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WPF TreeListView Control

, 23 Aug 2012 Apache
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This article describes the usage of custom WPF TreeListView control comparing with basic TreeView


This articles explores the problems of standard WPF TreeView controls and describes a better way to display hierarchical data using a custom TreeListView control.

Background of TreeView

Windows Forms TreeView has quite a limited functionality and provides no easy way to extend it. WPF TreeView seems like a major step forward, at first glance. But in real application the lack of features like multiselection or multicolumn view become apparent. Moreover, things that were quite easy to do in Windows Forms are now much more complex in WPF because there's no simple way to get the container item for your business object displayed in the TreeView. For example, if you need to expand the currently selected node you have to use ItemContainerGenerator as described here or use a special model just to support selection/expanding (see here).

Another weakness of the WPF TreeView is poor performance. It takes more the 10 seconds to expand a node containing 5000 subnodes! Even navigation becomes very slow — more than a second to just move a focus.


But there is an alternative way to display hierarchical data — use the ListView. The basic idea is the following:

  • For each tree node we create a row in the ListView.

  • The ListViewItem template contains a special control named RowExpander which allows you to expand/collapse a node and any number of additional controls to represent the data. Those controls are shifted to the right depending on the Node level.

  • When the TreeNode is expanded/collapsed we need to add/remove rows to/from the ListView

Using this approach we get all the benefits from ListView: multiselection, a possibility to display several columns, performance improvements comparing to TreeView, less memory usage because of virtualization support (it means that visual elements will be created only for the items currently displayed on the screen).


WPF TreeView is supposed to be used with HierarchicalDataTemplate where you specify a property containing child items. It's quite simple, but requires you to provide such a property in your business objects, which means that you can't display the hierarchy of simple types, like String, in the TreeView. Additionally, I prefer to use another approach — use a special interface which describes hierarchical data:

public interface ITreeModel
    /// Get list of children of the specified parent
    IEnumerable GetChildren(object parent);

    /// returns weather specified parent has any children or not.
    bool HasChildren(object parent);

The HasChildren method is used to display/hide the expander control without calling GetChildren, which can be time expensive. Note that items are loaded on demand in TreeListView, which means the GetChildren method will be called only when the corresponding parent node expands.

Realization Details

We create subclasses of ListView and ListviewItem:

public class TreeList: ListView
    /// Internal collection of rows representing visible nodes, actually displayed
    /// in the ListView
    internal ObservableCollectionAdv Rows
        private set;

    protected override DependencyObject GetContainerForItemOverride()
        return new TreeListItem();

    protected override bool IsItemItsOwnContainerOverride(object item)
        return item is TreeListItem;

When the Aaren node is collapsed/expanded we need to insert/remove all child nodes and notify ListView about that. As the system class ObservableCollection doesn't provide methods for that we need to create our own collection class:

public class ObservableCollectionAdv : ObservableCollection
    public void RemoveRange(int index, int count)
        var items = this.Items as List;
        items.RemoveRange(index, count);

    public void InsertRange(int index, IEnumerable collection)
        var items = this.Items as List;
        items.InsertRange(index, collection);

For every item created by the model we create a TreeNode class which will store node status (IsSelected, IsExpanded) and track changes in the model if it provides such information:

void ChildrenChanged(object sender, NotifyCollectionChangedEventArgs e)
    switch (e.Action)
    case NotifyCollectionChangedAction.Add:
        if (e.NewItems != null)
            int index = e.NewStartingIndex;
            int rowIndex = Tree.Rows.IndexOf(this);
            foreach (object obj in e.NewItems)
                Tree.InsertNewNode(this, obj, rowIndex, index);

    case NotifyCollectionChangedAction.Remove:
        if (Children.Count > e.OldStartingIndex)

    case NotifyCollectionChangedAction.Move:
    case NotifyCollectionChangedAction.Replace:
    case NotifyCollectionChangedAction.Reset:
        while (Children.Count > 0)
    HasChildren = Children.Count > 0;

Using the Code

The source code of the article contains two examples using TreeListView. One uses a classic TreeView style and the other displays how to interact with the TreeListView. The other shows how several columns can be used to display system registry.

Points of Interest

In the current implementation of the TreeListView you have to keep the XAML markup of the TreeListItem in the client library. Which means that you have to copy it to each project using the control. Normally this information should be stored in the same library as the control itself, but it just didn't work this way. If somebody finds the way how to achieve this, don't hesitate to share it.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Apache License, Version 2.0


About the Author

Andrey Gliznetsov
Software Developer
Russian Federation Russian Federation
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

QuestionBinding to IsExpanded Property PinmemberMember 803563420-Feb-15 1:03 
QuestionHow to modify value of GridViewColumn PinmemberRafał Niewiński23-Jan-15 10:47 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberivailo b18-Dec-14 13:14 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberamitthk27-Oct-14 21:47 
QuestionSorting capability -> Is there a way to add sorting capability to tree view columns? PinmemberMember 797920026-Sep-14 8:42 
QuestionA way to scroll CurrentItem into View? Pinmemberv0id2416-Sep-14 7:29 
QuestionIs it possible to place data in the non-leaf rows? PinmemberRamonFHerrera13-Jun-14 14:08 
QuestionFiltering Pinmemberlooney_ops13-Mar-14 1:33 
AnswerRe: Filtering PinmemberMember 797920026-Sep-14 8:43 
Questionhow to Bind to SelectedNode Name property Pinmembershakti saxena10-Mar-14 11:03 
QuestionBind IsSelected and IsExpanded properties to viewmodel PinmemberGeorgios Petrou22-Apr-13 9:38 
AnswerRe: Bind IsSelected and IsExpanded properties to viewmodel Pinmemberzeno.deluca2-Dec-13 3:29 
GeneralExcellent, very useful, my vote of 5! PinmemberBGW21-Mar-13 0:38 
GeneralMy vote of 1 Pinmembertbayart5-Mar-13 23:52 
QuestionRight click and double click PinmemberBrad Yinger1-Feb-13 10:46 
QuestionHow to get the parent of a selected node. Pinmembergnirujan3-Dec-12 20:50 
AnswerRe: How to get the parent of a selected node. PinmemberVadim Tafrov7-Dec-12 14:04 
BugMEMORY LEAK question PinmemberTafroman13-Sep-12 12:38 
Question+5 very interesting, Andrey PinmemberBillWoodruff23-Aug-12 20:52 
Questioncontacting the author PinmemberBarbara Evans22-Aug-12 6:24 
QuestionI would like to talk to you about licensing your software PinmemberBarbara Evans16-Aug-12 5:31 
GeneralAlternative project: TreeViewEx PinmemberName taken31-Jul-12 5:33 
GeneralRe: Alternative project: TreeViewEx PinmemberBillWoodruff23-Aug-12 20:59 
GeneralRe: Alternative project: TreeViewEx PinmemberName taken23-Aug-12 21:03 
BugFocus issues with clicking the expander PinmemberName taken23-Jul-12 23:18 
BugBug with inconsistent expanding of nodes PinmemberName taken23-Jul-12 5:41 
QuestionTheming questions PinmemberName taken23-Jul-12 0:46 
QuestionModel should be DependencyProperty to enable binding. Pinmemberjalalx19-Jun-12 12:15 
AnswerRe: Model should be DependencyProperty to enable binding. PinmemberMichael Caron27-Jun-13 12:29 
GeneralRe: Model should be DependencyProperty to enable binding. PinmemberForrest Coward22-Dec-13 11:04 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberinf_hacker16-May-12 4:29 
QuestionVery nice! [modified] PinmemberGrantM18-Apr-12 10:40 
QuestionNIce :) PinmemberSaroj Kumar Sahu12-Apr-12 21:26 
QuestionNice :) PinmemberMember 866370412-Apr-12 21:09 
AnswerRe: Nice :) [modified] PinmemberGrantM19-Apr-12 11:12 
GeneralRe: Nice :) PinmemberMember 866370419-Apr-12 20:23 
QuestionMemory usage problem PinmemberMember 866370427-Mar-12 3:05 
QuestionBug fixes & little improvements [modified] Pinmemberchprogmer9-Dec-11 3:54 
QuestionBug Fix PinmemberNaidooy19-Jul-11 8:40 
GeneralBinding IsSelected Pinmemberfrank3312-May-11 1:15 
Generalmodification to use with DataGrid Pinmemberkantengri19-Feb-11 7:14 
GeneralRe: modification to use with DataGrid Pinmemberbravo220-Feb-11 1:15 
Generaledition enabled + Re: modification to use with DataGrid Pinmemberchprogmer12-Jan-12 7:22 
GeneralRe: edition enabled + Re: modification to use with DataGrid [modified] PinmemberTafroman21-Jun-12 3:47 
GeneralRe: edition enabled + Re: modification to use with DataGrid PinmemberMichael Caron27-Jun-13 12:43 
GeneralRe: modification to use with DataGrid PinmemberMember 866370421-Mar-12 20:07 
AnswerHaving troubles getting the columns to auto resize? [modified] Pinmemberub3rst4r8-Dec-10 15:45 
GeneralRe: Having troubles getting the columns to auto resize? [modified] Pinmemberidocs27-Sep-14 12:02 
QuestionHow Use DataTrigger in this control to make it work like a Standard ListView? I find it not work. Pinmemberrgqancy24-Nov-10 17:26 
AnswerRe: How Use DataTrigger in this control to make it work like a Standard ListView? I find it not work. Pinmemberrgqancy24-Nov-10 19:24 

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