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Blazor UI Events and Rendering

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17 Aug 2021CPOL4 min read
Demystifying the Blazor UI Event and Rendering
This article explains the Blazor UI event and the associated render process.

Introduction

One of the most common problem areas for programmers new to Blazor is the UI event and the associated render process. Such problems are posted daily on sites such as StackOverflow. Hopefully, this article clears some of the fog!

Code

There's no code repository for this article. There is a single page demo Razor file in the appendix of this article you can use for testing.

The Render Fragment

What is a RenderFragment?

For many, it looks like this:

HTML
<div>
 Hello World
</div>

A block of markup in Razor - a string.

Delve into the DotNetCore code repository and you will find:

C#
public delegate void RenderFragment(RenderTreeBuilder builder);

If you don't fully understand delegates, think of it as a pattern. Any function that conforms to the pattern can be passed as a RenderFragment.

The pattern dictates your method must:

  1. have one, and only one, parameter of type RenderTreeBuilder.
  2. return a void.

Let's look at an example:

C#
protected void BuildHelloWorld(RenderTreeBuilder builder)
{
    builder.OpenElement(0, "div");
    builder.AddContent(1, "Hello World");
    builder.CloseElement();
}

We can rewrite this as a property:

C#
protected RenderFragment HelloWorldFragment => (RenderTreeBuilder builder) =>
{
    builder.OpenElement(0, "div");
    builder.AddContent(1, "Hello World");
    builder.CloseElement();
};

or:

C#
protected RenderFragment HelloWorldFragment => (builder) =>
    {
        builder.OpenElement(0, "div");
        builder.AddContent(1, "Hello World");
        builder.CloseElement();
    };

When a Razor file gets compiled, it's transformed by the Razor Compiler into a C# class file.

The component ADiv.razor:

HTML
<div>
 Hello World
</div>

gets compiled into:

C#
namespace Blazr.UIDemo.Pages
{
    public partial class ADiv : Microsoft.AspNetCore.Components.ComponentBase
    {
        protected override void BuildRenderTree
        (Microsoft.AspNetCore.Components.Rendering.RenderTreeBuilder __builder)
        {
            __builder.AddMarkupContent(0, "<div>\r\n Hello World\r\n</div>");
        }
    }
}

Component Rendering

The base component for Razor pages/components is ComponentBase. This class has a public method StateHasChanged to render the component.

A common problem code snippet:

C#
void ButtonClick()
{
    // set some message saying processing
    StateHasChanged();
    // Do some work
    // set some message saying complete
    StateHasChanged();
}

The only message that appears is complete. Why? Didn't the first StateHasChanged re-render the component before "Do Some Work" was called?

Yes, StateHasChanged did run. However, to understand the problem, we need to take a closer look at an abbreviated version of StateHasChanged and the component render fragment.

C#
protected void StateHasChanged()
{
    if (_hasPendingQueuedRender)
        return;
    else
    {
        _hasPendingQueuedRender = true;
        _renderHandle.Render(_renderFragment);
    }
}

_renderFragment = builder =>
    {
        _hasPendingQueuedRender = false;
        BuildRenderTree(builder);
    };

First, it checks to see if a render is already queued - _hasPendingQueuedRender is false. If one isn't, it sets _hasPendingQueuedRender to true and calls _renderHandle.Render passing it _renderFragment (the render fragment for the component). That's it.

_hasPendingQueuedRender gets set to false when the render fragment is actually run. For the inquisitive, _renderHandle gets passed to the component when it's attached (Renderer calling Attach) to the RenderTree.

The important bit to understand is that StateHasChanged queues the component render fragment _renderFragment as a delegate onto the Renderer's render queue. It doesn't execute the render fragment. That's a Renderer job.

If we go back to the button click, it's all sequential synchronous code running on the UI thread. The renderer doesn't run - and thus service it's render queue - until ButtonClick completes. There's no yielding.

Blazor UI Events

Let's look at another common problem to understand the UI event process:

C#
async void ButtonClick()
{
    // set some message saying processing
    // Call Task.Wait to simulate some yielding async work
    await Task.Wait(1000);
    // set some message saying complete
}

Why do we only see the first message? Add a StateHasChanged at the end of the code and it works.

C#
async void ButtonClick()
{
    // set some message saying processing
    // Call Task.Wait to simulate some yielding async work
    await Task.Wait(1000);
    // set some message saying complete
    StateHasChanged();
}

You might have fixed the display issue, but you haven't solved the problem.

The Blazor UI Event Pattern

Blazor UI events ARE NOT fire-and-forget. The basic pattern used is:

C#
var task = InvokeAsync(EventMethod);
StateHasChanged();
if (!task.IsCompleted)
{
    await task;
    StateHasChanged();
}

Our button event gets a Task wrapper task. It either runs to a yield event or runs to completion. At this point, StateHasChanged gets called and a render event queued and executed. If task has not completed, the handler awaits the task, and calls StateHasChanged on completion.

The problem in ButtonClick is it yields, but having passed the event handler a void, the event handler has nothing to await. It runs to completion before the yielding code runs to completion. There's no second render event.

The solution is to make ButtonClick return a Task:

C#
async Task ButtonClick()
{
    // set some message saying processing
    // Call Task.Wait to simulate some yielding async work
    await Task.Wait(1000);
    // set some message saying complete
    StateHasChanged();
}

Now the event handler task has something to await.

This same pattern is used by almost all UI events. You can also see it used in OnInitializedAsync and OnParametersSetAsync.

So what's best practice? When to use void and Task in an event handler?

In general, don't mix the async keyword with void. If in doubt, pass a Task.

Wrap Up

The key information to take from this article is:

  1. RenderFragment is a delegate - it's a block of code that uses a RenderTreeBuilder to build out html markup.
  2. StateHasChanged doesn't render the component or execute a RenderFragment. It pushes a RenderFragment onto the Renderer's queue.
  3. UI Event handlers need to yield to give the Renderer thread time to run its render queue.
  4. UI Event Handlers are not fire-and-forget.
  5. Don't declare an event handler like this async void UiEvent(). If it's async, then it's async Task UiEvent().

Appendix

The Demo Page

This is a standalone page that demonstrates some of the issues and solutions discussed above. The long running tasks are real number crunching methods (finding prime numbers) to demo real sync and async long running operations. The async version calls Task.Yield to yield execution control every time a prime number is found. You can use this page to test out various scenarios.

HTML
@page "/"
@using System.Diagnostics;
@using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Components.Rendering;

<h1>UI Demo</h1>

@MyDiv

@MyOtherDiv

<div class="container">
    <div class="row">
        <div class="col-4">
            <span class="col-form-label">Primes to Calculate: </span>
            <input class="form-control" @bind-value="this.primesToCalculate" />
        </div>
        <div class="col-8">
            <button class="btn @buttoncolour" @onclick="Clicked1">Click Event</button>
            <button class="btn @buttoncolour" @onclick="Clicked2">
             Click Async Void Event</button>
            <button class="btn @buttoncolour ms-2" @onclick="ClickedAsync">
             Click Async Task Event</button>
            <button class="btn @buttoncolour" @onclick="Reset">Reset</button>
        </div>
    </div>
</div>
C#
@code{
    bool workingstate;
    string buttoncolour => workingstate ? "btn-danger" : "btn-success";
    string MyDivColour => workingstate ? "bg-warning" : "bg-primary";
    string myOtherDivColour => workingstate ? "bg-danger" : "bg-dark";
    long tasklength = 0;
    long primesToCalculate = 10;
    string message = "Waiting for some action!";

    private async Task Reset()
    {
        message = "Waiting for some action!";
        workingstate = false;
    }

    private async Task ClickedAsync()
    {
        workingstate = true;
        message = "Processing";
        await LongYieldingTaskAsync();
        message = $"Complete : {DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString()}";
        workingstate = false;
    }

    private void Clicked1()
    {
        workingstate = true;
        message = "Processing";
        LongTaskAsync();
        message = $"Complete : {DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString()}";
        workingstate = false;
    }

    private async void Clicked2()
    {
        workingstate = true;
        message = "Processing";
        await Task.Yield();
        await LongTaskAsync();
        message = $"Complete : {DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString()}";
        workingstate = false;
    }

    private RenderFragment MyDiv => (RenderTreeBuilder builder) =>
    {
        builder.AddMarkupContent(0, $"<div class='text-white {MyDivColour} m-2 p-2'>
        {message}</div>");
    };

    private RenderFragment MyOtherDiv => (builder) =>
    {
        builder.OpenElement(0, "div");
        builder.AddAttribute(1, "class", $"text-white {myOtherDivColour} m-2 p-2");
        builder.AddMarkupContent(0, message);
        builder.CloseElement();
    };

    public Task LongTaskAsync()
    {
        var watch = new Stopwatch();

        var num = primesToCalculate * 1;
        watch.Start();
        var counter = 0;
        for (long x = 0; x <= num; x++)
        {
            for (long i = 0; i <= (10000); i++)
            {
                bool isPrime = true;
                for (long j = 2; j < i; j++)
                {
                    if (i % j == 0)
                    {
                        isPrime = false;
                        break;
                    }
                }
                if (isPrime)
                {
                    counter++;
                }
            }
        }
        watch.Stop();
        tasklength = watch.ElapsedMilliseconds;
        return Task.CompletedTask;
    }

    public async Task LongYieldingTaskAsync()
    {
        var watch = new Stopwatch();

        var num = primesToCalculate * 1;
        watch.Start();
        var counter = 0;
        for (long x = 0; x <= num; x++)
        {
            for (long i = 0; i <= (10000); i++)
            {
                bool isPrime = true;
                for (long j = 2; j < i; j++)
                {
                    if (i % j == 0)
                    {
                        isPrime = false;
                        break;
                    }
                }
                if (isPrime)
                {
                    counter++;
                    await Task.Yield();
                }
            }
        }
        watch.Stop();
        tasklength = watch.ElapsedMilliseconds;
    }
}

History

  • 17th August, 2021: Initial version

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Shaun C Curtis
Retired Cold Elm
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Ex Geologist, Project Manager, Web Hoster, Business Owner and IT Consultant. Now, a traveller to places less travelled. And part time developer trying to keep up!

If you feel like saying thanks, the next time you see a charity request, DONATE. No matter how small, no matter who, it'll count. If you have a choice in the UK, Barnados.

Comments and Discussions

 
Questionmistakes? Pin
Member 149470047-May-22 7:42
MemberMember 149470047-May-22 7:42 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
GerVenson18-Aug-21 1:41
professionalGerVenson18-Aug-21 1:41 
GeneralRe: My vote of 4 Pin
Shaun C Curtis20-Aug-21 11:42
mvaShaun C Curtis20-Aug-21 11:42 

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