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A Deeper Look at Personalization using

Visual Basic 2005


(Page 1 of 4 )

In this third part of a four-part series covering personalization with Visual Basic 2005, we'll learn
about anonymous personalization, themes and skins, and more. This article is excerpted from
chapter 12 of the book Programming Visual Basic 2005, written by Jesse Liberty (O'Reilly,
2005; ISBN: 0596009496).
Personalize with Complex Types
To make a useful commercial site, you often have to store complex user-defined
types (classes) or collections.
In the next exercise, you’ll edit the Web.config file to add a collection of strings
called CHOSENBOOKS. Doing so will allow the user to choose one or more
books, and have those choices stored in the user’s profile.
Add a line to Web.config for your new property:
<profile>
<properties>
<add name="lastName" />
<add name="firstName" />
<add name="phoneNumber" />
<add name="birthDate" type="System.DateTime"/>
<add name="CHOSENBOOKS"
type="System.Collections. Specialized.StringCollection" />
</properties>
</profile>
To see this collection at work, edit the page ProfileInfo.aspx, inserting a row with a
CheckBoxList just above the row with the Save button, as shown in Figure 12-37.

Figure 12-37. Adding checkboxes to profile


Modify the Save button handler to add the selected books to the profile, as shown in Example
12-14.
Example 12-14. Code to modify Save button Click event handler
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS = New
System.Collections.Specialized.StringCollection()
For Each item As ListItem In Me.cblChosenBooks.Items
If item.Selected Then
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS.Add(item.Value.ToString())
End If
Next
Each time you save the books, you create an instance of theString collection, and you then
iterate through the checked list boxes, looking for the selected items. Each selected item is added
to the string collection within the profile (theCHOSENBOOKSproperty).
You also need to overridePage_Loadso that this page will open with the user’s profile
information updated, as shown in Example 12-15.
Example 12-15. Modified ProfileInfo.aspx.vb
Partial Class ProfileInfo
Inherits System.Web.UI.Page
Protected Sub save_Click( _
ByVal sender As Object, _
ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles save.Click
If Profile.IsAnonymous = False Then
Profile.lastName = Me.lastName.Text
Profile.firstName = Me.firstName.Text
Profile.phoneNumber = Me.phone.Text
Profile.birthDate = CType(Me.birthDate.Text,
System.DateTime)
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS =
New System.Collections. Specialized.StringCollection()
For Each item As ListItem In Me.cblChosenBooks.Items
If item.Selected Then
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS.Add(item.Value.ToString())
End If
Next
End If
Response.Redirect("Welcome.aspx")
End Sub
Protected Sub Page_Load(ByVal sender As Object, _
ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load
If Not IsPostBack And Profile.UserName IsNot Nothing Then
If Profile.IsAnonymous = False Then
Me.lastName.Text = Profile.lastName
Me.firstName.Text = Profile.firstName
Me.phone.Text = Profile.phoneNumber
Me.birthDate.Text =
Profile.birthDate.ToShortDateString()
End If
If Profile.CHOSENBOOKS IsNot Nothing Then
For Each theListItem As ListItem In
Me.cblChosenBooks.Items
For Each theProfileString As String In
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS
If theListItem.Text = theProfileString Then
theListItem.Selected = True
End If
Next
Next
End If
End If
End Sub
End Class
Each time you navigate to the Profile page, the values are updated from the existing profile (if
any) in Page_Load and you are free to change them and save the new values, as shown in
Figure 12-38.

Figure 12-38. Profile Information page with CheckBoxList


To confirm that this data has been stored, add aListBox(name itlbBooks) to the pnlInfo panel
you added to Welcome.aspx page, as shown in Figure 12-39.

Figure 12-39. ListBox added to panel


Bind the ListBox to the collection in the profile, as shown in Example 12-16.
Example 12-16. Modified Page_Load in Welcome.aspx.vb
Protected Sub Page_Load(_
ByVal sender As Object, _
ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load
If Not IsPostBack And Profile.UserName IsNot Nothing Then
Me.pnlInfo.Visible = True
If Profile.IsAnonymous = False Then
Me.lblFullName.Text = Profile.firstName & " " &
Profile.lastName
Me.lblPhone.Text = Profile.phoneNumber
Me.lblBirthDate.Text =
Profile.birthDate.ToShortDateString()
End If
If Profile.CHOSENBOOKS IsNot Nothing Then
For Each bookName As String In Profile.CHOSENBOOKS
Me.lbBooks.Items.Add(bookName)
Next
End If
Else
Me.pnlInfo.Visible = False
End If
End Sub
When you click Save in the Profile page and return to the Welcome page, your saved profile
information is reflected, as shown in Figure 12-40.

Figure 12-40. Welcome page with chosen books

A Deeper Look at Personalization using


Visual Basic 2005 - Anonymous
Personalization
(Page 2 of 4 )
It is common to allow your users to personalize your site before identifying themselves. A classic
example of this is Amazon.com, which lets you add books to your shopping cart before you log
in (you only need to log in when you are ready to purchase what is in your cart).
ASP.NET 2.0 supports personalization for anonymous users as well as the ability later to link
anonymous personalized data with a specific user’s. Once that user logs in, you don’t want to
lose what was in the user’s cart.
To enable anonymous personalization, you must update your Web.config file adding:
<anonymousIdentification enabled="true" />
Add the attribute-value pair allowAnonymous="true" to the CHOSENBOOKS element of
Web.config, as shown in Example 12-17.
Example 12-17. Modified Web.config for anonymous access
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<configuration xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/
.NetConfiguration/v2.0">
<connectionStrings>
<remove name="LocalSqlServer"/>
<add name="LocalSqlServer" connectionString="data
source=.\SqlExpress;Integrated Security=SSPI;Initial
Catalog=aspnetdb"/>
</connectionStrings>
<system.web>
<anonymousIdentification enabled="true" />
<roleManager enabled="true" />
<authentication mode="Forms"/>
<membership defaultProvider="AspNetSqlMembershipProvider"/>
<compilation debug="true"/>
<profile enabled="True"
defaultProvider="AspNetSqlProfileProvider">
<properties>
<add name="lastName" />
<add name="firstName" />
<add name="phoneNumber" />
<add name="birthDate" type="System.DateTime"/>
<add name="CHOSENBOOKS" allowAnonymous="true"
type="System.Collections.
Specialized.StringCollection" />
</properties>
</profile>
</system.web>
</configuration>
Redesign your Welcome.aspx page in two ways: first move the hyperlink to the profile
Information page outside of the Logged In template. Second move the listbox (lbBooks) outside
the panel. Thus, you can see both of these features whether or not you are logged in. Also,
change the text on the Add Profile Info hyperlink to just Profile Info, since you will be using this
link to add and edit the profile info.
When an anonymous user fills in the profile information, the user will automatically be assigned
a Globally Unique Identifier (GUID), and an entry will be made in the database for that ID.
However, note that only those properties marked withallowAnonymous may be stored, so
you must modify yourSave_Clickevent handler in ProfileInfo.aspx.vb. Bracket the entries for
all the profile elements except CHOSENBOOKSin anIfstatement that tests whether the user is
currentlyAnonymous. The newsave_Clickevent handler for ProfileInfo.aspx.vb is shown in
Example 12-18.
Example 12-18. Modified Save_Click event handler for ProfileInfo.aspx.vb
Protected Sub save_Click(_
ByVal sender As Object, _
ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles save.Click
If Profile.IsAnonymous = False Then
Profile.lastName = Me.lastName.Text
Profile.firstName = Me.firstName.Text
Profile.phoneNumber = Me.phone.Text
Profile.birthDate = CType(Me.birthDate.Text,
System.DateTime)
End If
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS = New System.Collections.Specialized.
StringCollection()
For Each item As ListItem In Me.cblChosenBooks.Items
If item.Selected Then
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS.Add(item.Value.ToString())
End If
Next
Response.Redirect("Welcome.aspx")
End Sub
The effect of the new code shown in Example 12-18 is that you check whether
theIsAnonymousproperty is false. If it is, then you are dealing with a logged-in user, and you
can get all of the properties; otherwise, you can get only those that are allowed for anonymous
users.
Modify the ProfileInfo page so that the non-anonymous data is in a panel that will be invisible
for users who are not logged in. The simplest way to do this may be to switch to Source view and
bracket the nonanonymous code inside a panel (don’t forget to end the table before ending the
panel), as shown in Example 12-19.
Example 12-19. Adding a nonanonymous information panel to ProfileInfo.aspx.vb
<body>
<form id="form1" runat="server">
<div>
<asp:Panel ID="pnlNonAnonymousInfo" runat="server">
<table>
<tr>
<td>First Name: </td>
<td style="width: 193px">
<asp:TextBox ID="FirstName" Runat="server" />
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Last Name: </td>
<td style="width: 193px">
<asp:TextBox ID="LastName" Runat="server"
/></td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Phone number: </td>
<td style="width: 193px">
<asp:TextBox ID="Phone" Runat="server" />
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>BirthDate</td>
<td style="width: 193px">
<asp:TextBox ID="BirthDate" Runat="server" />
</td>
</tr>
</table>
</asp:Panel>
Modify the Page_Load for ProfileInfo.aspx to hide the panel if the user is anonymous, as
shown in Example 12-20.
Example 12-20. Modified page load—ProfileInfo.aspx.vb
Protected Sub Page_Load(ByVal sender As Object, _
ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load
If Not IsPostBack And Profile.UserName IsNot Nothing Then
If Profile.IsAnonymous = True Then
Me.pnlNonAnonymousInfo.Visible = False
Else
Me.pnlNonAnonymousInfo.Visible = True
If Profile.IsAnonymous = False Then
Me.lastName.Text = Profile.lastName
Me.firstName.Text = Profile.firstName
Me.phone.Text = Profile.phoneNumber
Me.birthDate.Text =
Profile.birthDate.ToShortDateString()
End If
If Profile.CHOSENBOOKS IsNot Nothing Then
For Each theListItem As ListItem In
Me.cblChosenBooks.Items
For Each theProfileString As String In
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS
If theListItem.Text = theProfileString Then
theListItem.Selected = True
End If
Next
Next
End If 'Profile.CHOSENBOOKS IsNot Nothing
End If 'Profile.IsAnonymous = True
End If 'Not IsPostBack And Profile.UserName IsNot
Nothing
End Sub
Run the application. Do not log in, but do click the Profile Info link. Select a few books and click
Save. When you return to the Welcome page, you are still not logged in, but your selected books
are displayed, as shown in Figure 12-41.
Stop the application and reopen the database. You’ll see that an ID has been created for this
anonymous user (and theUserNamehas been set to the GUID generated). In addition, the profile
information has been stored in the corresponding record, as shown in Figure 12-42.

Figure 12-41. Anonymous user information

Figure 12-42. Anonymous user record in database


Next: Migrating the Anonymous Data to the Actual User’s Record >>

A Deeper Look at Personalization using


Visual Basic 2005 - Migrating the
Anonymous Data to the Actual User’s Record
(Page 3 of 4 )
When the user does log in, you must migrate the Profile data you’ve accumulated for the
anonymous user to the authenticated user’s record (so that, for example, shopping cart items are
not lost). You do this by writing a global handler in global.asax.
If your project does not yet have a global.asax file, right-click on the project and choose Add
New Item. One of your choices will be Global Application Class, and it will default to the name
global.asax (click Add). Within that class, add a method to handle
theMigrateAnonymousevent that is fired when a user logs in, as shown in Example 12-21.
Example 12-21. MigrateAnonymous event handler
Sub Profile_MigrateAnonymous( _
ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As ProfileMigrateEventArgs)
Dim anonymousProfile As ProfileCommon = _
Profile.GetProfile(e.AnonymousId)
If anonymousProfile IsNot Nothing And _
anonymousProfile.CHOSENBOOKS IsNot Nothing Then
For Each s As String In anonymousProfile.CHOSENBOOKS
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS.Remove(s) ' remove duplicates
Profile.CHOSENBOOKS.Add(s)
Next
End If
End Sub
The first step in this method is to get a reference to the profile that matches the AnonymousID
passed in as a property of ProfileMigrateEventArgs:
Dim anonymousProfile As ProfileCommon = _
Profile.GetProfile(e.AnonymousId)
If the reference is notNothing, then you know that there is a matching anonymous profile, and
that you may choose whatever data you need from that profile. In this case, you copy over
theCHOSENBOOKScollection.
The user’s profile is updated, and the books chosen as an anonymous user are now part of that
user’s profile, as shown in Figure 12-43.

Figure 12-43. Profiles merged


A Deeper Look at Personalization using
Visual Basic 2005 - Themes and Skins
(Page 4 of 4 )

Many users like to personalize their favorite web sites by setting the look and feel to meet their
own aesthetic preferences. ASP.NET 2.0 supports that requirement with “themes.”
A theme is a collection of skins. A skin describes how a control should look. A skin can define
style sheet attributes, images, colors, and so forth.
Having multiple themes allows your users to choose how they want your site to look by
switching from one set of skins to another at the touch of a button. Combined with
personalization, your site can remember the look and feel each user prefers.
There are two types of themes. The first, called stylesheet themes, define styles that may be
overridden by the page or control. These are, essentially, equivalent to CSS style sheets. The
second type, called customization themes, cannot be overridden. You set a stylesheet theme by
adding the StyleSheetTheme attribute to the page directive, and, similarly, you set a
customization theme by setting the Theme attribute in the page directive.
In any given page, the properties for the controls are set in this order:
• Properties are applied first from a stylesheet theme.
• Properties are then overridden based on properties set in the control.
• Properties are then overridden based on a customization theme.
Thus, the customization theme is guaranteed to have the final word in determining the look and
feel of the control.
Skins themselves come in two flavors: default skins and explicitly named skins. Thus, you might
create a Labels skin file with this declaration:
<asp:Label runat="server"
ForeColor="Blue" Font-Size="Large"
Font-Bold="True" Font-Italic="True" />
This is a default skin for all Label controls. It looks like the definition of anASP:Labelcontrol,
but it is housed in a skin file and, thus, is used to define the look and feel of all Label objects
within that skin file’s theme.
In addition, however, you might decide that some labels must be red. To accomplish this, create
a second skin, but assign this skin aSkinIDproperty:
<asp:Label runat="server" SkinID="RedLabel"
ForeColor="Red" Font-Size="Large"
Font-Bold="True" Font-Italic="True" />
Any label that does not have aSkinIDattribute will get the default skin; any label that
setsSkinID ="Red"will get your named skin.
The steps to providing a personalized web site are:
1. Create the test site.
2. Organize your themes and skins.
3. Enable themes and skins for your site.
4. Specify themes declaratively if you wish.
Please check back next week for the conclusion of this article.