Awaiting for that Button click

Why wait when we can await?

I believe that most of C# developers know about the new language features for asynchronous programming with async and await keywords but how many of us are really exploiting them to full extent?

Recently i was watching the excellent C# Language Internals course on PluralSight.com by Bart De Smet and came across very cool idea of using Await to wait for Button to be clicked – which pushed me to write this post and share it with everyone.

By implementing a custom awaiter for Button (via extension methods) and hooking up to the Click handler we are able to await for that button to be clicked in very elegant way.

So innstead of manually adding Clicked event handler to each Button we hide that functionality in our awaiter and then we are able to write code this:

 private async void AwaitForButtonClicks()
 {
     await btn1;
 }

How do we implement custom awaiter?

Implementing custom awaiter surprisingly does not require you to inherit some class or implement an interface. Compiler is smart enough to recognize if you are implementing proper methods (either directly on the instance or via extension method) and if you do, then you can use await keyword on that type.

Cool thing about that is that you don’t need to own the class which you want to extend with awaiter,  same as in our case where we want to await for System.Windows.Control.Button which we don’t own (we could off course inherit it but if it would be sealed, we could still do it via extension methods).

Lets write the awaiter:

    public static class ButtonAwaiterExtensions
    {
        public static ButtonAwaiter GetAwaiter(this Button button)
        {
            return new ButtonAwaiter()
            {
                Button = button
            };
        }
    }

As you see we are adding the GetAwaiter method on the Button via extension method and returning the ButtonAwait which is just a class in which we will implement the actual await functionality (it could also be a struct instead of class). Also we pass the instance of the Button instance so that our ButtonAwaiter has something to attach to.

Compiler will recognize that we added this method (and also it will check if the ButtonAwaiter class that we return from it is implementing proper methods and interfaces) and because it will “see” all is implemented properly await keyword will start working for us.

In order for all this to work lets implement the ButtonAwaiter class:

    public class ButtonAwaiter : INotifyCompletion
    {
        public bool IsCompleted
        {
            get { return false; }
        }

        public void GetResult()
        {

        }

        public Button Button { get; set; }

        public void OnCompleted(Action continuation)
        {
            RoutedEventHandler h = null;
            h = (o, e) =>
            {
                Button.Click -= h;
                continuation();
            };
            Button.Click += h;
        }
    }

Our awaiter first of all returns false in the IsCompleted notifying the runtime that when we await for button, that it cannot return immediately, but only later after button is clicked.
And we take care of that in the OnCompleted method where runtime is subscribing with Action continuation to be called after awaiting is done – in other words after someone has clicked on the Button instance.
So in that method we create Click button handler and subscribe to the Click event and then inside that handler we unsubscribe (so we don’t get restart the await state machine every next time Button is clicked) and then we invoke the continuation action to notify everyone that our await is finished.

Note that GetResults does not return nothing since it would not make sense to return anything in our case – we are just waiting for the button click.

And that’s really all there is to it.

How to use this thing?

Now in our app we can await for multiple Buttons in which ever order we want and then do some action after Buttons are pressed in that specific order:

    public partial class MainWindow : Window
    {
        public MainWindow()
        {
            InitializeComponent();
            Loaded += (s, e) =>
            {
                AwaitForButtonClicks();
            };
        }

        private async void AwaitForButtonClicks()
        {
            await btn1;

            await btn2;

            await btn3;

            MessageBox.Show("Well done!");

            AwaitForButtonClicks();
        }
    }

So as you see in the Loaded even of the Window we call our async method that is awaiting for Button clicks and then show some message. And then we recursively start waiting again :)

Don’t forget that first await is waiting for click on the btn1 instance so even if you click some other button, code will still be waiting there for that specific click. Once first btn1 is clicked, execution moves to second line and awaits for btn2 to be clicked etc.

Button Awaiter in action

Ok we can use it but is it really useful?

I can think of scenarios where this could be really useful.

Besides freeing us from always writing the boilerplate code for subscribing to Click event of the button, there are more advantages.

Imagine a application that has many UI elements and interactions and you want to create a tutorial for your app that will run inside of the app.

Imagine app itself guiding the user through its own tutorial by highlighting certain Buttons or TextBoxes, and waiting for the user to click them or write some text in TextBox, or move some sliders of the app to understand how to setup parameters etc.

We could also use this in some game where user has to press some buttons in certain order etc.

Possibilities are endless and this Button awaiter is just a start – in one of the next posts I will write some more examples on how to await for different actions, how to pass parameters to await, so stay tuned.

I hope you find this useful and that it will push you to start exploring those (not so new) language features.

Download Visual Studio 2013 solution with source code for this post

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