Talk to the View


There are many scenarios where a UI component might not have a Command or bindable property available for certain features that you need to access from the view model. There is a simple, but powerful, thing you can do to allow this and not break MVVM or testing capability, leverage the Interface.

Scenario

Let’s imagine the scenario where we have a special ListView control that has a HighlightItem method that can only be called with a direct reference to that control. There isn’t a Command or DependencyProperty (aka BindableProperty in Xamarin.Forms) alternative, so it has to be done in the code behind.

To keep this simple, here’s the page XAML…

<Page x:Class="MyPage">
    <Page.DataContext>
        <MyPageViewModel x:Name="ViewModel" />
    </Page.DataContext>

    <SpecialListView x:Name="MyListView" />
</Page>

…and here is the page code behind.

public partial class MyPage : Page
{
    public MyPage()
    {
        InitializeComponent();

        // The only way to use HighlightItem method is in the code-behind
        MyListView.HighlightItem(itemToHighlight);
    }
}

As you can see, the HighlightItem method has to be used in the code behind because it has a reference to ‘MyListView’. However, you need to use it in the view model, like this:

public class MyPageViewModel
{
    private void PleaseHighlightItemNow()
    {
        // But, you need to highlight the item from view model
    }
}

Solution

One solution for this is to define an interface.

public interface IHighlightableView
{
    void Highlight(object item);
}

With this, you can add a property to the view model and invoke the method:

public class MyPageViewModel
{
    public IHighlightableView View { get; set; }

    private void PleaseHighlightItem()
    {
        // Call the method on the interface!
        View?.Highlight(itemToHighlight);
    }
}

Now, the interface can be implemented on the page to complete the circle

public partial class MyPage : Page, IHighlightableView
{
    public MyPage()
    {
        InitializeComponent();

        // Assign this page instance to the view model
        ViewModel.View = this;
    }

    private void Highlight(object itemToHighlight)
    {
       // Now you can directly use the UI component's method
        MyListView.HighlightItem(itemToHighlight);
    }
}

Summary

This is a simple approach that will work if you don’t want to (or are not allowed to) use an existing MVVM framework’s built-in DependencyInjection and IoC features. Enjoy!