Finding the Best Approach to Styling a LOB App

December 4, 2008

In my LOB apps I usually wind up with containers that contain a bunch of different TextBlocks and TextBoxes for users to enter data. Normally I need to apply a certain margin or vertical/horizontal alignment to each control.

Let’s say I have Grid on my form that looks like this (a lot of markup was eliminated for brevity):

<Grid>
   <Grid.ColumnDefinitions.../>
   <Grid.RowDefinitions.../>
   <TextBlock Text="MyLabel" />
   <TextBox Text={Binding ...}/>
   .
   .
   <!-- Repated a bunch more times along with all of the Grid.Row, 
Grid.Column definitions -->
   </Grid>

Now let’s say I need every single item contained in my grid to have Margin=”3,1″ VerticalContentAlignment=”Left” VerticalAlignment=”Center”. There are several ways to achieve this:

  1. Set the properties directly on each control – BAD!! Does not allow for skinning or centralizing styles.
  2. Create a Style with an x:Key=”MyStyleName” and apply the style to each control. Better…Makes centralizing styles and skinning more manageable but still requires a ton of markup, and can become unwieldy.
  3. Create a global style (i.e. don’t specify an x:Key and set the TargetType={x:Type TextBox/TextBlock} – BAD!! The problem with this is that it affects ALL controls in the app that don’t explicity override this style. This can be bad for things like menus, grids, and other controls that use textblocks and textboxes.
  4. Create a style that targets the Grid and explicitely sets the dependecy propety values like <Setter Property="Frameworkelement.Margin" Value="3,1" /> Not bad…it correctly applies the style to every element in it’s content, but also applies it directly to the Grid itself…not exactly what I want.

So what approach do you take and why? What works the best?

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