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Posted 11 Aug 2008
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My First Data Application in Silverlight 2

, 20 Oct 2008
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A walkthrough of retrieving data from a database and consuming it in a Silverlight application.

Table of Contents


I started using Silverlight a few weeks ago, and it looks really amazing. Combining the presentation powers of WPF with the strong capabilities of C#, Silverlight looks very powerful. The main focus of this article will be to retrieve data from a database and consume it in a Silverlight application. If you are an ASP.NET developer and want to start exploring Silverlight, then perhaps this is the right place to start since we will also be looking at similarities between Silverlight and ASP.NET.

What We Will be Covering

We will be developing our first business application in Silverlight. Since almost every business application has something to do with data and databases, we will be looking at how data (from a database) can be displayed inside a Silverlight application. Taking the Northwind database as an example, we will be generating some LINQ classes, a WCF service for retrieving data, and finally, a ListBox and a DataGrid along with DataTemplates for data presentation. Our output will be a fairly simple master-detail UI with customers, their orders, and order details. Note that the source code of this article is written targeting Silverlight 2 RC1.

Running the Sample Application

A small tweak is needed to run the sample project. By default, there will be no startup project for the solution, so we must manually set DataApplication.Web as the startup project by bringing up the properties window of the solution.

Beware ASP.NET Programmers

If you are an ASP.NET programmer, it may be important for you to note that the C# code in the Silverlight project runs on the "client" and not on the server. Perhaps, you can think of it as JavaScript. Thus, the good thing with Silverlight is that you now have full control on the client side without knowing or writing any JavaScript (at least, I am not good at writing JavaScript).

Why WCF, Can't I Access the DB Directory?

Well, the simple reason is that since the C# code runs on the client, our server databases will not be accessible directly. Note that we do not have items like DataSet or DataSource in a Silverlight project. The namespace System.Data that contains our favorite classes is also absent. But, the good thing is that there are other alternatives too, e.g., a WCF Service. This article is going to demonstrate how to use a WCF service for data retrieval.

Let us Start

To start creating Silverlight applications using Visual Studio, we need to install Silverlight tools for Visual Studio that can be downloaded from here. After installing the add-on, two new project types, Silverlight Application and Silverlight Class Library, will be added. We will start by creating a new "Silverlight Application" project named DataApplication.

Creating a new Silverlight Project

Visual Studio will then ask how we want to deploy our Silverlight application; we are going to select "ASP.NET Web Application Project" in which we will create the LINQ classes and the WCF service.

Selecting an ASP.NET Web application project to host our silverlight page

If all things go correctly, we will be able to see two projects in our solution: DataApplication will be our client-side Silverlight project, while DataApplication.Web will be our ASP.NET server-side project.

Generating LINQ Classes

Our lightweight all-rounder Northwind (available from this link) is always one of the best databases to start with. Note that the MDF is also included in the sample project, and is connected via SQLExpress. To start generating LINQ data classes, we need to add a new LINQ Data Classes object in our ASP.NET application.

Adding a new LINQ Data Classes object

Now, using the Server Explorer, create a new data connection to the Northwind database (either using SQLExpress, or SQL Server if you have it), and then drag the tables Customer, Orders, and OrderDetails into the LINQ designer. One important thing is to allow serialization of our LINQ generated data classes since we will be transferring these objects to our Silverlight application. To achieve this, click on some empty space in the LINQ designer and change the property Serialization to UniDirectional using the Properties window.

LINQ Designer: Adding tables and enabling serialization

Creating a Silverlight WCF Service

Now, we are about to add a service to our server project for retrieving data. Before Silverlight 2 Beta 2, we needed some tweaks with the standard WCF service template to use in a Silverlight project, but fortunately, Beta 2 and newer versions give us the "Silverlight-Enabled WCF service" template that handles all things itself. We are going to add a new Silverlight-enabled WCF Service named DataService to our ASP.NET project.

Adding a new Silverlight-enabled WCF Service

We will write three methods in our service, one that returns all the customers, one that returns orders of a customer, and finally, one that returns order details of a particular order. Note that the methods must be marked with the attribute [OperationContract] (this attribute is similar to a [WebMethod] attribute for an ASMX service). Here is a quick implementation of the data retrieval methods using very basic LINQ. Add the following to the DataService.svc.cs file:

public List<Customer> GetCustomers()
    DataClasses1DataContext datacontext = new DataClasses1DataContext();
    return datacontext.Customers.ToList();

public List<Order> GetOrders(string customerID)
    DataClasses1DataContext datacontext = new DataClasses1DataContext();
    return (from order in datacontext.Orders
            where order.CustomerID == customerID
            select order).ToList();

public List<Order_Detail> GetOrderDetails(int orderID)
    DataClasses1DataContext datacontext = new DataClasses1DataContext();
    return (from orderdetail in datacontext.Order_Details
            where orderdetail.OrderID == orderID
            select orderdetail).ToList();

Adding a Service Reference to the Silverlight Project

That's all that was required on the server-side ASP.NET project. We have created LINQ data classes to get data from the database and a WCF service to return those LINQ objects. Now, we are ready to consume the service in our client-side Silverlight project. For this, we need to add a service reference in the DataApplication project. We can click Discover in the Add Service Reference popup to have Visual Studio automatically find the newly created WCF service for us.

Discovering our WCF service

Creating the UI

A Silverlight page/control consists of a layout XAML file and a code-behind xaml.cs file. Typically, similar to an ASP.NET page, the XAML file contains the layout definition (like a *.aspx file where we define our UI), while the xaml.cs file contains the logic and event handlers (like our aspx.cs file). Let us start by creating some basic layout for our application.

Adding the Assembly to Use a DataGrid Control

We will display our data using the DataGrid control, but Silverlight does not include a reference to the DataGrid control by default, so we need to add one. This process is very similar to using a custom control in ASP.NET. Recall that we add a reference to the appropriate DLL in the project and then add a register tag in the aspx page. To achieve this in Silverlight, add a new reference (right click on References and select New Reference) and locate System.Windows.Controls.Data in the list (this is the assembly that contains the DataGrid).

Referencing assembly for DataGrid control

After this reference is added, we need to assign a namespace to this assembly in our XAML markup. To do this, add the following to the namespace declaration of the file Page.Xaml.


The Visual Studio IDE assists us here as the following screenshot shows:

Adding assembly for DataGrid control to our page

UI Layout

Here's an outline of what to do: Create a Grid named LayoutRoot with three rows: the first one for our Application Title (width=50), the third one for a status bar (width=20), and the middle row acting as the main content holder (width=*, takes all the space that is left). Add a title TextBlock to the first row, and an empty TextBlock named txtStatus to the bottom row of the LayoutRoot grid. In the middle row (the one we identified as the content holder) of the LayoutRoot grid, add another Grid named ContentRoot with two columns and two rows; the left column with width 200 and the right column taking the rest. The rows should be divided in the ratio 60% and 40%. In the left column of this ContentRoot grid, add a ListBox that spans in both rows. In the right column, add a DataGrid for the customer orders in the first row and another DataGrid for the order details in the second row. Tired up with my crazy sentences, here's the XAMLified version for page.xaml:

<UserControl xmlns:basics="clr-namespace:System.Windows.Controls;





    Width="Auto" Height="Auto">
    <Grid x:Name="LayoutRoot" Background="White">
            <RowDefinition Height="55" x:Name="HeaderRow" />
            <RowDefinition Height="*" x:Name="ContentRow"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="20" x:Name="FooterRow"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*" />

        <!-- Heading -->
        <TextBlock x:Name="txtHeader" Grid.Row="0" 

                   FontSize="20" Margin="5,5" Foreground="Blue"

                   Text="My First Data Application in Silverlight">

        <!-- A textblock in the footer to be used as an Status bar -->
        <TextBlock x:Name="txtStatus" Grid.Row="2" 

               FontSize="10" Margin="5,0" Foreground="Red">

        <!-- Content Holder -->
        <Grid x:Name="ContentGrid" Grid.Row="1" Margin="5">
                <RowDefinition Height=".6*" />
                <RowDefinition Height=".4*" />
                <ColumnDefinition Width="200" />
                <ColumnDefinition Width="*" />

            <!-- Listbox for displaying customers -->
            <ListBox x:Name="lstCustomers" Grid.Column="0" Grid.RowSpan="2"




            <!-- DataGrid for displaying orders of a customer 
                (with autogenerated columns) -->
            <data:DataGrid x:Name="dgOrders" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1" 



            <!-- DataGrid for displaying orderdetais for an order -->
            <data:DataGrid x:Name="dgOrderDetails" Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="1" 





I will not be explaining the WPF layout in much detail in this article as there are a lot of resources on The Code Project as well as outside; e.g., this one from Sacha Barber. We will rather have a quick look on the markup for the ListBox and the DataGrid.


The listbox lstCustomers will be used for displaying the list of customers in the database. We will be binding this listbox inside the Loaded event for which we have registered. Note that if a ListBox is bound to some object source, it will display the value object.ToString() for each of its items collection. If we want to display any other value (typically a string member of the object), we have three apparent choices:

  • Override the object.ToString() method (We are not going to do this just for displaying the correct values in a ListBox).
  • Define some Data Template (this is the most flexible approach, and we will briefly look at DataTemplates in this article when we will manually define the columns for our DataGrid, but for now, we will skip this choice).
  • Define the property to be used in the DisplayMemberPath property of the ListBox (fairly simple, so we will keep ourselves to this for now).

Since we want the ListBox to show the ContactName property of the Customer object to which it is bound, we use DispalyMemberPath="ContactName". Also, we have registered for the SelectionChanged event which we will handle in our code-behind file to update the DataGrid with the selected customer's orders.


Currently, we are not doing anything fancy with DataGrids. We have just configured them to auto-generate their columns when they are data bound. Note that we also subscribed for the AutoGeneratingColumns event in dgOrderDetails. This is a common practice, and used in conjunction with auto-generating columns if we want to remove certain unwanted columns quickly. In this article, we will also be looking at how to define columns manually, but for now, let us keep it simple.

Writing Some Code

Populating the ListBox

We want to load all the customers into the listbox lstCustomers, for which we are using the Loaded event of the ListBox. Note that all service calls in Silverlight need to be asynchronous, so we will register a callback function where we will bind the incoming data to the ListBox. Notice how we use the txtStatus textbox (recall we placed this in the bottom row of LayoutGrid to provide updates to the user).

private void lstCustomers_Loaded(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
    DataServiceClient svc = new DataServiceClient();
    this.txtStatus.Text = "Loading customers...";
    svc.GetCustomersCompleted += new

void svc_GetCustomersCompleted(object sender, GetCustomersCompletedEventArgs e)
    if (e.Error == null)
        this.lstCustomers.ItemsSource = e.Result;
        this.txtStatus.Text = string.Empty;
        this.txtStatus.Text =
            "Error occurred while loading customers from database";

Displaying the Orders of a Customer

Now, we will write some code to display the orders when a customer in the listbox is selected. In the SelectionChanged event handler, we will call our WCF service and bind the data to dgOrders when it is retrieved. This time, we will use anonymous methods to be more compact.

private void lstCustomers_SelectionChanged(object sender, SelectionChangedEventArgs e)
    Customer selectedCustomer = this.lstCustomers.SelectedItem as Customer;
    if (selectedCustomer != null)
        DataServiceClient svc = new DataServiceClient();
        this.txtStatus.Text = "Loading orders...";
        svc.GetOrdersCompleted +=
            delegate(object eventSender, GetOrdersCompletedEventArgs eventArgs)
                if (eventArgs.Error == null)
                    this.dgOrders.ItemsSource = eventArgs.Result;
                    this.txtStatus.Text = string.Empty;
                    this.txtStatus.Text =
                        "Error occurred while loading orders from database";

Displaying the Order Details when an Order is Selected

Similar to the listbox SelectionChanged event, we add the following code to the SelectionChanged event of dgOrders. This time, we will try lambda expressions.

private void dgOrders_SelectionChanged(object sender, EventArgs e)
    Order selectedOrder = this.dgOrders.SelectedItem as Order;
    if (selectedOrder != null)
        DataServiceClient svc = new DataServiceClient();
        this.txtStatus.Text = "Loading order details...";
        svc.GetOrderDetailsCompleted +=
            (eventSender, eventArgs) =>
                if (eventArgs.Error == null)
                    this.dgOrderDetails.ItemsSource = eventArgs.Result;
                    this.txtStatus.Text = string.Empty;
                    this.txtStatus.Text =
                        "Error occurred while loading order details from database";

Removing Some Auto-generated Columns from dgOrderDetails

Note that in XAML, we set the AutoGenerateColumns property of the DataGrids to true. Let us say we want to get rid of the OrderID column in the dgOrderDetails datagrid. This is achieved by writing the following code in the AutoGeneratingColumns event handler:

private void dgOrderDetails_AutoGeneratingColumn(object sender,
    DataGridAutoGeneratingColumnEventArgs e)
    if (e.Column.Header.ToString() == "OrderID")
        e.Column.Visibility = Visibility.Collapsed;

Checkpoint Reached..Run the Project

Now, our small application is ready to be viewed. Run it.. Select some customers, view orders, edit the data displayed in the DataGrid, sort the DataGrid data by clicking on the column headers, resize the DataGrid columns, resize the browser window, do whatever else you want. Wasn't that cool? We will now have a look at the DataGrid columns and templates.

Output 1 with autogenerated columns

Defining Columns

Columns in a Silverlight DataGrid can be defined in a way very similar to what we do in an ASP.NET. The DataGrid can accept three types of columns:

  • DataGridTextBoxColumn - This column type uses a TextBlock to display its data, and a TextBox to allow editing of its data. We need to tell which property of the data-bound object to display, using DisplayMemberPath.
  • DataGridCheckBoxColumn - This column type provides a read-only CheckBox for displaying a boolean or nullable boolean value, and a normal CheckBox to allow editing of that value.
  • DataGridTemplateColumn - This powerful column type allows us to define DataTemplates and select controls of our own choice just like ASP.NET's TemplateColumn. More on DataTemplating from MSDN here.

If you want to get more, Scott Morris has a nice blog entry on column types here.

So, let's use this knowledge in our application. For the sake of simplicity, we will define only four columns: we will use a DataGridTextBoxColumn for columns OrderID and EmployeeID. We will define a DataGridTemplateColumn for OrderDate with a TextBlock in its CellTemplate and a DatePicker control in its CellEditingTemplate. Finally, we will define another TemplateColumn for Frieght. But, this time, we will define two controls in its CellEditingTemplate: a Slider for increasing/decreasing the Frieght value, and a TextBlock to show the current value of the slider. Both these controls will be placed in a horizontal StackPanel as we can only define a single item in a DataTemplate.

Here's the code that should replace the dgOrders markup:

<!-- DataGrid for displaying orders of a customer -->
<data:DataGrid x:Name="dgOrders" Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1" 


        <!-- OrderID text column -->
        <data:DataGridTextColumn Header="Order ID" Binding="{Binding OrderID}" />

        <!-- EmployeeID text column -->
        <data:DataGridTextColumn Header="Employee ID" Binding="{Binding EmployeeID}" />

        <!-- OrderDate template column -->
        <data:DataGridTemplateColumn Header="Order Date" Width="150">
                    <TextBlock Text="{Binding OrderDate}" />
                    <basics:DatePicker SelectedDate="{Binding OrderDate, Mode=TwoWay}" />

        <!-- Freight template column -->
        <data:DataGridTemplateColumn Header="Freight" Width="150">
                    <TextBlock Text="{Binding Freight}"></TextBlock>
                    <StackPanel Orientation="Horizontal">
                        <TextBlock Text="{Binding Freight}" Width="50" />
                        <Slider Value="{Binding Freight, Mode=TwoWay}" Width="100"

                                Minimum="0" Maximum="500" />

In a similar way, we can use DataTemplates for our ListBox. Suppose in our object model, we have a PictureProperty (returning a BitmapImage) of a Customer. Then, we could have displayed the picture in the ListBox like this:

<ListBox x:Name="lstCustomer">
            <StackPanel Orientation="Vertical">
                <TextBlock Text="{Binding NameProperty}"></TextBlock>
                <Image Source="{Binding PictureProperty}"></Image>

Note that the above code is just a sample. Since we do not have pictures in our objects, we cannot use this snippet in our application.

Second Run

Run the project again. Double click on an OrderDate and observe how the DatePicker pops up. Use the slider control to modify the Freight value. Similarly, any other control or combination of controls can be used inside an item template. Note that in this second iteration, we did not modify the *.cs file; all the changes we did were on the layout side. This is the beauty of Windows Presentation Foundation framework.

Output 2 - with explicit columns definition

Writing Data Back to the DB

Well, this will be too much for this introductory article. But, if you have followed how the WCF service is used to communicate between the client and the server, you can easily write data back to the database by creating some functions in the service and calling them from the Silverlight application. Notice that the data bindings in this article are two way, that is, changing the value inside a DataGrid actually changes the value in the bound DataContext item. We just need to send these updates to our ASP.NET project using the WCF service and handle it there to update the database. Ronnie Saurenmann presents a couple of videos here. He uses a DataSet like approach, keeping the modified and the original copies of data, and then sending only the relevant records to the server using some helper classes. I strongly recommend watching his videos.


That's all. I wrote this article to demonstrate how easy it is to build the foundation of any data application. Let us revise what we learnt: we created a data access layer using LINQ, and exposed it using a WCF service in our service side ASP.NET project. We retrieved data using the service client in our Silverlight application, and finally, used some data templates to have more control over data presentation. I hope this article created some motivation to start building your future applications in Silverlight. Happy Silverlighting...


  • 12 Aug 08 - Article posted
  • 19 Oct 08 - Article updated for Silverlight 2 RC1


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


About the Author

Syed Mehroz Alam
Software Developer
Pakistan Pakistan

Syed Mehroz Alam, living in Karachi, Pakistan, is a developer focusing Microsoft technologies. He has completed his bachelors as a Computer Systems Engineer in 2006 and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Computer Science. He loves to learn, discover and master all aspects of .NET and SQL Server. Mehroz has developed rich internet enterprise applications using Silverlight in addition to the traditional ASP.NET and Windows Forms applications. He has worked with all three components of SQL Business Intelligence Studio: SSIS, SSRS and SSAS for developing BI Solutions and Data warehouse. He loves to write complex TSQL queries and evaluate his skills by participating in various TSQL Challenges. His blog can be viewed at

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Comments and Discussions

Questionerror message 'DataServiceClient could not be found Pin
belgie20-Sep-13 10:22
memberbelgie20-Sep-13 10:22 
QuestionExcellent Work Pin
minopausa18-Jul-13 3:57
memberminopausa18-Jul-13 3:57 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
Member 783852816-Jan-13 21:00
memberMember 783852816-Jan-13 21:00 
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pin
jfaefdfdfads26-Aug-12 16:12
memberjfaefdfdfads26-Aug-12 16:12 
Questionthanks a lot Pin
a-k-y5-Jul-12 18:18
membera-k-y5-Jul-12 18:18 
QuestionGood thig Pin
Xitij Thool27-Nov-11 18:50
memberXitij Thool27-Nov-11 18:50 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Habib_78626-May-11 7:46
memberHabib_78626-May-11 7:46 
GeneralThank you . great job Pin
adish gupta12-Feb-11 0:17
memberadish gupta12-Feb-11 0:17 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
Pravin Patil, Mumbai19-Jan-11 1:35
memberPravin Patil, Mumbai19-Jan-11 1:35 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Exodus42911-Dec-10 0:58
memberExodus42911-Dec-10 0:58 
GeneralPlease add insert code also... Pin
Ram0245522-Oct-10 2:01
memberRam0245522-Oct-10 2:01 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Ram0245522-Oct-10 2:00
memberRam0245522-Oct-10 2:00 
QuestionGreat Article. When r more Silverlight articles coming from u? Pin
Sudipta Chaudhari10-May-10 5:44
memberSudipta Chaudhari10-May-10 5:44 
AnswerRe: Great Article. When r more Silverlight articles coming from u? Pin
Syed Mehroz Alam16-May-10 23:05
memberSyed Mehroz Alam16-May-10 23:05 
Generalexcellent article keep it up Pin
keesari_anjaiah3-Apr-10 5:57
memberkeesari_anjaiah3-Apr-10 5:57 
GeneralRe: excellent article keep it up Pin
Syed Mehroz Alam4-Apr-10 19:59
memberSyed Mehroz Alam4-Apr-10 19:59 
GeneralWow!! Pin
rasheed197911-Mar-10 18:42
memberrasheed197911-Mar-10 18:42 
GeneralRe: Wow!! Pin
Syed Mehroz Alam11-Mar-10 22:44
memberSyed Mehroz Alam11-Mar-10 22:44 
GeneralThis article is great! awesome! Pin
Princess Grace Dimaculangan22-Oct-09 23:46
memberPrincess Grace Dimaculangan22-Oct-09 23:46 
GeneralRe: This article is great! awesome! Pin
Syed Mehroz Alam25-Oct-09 23:01
memberSyed Mehroz Alam25-Oct-09 23:01 
GeneralDataServiceClient Pin
closl14-Oct-09 8:39
memberclosl14-Oct-09 8:39 
GeneralRe: DataServiceClient Pin
closl14-Oct-09 8:44
memberclosl14-Oct-09 8:44 
GeneralMake this really spectacular! Pin
larry1182-Oct-09 8:47
memberlarry1182-Oct-09 8:47 
GeneralRe: Make this really spectacular! Pin
Syed Mehroz Alam5-Oct-09 0:48
memberSyed Mehroz Alam5-Oct-09 0:48 
GeneralRe: Make this really spectacular! Pin
larry1187-Oct-09 5:11
memberlarry1187-Oct-09 5:11 

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