I'm working on a rich client desktop application. I'm trying to use MVC to decouple the model, view and controller responsabilities. Problem is I can't seem to find a clean solution for handling communication between nested components.

Most of the answers I've read online were either confusing or were dealing with "web MVC" architecture rather than real MVC.

I do not mind ending up using another MVC flavor (MVP, MVVM etc...) if it helps me creating a clean a maintainable architecture.


The codebase is small and contains two classes: MainView, and MainController. So far the view and controller responsabilities are decoupled and the code is clean.

At some point the codebase grows and I need a SecondaryView with a button. When the button is clicked, the program needs to access the file system to perform operations.


How to handle the button click in a nested component (one level deep or more) without making a mess in my code?

What I tried so far

1 - One controller owning the nested view and a chain of observer/observables: unmaintainable code

MainController has a reference to MainView. MainView has a reference to SecondaryView.

When SecondaryViewButton is clicked, SecondaryView notifies its listener MainView which notifies its listener MainController which performs the file system operations.

This solution is even less maintainable when we nest components into components into components...

2 - Still one controller, but the main view now owns its nested views AND the controller

MainView has a reference to MainController and SecondaryView.

When SecondaryViewButton is clicked, SecondaryView notifies its listener MainView which directly calls performOperation() method on MainController.

This solution seems slightly better but it wouldn't work if the clicked button is nested several levels deep. Plus I suspect having a view reference BOTH controllers and other views is not a good idea?

3 - Multiple controllers, and each view has a reference to its controller

This solution seems better, but now all the controllers have to be able to access the file system (which is a common operation in this application) instead of a unique entry point when we just had MainController. I'm not sure whether this would be a good idea in the long run.

The real problem however is I don't have a clear understanding of how to nest components in a MVC architecture? Should I nest the views together and each view reference its own controller?

How would you solve the component nesting problem while maintaining a clean architecture?


The controller is in charge of handling the user input and commands. In the original MVC there was one controller for many views and generally for one model (if needed there could be several models).

Considering the architecture of modern windowing systems, the easiest way to implement this is to use approach 3 with a controller component per view, but also the federating controler component for the common part. All these components together form “the” controller that handled “the” user’s desires.

So, if your common action really belongs to the controller and not to the model, go on with 3 and just create the missing federating controller and move your repetitive handling there.

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