Add a view to an ASP.NET Core MVC app

By Rick Anderson

In this section you modify the HelloWorldController class to use Razor view files to cleanly encapsulate the process of generating HTML responses to a client.

You create a view template file using Razor. Razor-based view templates have a .cshtml file extension. They provide an elegant way to create HTML output with C#.

Currently the Index method returns a string with a message that's hard-coded in the controller class. In the HelloWorldController class, replace the Index method with the following code:

public IActionResult Index()
{
    return View();
}

The preceding code calls the controller's View method. It uses a view template to generate an HTML response. Controller methods (also known as action methods), such as the Index method above, generally return an IActionResult (or a class derived from ActionResult), not a type like string.

Add a view

  • Right click on the Views folder, and then Add > New Folder and name the folder HelloWorld.

  • Right click on the Views/HelloWorld folder, and then Add > New Item.

  • In the Add New Item - MvcMovie dialog

    • In the search box in the upper-right, enter view

    • Select Razor View

    • Keep the Name box value, Index.cshtml.

    • Select Add

Add New Item dialog

Replace the contents of the Views/HelloWorld/Index.cshtml Razor view file with the following:

@{
    ViewData["Title"] = "Index";
}

<h2>Index</h2>

<p>Hello from our View Template!</p>

Navigate to https://localhost:xxxx/HelloWorld. The Index method in the HelloWorldController didn't do much; it ran the statement return View();, which specified that the method should use a view template file to render a response to the browser. Because you didn't explicitly specify the name of the view template file, MVC defaulted to using the Index.cshtml view file in the /Views/HelloWorld folder. The image below shows the string "Hello from our View Template!" hard-coded in the view.

Browser window

Change views and layout pages

Select the menu links (MvcMovie, Home, and Privacy). Each page shows the same menu layout. The menu layout is implemented in the Views/Shared/_Layout.cshtml file. Open the Views/Shared/_Layout.cshtml file.

Layout templates allow you to specify the HTML container layout of your site in one place and then apply it across multiple pages in your site. Find the @RenderBody() line. RenderBody is a placeholder where all the view-specific pages you create show up, wrapped in the layout page. For example, if you select the Privacy link, the Views/Home/Privacy.cshtml view is rendered inside the RenderBody method.

  • In the title and footer elements, change MvcMovie to Movie App.
  • Change the anchor element <a class="navbar-brand" asp-area="" asp-controller="Home" asp-action="Index">MvcMovie</a> to <a class="navbar-brand" asp-controller="Movies" asp-action="Index">Movie App</a>.

The following markup shows the highlighted changes:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
    <meta charset="utf-8" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0" />
    <title>@ViewData["Title"] - Movie App</title>

    <environment include="Development">
        <link rel="stylesheet" href="~/lib/bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap.css" />
    </environment>
    <environment exclude="Development">
        <link rel="stylesheet" href="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/twitter-bootstrap/4.1.3/css/bootstrap.min.css"
              asp-fallback-href="~/lib/bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css"
              asp-fallback-test-class="sr-only" asp-fallback-test-property="position" asp-fallback-test-value="absolute"
              crossorigin="anonymous"
              integrity="sha256-eSi1q2PG6J7g7ib17yAaWMcrr5GrtohYChqibrV7PBE="/>
    </environment>
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="~/css/site.css" />
</head>
<body>
    <header>
        <nav class="navbar navbar-expand-sm navbar-toggleable-sm navbar-light bg-white border-bottom box-shadow mb-3">
            <div class="container">
                <a class="navbar-brand" asp-controller="Movies" asp-action="Index">Movie App</a>
                <button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-toggle="collapse" data-target=".navbar-collapse" aria-controls="navbarSupportedContent"
                        aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
                    <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
                </button>
                <div class="navbar-collapse collapse d-sm-inline-flex flex-sm-row-reverse">
                    <ul class="navbar-nav flex-grow-1">
                        <li class="nav-item">
                            <a class="nav-link text-dark" asp-area="" asp-controller="Home" asp-action="Index">Home</a>
                        </li>
                        <li class="nav-item">
                            <a class="nav-link text-dark" asp-area="" asp-controller="Home" asp-action="Privacy">Privacy</a>
                        </li>
                    </ul>
                </div>
            </div>
        </nav>
    </header>
    <div class="container">
        <partial name="_CookieConsentPartial" />
        <main role="main" class="pb-3">
            @RenderBody()
        </main>
    </div>

    <footer class="border-top footer text-muted">
        <div class="container">
            &copy; 2019 - Movie App - <a asp-area="" asp-controller="Home" asp-action="Privacy">Privacy</a>
        </div>
    </footer>

    <environment include="Development">
        <script src="~/lib/jquery/dist/jquery.js"></script>
        <script src="~/lib/bootstrap/dist/js/bootstrap.bundle.js"></script>
    </environment>
    <environment exclude="Development">
        <script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.3.1/jquery.min.js"
                asp-fallback-src="~/lib/jquery/dist/jquery.min.js"
                asp-fallback-test="window.jQuery"
                crossorigin="anonymous"
                integrity="sha256-FgpCb/KJQlLNfOu91ta32o/NMZxltwRo8QtmkMRdAu8=">
        </script>
        <script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/twitter-bootstrap/4.1.3/js/bootstrap.bundle.min.js"
                asp-fallback-src="~/lib/bootstrap/dist/js/bootstrap.bundle.min.js"
                asp-fallback-test="window.jQuery && window.jQuery.fn && window.jQuery.fn.modal"
                crossorigin="anonymous"
                integrity="sha256-E/V4cWE4qvAeO5MOhjtGtqDzPndRO1LBk8lJ/PR7CA4=">
        </script>
    </environment>
    <script src="~/js/site.js" asp-append-version="true"></script>

    @RenderSection("Scripts", required: false)
</body>
</html>

In the preceding markup, the asp-area anchor Tag Helper attribute was omitted because this app is not using Areas.

Note: The Movies controller has not been implemented. At this point, the Movie App link is not functional.

Save your changes and select the Privacy link. Notice how the title on the browser tab displays Privacy Policy - Movie App instead of Privacy Policy - Mvc Movie:

Privacy tab

Select the Home link and notice that the title and anchor text also display Movie App. We were able to make the change once in the layout template and have all pages on the site reflect the new link text and new title.

Examine the Views/_ViewStart.cshtml file:

@{
    Layout = "_Layout";
}

The Views/_ViewStart.cshtml file brings in the Views/Shared/_Layout.cshtml file to each view. The Layout property can be used to set a different layout view, or set it to null so no layout file will be used.

Change the title and <h2> element of the Views/HelloWorld/Index.cshtml view file:

@{
    ViewData["Title"] = "Movie List";
}

<h2>My Movie List</h2>

<p>Hello from our View Template!</p>

The title and <h2> element are slightly different so you can see which bit of code changes the display.

ViewData["Title"] = "Movie List"; in the code above sets the Title property of the ViewData dictionary to "Movie List". The Title property is used in the <title> HTML element in the layout page:

<title>@ViewData["Title"] - Movie App</title>

Save the change and navigate to https://localhost:xxxx/HelloWorld. Notice that the browser title, the primary heading, and the secondary headings have changed. (If you don't see changes in the browser, you might be viewing cached content. Press Ctrl+F5 in your browser to force the response from the server to be loaded.) The browser title is created with ViewData["Title"] we set in the Index.cshtml view template and the additional "- Movie App" added in the layout file.

Also notice how the content in the Index.cshtml view template was merged with the Views/Shared/_Layout.cshtml view template and a single HTML response was sent to the browser. Layout templates make it really easy to make changes that apply across all of the pages in your application. To learn more see Layout.

Movie List view

Our little bit of "data" (in this case the "Hello from our View Template!" message) is hard-coded, though. The MVC application has a "V" (view) and you've got a "C" (controller), but no "M" (model) yet.

Passing Data from the Controller to the View

Controller actions are invoked in response to an incoming URL request. A controller class is where the code is written that handles the incoming browser requests. The controller retrieves data from a data source and decides what type of response to send back to the browser. View templates can be used from a controller to generate and format an HTML response to the browser.

Controllers are responsible for providing the data required in order for a view template to render a response. A best practice: View templates should not perform business logic or interact with a database directly. Rather, a view template should work only with the data that's provided to it by the controller. Maintaining this "separation of concerns" helps keep the code clean, testable, and maintainable.

Currently, the Welcome method in the HelloWorldController class takes a name and a ID parameter and then outputs the values directly to the browser. Rather than have the controller render this response as a string, change the controller to use a view template instead. The view template generates a dynamic response, which means that appropriate bits of data must be passed from the controller to the view in order to generate the response. Do this by having the controller put the dynamic data (parameters) that the view template needs in a ViewData dictionary that the view template can then access.

In HelloWorldController.cs, change the Welcome method to add a Message and NumTimes value to the ViewData dictionary. The ViewData dictionary is a dynamic object, which means any type can be used; the ViewData object has no defined properties until you put something inside it. The MVC model binding system automatically maps the named parameters (name and numTimes) from the query string in the address bar to parameters in your method. The complete HelloWorldController.cs file looks like this:

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc;
using System.Text.Encodings.Web;

namespace MvcMovie.Controllers
{
    public class HelloWorldController : Controller
    {
        public IActionResult Index()
        {
            return View();
        }

        public IActionResult Welcome(string name, int numTimes = 1)
        {
            ViewData["Message"] = "Hello " + name;
            ViewData["NumTimes"] = numTimes;

            return View();
        }
    }
}

The ViewData dictionary object contains data that will be passed to the view.

Create a Welcome view template named Views/HelloWorld/Welcome.cshtml.

You'll create a loop in the Welcome.cshtml view template that displays "Hello" NumTimes. Replace the contents of Views/HelloWorld/Welcome.cshtml with the following:

@{
    ViewData["Title"] = "Welcome";
}

<h2>Welcome</h2>

<ul>
    @for (int i = 0; i < (int)ViewData["NumTimes"]; i++)
    {
        <li>@ViewData["Message"]</li>
    }
</ul>

Save your changes and browse to the following URL:

https://localhost:xxxx/HelloWorld/Welcome?name=Rick&numtimes=4

Data is taken from the URL and passed to the controller using the MVC model binder . The controller packages the data into a ViewData dictionary and passes that object to the view. The view then renders the data as HTML to the browser.

Privacy view showing a Welcome label and the phrase Hello Rick shown four times

In the sample above, the ViewData dictionary was used to pass data from the controller to a view. Later in the tutorial, a view model is used to pass data from a controller to a view. The view model approach to passing data is generally much preferred over the ViewData dictionary approach. See When to use ViewBag, ViewData, or TempData for more information.

In the next tutorial, a database of movies is created.