F# WPF elm-architecture
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Description

Static WPF views for elmish programs.

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WPF done the Elmish Way

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The good parts of MVVM (the data bindings) with the simplicity and robustness of an MVU architecture for the rest of your app. Never write a ViewModel class again!

Elevator pitch

Elmish.WPF is a production-ready library that allows you to write WPF apps with the robust, simple, well-known, and battle-tested MVU architecture, while still allowing you to use all your XAML knowledge and tooling to create UIs.

Some benefits of MVU you’ll get with Elmish.WPF is:

  • Simple-to-understand, unidirectional data flow
  • Single source of truth for all the state in your app
  • Simple async/IO
  • Immutable data
  • Pure functions
  • Great testability
  • Simple optimization
  • 78% more rockets 🚀

Even with static views, your central model/update code can follow an idiomatic Elmish/MVU architecture. You could, if you wanted, use the same model/update code to implement an app using a dynamic UI library such as Fabulous or Fable.React, by just rewriting the “U” part of MVU.

Static XAML views is a feature, not a limitation. See the FAQ for several unique benefits to this approach!

Elmish.WPF uses Elmish, an F# implementation of the MVU message loop.

Big thanks to @MrMattSim for the wonderful logo!

Sponsor

JetBrains logo

Thanks to JetBrains for sponsoring Elmish.WPF with OSS licenses!

Recommended resources

Getting started with Elmish.WPF

See the SingleCounter sample for a very simple app. The central points are:

  1. Create an F# Console Application. (You can create a Windows application, but the core Elmish logs are currently only written to the console.)

If targeting .NET Core 3, the project file should look like this:

   

 <propertygroup>
   <outputtype>Exe</outputtype>  <!-- or WinExe -->
   <targetframework>netcoreapp3.1</targetframework>
   <usewpf>true</usewpf>
 </propertygroup>

 <!-- other stuff -->

If targeting .NET Framework (4.6.1 or later), the project file should look like this:

   

 <propertygroup>
   <outputtype>Exe</outputtype>  <!-- or WinExe -->
   <targetframework>net471</targetframework>
 </propertygroup>

 <itemgroup>
   <reference include="PresentationCore"></reference>
   <reference include="PresentationFramework"></reference>
   <reference include="WindowsBase"></reference>
 </itemgroup>

 <!-- other stuff -->

  1. Add NuGet reference to package

    Elmish.WPF
    .
  2. Define the model that describes your app’s state and a function that initializes it:

   type Model =
     { Count: int
       StepSize: int }

let init () = { Count = 0 StepSize = 1 }

  1. Define the various messages that can change your model:
   type Msg =
     | Increment
     | Decrement
     | SetStepSize of int
  1. Define an
    update
    function that takes a message and a model and returns an updated model:
   let update msg m =
     match msg with
     | Increment -> { m with Count = m.Count + m.StepSize }
     | Decrement -> { m with Count = m.Count - m.StepSize }
     | SetStepSize x -> { m with StepSize = x }
  1. Define the “view” function using the
    Bindings
    module. This is the central public API of Elmish.WPF. Normally in Elm/Elmish this function is called
    view
    and would take a model and a dispatch function (to dispatch new messages to the update loop) and return the UI (e.g. a HTML DOM to be rendered), but in Elmish.WPF this function is in general only run once and simply sets up bindings that XAML-defined views can use. Therefore, let’s call it
    bindings
    instead of
    view
    .
   open Elmish.WPF

let bindings () = [ "CounterValue" |> Binding.oneWay (fun m -> m.Count) "Increment" |> Binding.cmd (fun m -> Increment) "Decrement" |> Binding.cmd (fun m -> Decrement) "StepSize" |> Binding.twoWay( (fun m -> float m.StepSize), (fun newVal m -> int newVal |> SetStepSize)) ]

The strings identify the binding names to be used in the XAML views. The Binding module has many functions to create various types of bindings.

  1. Create a WPF user control library project to hold you XAML files, add a reference to this project from your Elmish project, and define your views and bindings in XAML:
   
     
       
       
       
       
       
     
   
  1. Add the entry point to your console project:
   open System
   open Elmish.WPF
   open MyNamespace

[] let main argv = Program.mkSimpleWpf init update bindings |> Program.runWindow (MainWindow())

Program.runWindow
will instantiate an
Application
and set the window’s
DataContext
to the bindings you defined.
  1. Profit! :)

Further resources:

  • The Elmish.WPF tutorial provides information on general MVU/Elmish concepts and how they apply to Elmish.WPF, as well as the various Elmish.WPF bindings.
  • The samples are complete, working mini-apps demonstrating selected aspects of Elmish.WPF.
  • If you'd like to contribute, please read and follow the Contributor guidelines.

FAQ

Static views? Isn’t that just a half-baked solution that only exists due to a lack of better alternatives?

Not at all! 🙂

It’s true that static views aren’t as composable as dynamic views. It’s also true that at the time of writing, there are no solid, production-ready dynamic UI libraries for WPF (though there are no lack of half-finished attempts or proof-of-concepts: Elmish.WPF.Dynamic, Fabulous.WPF, Skylight, Uil). Heck, it’s even true that Elmish.WPF was originally created with static views due to the difficulty of creating a dynamic UI library, as described in issue #1.

However, Elmish.WPF’s static-view-based solution has several unique benefits:

  • You can use your existing XAML and MVVM knowledge (that is, the best part of MVVM – the UI bindings – without having to deal with
    NavigationService
    s,
    ViewModelLocator
    s, state synchronization,
    INotifyPropertyChanged
    , etc.)
  • Huge mindshare – there are tons of relevant XAML and MVVM resources on the net which can help with the UI and data binding part if you get stuck
  • Automatic support for all 3rd party WPF UI libraries like MaterialDesignInXamlToolkit, since it just uses XAML and bindings (support for 3rd party libraries is commonly a major pain point for dynamic UI solutions)
  • You can use the XAML designer (including design-time data binding)
  • Automatically puts all the power of WPF at your fingertips, whereas dynamic UI solutions have inherent limitations that are not easy to work around

In short, for WPF apps, a solution based on static XAML views is currently the way to go.

Do I have to use the project structure outlined above?

Not at all. The above example, as well as the samples, keep everything in a single project for simplicity (the samples have the XAML definitions in separate projects for technical reasons). For more complex apps, you might want to consider a more clear separation of UI and core logic. An example would be the following structure:

  • A core library containing the model definitions and
    update
    functions.
    • This library can include a reference to Elmish (e.g. for the
      Cmd
      module helpers), but not to Elmish.WPF, which depends on certain WPF UI assemblies and has a UI-centred API (specifying bindings). This will ensure your core logic (such as the
      update
      function) is free from any UI concerns, and allow you to re-use the core library should you want to port your app to another Elmish-based solution (e.g. Fable.React).
  • An entry point project that contains the
    bindings
    (or
    view
    ) function and the call to
    Program.runWindow
    .
    • This project would reference the core library and
      Elmish.WPF
      .
  • A view project containing the XAML-related stuff (windows, user controls, behaviors, etc.).
    • This could also be part of the entry point project, but if you’re using the new project format (like the samples in this repo), this might not work properly until .NET Core 3.0.

How can I test commands? What is the CmdMsg pattern?

Since the commands (

Cmd
) returned by
init
and
update
are lists of functions, they are not particularly testable. A general pattern to get around this is to replace the commands with pure data that are transformed to the actual commands elsewhere:
  • Create a
    CmdMsg
    union type with cases for each command you want to execute in the app.
  • Make
    init
    and
    update
    return
    model * CmdMsg list
    instead of
    model * Cmd
    . Since
    init
    and
    update
    now return data, they are much easier to test.
  • Create a trivial/too-boring-to-test
    cmdMsgToCmd
    function that transforms a
    CmdMsg
    to the corresponding
    Cmd
    .
  • Finally, create “normal” versions of
    init
    and
    update
    that you can use when creating
    Program
    . Elmish.WPF provides
    Program.mkProgramWpfWithCmdMsg
    that does this for you (but there’s no magic going on – it’s really easy to do yourself).

The FileDialogs.CmdMsg sample demonstrates this approach. For more information, see the Fabulous documentation. For reference, here is the discussion that led to this pattern.

Can I instantiate
Application
myself?

Yes, just do it before calling

Program.runWindow
and it will automatically be used. You might need this if you have application-wide resources in a
ResourceDictionary
, which might require you to instantiate the application before instantiating the main window you pass to
Program.runWindow
.

Can I use design-time view models?

Yes. You need to structure your code so you have some place in your code that satisfies the following requirements:

  • Must be able to instantiate a model and the associated bindings
  • Must be reachable by the XAML views

There, use

ViewModel.designInstance
to create a view model instance that your XAML can use at design-time:
module MyAssembly.DesignViewModels
let myVm = ViewModel.designInstance myModel myBindings

Then use the following attributes wherever you need a design-time VM:


When targeting .NET Framework, “Project code” must be enabled in the XAML designer for this to work.

.NET Core 3 workaround

When targeting .NET Core 3, a bug in the XAML designer causes design-time data to not be displayed through

DataContext
bindings. See this issue for details. One workaround is to add a
d:DataContext
binding alongside your
DataContext
binding. Change from this:

To this:


Where

T
is the type of the parent object that contains
local:MyControl
(or a more distant ancestor, though there are issues with using
Window
as the type).

Can I open new windows/dialogs?

Sure! Just use

Binding.subModelWin
. It works like
Binding.subModel
, but has a
WindowState
wrapper around the returned model to control whether the window is closed, hidden, or visible. You can use both modal and non-modal windows/dialogs, and everything is a part of the Elmish core loop. Check out the NewWindow sample.

How can I use Save File / Open File dialogs?

There’s a few things to remember regarding opening on the UI thread and not blocking the Elmish dispatch loop. Check out the FileDialogs sample. In short, write a function like below, and call it using

Cmd.OfAsync
.
let save text =
  Application.Current.Dispatcher.Invoke(fun () ->
    let guiCtx = SynchronizationContext.Current
    async {
      do! Async.SwitchToContext guiCtx
      let dlg = Microsoft.Win32.SaveFileDialog ()
      // configure dialog (extensions etc.), show it, handle result
    }
  )

Can I bind to events and use behaviors?

Sure! Check out the EventBindingsAndBehaviors sample. Note that you have to install the NuGet package

Microsoft.Xaml.Behaviors.Wpf
.

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