[WPF] Automatically sort a GridView when a column header is clicked

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It’s quite simple, in WPF, to present data in a grid, thanks to the GridView class. If you want to sort it, however, it gets a little harder… With the DataGridView in Windows Forms, it was “automagic” : when the user clicked a column header, the grid was automatically sorted. To achieve the same behavior in WPF, you need to get your hands dirty… The method recommended by Microsoft is described in this article ; it is based on the Click event of the GridViewColumnHeader class. In my view, this approach has two major drawbacks :

  • The sorting must be done in code-behind, something we usually want to avoid if the application is designed according to the MVVM pattern. It also makes the code harder to reuse.
  • This method assumes that the text of the column header is also the name of the property to use as the sort criteria, which isn’t always true, far from it… We could use the DisplayMemberBinding of the column, but it’s not always set (for instance if a CellTemplate is defined instead).

After spending a long time trying to find a flexible and elegant approach, I came up with an interesting solution. It consists of a class with a few attached properties that can be set in XAML.

This class can be used as follows :

    <ListView ItemsSource="{Binding Persons}"
          IsSynchronizedWithCurrentItem="True"
          util:GridViewSort.AutoSort="True">
        <ListView.View>
            <GridView>
                <GridView.Columns>
                    <GridViewColumn Header="Name"
                                    DisplayMemberBinding="{Binding Name}"
                                    util:GridViewSort.PropertyName="Name"/>
                    <GridViewColumn Header="First name"
                                    DisplayMemberBinding="{Binding FirstName}"
                                    util:GridViewSort.PropertyName="FirstName"/>
                    <GridViewColumn Header="Date of birth"
                                    DisplayMemberBinding="{Binding DateOfBirth}"
                                    util:GridViewSort.PropertyName="DateOfBirth"/>
                </GridView.Columns>
            </GridView>
        </ListView.View>
    </ListView>

The GridViewSort.AutoSort property enables automatic sorting for the ListView. The GridViewSort.PropertyName property, defined for each column, indicates the property to use as the sort criteria. There is no extra code to write. A click on a column header triggers the sorting on this column ; if the ListView is already sorted on this column, the sort order is reversed.

In case you need to handle the sorting manually, I also added a GridViewSort.Command attached property. When used with the MVVM pattern, this property allows you to bind to a command declared in the ViewModel :

    <ListView ItemsSource="{Binding Persons}"
          IsSynchronizedWithCurrentItem="True"
          util:GridViewSort.Command="{Binding SortCommand}">
    ...

The sort command takes as parameter the name of the property to use as the sort criteria.

Note : if both the Command and AutoSort properties are set, Command has priority. AutoSort is ignored.

Here is the full code of the GridViewSort class :

using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Windows;
using System.Windows.Controls;
using System.Windows.Input;
using System.Windows.Media;

namespace Wpf.Util
{
    public class GridViewSort
    {
        #region Attached properties

        public static ICommand GetCommand(DependencyObject obj)
        {
            return (ICommand)obj.GetValue(CommandProperty);
        }

        public static void SetCommand(DependencyObject obj, ICommand value)
        {
            obj.SetValue(CommandProperty, value);
        }

        // Using a DependencyProperty as the backing store for Command.  This enables animation, styling, binding, etc...
        public static readonly DependencyProperty CommandProperty =
            DependencyProperty.RegisterAttached(
                "Command",
                typeof(ICommand),
                typeof(GridViewSort),
                new UIPropertyMetadata(
                    null,
                    (o, e) =>
                    {
                        ItemsControl listView = o as ItemsControl;
                        if (listView != null)
                        {
                            if (!GetAutoSort(listView)) // Don't change click handler if AutoSort enabled
                            {
                                if (e.OldValue != null && e.NewValue == null)
                                {
                                    listView.RemoveHandler(GridViewColumnHeader.ClickEvent, new RoutedEventHandler(ColumnHeader_Click));
                                }
                                if (e.OldValue == null && e.NewValue != null)
                                {
                                    listView.AddHandler(GridViewColumnHeader.ClickEvent, new RoutedEventHandler(ColumnHeader_Click));
                                }
                            }
                        }
                    }
                )
            );

        public static bool GetAutoSort(DependencyObject obj)
        {
            return (bool)obj.GetValue(AutoSortProperty);
        }

        public static void SetAutoSort(DependencyObject obj, bool value)
        {
            obj.SetValue(AutoSortProperty, value);
        }

        // Using a DependencyProperty as the backing store for AutoSort.  This enables animation, styling, binding, etc...
        public static readonly DependencyProperty AutoSortProperty =
            DependencyProperty.RegisterAttached(
                "AutoSort",
                typeof(bool),
                typeof(GridViewSort),
                new UIPropertyMetadata(
                    false,
                    (o, e) =>
                    {
                        ListView listView = o as ListView;
                        if (listView != null)
                        {
                            if (GetCommand(listView) == null) // Don't change click handler if a command is set
                            {
                                bool oldValue = (bool)e.OldValue;
                                bool newValue = (bool)e.NewValue;
                                if (oldValue && !newValue)
                                {
                                    listView.RemoveHandler(GridViewColumnHeader.ClickEvent, new RoutedEventHandler(ColumnHeader_Click));
                                }
                                if (!oldValue && newValue)
                                {
                                    listView.AddHandler(GridViewColumnHeader.ClickEvent, new RoutedEventHandler(ColumnHeader_Click));
                                }
                            }
                        }
                    }
                )
            );

        public static string GetPropertyName(DependencyObject obj)
        {
            return (string)obj.GetValue(PropertyNameProperty);
        }

        public static void SetPropertyName(DependencyObject obj, string value)
        {
            obj.SetValue(PropertyNameProperty, value);
        }

        // Using a DependencyProperty as the backing store for PropertyName.  This enables animation, styling, binding, etc...
        public static readonly DependencyProperty PropertyNameProperty =
            DependencyProperty.RegisterAttached(
                "PropertyName",
                typeof(string),
                typeof(GridViewSort),
                new UIPropertyMetadata(null)
            );

        #endregion

        #region Column header click event handler

        private static void ColumnHeader_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
        {
            GridViewColumnHeader headerClicked = e.OriginalSource as GridViewColumnHeader;
            if (headerClicked != null)
            {
                string propertyName = GetPropertyName(headerClicked.Column);
                if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(propertyName))
                {
                    ListView listView = GetAncestor<ListView>(headerClicked);
                    if (listView != null)
                    {
                        ICommand command = GetCommand(listView);
                        if (command != null)
                        {
                            if (command.CanExecute(propertyName))
                            {
                                command.Execute(propertyName);
                            }
                        }
                        else if (GetAutoSort(listView))
                        {
                            ApplySort(listView.Items, propertyName);
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
        }

        #endregion

        #region Helper methods

        public static T GetAncestor<T>(DependencyObject reference) where T : DependencyObject
        {
            DependencyObject parent = VisualTreeHelper.GetParent(reference);
            while (!(parent is T))
            {
                parent = VisualTreeHelper.GetParent(parent);
            }
            if (parent != null)
                return (T)parent;
            else
                return null;
        }

        public static void ApplySort(ICollectionView view, string propertyName)
        {
            ListSortDirection direction = ListSortDirection.Ascending;
            if (view.SortDescriptions.Count > 0)
            {
                SortDescription currentSort = view.SortDescriptions[0];
                if (currentSort.PropertyName == propertyName)
                {
                    if (currentSort.Direction == ListSortDirection.Ascending)
                        direction = ListSortDirection.Descending;
                    else
                        direction = ListSortDirection.Ascending;
                }
                view.SortDescriptions.Clear();
            }
            if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(propertyName))
            {
                view.SortDescriptions.Add(new SortDescription(propertyName, direction));
            }
        }

        #endregion
    }
}

Of course, this class could probably be improved… for instance, we could add an arrow glyph on the sorted column (maybe by using an Adorner). Maybe I’ll do that someday… meanwhile, please feel free to use it ;)

Update : A new version that displays the sort glyph in the sorted column is now available in this blog post.

[WPF] Using InputBindings with the MVVM pattern

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If you develop WPF applications according to the Model-View-ViewModel pattern, you may have faced this issue : in XAML, how to bind a key or mouse gesture to a ViewModel command ? The obvious and intuitive approach would be this one :

    &lt;UserControl.InputBindings&gt;
        &lt;KeyBinding Modifiers=&quot;Control&quot; Key=&quot;E&quot; Command=&quot;{Binding EditCommand}&quot;/&gt;
    &lt;/UserControl.InputBindings&gt;

Unfortunately, this code doesn’t work, for two reasons :

  1. The Command property is not a dependency property, so you cannot assign it through binding
  2. InputBindings are not part of the logical or visual tree of the control, so they don’t inherit the DataContext

A solution would be to create the InputBindings in the code-behind, but in the MVVM pattern we usually prefer to avoid this… I spent a long time looking for alternative solutions to do this in XAML, but most of them are quite complex and unintuitive. So I eventually came up with a markup extension that enables binding to ViewModel commands, anywhere in XAML, even for non-dependency properties or if the element doesn’t normally inherit the DataContext

This extension is used like a regular binding :

    &lt;UserControl.InputBindings&gt;
        &lt;KeyBinding Modifiers=&quot;Control&quot; Key=&quot;E&quot; Command=&quot;{input:CommandBinding EditCommand}&quot;/&gt;
    &lt;/UserControl.InputBindings&gt;

(The input XML namespace is mapped to the CLR namespace where the markup extension is declared)

In order to write this extension, I had to cheat a little… I used Reflector to find some private fields that would allow to retrieve the DataContext of the root element. I then accessed those fields using reflection.

Here is the code of the markup extension :

using System;
using System.Reflection;
using System.Windows;
using System.Windows.Input;
using System.Windows.Markup;

namespace MVVMLib.Input
{
    [MarkupExtensionReturnType(typeof(ICommand))]
    public class CommandBindingExtension : MarkupExtension
    {
        public CommandBindingExtension()
        {
        }

        public CommandBindingExtension(string commandName)
        {
            this.CommandName = commandName;
        }

        [ConstructorArgument(&quot;commandName&quot;)]
        public string CommandName { get; set; }

        private object targetObject;
        private object targetProperty;

        public override object ProvideValue(IServiceProvider serviceProvider)
        {
            IProvideValueTarget provideValueTarget = serviceProvider.GetService(typeof(IProvideValueTarget)) as IProvideValueTarget;
            if (provideValueTarget != null)
            {
                targetObject = provideValueTarget.TargetObject;
                targetProperty = provideValueTarget.TargetProperty;
            }

            if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(CommandName))
            {
                // The serviceProvider is actually a ProvideValueServiceProvider, which has a private field &quot;_context&quot; of type ParserContext
                ParserContext parserContext = GetPrivateFieldValue&lt;ParserContext&gt;(serviceProvider, &quot;_context&quot;);
                if (parserContext != null)
                {
                    // A ParserContext has a private field &quot;_rootElement&quot;, which returns the root element of the XAML file
                    FrameworkElement rootElement = GetPrivateFieldValue&lt;FrameworkElement&gt;(parserContext, &quot;_rootElement&quot;);
                    if (rootElement != null)
                    {
                        // Now we can retrieve the DataContext
                        object dataContext = rootElement.DataContext;

                        // The DataContext may not be set yet when the FrameworkElement is first created, and it may change afterwards,
                        // so we handle the DataContextChanged event to update the Command when needed
                        if (!dataContextChangeHandlerSet)
                        {
                            rootElement.DataContextChanged += new DependencyPropertyChangedEventHandler(rootElement_DataContextChanged);
                            dataContextChangeHandlerSet = true;
                        }

                        if (dataContext != null)
                        {
                            ICommand command = GetCommand(dataContext, CommandName);
                            if (command != null)
                                return command;
                        }
                    }
                }
            }

            // The Command property of an InputBinding cannot be null, so we return a dummy extension instead
            return DummyCommand.Instance;
        }

        private ICommand GetCommand(object dataContext, string commandName)
        {
            PropertyInfo prop = dataContext.GetType().GetProperty(commandName);
            if (prop != null)
            {
                ICommand command = prop.GetValue(dataContext, null) as ICommand;
                if (command != null)
                    return command;
            }
            return null;
        }

        private void AssignCommand(ICommand command)
        {
            if (targetObject != null &amp;&amp; targetProperty != null)
            {
                if (targetProperty is DependencyProperty)
                {
                    DependencyObject depObj = targetObject as DependencyObject;
                    DependencyProperty depProp = targetProperty as DependencyProperty;
                    depObj.SetValue(depProp, command);
                }
                else
                {
                    PropertyInfo prop = targetProperty as PropertyInfo;
                    prop.SetValue(targetObject, command, null);
                }
            }
        }

        private bool dataContextChangeHandlerSet = false;
        private void rootElement_DataContextChanged(object sender, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e)
        {
            FrameworkElement rootElement = sender as FrameworkElement;
            if (rootElement != null)
            {
                object dataContext = rootElement.DataContext;
                if (dataContext != null)
                {
                    ICommand command = GetCommand(dataContext, CommandName);
                    if (command != null)
                    {
                        AssignCommand(command);
                    }
                }
            }
        }

        private T GetPrivateFieldValue&lt;T&gt;(object target, string fieldName)
        {
            FieldInfo field = target.GetType().GetField(fieldName, BindingFlags.Instance | BindingFlags.NonPublic);
            if (field != null)
            {
                return (T)field.GetValue(target);
            }
            return default(T);
        }

        // A dummy command that does nothing...
        private class DummyCommand : ICommand
        {

            #region Singleton pattern

            private DummyCommand()
            {
            }

            private static DummyCommand _instance = null;
            public static DummyCommand Instance
            {
                get
                {
                    if (_instance == null)
                    {
                        _instance = new DummyCommand();
                    }
                    return _instance;
                }
            }

            #endregion

            #region ICommand Members

            public bool CanExecute(object parameter)
            {
                return false;
            }

            public event EventHandler CanExecuteChanged;

            public void Execute(object parameter)
            {
            }

            #endregion
        }
    }
}

However this solution has a limitation : it works only for the DataContext of the XAML root. So you can’t use it, for instance, to define an InputBinding on a control whose DataContext is also redefined, because the markup extension will access the root DataContext. It shouldn’t be a problem in most cases, but you need to be aware of that…

[Visual Studio] Trick : make a project item a child item of another

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You probably noticed that, in a C# project tree, some items are placed “under” a parent item : it is the case, for instance, for files generated by a designer or wizard :

Solution Explorer

Model1.Designer.cs is a child item of Model1.edmx

The following trick shows how to apply the same behavior to your own files.

Let’s assume that you want to customize the classes generated by the EDM designer. You can’t modify the Model1.designer.cs file, because you changes would be overwritten by the designer. So you create a new file, say Model1.Custom.cs, where you will write your custom code for the entity classes (using the partial keyword). By default, this file is placed at the root of the project :

Solution Explorer

Model1.Custom.cs is at the root of the project

In order to show clearly the association with Model1.edmx, we would like to make Model1.Custom.cs a child item of Model1.edmx, at the same level as Model1.designer.cs… Even though the Visual Studio IDE doesn’t offer that option, it is possible : you just need to edit the .csproj file manually. The easiest way to do that is to unload the project (right click on the project, “Unload project“), and edit it directly in Visual Studio (right click, “Edit FooBar.csproj“). Find the <Compile> element corresponding to Model1.Custom.cs, and add a <DependentUpon> child element, as show below :

    <Compile Include="Model1.Custom.cs">
        <DependentUpon>Model1.edmx</DependentUpon>
    </Compile>

Reload the project : Model1.Custom.cs now appears as a child item of Model1.edmx.

Solution Explorer

Model1.Custom.cs is now a child item of Model1.edmx

This trick enables you to organize your project better and make its structure clearer.

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