Introduction: Getting Started with eXpressApp Framework

Purpose of this Tutorial

The goal of this tutorial is to build rich data-centric Windows desktop and Web browser applications for use within a company department (Intranet), so that its employees can plan activities and manage other required data.

The following user stories cover a common functionality that will be available to end-users.

  • A user can view, search, filter, print, create, update and delete employees, projects and related task data, to organize a basic planning process.
  • A user can view, search, filter, print, create, update and delete customers and comments about a product, to organize and provide data for a promotional web site.

Dependencies and Prerequisites

Before you start following this tutorial, please check out the requirements below.

  1. Any non-Express version of Visual Studio 2010 or higher. Basic experience using this IDE and the .NET framework development is also required. If you are using Visual Studio 2010, you will also need to have NuGet installed.
  2. A FREE 30 day trial version or a licensed version of DXperience Universal should be installed on your development machine.
  3. Basic knowledge of the Microsoft ADO.NET Entity Framework or DevExpress XPO, or at least an understanding of Object-relational mapping (ORM) concepts is required to work with XAF (if necessary, consider reviewing the documentation of these ORMs to help you get started).
  4. Any popular RDMBS supported by the aforementioned ORMs should be installed and be accessible from your machine to store the application data (a LocalDB or SQL Server Express instance are recommended).

Experience building desktop and Web applications using DevExpress Windows Forms and ASP.NET Web Forms controls, as well as any other third-party components is helpful, but not required for this tutorial.

XAF Application Architecture

Proceed to the next lesson if you are already familiar with a three-tier application architecture (described at XAF Architecture).

A typical client application consists of three logical layers, as shown below.


This standard three-tier architecture is well-proven, and can be a base for more complex application architectures. For purposes of simplicity in this tutorial, this architecture should meet your needs without any changes.

  • Data Store

    With XAF, you can use any popular relational database management system (RDBMS) such as Microsoft SQL Server as a data store. In advanced scenarios, it is also possible to obtain data from a data service instead of using direct database connections.

  • Data Access Layer

    With XAF, you can choose from two ORM libraries as the data access layer (DAL): Entity Framework (EF) from Microsoft or eXpress Persistent Objects (XPO) from DevExpress. Although the first ORM library may already be familiar to you, the DevExpress ORM library was actually developed prior to EF, and is powerful and easy-to-use, based on feedback from many of our customers. It also supports more than a dozen popular database engines, which makes it a very good alternative to EF. Technically, the DAL consists of application-specific and system persistent classes that are mapped to the database tables, and thus represent the data model plus ORM code that manages all persistence tasks. While no direct communication is allowed between the DAL and UI layers, the data model can eventually be a base for UI data screens.

  • Business Logic Layer

    The business layer (BL) consists of user-defined code and system code that form the desired behavior of your application (i.e., a business logic that updates the UI or provides user interaction). Typically, this business logic is placed within persistent classes from the DAL or within so-called Controllers. (The term “Controller” has the same meaning as in the popular Model View Controller (MVC) pattern for UIs.) For instance, in an XAF application, all create-read-update-delete (CRUD) logic is powered by system Controllers: a user interacts with UI elements triggering various business rules, and thus causing data and UI updates.

  • Presentation Layer

    Depending on the target platform, an XAF application uses DevExpress Windows Forms or ASP.NET Web Forms components for the UI layer. Of course, it is possible to use any other standard or third-party controls to build your application UI elements.

Next topic: Create an XAF Application