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A WPF Converter class that does it all
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README.md

MathConverter

A WPF Converter class that does it all

MathConverter logo

Installation:

MathConverter is available on NuGet

To install MathConverter, run the following command in the Package Manager Console:

PM> Install-Package MathConverter

What is MathConverter?

In WPF, bindings are absolutely incredible. They save a lot of time in GUI development. If you are unfamiliar with bindings, you can read Microsoft's documentation about them here.

The main shortcoming with Bindings is that custom converters are needed so frequently.

MathConverter is the last converter you'll ever need. It can do anything you ask of it.

How does it work?

Consider the problem of creating a rectangle with rounded corners.


If you simply bind to the ActualHeight:

<Border Margin="20" DataContext="{Binding RelativeSource={RelativeSource Self}}"
        BorderThickness="1" BorderBrush="Black" CornerRadius="{Binding ActualHeight}" />

You will get a flattened oval.

Flattened oval

What you want to do is bind to half of the height. But that's not possible. This is why Microsoft included Converters for bindings. In this case, we have to create our own custom Converter.

class HalfValueRadiusConverter : IValueConverter
{
    public object Convert(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, CultureInfo culture)
    {
        return new CornerRadius((double)value / 2);
    }
    public object ConvertBack(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, CultureInfo culture)
    {
        throw new NotSupportedException();
    }
}

You have to add a HalfValueRadiusConverter to the control's resources:

<Window.Resources>
    <local:HalfValueRadiusConverter x:Key="half" />
</Window.Resources>

and change the binding to this:

CornerRadius="{Binding ActualHeight, Converter={StaticResource half}}"

But this converter can only be used to create CornerRadius objects. To generalize it, the body of the Convert method would have to be changed to:

switch (targetType.FullName)
{
    case "System.Double":
        return (double)value / 2;
    case "System.Windows.CornerRadius":
        return new CornerRadius((double)value / 2);
    default:
        throw new NotImplementedException();
}

Later, if you want to bind to two times a value, you have to add a new, similar class for DoubleValueConverter and add one to the resources before you can use it for a binding.


This is where MathConverter comes in handy. It is a single Converter class that does it all.


Getting Started

You can install MathConverter from Nuget, or you can check out the source from GitHub

Once you have MathConverter referenced, you need to add a MathConverter object to your resources.

<Window.Resources>
    <math:MathConverter x:Key="math" />
</Window.Resources>

The math namespace is defined as follows:

xmlns:math="http://hexinnovation.com/math"

Now when you use the converter, you specify a ConverterParameter.

CornerRadius="{Binding ActualHeight, Converter={StaticResource math}, ConverterParameter=x/2}"

Our result:

Two rectangles of different heights with rounded corners

You can see that it works well, no matter the height of the Border.

You can specify different radii by passing in multiple values for the parameter. Those values can be separated by either commas or semicolons. This was designed to mimmic the way CornerRadius objects can be created in XAML.

So the following converter parameters are equivalent:

ConverterParameter=x/2
ConverterParameter=x/2;x/2;x/2;x/2
ConverterParameter='x/2,x/2,x/2,x/2'

But even this binding has a shortcoming. If the rectangle is taller than it is wide, the rounded rectangle becomes an oval.

An oval, stretched vertically

We can easily fix it by making a MultiBinding.

<Border.CornerRadius>
    <MultiBinding Converter="{StaticResource math}" ConverterParameter="min(x,y)/2">
        <Binding Path="ActualHeight" />
        <Binding Path="ActualWidth" />
    </MultiBinding>
</Border.CornerRadius>

A tall rectangle with rounded corners

The fact that we used x and y for variable names may seem to suggest that you can only bind to 3 or less values. MathConverter actually supports an unlimited number of variables. x is simply shorthand for [0], y is shorthand for [1], and z is shorthand for [2]. All other variables must be referenced by index.

Functions

The min function is also interesting. It can take any number of arguments, except zero. It is an N-value function. There are two other N-value functions: max and average (which can also be written as avg). It should be noted that there are other N-value functions that we will come back to later.

There are also several 1-value and 2-value functions available. Those functions are: cos, sin, tan, abs, acos, asin, atan, ceil/ceiling, floor, round, sqrt, deg/degrees, rad/radians, atan2, and log. Again, there are more functions that we will come back to.

All functions are case-insensitive, so you can call them as you wish.

deg uses the function:

x => x / Math.PI * 180

and rad uses the function:

x => x / 180 * Math.PI

round accepts either one or two values. If the second value is ommitted, it defaults to zero. It works similarly to the System.Math.Round function. All other functions behave similarly to their corresponding functions in the System.Math class.

MathConverter also replaces e and pi in Conversion strings with their corresponding numeric values, as defined in the System.Math class.

MathConverter allows for inputs of several numeric types: String, char, int, byte, sbyte, decimal, short, uint, long, ulong, and float. The appropriate System.Convert.ToDouble overload is used to convert these objects to doubles. char values are casted to ints before being converted.

MathConverter allows for conversions to the following types:

  • Double (1 value must be specified).
  • Object (1 value must be specified). This is the same as double, and MathConverter will in fact return a double.
  • CornerRadius (1 value for the same radius for all four corners, or 4 values to specify the corners in the order of Top-Left, Top-Right, Bottom-Right, Bottom-Left).
  • GridLength (1 value must be specified).
  • Thickness (1 value for a uniform margin/padding, 2 for Left-Right and Top-Bottom margin/padding, and 4 for left, top, right, bottom)
  • Rect (4 values specify the X, Y, Width, and Height)
  • Size (2 values specify the Width and Height)
  • Point (2 values specify the X- and Y- coordinates)

If you fail to specify a ConverterParameter, MathConverter will consider the type you are converting to, and the number of inputs. If they match up, it will use that.

So for the binding:

<ColumnDefinition Width="{Binding Source={StaticResource Padding}, Converter={StaticResource math}}"/>

where Padding is defined in the resources as:

<sys:Double x:Key="Padding">40</sys:Double>

MathConverter will see that you are attempting to convert a single value to a GridLength. Since GridLength requires one value, MathConverter will simply convert the value specified and return a GridLength with a value of 40. The net result is that the column will be 40 pixels wide. In this manner, MathConverter can be used to convert from any numeric type to any of its supported output types.

One interesting example of this is the following window:

A window with a line, whose start-point and end-point can be specified in four separate text boxes: StartPoint X, StartPoint Y, EndPoint X, and EndPoint Y

The line is created as follows:

<Path StrokeThickness="1" Stroke="Black" Grid.Row="4" Grid.ColumnSpan="3">
    <Path.Data>
        <PathGeometry>
            <PathFigure>
                <PathFigure.StartPoint>
                    <MultiBinding Converter="{StaticResource math}">
                        <Binding Path="Text" Mode="OneWay" ElementName="x1" />
                        <Binding Path="Text" Mode="OneWay" ElementName="y1" />
                    </MultiBinding>
                </PathFigure.StartPoint>
                <PathFigure.EndPoint>
                    <MultiBinding Converter="{StaticResource math}">
                        <Binding Path="Text" Mode="OneWay" ElementName="x2" />
                        <Binding Path="Text" Mode="OneWay" ElementName="y2" />
                    </MultiBinding>
                </PathFigure.EndPoint>
            </PathFigure>
        </PathGeometry>
    </Path.Data>
</Path>

Note that each MultiBinding could easily include ConverterParameter="x,y", but because Point requires two values, and the ConverterParameter simply specifies to use the parameters in order, it's not necessary to include it.

Non-Numeric Types

So far, we've only really talked about converting numeric types. MathConverter is also capable of conversions to several other types. Let's start by diving into an example. Suppose we want to create a ComboBox whose items are numbered.

A combobox with numbered items

For this example, we create an IndexedCollection class. If you want to see the full source for IndexedCollection, it is available here.

public class IndexedCollection<T> : ObservableCollection<IndexedElement<T>> { ... }
public class IndexedElement<T> : INotifyPropertyChanged
{
    public int Index { get; set; }
    public T Value { get; set; }
}

We create the following Window:

<Window x:Class="MathConverterDemo.MainWindow"
        xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
        xmlns:math="http://hexinnovation.com/math"
        xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
        Title="MathConverter Demo" SizeToContent="Height" Width="324">
    <Window.Resources>
        <math:MathConverter x:Key="math"/>
    </Window.Resources>
    <ComboBox x:Name="cb" Margin="20">
        <ComboBox.ItemTemplate>
            <DataTemplate>
                <TextBlock>
                    <TextBlock.Text>
                        <MultiBinding ConverterParameter="format(&quot;Language {0}: {1}&quot;,x+1,y)" Converter="{StaticResource math}">
                            <Binding Path="Index" />
                            <Binding Path="Value" />
                        </MultiBinding>
                    </TextBlock.Text>
                </TextBlock>
            </DataTemplate>
        </ComboBox.ItemTemplate>
    </ComboBox>
</Window>

In the constructor of the Window, we add the following code:

public MainWindow()
{
    InitializeComponent();
    cb.ItemsSource = new IndexedCollection<string> { "English", "Español", "Français" };
    cb.SelectedIndex = 0;
}

The Converter format("Language {0}: {1}",x+1,y) will essentially return string.Format("Language {0}: {1}", Index+1, Value);

The real magic being done here is in the System.String.Format method. If you unfamiliar with this method, you can see a lot of examples here.

format is another example of an N-value function. The only difference is that this particular function does not return a numeric value, but rather returns a string. Other non-numeric N-value functions are: and, or, nor. These functions take and return boolean values. The zero-value function function now() returns System.DateTime.Now. There are also one-value functions useful for case-conversion: tolower / lcase, and toupper / ucase. When passed null, these functions will return null. When passed an object, they will call ToString() on the object and then convert to lower/upper case. There are a few two-value string-related functions: contains, startswith, and endswith. The first variable must be a string. The second variable must be either a string or a value whose ToString() returns a string with a non-zero length. If the first value is not a string, these methods will return null. If the second value is null, or if its ToString() method returns a null or empty string, the methods will also return null. Otherwise, the methods will return true if the string contains the second argument's ToString() value. Alternatively, the contains function can also be passed an IEnumerable of objects, and will return true if the IEnumerable contains the second argument, or false if it does not.

Let's look again at the ConverterParameter in the previous example: ConverterParameter="format(&quot;Language {0}: {1}&quot;,x+1,y)". Because this is xaml, the &quot; characters are converted to " characters. Thus, at runtime, the ConverterParameter is format("Language {0}: {1}",x+1,y). When MathConverter parses the ConverterParameter, it sees that "Language {0}: {1}" is a string. In order to include special characters in the string, you can simply backslash-escape them, just like you're used to. So \r, \n, \", and \t (among others) are valid special characters that can be added to strings. At the moment, arbitrary unicode characters (such as \u0000) are not supported, but these can be added if there is sufficient demand.

You can also use the grave (`) character to enclose strings, to avoid needing to add &quot; over and over again in a ConverterParameter. So we can actually use format(`Language {0}: {1}`,x+1,y) in the above example.

Next, we're going to take a look at an example of how to pluralize an object.

<ComboBox x:Name="cb">
    <ComboBox.Items>
        <sys:Int32>0</sys:Int32>
        <sys:Int32>1</sys:Int32>
        <sys:Int32>2</sys:Int32>
        <sys:Int32>3</sys:Int32>
        <sys:Int32>4</sys:Int32>
        <sys:Int32>5</sys:Int32>
    </ComboBox.Items>
    <ComboBox.ItemTemplate>
        <DataTemplate>
            <TextBlock Text="{Binding ConverterParameter='format(&quot;{0} apple&quot; + (x == 1 ? &quot;&quot; : &quot;s&quot;), x)', Converter={StaticResource math}}" />
        </DataTemplate>
    </ComboBox.ItemTemplate>
</ComboBox>

A ComboBox with the following options: "0 apples", "1 apple", "2 apples", "3 apples", "4 apples", and "5 apples"

Here, we can see that we change the format string based on whether or not the integer we are binding to is equal to 1. The format string is "{0} apple" + (x == 1 ? "" : "s"). We use the ternary conditional (? =) operator to change our format string from {0} apple to {0} apples depending on whether the value is plural or singular.

Interpolated Strings

MathConverter supports interpolated strings, just like C#.

In the previous example, we used ConverterParameter="format(&quot;Language {0}: {1}&quot;,x+1,y)". We established that this was equivalent to C#'s string.Format("Language {0}: {1}", x+1, y).

In C#, you can simplify the call to string.Format by using an interpolated string. In this case, that would be $"Language {x+1}: {y}". Similarly, in MathConverter, we can use ConverterParameter="$`Language {x+1}: {y}`". This will be converted by MathConverter's compiler into a call to string.Format("Language {0}: {1}", x+1, y).

Just like in C#, you can embed strings within in an interpolated string. So MathConverter's interpolated strings can be just as complex as C#'s. For example, you can simplify the expression ConverterParameter='format(&quot;{0} apple&quot; + (x == 1 ? &quot;&quot; : &quot;s&quot;), x)' to simply be ConverterParameter='$`{x} apple{(x==1 ? `` : `s`)}`'.

Visibility

Often in WPF, it is important to convert to a Visibility option. It's often that a control should be hidden or collapsed based on a boolean binding. So you can use the functions visibleorcollapsed and visibleorhidden to convert a boolean value to a Visibility value. Both are one-value functions that will return Visibility.Visible if the value true is passed in as the parameter. If any other value (e.g. false, null, "Hello World", or even the string "true", etc.) is passed in, then either Visibility.Collapsed or Visibility.Hidden are returned, depending on which function was called.

Operators

The ternary conditional operator is just one of several operators we can use. In general, the operators used in MathConverter will follow the standard C# rules regarding operator ordering, meaning you can usually expect it to behave just like C#. But there are a few notable exceptions:

  • Since MathConverter is specifically designed to perform math calculations, the caret (^) operator does not perform the XOR operation. Rather, it is an exponent symbol. It uses System.Math.Pow to evaluate expressions, and its precedence is just above multiplicative operations (*, /, and %).
  • The multiplication operator can often be safely ommitted. A ConverterParameter value of xyz will evaluate to x*y*z. The parameter x2y will evaluate to x^2*y (or equivalently, xxy or x*x*y). Similarly, 2x3 is equivalent to 2*x^3 or 2*x*x*x. Note that x(2) is equivalent to x*(2), in the same way that x(y+z) is equivalent to x*(y+z). Note that 1/xy will evaluate to 1/x*y, not to 1/(x*y), as you might expect.
  • MathConverter doesn't support all of the operations that C# does. The following operators are not supported:
    • Assignment operators (=, +=, &&=, etc)
    • Logical operators (|, &, and ^ as XOR)
      • Note that || and && are supported operators.
    • is and as (since Types are not supported)
    • Binary operations (<<, >>, ~) are not supported.
    • The unary operators ++ and -- are not supported, since they change the values of the inputs.
    • Primary operators (x.y, f(x), a[x], new, typeof, checked, unchecked) are not supported.

null

MathConverter fully supportes null values. You can include null in the ConverterParameter, and it will evaluate to null. Also, any bindings will still work if the binding returns null. In addition to supporting the ?? null-coalescing operator, it also includes the 2-value function isnull/ifnull. MathConverter evaluates the expression x ?? y in the same way that it would evaluate the expressions isnull(x,y) or x == null ? y : x.

MathConverter evaluates most of its values using the dynamic type. So x+y will yield null if x = 3 and y = null. However, if x = "Hello World" and y = null, x+y will yield "Hello World".

Parser:

Each time a conversion must be made, MathConverter must parse and evaluate an expression. When it parses an expression, it reads through the string one character at a time, and returns a syntax tree. The parsing is done in the Parser class. The Parser returns an AbstractSyntaxTree for each comma-separated (or semicolon-separated) value. In an effort to improve efficiency, MathConverter uses a cache. It saves the syntax tree for each string it evaluates. As a result, it is discouraged to use the same MathConverter instance across your entire application. It is a better idea to use a different MathConverter object for each UserControl, Page, or Window. You can turn off caching on a per-instance basis:

<math:MathConverter x:Key="nocache" UseCache="False" />

Thanks for reading!

MathConverter is still a work in progress, and we're bound to add more features as we continue to use it.

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