Top 5 Features of ASP.NET MVC Framework 4

Wednesday Feb 20th 2013 by V.N.S Arun

As Asp.Net MVC framework gets hotter day by day in the web application industry, it becomes essential for developers to keep up-to-date with new key features. In this article I will take you through my top 5 ASP.NET MVC 4 features.

ASP.NET MVC framework is designed to create web applications which can be accessed over the URLs like RESTful services. The application layers will clearly be segregated into Views, Models and Controllers. ASP.NET MVC Framework 4 is available as a separate installer for Visual Studio 2010 and comes out of the box with Visual Studio 2012. In this article I will explain my top 5 features or improvements in ASP.NET MVC 4 framework.

1. New Project Templates

There are a couple of new project templates added for ASP.NET MVC Framework version 4 named web API template and mobile application template. In the RC version of the product there was another template called Single Page Application (SPA) template but it was removed during the RTM.


Web API templates are used to create HTTP services. These HTTP services can be accessed directly by a variety of clients from tablets, and smart phones to normal PC browsers. It also helps the developers to implement RESTFul architecture in an MVC application. This template is a powerful tool since it paves an easy way for developers to create HTTP services utilizing the core ASP.NET MVC capabilities like Routing, Filters, Query composition, etc.

Mobile Application

As usage of the internet over mobile devices is becoming high, most companies started developing mobile specific applications. Microsoft has wisely included the mobile application template, which will support developing a pure mobile ASP.NET MVC web application. It will include the HTML helpers for mobile specific markups, and mobile specific plug-ins like jQuery mobile, etc.

Fig 1.0: New ASP.NET MVC 4 Project
Fig 1.0: New ASP.NET MVC 4 Project

2. Adaptive Rendering - ViewPort Tag & @media CSS

The ViewPort is a <meta> tag added to the client razor view, which will ensure that the page content is displayed in an optimum way despite if the client is a mobile device or a desktop. Without the ViewPort <meta> tag the same web page will be displayed on a mobile device as that of the desktop whereas the mobile device has a smaller screen than a desktop. It makes the usability of the application difficult on the mobile device. The below mentioned ViewPort tag solves this problem.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width" />

The ViewPort tag does content resizing only at the page level. If the developer wants to customize each control styling based on the client device then the @media CSS tag can be used. It applies / overrides the CSS based on the size of the client screen.

@media only screen and (max-width: 650 px)


       /*CSS in this section will be applied when the request is made by a device with a screen and the width is less than 650 pixels*/

       /*Custom CSS*/


3. Display Modes

This feature enables the developers to have different sets of views for each device and load them based on who is accessing the web application. This is required when the requirement is to change the view, content, control look or the operations different from device to device.

In order to have the display modes working, the razor views should be named as and _Layout.cshtml. The idea is to load the former template view when accessed from a mobile device and to load the later one when accessed from a desktop. In the global.asax Application_Start event add the code below and MVC 4 takes care of doing it automatically.

DefaultDisplayMode mobileDisplayMode = new DefaultDisplayMode("mobile")
                ContextCondition = (context => context.Request.Browser.IsMobileDevice)
DisplayModeProvider.Instance.Modes.Insert(0, mobileDisplayMode);

4. Support for Async Controller Actions

The Asp.Net MVC 4 application developed on .net framework 4.5 will support asynchronous action methods. An asynchronous controller action method will return a Task of ActionResult and will use async / await keywords. Below is a sample async action method.

namespace MvcApplication1.Controllers
    public class HomeController : Controller
//Asynchronous Action Method of the controller
        public async Task<ActionResult> GreetAsync()
            return View(await GetGreetMessageAync());
        private async Task<string> GetGreetMessageAync()
            string greetingText = String.Empty;
            await Task.Run(() =>
                    greetingText = "Welcome to async MVC action method demo";
            return greetingText;

5. App_Start Folder

Another improvement, which I see with respect to the ASP.NET MVC solution architecture, is the introduction of App_Start folder, which helps in grouping all the code that is used for configuring the behavior of the Asp.Net MVC framework application. In the earlier versions on ASP.NET MVC all the configurations were directly done inside the global.ascx. Below are few of the config files that are added to the folder by default in an internet application template.

a.  AuthConfig.cs

b. BundleConfig.cs

c.  FilterConfig.cs

d. RouteConfig.cs

e. WebApiConfig.cs

ASP.NET MVC 4 also has lot of other features like the OAuth, bundling & minification, etc. I will leave it for the users to explore.

Happy reading!

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