGateway smsGateway)
    {
        _smsGateway = smsGateway;
    }

    [HttpPost]
    [ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
    public IActionResult Send(SendSmsRequest request)
    {
        if (ModelState.IsValid)
        {
            var sendReceipt = _smsGateway.Send(request.PhoneNumber, request.Message);

            return Ok(sendReceipt);
        }

        return BadRequest();
    }
}

In the preceding code, the controller takes an ISmsGateway dependency as a constructor parameter. This dependency is later used in the the Send() method.

After installing Moq a mock SMS gateway can be created. Once created, Moq’s Setup() method can be used to determine what happens when the controller calls the mocked Send() method as the following code demonstrates:

[Fact]
public void ShouldSendOk()
{
    SendSmsRequest sendSmsRequest = new SendSmsRequest
    {
        PhoneNumber = "42",
        Message = "Hello"
    };

    Guid expectedSendReceipt = Guid.NewGuid();

    var mockSmsGateway = new Mock<ISmsGateway>();
    
    mockSmsGateway.Setup(x => x.Send(sendSmsRequest.PhoneNumber, sendSmsRequest.Message))
                  .Returns(expectedSendReceipt);

    var sut = new HomeController(mockSmsGateway.Object);
    
    IActionResult result = sut.Send(sendSmsRequest);

    var okObjectResult = Assert.IsType<OkObjectResult>(result);

    Assert.Equal(expectedSendReceipt, okObjectResult.Value);
}

We may also want to test that if there is a model binding error, then  no message is sent via the SMS gateway. The follow test code shows the use of the AddModelError() method to simulate an error, and the use of Moq’s Verify() method to check that the gateway’s Send() method was never called:

[Fact]
public void ShouldNotSendWhenModelError()
{
    SendSmsRequest sendSmsRequest = new SendSmsRequest
    {
        PhoneNumber = "42",
        Message = "Hello"
    };

    var mockSmsGateway = new Mock<ISmsGateway>();

    var sut = new HomeController(mockSmsGateway.Object);
    sut.ModelState.AddModelError("Simulated", "Model error");

    sut.Send(sendSmsRequest);

    mockSmsGateway.Verify(x => x.Send(It.IsAny<string>(), It.IsAny<string>()), Times.Never);
}

To learn more about using Moq to create/configure/use mock objects check out my Mocking in .NET Core Unit Tests with Moq: Getting Started Pluralsight course, and to learn how to get started testing ASP.NET Core MVC applications check out my ASP.NET Core MVC Testing Fundamentals Pluralsight course.

Testing ASP.NET Core MVC Controllers: Getting Started

When writing ASP.NET Core MVC web applications, you may want to test that controller actions behave in the expected way, for example that the action returns the correct result type (e.g. a ViewResult) or that the action behaves as expected when the model state is invalid.

To get started writing controller tests, first add a new .NET Core xUnit test project to the solution. This will create the test project along with requried xUnit.net NuGet packages. It will also add a default test class "UnitTest1.cs":

using System;
using Xunit;

namespace WebApplication1.Tests
{
    public class UnitTest1
    {
        [Fact]
        public void Test1()
        {
        }
    }
}

In the preceding code, notice the xUnit.net [Fact] attribute that marks the Test1 method as a test that should be executed by the test runner. One way to run tests in Visual Studio is to use the built-in Test Explorer which can be accessed via the menus: Test->Windows->Test Explorer.

If you build the project you will see the default test shown in the Test Explorer window:

Visual Studio Test Explorer

Adding a Controller Test

First, to get access to the controllers in the ASP.NET Core MVC application, add a reference to the web project from the test project. An instance of a controller can now be created in the test method:

var sut = new WebApplication1.Controllers.HomeController();

We can now call methods (actions) on the controller and verify the results. As a simple example, we can check that the Index method result is a view:

[Fact]
public void Test1()
{
    HomeController sut = new WebApplication1.Controllers.HomeController();

    IActionResult result = sut.Index();

    Assert.IsType<ViewResult>(result);
}

There are many different ways to test the results of controllers, including the ability to simulate model errors or using Moq mock objects as controller constructor dependencies.

The following code shows an excerpt from a controller and a test that examines the view's model that was returned:

public class PersonViewModel
{
    public string Name { get; set; }
}

public IActionResult Person()
{
    PersonViewModel viewModel = new PersonViewModel
    {
        Name = "Amrit"
    };

    return View(viewModel);
}
[Fact]
public void Test2()
{
    HomeController sut = new WebApplication1.Controllers.HomeController();

    IActionResult result = sut.Person();

    ViewResult viewResult = Assert.IsType<ViewResult>(result);

    PersonViewModel model = Assert.IsType<PersonViewModel>(viewResult.Model);

    Assert.Equal("Amrit", model.Name);
}

To learn how to get started testing ASP.NET Core MVC applications check out my ASP.NET Core MVC Testing Fundamentals Pluralsight course.

Mocking in .NET Core Tests with Moq

When writing automated tests it is sometimes useful to isolate the thing(s) being tested from other parts of the system. These ‘other’ parts may still need to be provided, and sometimes the real versions are too hard or cumbersome to use. In these instances “mocked” versions can be created and used.

A mock version of something is an object that can act like the real thing but can be controlled in test code.

Moq (pronounced “mok u” or “mock”) is a library available on NuGet that allows mock objects to be created in test code and it also supports .NET Core.

Moq allows the manipulation of mock objects in many ways, including setting mock methods to return specific values, setting up properties, and matching specific arguments when the thing being tested calls the mock object.

For example, the following code shows a class that requires a constructor dependency to be able to operate:

using System;

namespace Domain
{
    public interface IThingDependency
    {
        string JoinUpper(string a, string b);
        int Meaning { get; }
    }

    // "Real" implementation
    public class ThingDependency : IThingDependency
    {
        public string JoinUpper(string a, string b)
        {
            throw new NotImplementedException();
        }

        public int Meaning => throw new NotImplementedException();
    }

    // Class we want to test in isolation of ThingDependency
    public class ThingBeingTested
    {
        private readonly IThingDependency _thingDependency;

        public string FirstName { get; set; }
        public string LastName { get; set; }

        public ThingBeingTested(IThingDependency thingDependency)
        {
            _thingDependency = thingDependency;
        }

        public string X()
        {
            var fullName = _thingDependency.JoinUpper(FirstName, LastName);

            return $"{fullName} = {_thingDependency.Meaning}";
        }
    }
}

Without a mock object, to write a test we could use the real ThingDependency:

[Fact]
public void TestUsingRealDependency()
{
    var sut = new ThingBeingTested(new ThingDependency());

    // test code
}

To isolate the ThingBeingTested from the rest of the system, Moq can create a mock version of an IThingDependency:

[Fact]
public void TestUsingMockDependency()
{
    // create mock version
    var mockDependency = new Mock<IThingDependency>();

    // set up mock version's method
    mockDependency.Setup(x => x.JoinUpper(It.IsAny<string>(), It.IsAny<string>()))
                  .Returns("A B");

    // set up mock version's property
    mockDependency.Setup(x => x.Meaning)
                  .Returns(42);

    // create thing being tested with a mock dependency
    var sut = new ThingBeingTested(mockDependency.Object);

    var result = sut.X();

    Assert.Equal("A B = 42", result);
}

In the preceding code, the Setup() method is used to tell the mock how to behave when it is called by the ThingBeingTested.

Moq can also be used to test the correct interactions are occurring between the ThingBeingTested and the IThingDependency:

[Fact]
public void TestUsingMockDependencyUsingInteractionVerification()
{
    // create mock version
    var mockDependency = new Mock<IThingDependency>();

    // create thing being tested with a mock dependency
    var sut = new ThingBeingTested(mockDependency.Object)
    {
        FirstName = "Sarah",
        LastName = "Smith"
    };

    sut.X();

    // Assert that the JoinUpper method was called with Sarah Smith
    mockDependency.Verify(x => x.JoinUpper("Sarah", "Smith"), Times.Once);

    // Assert that the Meaning property was accessed once
    mockDependency.Verify(x => x.Meaning, Times.Once);
}

In the preceding code, the Verify method is used to check that the mock JoinUpper method is being called exactly once with the values “Sarah” and “Smith”. The test code is also expecting the method to be called exactly once.

Moq can be used to test in isolation other parts of applications such as ASP.NET Core MVC controllers, where the controller requires a dependency (such as an IFooRepository):

[Fact]
public void ContollerTest()
{            
    var mockDependency = new Mock<IFooRepository>();

    var sut = new HomeController(mockDependency.Object);
    
    // test code
}

To learn more about using Moq to create/configure/use mock objects check out my Mocking in .NET Core Unit Tests with Moq: Getting Started Pluralsight course.

To learn how to get started testing ASP.NET Core MVC applications check out my ASP.NET Core MVC Testing Fundamentals Pluralsight course.

FeatureToggle v4 RC2 with .NET Core Configuration Changes

FeatureToggle logo

The pre-release RC2 version of FeatureToggle with .NET Core support is now available on NuGet.

See release notes and GitHub issues for additional background/breaking changes/limitations.

RC2 builds on RC1 and modifies the format of the json settings to make use of nesting as discussed in this issue, for example:

{
  "FeatureToggle": {
    "Printing": "true",
    "Saving": "false"
  }
}

Thanks to @steventmayer for the suggestions.

Multiple Platform Targeting in Visual Studio 2017

Suppose you are creating a library that has a central set of features and also additional features that are only available on some platforms. This means that when the project is built there are multiple assemblies created, one for each platform.

One way to achieve multi platform targeting is to create a number of separate projects, for example one for .NET Core , one for UWP, another one for .NET framework, etc. Then a shared source code project can be added and referenced by each of these individual projects; when each project is built separate binaries are produced. I’ve used this approach in the past, for example when working on FeatureToggle but is a little clunky and results in many projects in the solution.

Another approach is to have a single project that is not limited to a single platform output, but rather compiles  to multiple platform assemblies.

For example, in Visual Studio 2017, create a new .NET Core class library project called TargetingExample and add a class called WhoAmI as follows:

using System;

namespace TargetingExample
{
    public static class WhoAmI
    {
        public static string TellMe()
        {
            return ".NET Core";
        }
    }
}

After building the following will be created: "…\MultiTargeting\TargetingExample\TargetingExample\bin\Debug\netcoreapp1.1\TargetingExample.dll". Notice the platform directory “netcoreapp1.1”.

If we add a new .NET Core console app project and reference the TargetingExample project:

using System;
using TargetingExample;

namespace ConsoleApp1
{
    class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Console.WriteLine(WhoAmI.TellMe());
            Console.ReadLine();
        }
    }
}

This produces the output: .NET Core

If we edit the FeatureToggle.csproj file it looks like the following (notice the TargetFramework element has a single value netcoreapp1.1):

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <TargetFramework>netcoreapp1.1</TargetFramework>
  </PropertyGroup>
</Project>

The file can be modified as follows (notice the plural <TargetFrameworks>):

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <TargetFrameworks>netcoreapp1.1;net461;</TargetFrameworks>
  </PropertyGroup>
</Project>

Building now produces: "…\MultiTargeting\TargetingExample\TargetingExample\bin\Debug\netcoreapp1.1\TargetingExample.dll" and  "…\MultiTargeting\TargetingExample\TargetingExample\bin\Debug\net461\TargetingExample.dll"”.

A new Windows Classic Desktop Console App project can now be added (and the .NET framework version changed to 4.6.1) and a reference to TargetingExample  added.

using System;
using TargetingExample;

namespace ConsoleApp2
{
    class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Console.WriteLine(WhoAmI.TellMe());
            Console.ReadLine();
        }
    }
}

The new console app contains the preceding code and when run produces the output: .NET Core.

Now we have a single project compiling for multiple target platforms. We can take things one step further by having different functionality depending on the target platform. One simple way to do this is to use conditional compiler directives as the following code shows:

using System;

namespace TargetingExample
{
    public static class WhoAmI
    {
        public static string TellMe()
        {
#if NETCOREAPP1_1
            return ".NET Core";
#elif NETFULL
            return ".NET Framework";
#else
            throw new NotImplementedException();  // Safety net in case of typos in symbols
#endif
        }
    }
}

The preceding code relies on the conditional compilation symbols being defined, this can be done by editing the project file once again as follows:

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <TargetFrameworks>netcoreapp1.1;net461;</TargetFrameworks>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(TargetFramework)' == 'netcoreapp1.1' ">
    <DefineConstants>NETCOREAPP1_1</DefineConstants>
  </PropertyGroup>
  
  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net461' ">
    <DefineConstants>NETFULL</DefineConstants>
  </PropertyGroup>
</Project>

Now when the project is built, the netcoreapp1.1\TargetingExample.dll will return “.NET Core” and net461\TargetingExample.dll will return “.NET Framework”. Each dll has been compiled with different functionality depending on the platform.

Update: The explicit <DefineConstants> for the different platforms are not required if you want to use the defaults, e.g. "NETCOREAPP1_1", "NET461", etc as per this Twitter thread and GitHub.