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Nested GridView controls in ASP.NET: best practices

, 30 Oct 2011 CPOL
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ASP.NET GridView control hosting another GridView in data-centric web applications

General solution

Nesting GridView controls in ASP.NET were described in that almost “canonical” Microsoft walkthrough [1]. In general, it requires creating of two GridView controls: the first one serving as a container or master GridView1 with its own DataSource1 (SqlDataSource, AccessDataSource, etc.) and second "nested" GridView2 with its underlying DataSource2 residing within a TemplateField in master GridView1.
Code snippet [1] inside the GridView1 RowDataBound event procedure (GridView1_RowDataBound) serves the task of passing a "foreign key" value from GridView1 to DataSource2. In the particular example provided in [1], the “foreign key” stored in first cell of GridView1 (e.Row.Cells[0].Text) is passed to DefaultValue property of only one SelectParameter (SelectParameters[0]) of SqlDataSource2:

Listing 1. Original solution on MSDN w/hardcoded Cells index

protected void GridView1_RowDataBound(object sender, GridViewRowEventArgs e){
  if (e.Row.RowType == DataControlRowType.DataRow)
    SqlDataSource s = (SqlDataSource)e.Row.FindControl("SqlDataSource2");
    s.SelectParameters[0].DefaultValue = e.Row.Cells[0].Text;
This should work in all practical versions of ASP.NET (2.0/3.5/4.0). However, the potential drawback of this solution rises from the fact that the foreign key value (for example, ID) could be omitted from visible fields set of GridView1 control. Also, even in case this foreign key field is presented in GridView1, then there is potential inconvenience of hard-coded Cell index of 0; generally, it can be not the first one in the field set and, also, its index could change dynamically during the data table editing operations or as a result of dynamically re-arranging table columns order.

Better solution

Better solution shown in the following Listing 2 effectively resolves all of those potential issues described above by using named DataKeys in GridView1 control to be used as a "foreign keys" for second DataSource. In this particular example, DataKey Composer” is added to DataKeys in GridView1 control (requires the line DataKeyNames="Composer") to be passed to corresponding select parameter s.SelectParameters[0].DefaultValue of second DataSource named “dsMusic”.

Listing 2. Improved version using DataKeys

protected void GridView1_RowDataBound(object sender, GridViewRowEventArgs e) {
  if (e.Row.RowType == DataControlRowType.DataRow)
     // find DataSource used for nested GridView (could be SqlDataSource)
     AccessDataSource s = (AccessDataSource)e.Row.FindControl("dsMusic");
     // assign parameter’s default value from the DataKeys in GridView1
     s.SelectParameters[0].DefaultValue = Convert.ToString(((GridView)sender).DataKeys[e.Row.RowIndex].Values["Composer"]);
Note: Listing 2 demonstrates the use of ASP.NET AccessDataSource, but the concept/usage is pretty much identical to SqlDataSource.

Sample Demo

Online Music Library with attached YouTube player [2-4] is implemented using the nested GridView techniques described above: click the image below to see the working demo:
Music Library implemented as nested GridView controls

Performance Improvement

Significant performance improvement could be achieved by enabling caching for nested DataSources and using FilterParameters instead of SelectParameters. To do so:
  1. Set the nested DataSource attributes; FilterExpression="Composer ='{0}'" EnableCaching="True"
  2. Modify the event procedure in Listing 2 by replacing the line assigning SelectParameters with the following one:
    // assign filter parameter default value from the datakey
    s.FilterParameters[0].DefaultValue = Convert.ToString(((GridView)sender).DataKeys[e.Row.RowIndex].Values["Composer"]);
... and voila (that's it!)


  1. Walkthrough: Creating a Nested GridView Control[^]
  2. Music Library implemented as nested GridView controls [^]
  3. YouTube™ API for ASP.NET[^]
  4. YouTube™ Embedded Video Player: Extended API (C#)[^]


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


About the Author

President Infosoft International Inc
United States United States
Dr. A. Bell has 20+ years of Software and Electrical Engineering experience: Win/Web veteran, published 300+ articles and authored 37 inventions, credited for 10+ Enterprise level projects (>250k code lines); currently focused on .NET/WPF, C#, HTML5, jQuery, SQL, 'Big Data', AI, Speech Tech and Mobile apps. He participated in App Innovation Contest (AIC 2102/2013) with several winning submissions. Sample projects/pubs follow:
  1. Edumatter M12: School Math Calculators and Equation Solvers (contest winner)
  2. Engineering Calculator VOLTA-2013 (contest winner)
  3. WebTV Project: Embedded YouTube Player (Goog #1 YouTube API for ASP.NET)
  4. Online 3 Fractions Calculator (#1 on Goog)
  5. Top-100 Digital Cameras (powered by iMark-DCAM rating engine)
  6. Engineering Calculator VOLTA-814 for Windows
  7. Pericles™ TTS-14 Text-to-Speech Synthesizer (Win)
  8. Semaphon™ SP-300 semantic phone number converter (Win)
  9. PaydayNY-2015 Payroll Tax Calculator (Win)
  10. 'Find Job Agency' Online Interactive Map (Microsoft Bing technology)
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Comments and Discussions

Questionnot full Pinmembertinhdamsugia10-May-13 6:27 
AnswerRe: not full PinmemberDrABELL10-May-13 7:46 
Sorry, I did not quite understand you: what is "not full" as you've stated? Thanks and regards, AB
Generalthis example is so useful for me! vote = 5 star! Pinmembertahared6661-Nov-11 16:06 
GeneralRe: Many Thanks for your note/vote. PinmemberDrABELL18-Jan-12 8:37 
Generalthe solution you propose is nice. however you can solve all ... PinmemberHalfHuman21-Sep-11 6:13 
GeneralReason for my vote of 5 Another well written and very helpfu... PinmemberBrianBissell20-Sep-11 4:03 
GeneralRe: You're very welcome! Best regards - Alex PinmemberDrABELL20-Sep-11 4:28 
GeneralReason for my vote of 5 Good example PinmemberWonde Tadesse31-Jul-11 15:43 
GeneralRe: Thanks! PinmemberDrABELL31-Jul-11 16:55 

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