Wednesday, 14 April 2010

ASP.NET: Server.Transfer vs. Response.Redirect

A common misconception is the difference between Server.Transfer and Response.Redirect in ASP.NET applications. Redirect and Transfer both cause a new page to be processed, but the interaction between the client (web browser) and server (ASP.NET) is different in each situation.

Redirect: A redirect is just a suggestion – it’s like saying to the client “Hey, you might want to look at this”. All you tell the client is the new URL to look at, and if they comply, they do a second request for the new URL.

If you want to pass state from the source page to the new page, you have to pass it either on the URL (such as a database key, or message string), or you can store it in the Session object (caveat: there may be more than one browser window, and they’ll all use the same session object).

e.g. Redirect to the new.aspx page, passing an ID on the query string. "true" stops processing the current page:

Response.Redirect("new.aspx?id=34",true);


Transfer: A transfer happens without the client knowing – it’s the equivalent of a client requesting one page, but being given another. As far as the client knows, they are still visiting the original URL.

Sharing state between pages is much easier using Server.Transfer – you can put values into the Context.Items dictionary, which is similar to Session and Application, except that it lasts only for the current request. (search for HttpContext in MSDN). The page receiving postback can process data, store values in the Context, and then Transfer to a page that uses the values.

e.g. Store a message in the context dictionary, and transfer to the default.aspx page (which can then display the message):

Context.Items["Message"] = "Your password was changed successfully";
Server.Transfer("default.aspx");



Caveats:

Response.Redirect is more user-friendly, as the site visitor can bookmark the page that they are redirected to.
Transferred pages appear to the client as a different url than they really are. This means that things like relative links / image paths may not work if you transfer to a page from a different directory.
Server.Transfer has an optional parameter to pass the form data to the new page.
Since the release version, this no longer works, because the Viewstate now has more security by default (The EnableViewStateMac defaults to true), so the new page isn’t able to access the form data. You can still access the values of the original page in the new page, by requesting the original handler:

Page originalPage = (Page)Context.Handler;
TextBox textBox1 = (TextBox)originalPage.FindControl("textBox1"); 

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