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Converting Your ASP.NET Web Forms Application to ASP.NET MVC

If you want to build a Web application quickly, do it with ASP.NET Web Forms. However, you have to be willing to give up a lot: client-side coding and Ajax is more awkward in Web Forms than MVC, you won't have as complete control over your HTML/CSS as in MVC, and you'll have to be careful about what code goes into your code-behind file if you want to do automated testing.

Because those are areas that people do care about, the future of Web development in .NET belongs to ASP.NET MVC (it's telling that there is no "MVC" in .NET Core -- the Web application framework is just called "ASP.NET Core").

I made a good living out of Web Forms, but, except for the occasional fix to legacy applications, my clients all want me to work in ASP.NET MVC now. That being the case, I occasionally get asked "How do I migrate from Web Forms to MVC?" Here's what I tell my clients (and I won't charge you a thing):

  1. Don't. There is no migration path and your Web Forms application has that whole "working" feature that users like.
  2. If it's just a need to add client-side support or to look up-to-date, consider replacing the default Microsoft Web Form controls with controls from third-party providers. A lot of those third-party controls offer features that the default Microsoft Web Form controls don't (rich client-side models, for example). They are also often "plug-compatible" with your current controls so you can just replace your existing Microsoft control with a third-party control and start doing cool stuff.
  3. If you must convert (because you don't want to support two toolsets or there's something you want your application to do that Web Forms doesn't support or your commercial application looks old fashioned or management has mandated it or ...), remember that, since Visual Studio 2012, you can combine MVC and Web Forms in the same project. Do the conversion form by form rather than creating a whole new site. There will be some forms (those forms maintaining your lookup tables, for example) that you may never bother converting.
  4. Where you need to rewrite an existing Web Form to ASP.NET MVC, remember that you wrote that form the way you did because you wrote it in Web Forms. If you'd written it in MVC, you'd have done it differently. Do it that "differently way" now.
  5. Do create all your new pages in ASP.NET MVC even in existing Web Form projects (no sense in making the problem larger).

Posted by Peter Vogel on 03/12/2018 at 8:45 AM


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