Tutorial 34: Master/Detail Filtering Across Two Pages


Scott Mitchell

June 2007

Summary: This is the Visual C# tutorial. (Switch to the Visual Basic tutorial.) In this tutorial, we look at how to separate a master/detail report across two pages. In the "master" page, we use a Repeater control to render a list of categories that, when clicked, will take the user to the "details" page, in which a two-column DataList shows those products that belong to the selected category. (15 printed pages)

Download the code for this sample.

Contents of Tutorial 34 (Visual C#)

Step 1: Displaying the Categories in a Bulleted List
Step 2: Turning the Category Name into a Link to the Details Page
Step 3: Listing the Products that Belong to the Selected Category
Step 4: Displaying Category Information on ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx
Step 5: Displaying a Message if No Products Belong to the Selected Category


In the preceding tutorial, we saw how to display master/detail reports in a single Web page using DropDownLists to display the "master" records and a DataList to display the "details." Another common pattern used for master/detail reports is to have the master records on one Web page and the details on another. In the earlier Master/Detail Filtering Across Two Pages tutorial, we examined this pattern using a GridView to display all of the suppliers in the system. This GridView included a HyperLinkField, which rendered as a link to a second page, passing along the SupplierID in the query string. The second page used a GridView to list those products that are provided by the selected supplier.

Such two-page master/detail reports can be accomplished using DataList and Repeater controls, too. The only difference is that neither the DataList nor the Repeater provides support for the HyperLinkField control. Instead, we must add a HyperLink Web control or an anchor HTML element (<a>) within the control's ItemTemplate. The HyperLink's NavigateUrl property or the anchor's href attribute then can be customized using declarative or programmatic approaches.

In this tutorial, we'll explore an example that lists the categories in a bulleted list on one page using a Repeater control. Each list item will include the category's name and description, with the category name displayed as a link to a second page. Clicking on this link will whisk the user to the second page, in which a DataList will show those products that belong to the selected category.

Step 1: Displaying the Categories in a Bulleted List

The first step in creating any master/detail report is to start by displaying the "master" records. Therefore, our first task is to display the categories in the "master" page. Open the CategoryListMaster.aspx page in the DataListRepeaterFiltering folder, add a Repeater control, and, from the smart tag, opt to add a new ObjectDataSource. Configure the new ObjectDataSource, so that it accesses its data from the CategoriesBLL class's GetCategories method (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Configure the ObjectDataSource to use the CategoriesBLL class's GetCategories method.

Next, define the Repeater's templates, so that it displays each category name and description as an item in a bulleted list. Let's not worry yet about having each category link to the details page. The following shows the declarative markup for the Repeater and ObjectDataSource:

<asp:Repeater ID="Repeater1" runat="server" DataSourceID="ObjectDataSource1"

        <li><%# Eval("CategoryName") %> - <%# Eval("Description") %></li>


<asp:ObjectDataSource ID="ObjectDataSource1" runat="server"
    SelectMethod="GetCategories" TypeName="CategoriesBLL">

With this markup complete, take a moment to view our progress through a browser. As Figure 2 shows, the Repeater renders as a bulleted list showing each category's name and description.

Figure 2. Each category is displayed as a bulleted-list item.

To allow a user to display the "details" information for a given category, we must add a link to each bulleted-list item that, when clicked, will take the user to the second page (ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx). This second page then will display the products for the selected category using a DataList. In order to determine the category whose link was clicked, we must pass the clicked category's CategoryID to the second page through some mechanism. The simplest, most straightforward way to transfer scalar data from one page to another is through the query string, which is the option that we'll use in this tutorial. In particular, the ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx page will expect the selected categoryID value to be passed through a query-string field named CategoryID. For example, to view the products for the Beverages category, which has a CategoryID of 1, a user would visit ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx?CategoryID=1.

To create a hyperlink for each bulleted-list item in the Repeater, we must add either a HyperLink Web control or an HTML anchor element (<a>) to the ItemTemplate. In scenarios in which the hyperlink is displayed the same for each row, either approach will suffice. For Repeaters, I prefer using the anchor element. To use the anchor element, update the Repeater's ItemTemplate to the following:

    <a href='ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx?CategoryID=<%# 
Eval("CategoryID") %>'>
        <%# Eval("CategoryName") %>
    </a> - <%# Eval("Description") %>

Note that the CategoryID can be injected directly within the anchor element's href attribute. However, to do so, be certain to delimit the href attribute's value with apostrophes (and note quotation marks), because the Eval method within the href attribute delimits its string ("CategoryID") with quotation marks. Alternatively, a HyperLink Web control can be used, instead:

    <asp:HyperLink runat="server" Text='<%# Eval("CategoryName") %>'
        NavigateUrl='<%# "ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx?CategoryID=" &
            Eval("CategoryID") %>'>
    - <%# Eval("Description") %>

Note how the static portion of the URL—ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx?CategoryID—is appended to the result of Eval("CategoryID") directly within the data-binding syntax using string concatenation.

One benefit of using the HyperLink control is that it can be accessed programmatically from the Repeater's ItemDataBound event handler, if needed. For example, you might want to display the category name as text, instead of as a link for categories with no associated products. Such a check could be performed programmatically in the ItemDataBound event handler; for categories with no associated products, the HyperLink's NavigateUrl property could be set to a blank string, thereby resulting in that particular category name rendering as plain text (instead of as a link). Refer back to the Formatting the DataList and Repeater Based upon Data tutorial, for more information on formatting the DataList and Repeater's contents based on programmatic logic through the ItemDataBound event handler.

If you are following along, feel free to use either the anchor element or the HyperLink control approach in your page. Regardless of the approach, when viewing the page through a browser, each category name should be rendered as a link to ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx, passing in the applicable CategoryID value (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. The category names now link to ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx.

Step 3: Listing the Products that Belong to the Selected Category

With the CategoryListMaster.aspx page complete, we're ready to turn our attention to implementing the "details" page, ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx. Open this page, drag a DataList from the Toolbox onto the Designer, and set its ID property to ProductsInCategory. Next, from the DataList's smart tag, choose to add a new ObjectDataSource to the page, naming it ProductsInCategoryDataSource. Configure it, so that it calls the ProductsBLL class's GetProductsByCategoryID(categoryID) method; and set the drop-down lists in the INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE tabs to (None).

Figure 4. Configure the ObjectDataSource to use the ProductsBLL class's GetProductsByCategoryID(categoryID) method.

Because the GetProductsByCategoryID(categoryID) method accepts an input parameter (categoryID), the Choose Data Source Wizard offers us an opportunity to specify the parameter's source. Set the parameter source to QueryString using the QueryStringField CategoryID.

Figure 5. Use the QueryStringField CategoryID as the parameter's source.

As we've seen in previous tutorials, after completing the Choose Data Source Wizard, Microsoft Visual Studio automatically creates an ItemTemplate for the DataList that lists each data-field name and value. Replace this template with one that lists only the product's name, supplier, and price. Also, set the DataList's RepeatColumns property to 2. After these changes, your DataList and ObjectDataSource's declarative markup should look similar to the following:

<asp:DataList ID="ProductsInCategory" runat="server" DataKeyField="ProductID"
    RepeatColumns="2" DataSourceID="ProductsInCategoryDataSource"
        <h5><%# Eval("ProductName") %></h5>
            Supplied by <%# Eval("SupplierName") %><br />
            <%# Eval("UnitPrice", "{0:C}") %>

<asp:ObjectDataSource ID="ProductsInCategoryDataSource"
    OldValuesParameterFormatString="original_{0}" runat="server"
    SelectMethod="GetProductsByCategoryID" TypeName="ProductsBLL">
        <asp:QueryStringParameter Name="categoryID" 
            Type="Int32" />

To view this page in action, start from the CategoryListMaster.aspx page; next, click on a link in the categories bulleted list. Doing so will take you to ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx, passing along the CategoryID through the query string. The ProductsInCategoryDataSource ObjectDataSource in ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx then will get only those products for the specified category and display them in the DataList, which renders two products per row. Figure 6 shows a screen shot of ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx when viewing the Beverages.

Figure 6. The Beverages are displayed, two per row.

Step 4: Displaying Category Information on ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx

When users click on a category in CategoryListMaster.aspx, they are taken to ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx and shown the products that belong to the selected category. However, in ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx, there are no visual cues about what category was selected. Users who meant to click Beverages, but accidentally clicked Condiments, have no way of realizing their mistake after they have reached ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx. To alleviate this potential problem, we can display information about the selected category—its name and description—at the top of the ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx page.

To accomplish this, add a FormView above the Repeater control in ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx. Next, add a new ObjectDataSource to the page from the FormView's smart tag named CategoryDataSource and configure it to use the CategoriesBLL class's GetCategoryByCategoryID(categoryID) method.

Figure 7. Access information about the category through the CategoriesBLL class's GetCategoryByCategoryID(categoryID) method.

As with the ProductsInCategoryDataSource ObjectDataSource added in Step 3, the CategoryDataSource's Configure Data Source Wizard prompts us for a source for the GetCategoryByCategoryID(categoryID) method's input parameter. Use the exact same settings as previously, setting the parameter source to QueryString and the QueryStringField value to CategoryID (refer back to Figure 5).

After completing the wizard, Visual Studio automatically creates an ItemTemplate, EditItemTemplate, and InsertItemTemplate for the FormView. Because we're providing a read-only interface, feel free to remove the EditItemTemplate and InsertItemTemplate. Also, feel free to customize the FormView's ItemTemplate. After removing the superfluous templates and customizing the ItemTemplate, your FormView and ObjectDataSource's declarative markup should look similar to the following:

<asp:FormView ID="FormView1" runat="server" DataKeyNames="CategoryID"
    DataSourceID="CategoryDataSource" EnableViewState="False" Width="100%">
            <asp:Label ID="CategoryNameLabel" runat="server"
                Text='<%# Bind("CategoryName") %>' />
            <asp:Label ID="DescriptionLabel" runat="server"
                Text='<%# Bind("Description") %>' />

<asp:ObjectDataSource ID="CategoryDataSource" runat="server"
    SelectMethod="GetCategoryByCategoryID" TypeName="CategoriesBLL">
        <asp:QueryStringParameter Name="categoryID" Type="Int32"
            QueryStringField="CategoryID" />

Figure 8 shows a screen shot when viewing this page through a browser.

Note   In addition to the FormView, I've added also a HyperLink control above the FormView that will take the user back to the list of categories (CategoryListMaster.aspx). Feel free to place this link elsewhere or to omit it altogether.

Figure 8. Category information is now displayed at the top of the page.

Step 5: Displaying a Message if No Products Belong to the Selected Category

The CategoryListMaster.aspx page lists all categories in the system, regardless of whether there are any associated products. If a user clicks on a category with no associated products, the DataList in ProductsForCategoryDetails.aspx will not be rendered, as its data source will not have any items. As we've seen in past tutorials, the GridView provides an EmptyDataText property that can be used to specify a text message to display if there are no records in its data source. Unfortunately, neither the DataList nor the Repeater has such a property.

In order to display a message that informs the user that there are no matching products for the selected category, we must add a Label control to the page whose Text property is assigned the message to display in the event that there are no matching products. We then must set its Visible property programmatically, based on whether or not the DataList contains any items.

To accomplish this, start by adding a Label beneath the DataList. Set its ID property to NoProductsMessage and its Text property to "There are no products for the selected category...". Next, we must set this Label's Visible property programmatically, based on whether or not any data was bound to the ProductsInCategory DataList. This assignment must be made after the data has been bound to the DataList. For the GridView, DetailsView, and FormView, we could create an event handler for the control's DataBound event, which fires after data-binding has completed. However, neither the DataList nor the Repeater has a DataBound event available.

For this particular example, we can assign the Label's Visible property in the Page_Load event handler, because the data will have been assigned to the DataList prior to the page's Load event. However, this approach would not work in the general case, as the data from the ObjectDataSource might be bound to the DataList later in the page's life cycle. For example, if the displayed data is based upon the value in another control, such as it is when displaying a master/detail report using a DropDownList to hold the "master" records, the data might not rebound to the data Web control until the PreRender stage in the page's life cycle.

One solution that will work for all cases is to assign the Visible property to False in the DataList's ItemDataBound (or ItemCreated) event handler when binding an item type of Item or AlternatingItem. In such a case, we know that there is at least one data item in the data source and, therefore, can hide the NoProductsMessage Label. In addition to this event handler, we also need an event handler for the DataList's DataBinding event, in which we initialize the Label's Visible property to True. Because the DataBinding event fires before the ItemDataBound events, the Label's Visible property initially will be set to True; if there are any data items, however, it will be set to False. The following code implements this logic:

protected void ProductsInCategory_DataBinding(object sender, EventArgs e)
    // Show the Label
    NoProductsMessage.Visible = true;

protected void ProductsInCategory_ItemDataBound(object sender, 
DataListItemEventArgs e)
    // If we have a data item, hide the Label
    if (e.Item.ItemType == ListItemType.Item ||
        e.Item.ItemType == ListItemType.AlternatingItem)
        NoProductsMessage.Visible = false;

All of the categories in the Northwind database are associated with one or more products. To test this feature, I've adjusted the Northwind database for this tutorial manually, reassigning all products that are associated with the Produce category (CategoryID = 7) to the Seafood category (CategoryID = 8). This can be accomplished from the Server Explorer by choosing New Query and using the following UPDATE statement:

    CategoryID = 8
WHERE CategoryID = 7

After updating the database accordingly, return to the CategoryListMaster.aspx page and click on the Produce link. Because there no longer are any products belonging to the Produce category, you should see the "There are no products for the selected category..." message, as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9. A message is displayed if there are no products belonging to the selected category.


While master/detail reports can display both the master and detail records on a single page, in many Web sites they are separated out across two Web pages. In this tutorial, we looked at how to implement such a master/detail report by having the categories listed in a bulleted list, using a Repeater in the "master" Web page and the associated products listed in the "details" page. Each list item in the master Web page contained a link to the details page that passed along the row's CategoryID value.

In the details page, retrieving those products for the specified supplier was accomplished through the ProductsBLL class's GetProductsByCategoryID(categoryID) method. The categoryID parameter value was specified declaratively, using the CategoryID query-string value as the parameter source. We also looked at how to display category details in the details page using a FormView, and how to display a message if there were no products belonging to the selected category.

Happy programming!

About the author

Scott Mitchell, author of seven ASP/ASP.NET books and founder of 4GuysFromRolla.com, has been working with Microsoft Web technologies since 1998. Scott works as an independent consultant, trainer, and writer. His latest book is Sams Teach Yourself ASP.NET 2.0 in 24 Hours. He can be reached at mitchell@4GuysFromRolla.com. or via his blog, which can be found at http://ScottOnWriting.NET.

Special Thanks

This tutorial series was reviewed by many helpful reviewers. Lead reviewers for this tutorial were Zack Jones and Liz Shulok. Interested in reviewing my upcoming MSDN articles? If so, drop me a line at mitchell@4GuysFromRolla.com.

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