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Developing a picture album in ASP.NET


A Photo album is a popular approach to share pictures among friends, members or even the whole world. In this tutorial, we will be looking at how to implement a photo album in ASP.NET 2.0 and MS SQL 2005.


Picture album functionalities

The following functionalities will be implemented and put together so that at the end, we can get a complete photo album management system:

  • Creating Categories; the images will be classified as per categories: New Year, Picnic, Birthdays etc...

  • Uploading pictures in a category and writing a memo of that picture.

  • Displaying the pictures as per category.

You can download sample Picture Album Visual Studio .NET project used in this tutorial.

Database Design

Figure 1. Two tables are defined, Category and Photo, with a foreign key linking them as shown above.

Figure 2. Table schema for Category, with primary key "PKCategoryId". The "Is Identity" property of the primary key is set to "Yes"

Figure 3. Table schema for Photo, with primary key "PKPhotoId" and foreign key "FKCategoryId". Memo can be set to null as well.

The Master Page

We will make use of the Master Page to bring uniformity to the website being developed. It will contain the menu for displaying the categories and also the links to add new photo or photo category.

First, 2 hyperlinks are dropped on the form "Create New Category" and "Upload Photo" and their "Navigate URL" linked to the appropriate pages. Also, it is very important to set their "Causes Validation" property to False.

Then, a data source needs to be bound to it so that all the categories are displayed.

Chose the database and save the connection string in the Web.config file. Next, choose all the fields that are found in the table "Category", which we will use later. We can also choose to sort the list by Title, which makes sense in a way.

Click on "Next" and "Test Query" just to make sure the proper dataset is retrieved.

The Item Template of the Datalist can be altered to get better menu displayed. First of all, the labels in the list need to be replaced by hyperlinks so the user can be redirected to the proper gallery when he/she clicks on a particular category. We can also choose to apply a ToolTip text so the description of the category is displayed whenever the mouse is hovered over the link.

The text of the hyperlink is bound to the Title field of the dataset being returned by query.

The page where the user should be directed is "Main.aspx". Also, to display the pictures in that particular category, a query string which makes use of the field "PKCategoryId" is used.

To display the ToolTip text on that URL, the following code needs to be added in the .aspx file:

ToolTip='<%# Eval("Description") %>'

One last thing that is really important is to get all the changes reflected in the master page (like when adding a new category). The DataList has to be simply refreshed with the datasource. And that is done in the Page_Load event of the Master Page.

'   Refresh the datalist

Adding New Categories

The screen below will be used to input new photo categories.

2 textboxes will be used for providing information about the category. Required Fields validators are also used to ensure that the information is supplied for both the Category Title and description.

So, on the Click_Event of the button to add a new category, the following function will be used. Note that System.Data and System.Data.SqlClient need to be imported.

Private Sub addNewCategory(ByVal strTitle As String, ByVal strDescription As String)
'   Variables declaration
        Dim strConnString As String = System.Configuration.ConfigurationManager.ConnectionStrings.Item("ConnectionString").ToString()
        Dim sqlConn As New SqlConnection(strConnString)
        Dim sqlcmd As New SqlCommand()
        '   Building the query
        Dim sqlQuery_Category As String = "INSERT INTO [Category] VALUES ('{0}', '{1}')"
        sqlQuery_Category = sqlQuery_Category.Replace("{0}", strTitle)
        sqlQuery_Category = sqlQuery_Category.Replace("{1}", strDescription)
        '   Retrieving search result
        sqlcmd.Connection = sqlConn
        '   Adding records to table
        sqlcmd.CommandText = sqlQuery_Category
End Sub

The parameters strTitle and strDescription are the values obtained from the 2 textboxes.

The snapshot below shows the scenario where a new category (Christmas) was added.

Uploading a picture in a Category

The screen below will be used to upload a photo to a particular category. The flow for uploading a photo:

  • Select a category from the list

  • Browse for a photo

  • Write some comments about the photo

To populate the combo list "Category" is quite simple, as shown in the screenshots below.

Chosing a new data source

Select the table category and columns "PKCategoryId" and "Title". Sort the list by Title

Then select the value and the corresponding text to display in the combo list as follows.

That should be enough in populating the combo list with the categories available.

The "FileUpload" object provided in ASP.NET 2.0 is really useful as it decreases a lot of work as compared to version 1.1. It provides a method called "FileExist" that helps in determining whether the file being browsed really exist on the machine; thus avoiding all sorts of errors.

Also, it is important to give each picture being uploaded a unique name such that if 2 picture of the same name would exist in the uploaded folder, some unexpected behaviour may occur. For that, we will make use of the time stamp, i.e. the time at which the picture is uploaded. In this tutorial, we will call it the GUID – General Unique Identifier.

'   Function to generate a GUID using current date and time
Private Function fnGuid() As String
Dim strGuid As String = ""
With Today
strGuid = .Year & .Month & .Day & Now.Hour & Now.Minute & Now.Second
            End With
      Catch ex As Exception
          Throw ex
      End Try
      '   returning the guid generated
      Return strGuid
End Function

We need a place to keep the picture. So, we will create a folder in the solution called "Gallery".

New folder named "Gallery" added in solution

Before uploading a file, we need to check the extension of the file. In our concern, we will only process images (jpg, jpeg and gif). You are free to extend the list! The following code snippet checks for the extensions.

'   Returns true if file name has the extension .jpg, .gif, .jpeg
Private Function fnGetPictureExtension(ByVal strPictureName As String) As String
         With strPictureName.ToUpper
             If .EndsWith(".JPG") Then
                 Return ".JPG"
             ElseIf .EndsWith(".GIF") Then
                 Return ".GIF"
             ElseIf .EndsWith(".JPEG") Then
                 Return ".JPEG"
             End If
         End With
     Catch ex As Exception
         Throw ex
     End Try
     ' Else if has no extension so it returns ""
     Return ""
End Function

To save the picture physically in the "Gallery" folder, the following function is used.

'   Adds picture to specified folder
Private Sub subAddNewPicture(ByVal FileUploader As FileUpload, ByVal strPictureName As String, ByVal strImgFolder As String)
     Dim strImageFolderPath As String
     Dim strImagePath As String
         '   Construct saving path
         strImageFolderPath = Path.Combine(Request.PhysicalApplicationPath, strImgFolder)
         strImagePath = Path.Combine(strImageFolderPath, strPictureName)
         '   Upload image
     Catch ex As Exception
         Throw ex
     End Try
End Sub

The function takes in 3 parameters:

  • FileUploader, which is the FileUpload control.

  • strPictureName, which is the name of the picture, which is the GUID + picture extension.

  • strImgFolder, which is the name of the folder that the image should be stored.

Also, we need a function to store that file name in the database. The following code snippet takes category value from the combo list, the filename and the memo and adds a corresponding record in the database.

Private Sub UpdateGallery(ByVal strCategoryValue As String, ByVal strFileName As String, ByVal strMemo As String)
        '   Variables declaration
        Dim strConnString As String = System.Configuration.ConfigurationManager.ConnectionStrings.Item("ConnectionString").ToString()
        Dim sqlConn As New SqlConnection(strConnString)
        Dim sqlcmd As New SqlCommand()
        '   Building the query
        Dim sqlQuery_Photo As String = "INSERT INTO [Photo] VALUES ('{0}', '{1}', '{2}')"
        sqlQuery_Photo = sqlQuery_Photo.Replace("{0}", strCategoryValue)
        sqlQuery_Photo = sqlQuery_Photo.Replace("{1}", strFileName)
        sqlQuery_Photo = sqlQuery_Photo.Replace("{2}", strMemo)
        '   Retrieving search result
        sqlcmd.Connection = sqlConn
        '   Adding records to table
        sqlcmd.CommandText = sqlQuery_Photo
End Sub

So, on the click event of the "Upload" button, the above functions will be used to add the picture to the "Gallery" folder and insert record in database.

Protected Sub btnAddToCategory_Click(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles btnAddToCategory.Click
            Dim strGuid As String = ""
            Dim strPicExtension As String = ""
            Dim strFileName As String = ""
            '   Firstly upload the picture associated with the news
            If PhotoUpload.HasFile Then
                '   Constructs the picture extension
                strGuid = fnGuid()
                strPicExtension = fnGetPictureExtension(PhotoUpload.FileName)
                strFileName = strGuid & strPicExtension
            '   Add picture to folder
            subAddNewPicture(PhotoUpload, strFileName, "Gallery")
            '   Add the record to the database
            UpdateGallery(cmbCategory.SelectedValue, strFileName, txtMemo.Text.Trim())
            End If
        Catch ex As Exception
            Throw ex
        End Try
End Sub

The screenshot below illustrates a scenario of uploading the picture.

Displaying the pictures

It is easy job to display the photos. We will use a DataList control for that. The same principle is used to display category list in the left menu.

A new Data List is added in the main page and data source is connected to it.

After choosing the connection string, choose the "Photo" table and check all the fields.

After that, click on the "WHERE" button to display the picture as per category. This is obtained from the query string, as shown below.

The Query field is "Category". Click on the "Add" button. Make sure that the Default Value is "0" in case there is no category added yet. Click on "OK"

Test the SQL command generated by putting the query string as "1". Then, click on the "Finish" button.

Back to the Data List, only the record information is displayed. But, we need to display the picture. So, edit the "Item Template" and put in an Image object. The picture's attribute is then linked with the data retrieved from the data source. The snapshot below shows how this is done.

The expression Eval("Filename", "~\Gallery\{0}") makes sure to link the path of the images, concatenated with the Filename field.

Also, the size of the pictures is set to 100px to 100px. The "RepeatColumns" property of the Data List is modified to 5 and the "Repeat Direction" to Horizontal

We are only seeing the thumbnails, as illustrated in the figure below.

To allow a larger view of the picture to be displayed, some HTML works need to be done. The <asp: Image> tag is put in a <a> tag, to make it a kind of hyperlink. Target="_blank" means to open the image in a new window. The toolTip for each photo holding the memo is also added.

<a href='<%# Eval("Filename", "./Gallery/{0}") %>' target="_blank">
<asp:Image ID="Image1" runat="server" Height="50px" Width="50px"
ImageUrl='<%# Eval("Filename", "~\Gallery\{0}") %>'
ToolTip='<%# Eval("Memo") %>'

Et voila! This tutorial summarizes one way how a picture gallery is normally done. Sure, it can also be extended as you wish and a lot more functionalities included (e.g. protection of SQL injection). Don't forget to download sample Picture Album Visual Studio .NET project, used in this tutorial.

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