Keeping ASP.NET MVC action method argument names separate from the query

ASP.NET MVC does a wonderful job of automatically routing and binding your HTTP request data to the action method. But what if you don’t want to use the same argument names in your routes (for example, query strings) and your methods?

There are a few typical scenarios where you might encounter this.

First, if you’re aiming for absolute shortness in URIs, you’ll end up using querystring arguments like “q”, “aqi” etc. (examples from Google). Such names wouldn’t work well in method names, which have more value in being readable.

Second, if your source code and URIs are in a different language, you might end up with a scenario where you have arguments like ?nimi=5, but not wanting to pollute your code with Finnish, you’d want to translate over to “name” (the same in English).

Third, your query string parameters might have names that are downright uncomfortable to use in programming language of your choice. Typical examples in C# include for, in, class and case. Although you can prefix the names with @ sign to escape the reserved words, it’s a bit clumsy.

BindAttribute to the rescue!

There is actually a very good solution to this: You can specify the name of the field to bind to via an attribute. It’s just a bit confusing: You set the name to a field called “Prefix”, although it is actually the full name of the field. Here you go:

Using BindAttribute
  1. public ActionResult Index
  2.     ([Bind(Prefix = "string")]string text, [Bind(Prefix="integer")]int number)
  3. {
  4.     return Content(text + ", " + number);
  5. }


Now you can access this page with an URI like /?string=foo&integer=42, and the resulting output will be “foo, 42”.

November 15, 2010 · Jouni Heikniemi · 11 Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: .NET, Web

11 Responses

  1. Julius - November 15, 2010

    def index
    return "%{string}, %{integer}" % {:string => params[:string], :integer => params[:integer]}

    in RoR. How does ASP.NET MVC handle the parameters? The params hash is handy even if the variables are short and not so meaningful.

  2. Julius - November 15, 2010

    Or a better way (in action):

    @text = params[:string]
    @number = params[:integer]

    Is there a reason this won't work in ASP.NET MVC?

  3. Jouni Heikniemi - November 16, 2010

    Julius: ASP.NET MVC has a similar facility (i.e. the route values and query string arguments are available as a collection) – so yeah, you could use a syntax similar to what you described.

    The notion of passing the information in a method argument is more like syntactic sugar for certain things: First of all, arguments get parsed and strongly typed; if your action method gets an "int number", you can be certain that the input is actually numeric. Moreover, ASP.NET MVC also allows you to declare validation rules (e.g. regexes) for route arguments, thus validating the value domain further ("valid cc numbers" or "positive integers").

    All these combined, using the method argument approach cleans the action method code nicely. Admittedly it comes with the cost of spreading the validation rules into different segments of the application, but it's usually a good deal nonetheless, particularly given that similar validation rules often must be applied across different actions anyway.

  4. Julius - November 16, 2010

    Looks like Microsoft is in a fine path with the MVC framework.

    With rails all parameters come to method as a string. With the use of filters we can be sure the parameters are correct.

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