Using Routing With WebForms, code, mvc comments edit

UPDATE: I updated the sample to work with the final version of ASP.NET Routing included with ASP.NET 3.5 SP1. This sample is now being hosted on CodePlex.

Download the demo here

In my last post I described how Routing no longer has any dependency on MVC. The natural question I’ve been asked upon hearing that is “Can I use it with Web Forms?” to which I answer “You sure can, but very carefully.”

Being on the inside, I’ve had a working example of this for a while now based on early access to the bits. Even so, Chris Cavanagh impressively beats me to the punch in blogging his own implementation of routing for Web Forms. Nice!

One of the obvious uses for the new routing mechanism is as a “clean” alternative to URL rewriting (and possibly custom VirtualPathProviders for simple scenarios) for traditional / postback-based ASP.NET sites.  After a little experimentation I found some minimal steps that work pretty well:

  • Create a custom IRouteHandler that instantiates your pages
  • Register new Routes associated with your IRouteHandler
  • That’s it!

He took advantage of the extensibility model by implementing the IRouteHandler interface with his own WebFormRouteHandler class (not surprisingly my implementation uses the same name) ;)

There is one subtle potential security issue to be aware of when using routing with URL Authorization. Let me give an example.

Suppose you have a website and you wish to block unauthenticated access to the admin folder. With a standard site, one way to do so would be to drop the following web.config file in the admin folder…

<?xml version="1.0"?>
            <deny users="*" />


Ok, I am a bit draconian. I decided to block access to the admin directory for allusers. Attempt to navigate to the admin directory and you get an access denied error. However, suppose you use a naive implementation of WebFormRouteHandler to map the URL fizzbucket to the admin dir like so…

RouteTable.Routes.Add(new Route("fizzbucket"
  , new WebFormRouteHandler("~/admin/secretpage.aspx"));

Now, a request for the URL /fizzbucket will display secretpage.aspx in the admin directory. This might be what you want all along. Then again, it might not be.

In general, I believe that users of routing and Web Form will want to secure the physical directory structure in which Web Forms are placed using UrlAuthorization. One way to do this is to call UrlAuthorizationModule.CheckUrlAccessForPrincipal on the actual physical virtual path for the Web Form.

This is one key difference between Routing and URL Rewriting, routing doesn’t actually rewrite the URL. Another key difference is that routing provides a mean to generate URLs as well and is thus bidirectional.

The following code is my implementation of WebFormRouteHandler which addresses this security issue. This class has a boolean property on it that allows you to not apply URL authorization to the physical path if you’d like (in following the principal of secure by default the default value for this property is true which means it will always apply URL authorization).

public class WebFormRouteHandler : IRouteHandler
  public WebFormRouteHandler(string virtualPath) : this(virtualPath, true)

  public WebFormRouteHandler(string virtualPath, bool checkPhysicalUrlAccess)
    this.VirtualPath = virtualPath;
    this.CheckPhysicalUrlAccess = checkPhysicalUrlAccess;

  public string VirtualPath { get; private set; }

  public bool CheckPhysicalUrlAccess { get; set; }

  public IHttpHandler GetHttpHandler(RequestContext requestContext)
    if (this.CheckPhysicalUrlAccess 
      && !UrlAuthorizationModule.CheckUrlAccessForPrincipal(this.VirtualPath
              ,  requestContext.HttpContext.User
              , requestContext.HttpContext.Request.HttpMethod))
      throw new SecurityException();

    var page = BuildManager
        , typeof(Page)) as IHttpHandler;
    if (page != null)
      var routablePage = page as IRoutablePage;
      if (routablePage != null)
        routablePage.RequestContext = requestContext;
    return page;

You’ll notice the code here checks to see if the page implements an IRoutablePage interface. If your Web Form Page implements this interface, the WebFromRouteHandler class can pass it the RequestContext. In the MVC world, you generally get the RequestContext via the ControllerContext property of Controller, which itself inherits from RequestContext.

The RequestContext is important for calling into API methods for URL generation. Along with the IRoutablePage, I provide a RoutablePage abstract base class that inherits from Page. The code for this interface and the abstract base class that implements it is in the download at the end of this post.

One other thing I did for fun was to play around with fluent interfaces and extension methods for defining simple routes for Web Forms. Since routes with Web Forms tend to be simple, I thought this syntax would work nicely.

public static void RegisterRoutes(RouteCollection routes)
  //first one is a named route.
  routes.Map("General", "haha/{filename}.aspx").To("~/forms/haha.aspx");

The general idea is that the route url on the left maps to the webform virtual path to the right.

I’ve packaged all this up into a solution you can download and try out. The solution contains three projects:

  • WebFormRouting - The class library with the WebFormRouteHandler and helpers…
  • WebFormRoutingDemoWebApp - A website that demonstrates how to use WebFormRouting and also shows off url generation.
  • WebFormRoutingTests- a few non comprehensive unit tests of the WebFormRouting library.

WARNING: This is prototype code I put together for educational purposes. Use it at your own risk. It is by no means comprehensive, but is a useful start to understanding how to use routing with Web Forms should you wish. Download the demo here.

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