Click here to Skip to main content
15,030,300 members
Articles / Programming Languages / C#
Posted 4 Jun 2004


84 bookmarked

ComboBox in a DataGrid

Rate me:
Please Sign up or sign in to vote.
3.38/5 (36 votes)
13 Sep 2006CPOL3 min read
How to embed a ComboBox (DropDownList) in a DataGrid.


I needed a ComboBox in my DataGrid. After looking around on the web, I found many examples, but none of them worked for me.

With inspiration from Alastair Stells' article here on The Code Project and whatever else I found on the Internet, I have made the following DataGridComboBoxColumn class.

Why did the other examples not work

All the other examples populate the ComboBox with a DataView, but I need to (want to be able to) populate my ComboBox with an IList (ArrayList) instead of a DataView.

columnComboBox = new DataGridComboBoxColumn();
columnComboBox.comboBox.DataSource = new ArrayList(MyDataClass.GetArray());
columnComboBox.comboBox.DisplayMember = "Name";
columnComboBox.comboBox.ValueMember = "GUID";

And MyDataClass.GetArray() returns MyDataClass[], and has two properties named Name and GUID.

The other examples expect columnComboBox.comboBox.DataSource to be a DataView, and it being an ArrayList generates exceptions.

I use the ComboBox to fetch display text

Since you don't know the type of columnComboBox.comboBox.DataSource, you can't use that to translate between the underlying data and what to display in the DataGrid.

Instead, I use the ComboBox itself, by overriding the ComboBox and implementing this method.

public string GetDisplayText(object value) {
   // Get the text.
   string text   = string.Empty;
   int  memIndex  = -1;
   try {
      memIndex     = base.SelectedIndex;
      base.SelectedValue = value.ToString();
      text      = base.SelectedItem.ToString();
      base.SelectedIndex = memIndex;
   } catch {
     return GetValueText(0);
   } finally {

   return text;
} // GetDisplayText

What I do is simple. I select the item which displays the text I want, get the text, and then reselect the original item. By doing it this way, it doesn't matter what data source is used.

Because I use the ComboBox itself to fetch the display text, the ComboBox must be populated before the DataGrid is drawn.

Alastair Stells noted about this in his article:

Another issue which arose was an eye-opener! I discovered the ComboBox does not get populated until the ComboBox.Visible property is set for the first time.

This means that the ComboBox can't be used to fetch the initial display text, because it is not visible when the DataGrid is first shown (painted).

I used a normal ComboBox to illustrate the problem and the solution.

ComboBox comboBox = new ComboBox();
comboBox.DataSource = new ArrayList(MyDataClass.GetArray());
comboBox.DisplayMember = "Name"
comboBox.ValueMember = "GUID"
MessageBox.Show(comboBox.Items.Count.ToString()); // THIS IS ALWAYS 0!

I learned that it didn't help to show the ComboBox, but instead I had to set its parent - which internally commits the data from the DataSource to the Items collection.

ComboBox comboBox = new ComboBox();
comboBox.Parent = this; // this is a Form instance in my case.
comboBox.DataSource = new ArrayList(MyDataClass.GetArray());
comboBox.DisplayMember = "Name"
comboBox.ValueMember = "GUID"
// THIS IS MyDataClass.GetArray().Count

What else about my DataGridComboBoxColumn

The source code is straightforward. First, I inherited DataGridTextBoxColumn, but my class then evolved into inheriting DataGridColumnStyle. This meant that I had to implement the Paint methods, but at this point, I had some examples of that as well. I like the idea of not having an invisible TextBox behind it all.

How to use

Sadly, I don't know how to "register" my DataGridComboBoxColumn with the GridColumnStyles, enabling me to design the DataGrid columns in the designer. This code does it manually:

// Add three MyDataClass objects, to the DataGridComboBox.
// This is the choices which will apear in the ComboBox in the DataGrid.
// You can see in the source that the MyDataClass doubles
// as a static collection, where the new MyDataClass objects
// automatically is added.
// All the MyDataClass objects can be retreived in an array
// with the static method: MyDataClass.GetArray().
if (MyDataClass.GetArray().Length == 0) {
    new MyDataClass("Denmark");
    new MyDataClass("Faroe Islands (DK)");
    new MyDataClass("Finland");
    new MyDataClass("Greenland (DK)");
    new MyDataClass("Iceland");
    new MyDataClass("Norway");
    new MyDataClass("Sweden");

// I don't have a database here, so I make my
// own DataTable with two columns and finally
// populate it with some test rows.
DataTable table = new DataTable("TableOne");

DataColumn column = table.Columns.Add();
column.ColumnName = "country";
// Realy a GUID from the DataGridComboBox.
column.DataType = Type.GetType("System.Guid");

column = table.Columns.Add();
column.ColumnName = "notes";
column.DataType = Type.GetType("System.String");

table.Rows.Add(new object[] {MyDataClass.GetArray()[0].GUID, 
                             "Population 5.368.854"});
table.Rows.Add(new object[] {MyDataClass.GetArray()[1].GUID, 
                             "Population 46.011"});
table.Rows.Add(new object[] {MyDataClass.GetArray()[2].GUID, 
                             "Population 5.183.545"});
table.Rows.Add(new object[] {MyDataClass.GetArray()[3].GUID, 
                             "Population 56.376"});
table.Rows.Add(new object[] {MyDataClass.GetArray()[4].GUID, 
                             "Population 279.384"});
table.Rows.Add(new object[] {MyDataClass.GetArray()[5].GUID, 
                             "Population 4.525.116"});
table.Rows.Add(new object[] {MyDataClass.GetArray()[6].GUID, 
                             "Population 8.876.744"});

// Create a DataGridTableStyle object.
DataGridTableStyle tableStyle = new DataGridTableStyle();
DataGridTextBoxColumn columnTextBox;
DataGridComboBoxColumn columnComboBox;
tableStyle.RowHeadersVisible = true;
tableStyle.RowHeaderWidth = 20;

// Add customized columns.
// Column "notes", which is a simple text box.
columnTextBox = new DataGridTextBoxColumn();
columnTextBox.MappingName = "notes";
columnTextBox.HeaderText = "Country notes";
columnTextBox.Width = 200;

// Column "country", which is the ComboBox.
columnComboBox = new DataGridComboBoxColumn();
columnComboBox.comboBox.Parent = this; // Commit dataset.
columnComboBox.comboBox.DataSource = 
               new ArrayList(MyDataClass.GetArray());
columnComboBox.comboBox.DisplayMember = "name";
columnComboBox.comboBox.ValueMember = "GUID";
columnComboBox.MappingName = "country";
columnComboBox.HeaderText = "Country";
columnComboBox.Width = 200;

// Add the custom TableStyle to the DataGrid.
datagrid.DataSource = table;
tableStyle.MappingName = "TableOne";

I think I have focused on a problem here: if you want a ComboBox in your DataGrid, and you want to populate the ComboBox with items from an array containing instances of your own class.

I hope someone finds it useful - enjoy.

Updated September 2006

A few bugs have been found in my source code. Apparently, someone still downloads and tries to use the source, even though .NET 2.0 has solved the problem with a ComboBox in a DataGrid. The new download contains the original source, plus a small VS project with the updated source code.


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


About the Author

René Paw Christensen
Systems / Hardware Administrator
Denmark Denmark

Comments and Discussions

GeneralGrid scrolling problem Pin
CP user25-Aug-04 11:22
MemberCP user25-Aug-04 11:22 
GeneralRe: Grid scrolling problem Pin
bilberry717-Mar-05 23:06
Memberbilberry717-Mar-05 23:06 
GeneralVS 2003 Designer compatibility Pin
Thosmos23-Jul-04 13:17
MemberThosmos23-Jul-04 13:17 
Generalcombobox display value when not focused Pin
Member 120742729-Jun-04 14:41
MemberMember 120742729-Jun-04 14:41 
GeneralRe: combobox display value when not focused Pin
René Paw Christensen2-Jul-04 13:43
MemberRené Paw Christensen2-Jul-04 13:43 
GeneralRe: combobox display value when not focused Pin
marcellusc8-Jul-04 3:46
Membermarcellusc8-Jul-04 3:46 
GeneralRe: combobox display value when not focused Pin
René Paw Christensen8-Jul-04 12:19
MemberRené Paw Christensen8-Jul-04 12:19 
GeneralDisplay 'System.Data.DataRowView' Pin
Lucky Vdb16-Jun-04 1:27
professionalLucky Vdb16-Jun-04 1:27 
The Combobox shows 'System.Data.DataRowView'
The dropdown irself works all right, and I see the proer names from the datasource.
- It is located in a datagrid on a tabpage
- when I select the combobox, the right text is displayed.

D'Oh! | :doh:
GeneralRe: Display 'System.Data.DataRowView' Pin
Lucky Vdb16-Jun-04 2:12
professionalLucky Vdb16-Jun-04 2:12 
GeneralRe: Display 'System.Data.DataRowView' Pin
René Paw Christensen16-Jun-04 11:50
MemberRené Paw Christensen16-Jun-04 11:50 
GeneralRe: Display 'System.Data.DataRowView' Pin
cphaluss18-Jan-05 18:47
Membercphaluss18-Jan-05 18:47 
QuestionI could not make it works at all. Who can help it for me? Pin
anhnn10-Jun-04 0:02
Memberanhnn10-Jun-04 0:02 
AnswerRe: I could not make it works at all. Who can help it for me? Pin
René Paw Christensen10-Jun-04 11:00
MemberRené Paw Christensen10-Jun-04 11:00 
Generalcreating an ArrayList Pin
EL HACHIMI9-Jun-04 0:38
MemberEL HACHIMI9-Jun-04 0:38 
GeneralRe: creating an ArrayList Pin
René Paw Christensen9-Jun-04 11:32
MemberRené Paw Christensen9-Jun-04 11:32 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Praise Praise    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.