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Implementing a Sortable BindingList Very, Very Quickly

, 1 Dec 2008 CPOL
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A custom implementation of BindingList that provides sorting for every property of type T.

SortableBindingList

Introduction

Implementing parent-child hierarchies (for example, a Sale object and the SaleDetails associated with it) is one of the most common scenarios encountered when modeling the entities in a business domain. If you implement the business objects using classes, a collection of child objects will typically be stored in a List<T>. However, List<T>, will prove anemic should you require a rich user interface built on top of the .NET framework's support for data binding.

The typical solution will be to wrap the List<T> in a BindingSource in order to take advantage of its design time support for data binding. That road will only take you so far as a critical feature will be absent - support for sorting.

This article will seek to remedy that by providing a custom implementation of a BindingList<T> that will automatically provide the methods required to provide sorting capability on every property defined in type T.

Implementation Objectives

  • Support sorting on all properties by instantiating an instance of the custom implementation of the BindingList<T>. E.g., write:
  • MySortableBindingList<SaleDetails>sortableSaleDetails = 
                          new MySortableBindingList<SaleDetail>();

    and get the sorting functionality.

Motivating Example

To illustrate this approach, we shall model two classes, Sale and SaleDetail, as follows:

public class Sale {

    public Sale() {
        SaleDate = DateTime.Now;
    }

    public MySortableBindingList<SaleDetail> SaleDetails { get; set; }
    public string Salesman { get; set; }
    public string Client { get; set; }
    public DateTime SaleDate { get; set; }

    public decimal TotalAmount {
        get {
            Debug.Assert(SaleDetails != null);
            return SaleDetails.Sum(a => a.TotalAmount);
        }
    }
}

public class SaleDetail {

    public string Product { get; set; }
    public int Quantity { get; set; }
    public decimal UnitPrice { get; set; }

    public decimal TotalAmount {
        get {
            return UnitPrice * Quantity;
        }
    }
}

The above classes are just simple enough to illustrate the main concepts behind the article, as validation, persistence, error handling etc., are beyond the scope of the article.

Subclassing BindingList<T>

First, the code:

public class MySortableBindingList<T> : BindingList<T> {

    // reference to the list provided at the time of instantiation
    List<T> originalList;
    ListSortDirection sortDirection;
    PropertyDescriptor sortProperty;

    // function that refereshes the contents
    // of the base classes collection of elements
    Action<MySortableBindingList<T>, List<T>> 
                   populateBaseList = (a, b) => a.ResetItems(b);

    // a cache of functions that perform the sorting
    // for a given type, property, and sort direction
    static Dictionary<string, Func<List<T>, IEnumerable<T>>> 
       cachedOrderByExpressions = new Dictionary<string, Func<List<T>, 
                                                 IEnumerable<T>>>();

    public MySortableBindingList() {
        originalList = new List<T>();
    }

    public MySortableBindingList(IEnumerable<T> enumerable) {
        originalList = enumerable.ToList();
        populateBaseList(this, originalList);
    }

    public MySortableBindingList(List<T> list) {
        originalList = list;
        populateBaseList(this, originalList);
    }

    protected override void ApplySortCore(PropertyDescriptor prop, 
                            ListSortDirection direction) {
        /*
         Look for an appropriate sort method in the cache if not found .
         Call CreateOrderByMethod to create one. 
         Apply it to the original list.
         Notify any bound controls that the sort has been applied.
         */

        sortProperty = prop;

        var orderByMethodName = sortDirection == 
            ListSortDirection.Ascending ? "OrderBy" : "OrderByDescending";
        var cacheKey = typeof(T).GUID + prop.Name + orderByMethodName;

        if (!cachedOrderByExpressions.ContainsKey(cacheKey)) {
            CreateOrderByMethod(prop, orderByMethodName, cacheKey);
        }

        ResetItems(cachedOrderByExpressions[cacheKey](originalList).ToList());
        ResetBindings();
        sortDirection = sortDirection == ListSortDirection.Ascending ? 
                        ListSortDirection.Descending : ListSortDirection.Ascending;
    }


    private void CreateOrderByMethod(PropertyDescriptor prop, 
                 string orderByMethodName, string cacheKey) {

        /*
         Create a generic method implementation for IEnumerable<T>.
         Cache it.
        */

        var sourceParameter = Expression.Parameter(typeof(List<T>), "source");
        var lambdaParameter = Expression.Parameter(typeof(T), "lambdaParameter");
        var accesedMember = typeof(T).GetProperty(prop.Name);
        var propertySelectorLambda =
            Expression.Lambda(Expression.MakeMemberAccess(lambdaParameter, 
                              accesedMember), lambdaParameter);
        var orderByMethod = typeof(Enumerable).GetMethods()
                                      .Where(a => a.Name == orderByMethodName &&
                                                   a.GetParameters().Length == 2)
                                      .Single()
                                      .MakeGenericMethod(typeof(T), prop.PropertyType);

        var orderByExpression = Expression.Lambda<Func<List<T>, IEnumerable<T>>>(
                                    Expression.Call(orderByMethod,
                                            new Expression[] { sourceParameter, 
                                                               propertySelectorLambda }),
                                            sourceParameter);

        cachedOrderByExpressions.Add(cacheKey, orderByExpression.Compile());
    }

    protected override void RemoveSortCore() {
        ResetItems(originalList);
    }

    private void ResetItems(List<T> items) {

        base.ClearItems();

        for (int i = 0; i < items.Count; i++) {
            base.InsertItem(i, items[i]);
        }
    }

    protected override bool SupportsSortingCore {
        get {
            // indeed we do
            return true;
        }
    }

    protected override ListSortDirection SortDirectionCore {
        get {
            return sortDirection;
        }
    }

    protected override PropertyDescriptor SortPropertyCore {
        get {
            return sortProperty;
        }
    }

    protected override void OnListChanged(ListChangedEventArgs e) {
        originalList = base.Items.ToList();
    }
}

In a Nutshell

If, for instance, you create a MySortableBindingList<Sale> and sort on the Customer property, an expression that conceptually looks something like Enumerable.OrderBy<Sale>(originalList, a => a.Customer) will be created and used to do the sorting.

The code to create the sample data and set up the data binding:

public void OnLoad(object source, EventArgs e) {

    var sales = new[] {
        new Sale(){

            Client = "Jahmani Mwaura",
            SaleDate = new DateTime(2008,1,1),
            Salesman = "Gachie",

            SaleDetails = new MySortableBindingList<SaleDetail>(){

                new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Sportsman",
                    Quantity = 1,
                    UnitPrice = 80
                },

                 new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Tusker Malt",
                    Quantity = 2,
                    UnitPrice = 100
                },

                new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Alvaro",
                    Quantity = 1,
                    UnitPrice = 50
                }
            }
        },

        new Sale(){

            Client = "Ben Kones",
            SaleDate = new DateTime(2008,1,1),
            Salesman = "Danny",

            SaleDetails = new MySortableBindingList<SaleDetail>(){

                new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Embassy Kings",
                    Quantity = 1,
                    UnitPrice = 80
                },

                 new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Tusker",
                    Quantity = 5,
                    UnitPrice = 100
                },

                new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Novida",
                    Quantity = 3,
                    UnitPrice = 50
                }
            }
        },

        new Sale(){

            Client = "Tim Kim",
            SaleDate = new DateTime(2008,1,1),
            Salesman = "Kiplagat",

            SaleDetails = new MySortableBindingList<SaleDetail>(){

                new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Citizen Special",
                    Quantity = 10,
                    UnitPrice = 30

                },

                new SaleDetail(){
                    Product = "Burn",
                    Quantity = 2,
                    UnitPrice = 100
                }
            }
        }
    };

    saleBindingSource.DataSource = new MySortableBindingList<Sale>(sales);
}

Seeing it at work

You can download the samples at the top of the page and see it at work for yourself. I hope you enjoy.

Cheers!

History

  • December 2, 2008: Article posted.

License

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

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About the Author

Muigai Mwaura
Technical Lead Olivine Technology
Kenya Kenya
Technical Lead, Olivine Technology - Nairobi, Kenya.
 
"The bane of productivity: confusing the rituals of work (sitting at your desk by 8:00am, wearing a clean and well pressed business costume etc.) with actual work that produces results."
 
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Comments and Discussions

 
SuggestionSpeeding up loading and sorting... PinmemberOICU81213-Apr-12 6:38 
GeneralRe: Speeding up loading and sorting... PinmemberJahmani19-Jun-12 8:49 

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