Building a Reusable Config Class in .NET

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Building a Reusable Config Class
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ne of the most common external files you will find with any application is a configuration file. The purpose of a configuration, or config, file is to externalize settings so that they can be adjusted without needing to recompile the application. Though not mandatory, XML is usually the format of choice for creating a config file, and will be the format targeted for the Config class in this chapter to consume.
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Defining the XML Resolving dynamic properties Using composition for event dispatching Global accessibility Your Config class in action
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Defining the XML
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Before you can get started on your class s architecture, you need to define what your XML will look like. Listing 15.1 is the basic structure you will be using.
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LISTING 15.1 < xml version= 1.0 encoding= UTF-8 > <config> <property name= exampleProperty1 value= I am value #1. /> <property name= exampleProperty2 value= I am value #2. /> <property name= exampleProperty3 value= I am value #3. /> </config>
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Part IV
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Building an Application
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Depending on the application, these properties could be a lot of things ranging from data refresh intervals to the location of other external files. By standardizing on a format like this, you can write a class that is reusable in all your applications. Should the need ever arise to make a more complicated config file, you can subclass your Config class to handle the exceptions. This chapter looks at that later, but first let s focus on building the class itself.
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Defining capability requirements
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To begin, list the capabilities that you would like your Config class to have. You want the Config class to be pretty versatile, so aim for the following: Load an XML file and provide easy access to the data Dispatch an event once the external data has been loaded and is ready to be used Provide global accessibility throughout an application With your requirements defined, it s time to begin writing some code!
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Loading the XML
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The core functionality of your Config class revolves around loading XML data from an external document. There are two different approaches we could take to accomplish this: using File and FileStream or using URLLoader.
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The AIR framework includes a package of useful classes for working with the local filesystem. Using a combination of the File and FileStream classes, you can load the text from the external XML document into your application and then parse it to become native XML as shown in Listing 15.2.
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LISTING 15.2 protected function loadXML(filePath:String):void { var file:File = File.applicationResourceDirectory. resolvePath(filePath); if(file.exists) { var fileStream:FileStream = new FileStream();, FileMode.READ); var xmlData:String = fileStream.readUTFBytes(fileStream. bytesAvailable); fileStream.close(); _xml = new XML(xmlData); } }
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Building a Reusable Config Class
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This approach is fast and works great; however, you limit yourself to using it in a desktop application with this code. Given that a big part of AIR development is the power of reusing code between the Web and the desktop, a better solution might be to use URLLoader instead.
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In many cases, you sacrifice functionality when favoring reusability of code between the desktop and the Web. Be sure to carefully evaluate your options before settling on a solution for your application.
Using URLLoader
The URLLoader class is not limited to AIR development; you can use it in any ActionScript 3 (AS3) project. For that reason, it s worth considering in this situation given that your Config class would be equally handy in the development of a Web application, as shown in Listing 15.3.
LISTING 15.3 protected function loadXML(filePath:String):void { var loader:URLLoader = new URLLoader(); loader.addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, onXMLLoadSuccess); loader.load(new URLRequest(filePath)); } protected function onXMLLoadSuccess(event:Event):void { _xml = new XML(URLLoader(; }
Something else to consider is the fact that the URLLoader approach is asynchronous, whereas the File/FileStream approach is synchronous. This means that URLLoader begins loading the file and everything else moves on in the mean time. When the file is done loading, an event is dispatched. With the FileStream class, once you begin reading bytes, no other lines of code in the script are executed until the task is complete. This probably isn t a big deal unless the file you are loading is massive. Just food for thought. With these two options in mind, continue using the URLLoader class to manage the loading. Take a look at your Config class with the URLLoader in place in Listing 15.4. Thus far, your class has some basic functionality. An API is present for loading an XML file; if a file is not specified, a default file is used. Additionally, error handling is in place in case a file is not loaded successfully. Currently, the XML is being stored, but there is no way to access it outside of the class. In your capabilities definition, you wanted to serialize the XML data into class properties, making it nice and easy to use. The next section helps you accomplish that.