Customizing the Application Modules: Extending Entities

In some cases, you may want to add some additional properties (and database fields) for an entity defined in a depended module. This section will cover some different approaches to make this possible.

Extra Properties

Extra properties is a way of storing some additional data on an entity without changing it. The entity should implement the IHasExtraProperties interface to allow it. All the aggregate root entities defined in the pre-built modules implement the IHasExtraProperties interface, so you can store extra properties on these entities.

Example:

//SET AN EXTRA PROPERTY
var user = await _identityUserRepository.GetAsync(userId);
user.SetProperty("Title", "My custom title value!");
await _identityUserRepository.UpdateAsync(user);

//GET AN EXTRA PROPERTY
var user = await _identityUserRepository.GetAsync(userId);
return user.GetProperty<string>("Title");

This approach is very easy to use and available out of the box. No extra code needed. You can store more than one property at the same time by using different property names (like Title here).

Extra properties are stored as a single JSON formatted string value in the database for the EF Core. For MongoDB, they are stored as separate fields of the document.

See the entities document for more about the extra properties system.

It is possible to perform a business logic based on the value of an extra property. You can override a service method and get or set the value as shown above. Overriding services will be discussed below.

Creating a New Entity Maps to the Same Database Table/Collection

While using the extra properties approach is easy to use and suitable for some scenarios, it has some drawbacks described in the entities document.

Another approach can be creating your own entity mapped to the same database table (or collection for a MongoDB database).

AppUser entity in the application startup template already implements this approach. EF Core Migrations document describes how to implement it and manage EF Core database migrations in such a case. It is also possible for MongoDB, while this time you won't deal with the database migration problems.

Creating a New Entity with Its Own Database Table/Collection

Mapping your entity to an existing table of a depended module has a few disadvantages;

  • You deal with the database migration structure for EF Core. While it is possible, you should extra care about the migration code especially when you want to add relations between entities.
  • Your application database and the module database will be the same physical database. Normally, a module database can be separated if needed, but using the same table restricts it.

If you want to loose couple your entity with the entity defined by the module, you can create your own database table/collection and map your entity to your own table in your own database.

In this case, you need to deal with the synchronization problems, especially if you want to duplicate some properties/fields of the related entity. There are a few solutions;

  • If you are building a monolithic application (or managing your entity and the related module entity within the same process), you can use the local event bus to listen changes.
  • If you are building a distributed system where the module entity is managed (created/updated/deleted) on a different process/service than your entity is managed, then you can subscribe to the distributed event bus for change events.

Once you handle the event, you can update your own entity in your own database.

Subscribing to Local Events

Local Event Bus system is a way to publish and subscribe to events occurring in the same application.

Assume that you want to get informed when a IdentityUser entity changes (created, updated or deleted). You can create a class that implements the ILocalEventHandler<EntityChangedEventData<IdentityUser>> interface.

public class MyLocalIdentityUserChangeEventHandler :
    ILocalEventHandler<EntityChangedEventData<IdentityUser>>,
    ITransientDependency
{
    public async Task HandleEventAsync(EntityChangedEventData<IdentityUser> eventData)
    {
        var userId = eventData.Entity.Id;
        var userName = eventData.Entity.UserName; 
        
        //...
    }
}
  • EntityChangedEventData<T> covers create, update and delete events for the given entity. If you need, you can subscribe to create, update and delete events individually (in the same class or different classes).
  • This code will be executed out of the local transaction, because it listens the EntityChanged event. You can subscribe to the EntityChangingEventData<T> to perform your event handler in the same local (in-process) transaction if the current unit of work is transactional.

Reminder: This approach needs to change the IdentityUser entity in the same process contains the handler class. It perfectly works even for a clustered environment (when multiple instances of the same application are running on multiple servers).

Subscribing to Distributed Events

Distributed Event Bus system is a way to publish an event in one application and receive the event in the same or different application running on the same or different server.

Assume that you want to get informed when a IdentityUser entity created, updated or deleted. You can create a class like below:

public class MyDistributedIdentityUserChangeEventHandler :
    IDistributedEventHandler<EntityCreatedEto<EntityEto>>,
    IDistributedEventHandler<EntityUpdatedEto<EntityEto>>,
    IDistributedEventHandler<EntityDeletedEto<EntityEto>>,
    ITransientDependency
{
    public async Task HandleEventAsync(EntityCreatedEto<EntityEto> eventData)
    {
        if (eventData.Entity.EntityType == "Volo.Abp.Identity.IdentityUser")
        {
            var userId = Guid.Parse(eventData.Entity.KeysAsString);
            //...handle the "created" event
        }
    }

    public async Task HandleEventAsync(EntityUpdatedEto<EntityEto> eventData)
    {
        if (eventData.Entity.EntityType == "Volo.Abp.Identity.IdentityUser")
        {
            var userId = Guid.Parse(eventData.Entity.KeysAsString);
            //...handle the "updated" event
        }
    }

    public async Task HandleEventAsync(EntityDeletedEto<EntityEto> eventData)
    {
        if (eventData.Entity.EntityType == "Volo.Abp.Identity.IdentityUser")
        {
            var userId = Guid.Parse(eventData.Entity.KeysAsString);
            //...handle the "deleted" event
        }
    }
}
  • It implements multiple IDistributedEventHandler interfaces: Created, Updated and Deleted. Because, the distributed event bus system publishes events individually. There is no "Changed" event like the local event bus.
  • It subscribes to EntityEto, which is a generic event class that is automatically published for all type of entities by the ABP framework. This is why it checks the entity type (checking the entity type as string since we assume that there is no type safe reference to the IdentityUser entity).

Pre-built application modules do not define specialized event types yet (like IdentityUserEto - "ETO" means "Event Transfer Object"). This feature is on the road map and will be available in a short term (follow this issue). Once it is implemented, you will be able to subscribe to individual entity types. Example:

public class MyDistributedIdentityUserCreatedEventHandler :
    IDistributedEventHandler<EntityCreatedEto<IdentityUserEto>>,
    ITransientDependency
{
    public async Task HandleEventAsync(EntityCreatedEto<IdentityUserEto> eventData)
    {
        var userId = eventData.Entity.Id;
        var userName = eventData.Entity.UserName;
        //...handle the "created" event
    }

    //...
}
  • This handler is executed only when a new user has been created.

The only pre-defined specialized event class is the UserEto. For example, you can subscribe to the EntityCreatedEto<UserEto> to get notified when a user has created. This event also works for the Identity module.

See Also

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