Thursday, March 04, 2021

F# and XAML and OpenSilver ctd.

Last time, we concluded that what we really want is a reimplementation of the Silverlight System.Windows.Application.LoadComponent, whereas what we have at the moment is generated C# code built from the XAML.

In practice, those generated InitializeComponent methods are a compile-time version of what the runtime component load would give us. This leads to a next step that takes us in the direction of what our ideal would be, and is in any case closer to the initial manual code-only approach.

Start with a new OpenSilver application, and add an F# netstandard2.0 library like last time. This time, however, make this assembly depend on the primary OpenSilver project, and the .Simulation and .Browser projects depend on the F# library. Add OpenSilver to the F# library project, as a nuget package, but this time there's no need to add any ExcludeAssets qualifier, nor to static link the F# core library.

The F# library now contains the Page (or UserControl) and Application classes that you would want to write, but their XAML goes into the C# project that it builds against. In the XAML project, remove everything in the initial classes after the // Enter construction logic here... comments. In the .Simulation project, point the debug parameters at the F# library, and in the .Browser project's RunApplication method, construct the F# Application type. This is important, otherwise nothing will show when you try to run the application!

We can now go one of two ways to invoke the InitializeComponent methods into the F# code.

First, we can treat the generated InitializeComponent code as almost the static utility LoadComponent method we would desire; in which case, in the F# library, the Application leeches from the corresponding generated code by

    member this.InitializeComponent() =
        let prototype = Inversion.App()
        this.Resources <- prototype.Resources

and the Page similarly

    member this.InitializeComponent() =
       let prototype = Inversion.MainPage()
       prototype.InitializeComponent()
       this.Content <- prototype.Content
       let hack = typeof.GetField("_nameScopeDictionary",
                                                System.Reflection.BindingFlags.Instance |||
                                                System.Reflection.BindingFlags.NonPublic)

       hack
       |> Option.ofObj
       |> Option.map ((fun f -> f.GetValue prototype) >> Option.ofObj)
       |> Option.flatten
       |> Option.map(fun o -> o :?> System.Collections.Generic.Dictionary<string, Object>)
       |> Option.iter (fun dict ->
             dict
             |> Seq.iter (fun kvp ->>this.RegisterName(kvp.Key, kvp.Value)))

takes the work from its pre-processed XAML, here using an over-engineered construction to get at the private name registration dictionary while avoiding any hint of NRE. These methods should then be called from the respective F# type constructors.

Alternatively, we remove the sealed qualifier from the generated Application, mark it and the MainPage class abstract, and let the F# types directly subclass the skeleton types in the C# library; this case needs no F# level InitializeComponent methods as the code we're interested in already gets called during the base class constructor call.

If this starts with the same application code as previous -- here my original Silverlight ephemeris clock -- we get the same visual appearance as with the previous approach, so no extra pictures in this post.

F# and XAML and OpenSilver

Emboldened by yesterday's success, what happens when we try to emulate the next steps?

First off, when pasting the F# code into the project, we see that System.Windows.Application.LoadComponent isn't present. Adding the XAML file has that subsumed by the OpenSilver environment, to appear as a <Page/> element in the project file that generates C# code that also fails at compile time. That latter can be switched off by modifying the package reference to look like

    <PackageReference Include="OpenSilver" Version="1.0.0-alpha-007">
      <ExcludeAssets>build; native; contentfiles; analyzers</ExcludeAssets>
    </PackageReference>

but we still don't have the runtime-generated model that System.Windows.Application.LoadComponent would give us.

Without that support, we can still use the hybrid approach of the early F# Silverlight days.

In this case, start with a new OpenSilver project and add an F# netstandard2.0 library as a dependencyand add the modified package reference to the new F# library, to allow access to the GUI types. The C# project gets the project-related XAML file, with the necessary modifications for porting to OpenSilver, and the F# code now, rather than subclassing a UI element, works by composition and delegation, much as for the F#/Silverlight3.0 template for VS2008.

The F# type, rather than subclassing a UI type now takes one as a construction argument, and the C# initializer, having constructed the main control and initialized the UI tree can simply pass that object to the F# type constructor, storing the instance as a member variable. Any event handlers can then delegate to the F# object as well.

  public partial class MainPage : Page
  {
    private Astroclock.AstroPage carry;

    public MainPage()
    {
      this.InitializeComponent();

      var temp = new Astroclock.AstroPage(this);
      temp.Begin();
      carry = temp;
    }
  ...

At this point, attempting a build fails in the C# layer with

2>MSBUILD : error : C#/XAML for HTML5: BeforeXamlPreprocessor (pass 1) failed: System.IO.FileNotFoundException: Could not load file or assembly 'FSharp.Core, Version=5.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a' or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified.

so we go back and add

    <OtherFlags>--standalone</OtherFlags>  

to the top-level Property Group on the F# project, and suddenly things start working.

For an example at this stage, I've ported the full applet to OpenSilver here. The other significant change to mention is that rather than just being a UserControl embedded into HTML, this is now a Page with the static HTML text included as TextBlock elements instead, but that is a generic OpenSilver behaviour I've just gone with the flow on, not something F# specific. Nor, I suspect, are the not quite circular circles...

Of course what we really want is a reimplementation of the Silverlight System.Windows.Application.LoadComponent. It's just a pity that that dives into native code in agcore.dll to do the interesting bits.

Also, alas, as currently implemented the browser version doesn't update even though the simulator does. Maybe if the updates were an event driven thing, like the button in the previous example?

Update: Events did the trick -- removing the sleepy BackgroundWorkers from the F# code, and instead adding a DispatcherTimer to fire the relevant UpdateXxx methods once a second unblocked the browser behaviour. The timer can be in either the C# or the F# layer. Again, I suspect that this is generic OpenSilver/Blazor behaviour, not anything F# specific.

Next -- A more LoadComponent-like approach with other benefits.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

F# and OpenSilver -- first steps

This set of lab notes turned into a series of 3 posts.


Many years ago, I made a series of posts experimenting with F# (then still in preview) and Silverlight

  • documenting some of the hacks required to get it to work. Now, more than a decade later, WASM is the new in-browser hotness, with many approaches to getting your non-JS code to run in browser.

    One of these is OpenSilver, which is intended as a near as possible drop-in replacement for Silverlight. Like the original, it assumes C# and XAML with code-behind first, but let's see what we can do about that...

    Assuming you have OpenSilver set up, then the equivalent of the first post above is relatively simple. Make a new OpenSilver application solution, then replace the actual application project with a new netstandard2.0 F# library (in the solution and as a project reference in the two helper projects). Add OpenSilver as a nuget package to the F# project, then paste in the code from the same first working example to replace the initial stub code. In the .Browser project, fix the type of the App class -- new SilverLightFSharp.MyApp(); -- and then run whichever helper.

    It should look like this :--

    in the simulator after you click the button.

    Next -- Adding XAML, initial attempts