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Posted 21 Apr 2008

Typed DataSet LINQ Entities

, 21 Apr 2008 CPOL
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Converting a Typed DataSet to and from LINQ entities.


On a previous post on my blog, I discussed about how LINQ entities do not fit the world of applications that do not have a constant access to the data source. I concluded that if there was a way to connect LINQ wntities and Typed DataSets, then the domain of Web applications and N-Tier applications could be supported by the same Business Object Model and a Data Access Layer over LINQ.

Assumptions - Prerequisites

Entity and Data Table Naming

Before I continue, there is a basic assumption that must be kept in mind. The Business Object Model and the Typed Dataset must be constructed by their respective designers in Visual Studio, by dragging the tables into each designer. The main reason is that the converter I have developed assumes that the corresponding entities in LINQ and tables in the DataSet have the same name.

Relations and Foreign Key Constraints

Every relation between entities must have the same name as that between the tables in the DataSet. The above are automatically (great coincidence) kept, just by using the designer.

Circular relations and all combinations have not been tested, so I do not know whether my code supports them.

Database Construction from LINQ

If you wish to construct the database schema from the LINQ designer, then just do so, but before creating the Typed DataSet, the database must be created. To do this, just call:

LinqTestDataContext ltdc = new LinqTestDataContext(connectionString); 
if (!ltdc.DatabaseExists()) 

where LinqTestDataContext is the DataContext the designer has created.

Column Prerequisite

Each entity must have a version property. This is because:


only works if there is such a property.

The Database Schema Used for Testing

The LINQ schema is named LinqTest and its DataSet representation, DsLinqTest.

As seen in the picture below, there is a RootElement with a unique key ID, a version property TimeStamp, and two string properties.

RootElement has a child relation of SubRootElement entities which also have a unique key ID, a version property TimeStamp, a string property and a RootID foreign key pointing to the RootElement it belongs to.

The relation name is the same, even thought it is not showing on the above image.

Each of the Business Objects are in a separate assembly.


This is the name of the assembly that does the conversion between a LINQ Business Object and a Typed DataSet, assuming that the above prerequisites are met. The assembly uses Reflection and Generics heavily, so an understanding of those must be at least good. Keep in mind that since the DataSet is typed, every type in the DataSet is specifically named so it can be used to discover the entities it relates to.


Is the part where the entities are used to fill the appropriate tables in the DataSet. The entry point is the Entity2DataSet class, where TEntity is the entity type and TDataSet is the DataSet type. In our case, RootElement and DsLinqTest, respectively.

Basically, the Entity2DataSet class discovers the table that corresponds to the entity, and then calls the Entity2DataRow class which, in addition, takes the DataTable type discovered.

There are some helping functions that, through Reflection, fill the row from the entity, and also find the child relations of the entity if there are any. If that is true, the Entity2DataSet class is called again, but this time, TEntity should be SubRootElement, in our case.

This side of the conversion is fairly easy.


This case deals with converting a whole DataSet to its entity. The entry class is DataSet2Entity where TDataContext is the type of our DataContext and TDataSet the type of the source Dataset. In our case, LinqTestBigDataContext and DsLinqTest, respectively.

The first thing that DataSet2Entity does is to find the tables that have no parent relations. For each of these tables, DataTable2Entity is used where, in addition, TDataTable and TDataRow are the types of the table and its rows.

DataTable2Entity discovers the entity type that must be created for each row it has, and does so by using DataRow2Entity which is supplied with the knowledge of whether it is a child row or not. This is crucial because if it is a child row, it must be added to the related EntitySet of its parent entity instead of the entity Table in the data context.

The trick here is to know whether the original row is added, modified, deleted, or unchanged, which is the easy part through RowState. The hard part is what to do with it.


This case is easy. Just construct the entity and add it the table or the entity set and call InsertOnSubmit.

Modified or Unmodified

Here starts the problems. First, we must acquire the entity itself to which we will apply the values. Accordingly to if the row is a child or not, a predicate function or expression must be constructed. This part is the most difficult.

If the row is unmodified, then there will be no applying of values.


Like in Modified, the entity must be retrieved from the entity table of the data context in order to call DeleteOnSubmit.

Keeping Track of the Changes

When a row is inserted or modified, various column values need to be updated by the auto generated ones from the database. So in every entity the PropertyChanged is captured. There, with the help of a dictionary, the new values are applied to the original rows. This happens after the SubmitChanges of the data context is used.

The rest of the DataRow2Entity finds the child rows of the row for each data relation, and calls another generic version of itself.

Creating Predicate Functions and Expressions

This was the hardest part, and still there are some points that I can't understand.

When trying to acquire an entity from the table entity of the data context, a simple delegate function suffices. After many attempts, I managed to make the creation entirely dynamic based on the primary keys of the entity.

This is done by these two functions:

private System.Func<TEntity, bool> CreatePredicateFunction(TDataRow row) 
    return p => (IsEqual(p, row)); 
private bool IsEqual(TEntity entity, TDataRow row) 
    for (int i = 0; i < Cache.EntityPrimaryKeys<TEntity>.Names.Count; i++) 
        object columnValue = null; 
        if (row.RowState == DataRowState.Deleted) 
            columnValue = row[Cache.EntityPrimaryKeys<TEntity>.Names[i], 
            columnValue = row[Cache.EntityPrimaryKeys<TEntity>.Names[i]]; 
        if ((bool)Cache.EntityPrimaryKeys<TEntity>.EqualMethods[i].Invoke(
            entity, null), new object[] { columnValue }) == false) 
            return false; 
    return true; 

Happy as I was that I will be able to cast the above to an Expression<System.Func<TEntity, bool>>, I found out that at runtime, an exception is thrown telling me that IsEqual cannot be converted or something.

I assume the Expression is something far more complicated than a delegate. So, in order for this to work, a CreatePredicateExpression must by supplied in every DataRow of our DataSet. I did like this:

public static class DsLinqTestPredicators 
    public static Expression<System.Func<RootElement, 
           bool>> CreatePredicateExpression(DsLinqTest.RootElementRow row)
        int idValue = row.RowState == System.Data.DataRowState.Deleted ? (int)row["ID",
                      System.Data.DataRowVersion.Original] : row.ID;
        return (Expression<System.Func<RootElement, bool>>)(p => p.ID.Equals(idValue)); 
    public static Expression<System.Func<SubRootElement, 
           bool>> CreatePredicateExpression(DsLinqTest.SubRootElementRow row) 
        int idValue = row.RowState == System.Data.DataRowState.Deleted ? (int)row["ID",
                      System.Data.DataRowVersion.Original] : row.ID; 
        return (Expression<System.Func<SubRootElement, bool>>)(p => p.ID.Equals(idValue)); 

Final Words for the Converter

Extension methods are heavily used to help make the conversion as programmatically transparent as possible.

Using the Code


public static classDsLinqTestExtenders{
    public static voidInsert(thisDsLinqTest extented, objectentity)
    public static voidInsert(thisDsLinqTest extented, object[] entities)
    public static voidToEntities(thisDsLinqTest extented, DataContext dataContext)


public DsLinqTest GetDsFromID(int id) 
    LinqTestDataContext ltdc = new LinqTestDataContext(connectionString);
    RootElement re = ltdc.RootElements.Single(p => p.ID.Equals(id)); 
    DsLinqTest ds = new DsLinqTest(); 
    return ds;


public void SaveGeneralDs(DsLinqTest dsLinqTest) 
    LinqTestDataContext ltdc = new LinqTestDataContext(connectionString); 


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


About the Author

Greece Greece
I live in Athens Greece and currently I am working with Business scale application with .NET latest technologies

I've been developing applications for personal and friends usage with C++ using majorly Borland's various IDEs since 1994.
In 2002 I began working for an R&D institute where I was introduced to C# which I worships ever since.

I love core application development and I would like to publish more articles here and on my blog, but there is not enough time to do so.

I usualy "waste" my spare time watching sitcoms, preferable SCI-FI.
I would like to play chess but I can't find any real world players to hang out with.

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