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Ordered ListBox

, 29 Jul 2002 CPOL
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A ListBox derived class that supports internal ordering and re-ordering of items


The OrdListBox is a class derived from System.Windows.Forms.ListBox and was written by me when I was working on a project where I had this requirement of having ordered items in a list box. The issue was that there might be multiple copies of the same item in the list box and I had no way to differentiate among these duplicate items. The duplicate items would obviously be textual abstractions of distinct underlying objects. MFC had CListBox::SetItemData which allowed us to associate a 32 bit value with an item in the list box. I assumed rather enthusiastically that there would be something analogous to that in the .NET ListBox class. It was with an intense annoyance that I realized that I couldn't find anything to do the job. Of course for all I know there might be some hidden feature somewhere which I had overlooked and missed. But anyway I had to write my own class to achieve what I wanted to. I was a little stuck when Shog9 brilliantly helped me out with a beautiful but simple suggestion that I totally missed out on.


The class basically allows you to associate strings with each list box item. Now when you add an item to the string using the new method added to the derived class, this order string will be used to determine the position where this new item would be inserted at. The order string can be either numeric or non-numeric. If the order string is numeric then 6 comes before 12, but if the order string is non-numeric you must watch out, because 6 is now greater than 12 on account of it's position in the character set.

Sample Usage


/* Create a new OrdListBox with numeric order */
OrdListBox listBox1 = new OrdListBox(true);


/* You must use this method to add items to the 
 list box. Because if you use ListBox methods
 to add items, the class will obviously fail!  */


/* You can call ListBox methods too */


/* GetItemOrder can be used to return the order */


Function Reference


Initializes a new instance of the OrdListBox class.

public OrdListBox( bool bNum );

  • bNum - Set this to true to make the ordering numeric and to false to make the ordering non-numeric.


This will add a new ordered item to the ordered  list box, and it will insert the new item at the correct position within the list box, that will maintain the order of the items in the list box, after the new item has been added to it.

public void AddOrderedItem(string ItemText, string ItemOrder);

  • ItemText - This is the text of the item to be added to the ordered list box.
  • ItemOrder - This is the order string that will specify the order value of the item to be added.


This method will return the order value of an item in a list box given the index of the item within the list box.

public string GetItemOrder(int index)

  • index - This is the index of the required item within the list box.

Return Value

The method will return a string that represents the order value of the specified list box item.

Code Listing

public class OrdListBox : System.Windows.Forms.ListBox

    public OrdListBox(bool bNum)
        bNumeric = bNum;
        Sorted = false; //required

    public void AddOrderedItem(string ItemText, string ItemOrder)
        ItemData data = new ItemData(ItemText,ItemOrder);
        int c = Items.Count;    

        /* Loop through list box and locate 
         point of insertion */
        for (int i = 0; i < Items.Count; i++)
            if (data.IsLess((ItemData)Items[i],bNumeric))
                //Found! Now insert
        if( c == Items.Count)
            //Missed out, so insert at end.

    public string GetItemOrder(int index)
        if(index < 0 || index >= Items.Count)
            return null;
            return ((ItemData)Items[index]).ItemOrder;

    private bool bNumeric = false;

    /* Inner class which defines the object that 
     we insert as a list box item */
    class ItemData
        public ItemData(string str1, string str2)
        private string m_ItemText;
        private string m_ItemOrder;

        /* Required for list box display purposes */
        public override string ToString()
            return m_ItemText;

          This method figures out whether the instance object
          is less than the given object. It does this in two 
          different ways depending on whether the order
          has been set to numeric or non-numeric
        public bool IsLess(ItemData d, bool bNum)
                int i1 = Convert.ToInt32(m_ItemOrder);
                int i2 = Convert.ToInt32(d.m_ItemOrder);
                return ( i1 < i2 );
                return ( m_ItemOrder.CompareTo(d.m_ItemOrder) < 0 );

        public string ItemOrder
                return m_ItemOrder;


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Nish Nishant

United States United States
Nish is a real nice guy who has been writing code since 1990 when he first got his hands on an 8088 with 640 KB RAM. Originally from sunny Trivandrum in India, he has been living in various places over the past few years and often thinks it’s time he settled down somewhere.
Nish has been a Microsoft Visual C++ MVP since October, 2002 - awfully nice of Microsoft, he thinks. He maintains an MVP tips and tricks web site - where you can find a consolidated list of his articles, writings and ideas on VC++, MFC, .NET and C++/CLI. Oh, and you might want to check out his blog on C++/CLI, MFC, .NET and a lot of other stuff -
Nish loves reading Science Fiction, P G Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, and also fancies himself to be a decent writer of sorts. He has authored a romantic comedy Summer Love and Some more Cricket as well as a programming book – Extending MFC applications with the .NET Framework.
Nish's latest book C++/CLI in Action published by Manning Publications is now available for purchase. You can read more about the book on his blog.
Despite his wife's attempts to get him into cooking, his best effort so far has been a badly done omelette. Some day, he hopes to be a good cook, and to cook a tasty dinner for his wife.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmvpKanasz Robert27-Sep-12 12:05 
Generalallow user to enter other item Pinmemberburgekurt21-Aug-04 6:12 
GeneralStill has the same problem as mine... PinmembertheRealCondor24-Oct-02 9:50 
Eek! | :eek:
We had a project where we had to do sorted listboxes as well.
Our first approach was inline code which was initiated by clicking the 'Add' button. I later looked into building a sorted listbox and ended up with similar code. In doing so, I built an overloaded method AddSorted to the control which has the same parameters as Items.Add.....namely
AddSorted(System.Web.UI.WebControls.ListboxItem Item){}
AddSorted(string Item){}
My control, however, suffered the same weakness yours does: the method for adding items still exists. The re-order function is a workaround, but I continued to seek out alternatives. To do a "proper" implementation, I would add a property Sorted which is a boolean that has a default of False. Then "all I had to do" was override the Items.Add method and have my code locate the position for the add if Sorted=true, or let base.Add execute asis if Sorted=false. But I struggled with the biggest block MS created in the design of the default controls:
Add is a method of System.Web.UI.WebControls.ListItemCollection which is a collection of ListItem's. It would be best to be able to do :
public void SortedListItemCollection : ListItemCollection
public void Add(ListItem item)
if (bmSortedProperty == true)
Then overload Item with SortedListItemCollection. Unfortunately, both the ListItem and ListItemControl are marked NOTINHERITABLE!!!!! Have you done any figuring yet to determine a way to 'fully' integrate the sorted listbox into the control at all?
Still stumped in my custom control

GeneralJust some little things... PinsussAnonymous31-Jul-02 0:19 
GeneralRe: Just some little things... PineditorNishant S31-Jul-02 0:42 
GeneralRe: Just some little things... PinsussAnonymous26-Jan-03 9:42 
QuestionAre you god? PinmemberStefan Spenz30-Jul-02 5:19 
AnswerRe: Are you god? PineditorNishant S30-Jul-02 5:25 
AnswerRe: Are you god? PineditorNishant S30-Jul-02 5:39 
AnswerRe: Are you god? PinmemberTweety30-Jul-02 5:59 
GeneralRe: Are you god? PineditorNishant S30-Jul-02 6:00 
GeneralRe: Are you god? PinmemberTweety30-Jul-02 6:12 
GeneralRe: Are you god? PineditorNishant S30-Jul-02 6:13 
GeneralRe: Are you god? PinmemberShog930-Jul-02 12:23 

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