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Drag Once DataBinding with Custom Controls : Page 5

Visual Studio 2005 will ship some great new controls, but suppose you want your own control to play in the Data Sources Window? To do that, you need to set up a new data source using the new binding attributes.

To solve this problem, the VB and Client teams introduced some new attributes to System.ComponentModel (see Table 3).

Table 3: New databinding attributes.




Used for simple controls like the TextBox.


Used for controls that manage a list like the DataGridView.


Used for controls that manage a list, as well as an individually bound item such as ComboBox.

To see how we've used these, let's take a look at a few controls. Listing 3 lists some examples of how to use these attributes.

Looking at TextBox, you can see that Text is the default binding property. You can also see how DataGridView uses the DataSource property, and you can start to see the complexity of the ComboBox. We actually decorate ListControl with both the Default and LookupBindingProperties attributes. I'll explain that in a minute. Also notice that we actually implement these attributes on ListControl. This means that both ComboBox and ListBox get these attributes "for free." This is how the PhoneBox got its DefaultBindingProperty attribute for free. To clear an attribute from a control, you simply assign the attribute with no value. Notice the parameterless constructor on each of these attributes. For instance, let's say you have a control that inherits from TextBox but you don't want to support simple binding. You want to support List, or Complex binding to do something like an auto-complete control.

<DefaultBindingProperty(""), _ ComplexBindingProperties("StatesDataSource", _ "DataMember")> _ Public Class StateControl Inherits TextBox

The above example will essentially clear the DefaultBindingProperty attribute. This means you won't be able to place the StateControl on a column or property.

Now that you know more about the attributes, you probably wonder how they get used. It turns out these attributes are helpful in several ways. How does VS 2005 know which controls will even work with Drag Once Databinding? Does a control support "Connect the Dots" data binding? What controls should VS 2005 display for the [List], compared to which controls it should display for the columns or properties? Which controls should display Lookup smart tags?

Remember back in the Tools-Options dialog box you could select the controls that are associated with [List]? These are the controls that appear on the root nodes of the Data Sources Window as well as any sub list item such as a DataTable or Customer.Orders.

Beta 2 will also include controls that have the LookupBindingProperties attribute in the [List] Controls.

How Is the Lookup Attribute Used?
In Beta 1, not very well. In Beta 2, we'll be better. As noted above, it can be quite difficult when working with ComboBoxes to remember the specific properties to set. It also makes it a bit more difficult to get default behavior in the Data Sources Window. Consider the sample Orders form with a ShipToState ComboBox. The application has an Orders DataTable and a States DataTable. In the Data Sources Window, you default the Order.ShipToState to a ComboBox. When you drag this column to your form, VS 2005 will create the ShipToStateComboBox as well as a label. At this point VS 2005 knows to databind the Text property to Orders.ShipToState. Wait, did I say Text? Yes.

The problem is that VS 2005 doesn't yet have anything set on the DataSource. Until the DataSource, DisplayMember, and ValueMember properties are set, the ComboBox doesn't have anything to pull out of the list for SelectedValue. At this point VS uses the DefaultBindingProperty attribute to find the Text property. The LookupBindingProperties aren't used, yet. If you run your form you'll notice an empty ComboBox. Hmmm, wouldn't it be cool if you could just drag that States DataTable to the ComboBox? We thought so too, so in Beta 2 when you drag a list from the Data Sources Window, ("Connect the dots"), onto an existing control that has the LookupBindingProperties attribute, VS 2005 will set the proper properties. VS will set the DataSource to a BindingSource that in turn has its DataSource set to the list you selected. But wait, there's more. For just $19.99, we'll also include setting the ValueMember to the first column of the primary key of the table. If no primary key is found, such as objects, VS will set the ValueMember to the first property found on the list. In addition, VS will set the DisplayMember to the first string on the DataTable, or first string property on the object. If no strings are found, VS will grab the first property on the list, regardless of its type. "But what about the Text data bindings?" No problem. VS uses a little VB pixie dust and moves the information from the data bound Text property to data bind the SelectedValue property. VS actually reads the DefaultBindingProperty attribute and LookupBindingProperties attribute to determine which properties to use, so you can implement your own properties on your own custom controls.

In Beta 2, VS will be able to do this in the reverse order as well. In the Data Sources Window you can set the States list (DataTable or Object) to a DropType of ComboBox. When you drag the States list to the form, VS will create a StatesComboBox with the DataSource, DisplayMember, and ValueMember properties established with the same logic above. You can then drag the Orders.ShipToState column to the ComboBox and VS will databind the SelectedValue to Orders.ShipToState. VS 2005 won't databind to the Text property because VS will determine that the DataSource property has been set so VS will pull the LookupMember value from the LookupBindingProperties attribute.

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