jQuery DataTables file download without SWF and ASP.NET MVC 5

I’m not really sure if DataTables is the best table plugin for jQuery out there, but it has certainly suited my needs as of now, except for one: providing the table as a file for download without using SWF…because, well…it’s SWF, and we don’t want that. Do we? As of now, it only supports Excel file creation using a trick with GridView, but I plan to add CSV, PDF and proper Excel support soon.

*Note*: I’m still not very happy with some aspects of the solution, as the thing, having to declare the file type in the view and not have all the three buttons generated at once in the helper — but I guess this allows fine grain filtering in tables. I also think this should be an HTMLHelper extension instead of a jQuery plugin of some sort in order to take advantage of the view’s Model and Action, not exposing an WebAPI-like endpoint.

So I decided to implement this for myself over a few dead hours in the weekend, taking a bit of work, but still able to extend it fairly easily for more document types and playing around with ASP.NET MVC framework, which I hadn’t done for more time than I’d rather have.

Anyway, the solution I’ve done is very basic:

– Override the ActionResult in an Action to return a DocumentResult (the type is a formality, you can actually do it without it, but maybe that’ll be useful for a bit of reflection while generating other document types, like CSV or PDF). This DocumentResult uses DocumentCreator, a static class that actually generates the file.
– Create an HtmlHelper extension method to display the buttons in the view and don’t do it manually. This could be improved by not depending on an Expression> as it forces to have the document type number right in the view, instead from the extension method itself.
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