How to: Access Objects in a Windows Forms DataGridViewComboBoxCell Drop-Down List

Like the ComboBox control, the DataGridViewComboBoxColumn and DataGridViewComboBoxCell types enable you to add arbitrary objects to their drop-down lists. With this feature, you can represent complex states in a drop-down list without having to store corresponding objects in a separate collection.

Unlike the ComboBox control, the DataGridView types do not have a SelectedItem property for retrieving the currently selected object. Instead, you must set the System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxColumn.ValueMember or System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxCell.ValueMember property to the name of a property on your business object. When the user makes a selection, the indicated property of the business object sets the cell Value property.

To retrieve the business object through the cell value, the ValueMember property must indicate a property that returns a reference to the business object itself. Therefore, if the type of the business object is not under your control, you must add such a property by extending the type through inheritance.

The following procedures demonstrate how to populate a drop-down list with business objects and retrieve the objects through the cell Value property.

To add business objects to the drop-down list

  1. Create a new DataGridViewComboBoxColumn and populate its Items collection. Alternatively, you can set the column DataSource property to the collection of business objects. In that case, however, you cannot add "unassigned" to the drop-down list without creating a corresponding business object in your collection.

    DataGridViewComboBoxColumn assignedToColumn = 
        new DataGridViewComboBoxColumn();
    
    // Populate the combo box drop-down list with Employee objects. 
    foreach (Employee e in employees) assignedToColumn.Items.Add(e);
    
    // Add "unassigned" to the drop-down list and display it for 
    // empty AssignedTo values or when the user presses CTRL+0. 
    assignedToColumn.Items.Add("unassigned");
    assignedToColumn.DefaultCellStyle.NullValue = "unassigned";
    
    Dim assignedToColumn As New DataGridViewComboBoxColumn()
    
    ' Populate the combo box drop-down list with Employee objects. 
    For Each e As Employee In employees
        assignedToColumn.Items.Add(e)
    Next
    
    ' Add "unassigned" to the drop-down list and display it for 
    ' empty AssignedTo values or when the user presses CTRL+0. 
    assignedToColumn.Items.Add("unassigned")
    assignedToColumn.DefaultCellStyle.NullValue = "unassigned"
    
  2. Set the DisplayMember and ValueMember properties. DisplayMember indicates the property of the business object to display in the drop-down list. ValueMember indicates the property that returns a reference to the business object.

    assignedToColumn.DisplayMember = "Name";
    assignedToColumn.ValueMember = "Self";
    
    assignedToColumn.DisplayMember = "Name"
    assignedToColumn.ValueMember = "Self"
    
  3. Make sure that your business object type contains a property that returns a reference to the current instance. This property must be named with the value assigned to ValueMember in the previous step.

    public Employee Self 
    { 
        get { return this; } 
    }
    
    Public ReadOnly Property Self() As Employee
        Get
            Return Me
        End Get
    End Property
    

To retrieve the currently selected business object

  • Get the cell Value property and cast it to the business object type.

    // Retrieve the Employee object from the "Assigned To" cell.
    Employee assignedTo = dataGridView1.Rows[e.RowIndex]
        .Cells["Assigned To"].Value as Employee;
    
    ' Retrieve the Employee object from the "Assigned To" cell.
    Dim assignedTo As Employee = TryCast(dataGridView1.Rows(e.RowIndex) _
        .Cells("Assigned To").Value, Employee)
    

Example

The complete example demonstrates the use of business objects in a drop-down list. In the example, a DataGridView control is bound to a collection of Task objects. Each Task object has an AssignedTo property that indicates the Employee object currently assigned to that task. The Assigned To column displays the Name property value for each assigned employee, or "unassigned" if the Task.AssignedTo property value is null.

To view the behavior of this example, perform the following steps:

  1. Change assignments in the Assigned To column by selecting different values from the drop-down lists or pressing CTRL+0 in a combo-box cell.

  2. Click Generate Report to display the current assignments. This demonstrates that a change in the Assigned To column automatically updates the tasks collection.

  3. Click a Request Status button to call the RequestStatus method of the current Employee object for that row. This demonstrates that the selected object has been successfully retrieved.

using System;
using System.Text;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Windows.Forms;

public class Form1 : Form
{
    private List<Employee> employees = new List<Employee>();
    private List<Task> tasks = new List<Task>();
    private Button reportButton = new Button();
    private DataGridView dataGridView1 = new DataGridView();

    [STAThread]
    public static void Main()
    {
        Application.Run(new Form1());
    }

    public Form1()
    {
        dataGridView1.Dock = DockStyle.Fill;
        dataGridView1.AutoSizeColumnsMode = 
            DataGridViewAutoSizeColumnsMode.AllCells;
        reportButton.Text = "Generate Report";
        reportButton.Dock = DockStyle.Top;
        reportButton.Click += new EventHandler(reportButton_Click);

        Controls.Add(dataGridView1);
        Controls.Add(reportButton);
        Load += new EventHandler(Form1_Load);
        Text = "DataGridViewComboBoxColumn Demo";
    }

    // Initializes the data source and populates the DataGridView control.
    private void Form1_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        PopulateLists();
        dataGridView1.AutoGenerateColumns = false;
        dataGridView1.DataSource = tasks;
        AddColumns();
    }

    // Populates the employees and tasks lists. 
    private void PopulateLists()
    {
        employees.Add(new Employee("Harry"));
        employees.Add(new Employee("Sally"));
        employees.Add(new Employee("Roy"));
        employees.Add(new Employee("Pris"));
        tasks.Add(new Task(1, employees[1]));
        tasks.Add(new Task(2));
        tasks.Add(new Task(3, employees[2]));
        tasks.Add(new Task(4));
    }

    // Configures columns for the DataGridView control.
    private void AddColumns()
    {
        DataGridViewTextBoxColumn idColumn = 
            new DataGridViewTextBoxColumn();
        idColumn.Name = "Task";
        idColumn.DataPropertyName = "Id";
        idColumn.ReadOnly = true;

        DataGridViewComboBoxColumn assignedToColumn = 
            new DataGridViewComboBoxColumn();

        // Populate the combo box drop-down list with Employee objects. 
        foreach (Employee e in employees) assignedToColumn.Items.Add(e);

        // Add "unassigned" to the drop-down list and display it for 
        // empty AssignedTo values or when the user presses CTRL+0. 
        assignedToColumn.Items.Add("unassigned");
        assignedToColumn.DefaultCellStyle.NullValue = "unassigned";

        assignedToColumn.Name = "Assigned To";
        assignedToColumn.DataPropertyName = "AssignedTo";
        assignedToColumn.AutoComplete = true;
        assignedToColumn.DisplayMember = "Name";
        assignedToColumn.ValueMember = "Self";

        // Add a button column. 
        DataGridViewButtonColumn buttonColumn = 
            new DataGridViewButtonColumn();
        buttonColumn.HeaderText = "";
        buttonColumn.Name = "Status Request";
        buttonColumn.Text = "Request Status";
        buttonColumn.UseColumnTextForButtonValue = true;

        dataGridView1.Columns.Add(idColumn);
        dataGridView1.Columns.Add(assignedToColumn);
        dataGridView1.Columns.Add(buttonColumn);

        // Add a CellClick handler to handle clicks in the button column.
        dataGridView1.CellClick +=
            new DataGridViewCellEventHandler(dataGridView1_CellClick);
    }

    // Reports on task assignments. 
    private void reportButton_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        StringBuilder report = new StringBuilder();
        foreach (Task t in tasks)
        {
            String assignment = 
                t.AssignedTo == null ? 
                "unassigned" : "assigned to " + t.AssignedTo.Name;
            report.AppendFormat("Task {0} is {1}.", t.Id, assignment);
            report.Append(Environment.NewLine);
        }
        MessageBox.Show(report.ToString(), "Task Assignments");
    }

    // Calls the Employee.RequestStatus method.
    void dataGridView1_CellClick(object sender, DataGridViewCellEventArgs e)
    {
        // Ignore clicks that are not on button cells. 
        if (e.RowIndex < 0 || e.ColumnIndex !=
            dataGridView1.Columns["Status Request"].Index) return;

        // Retrieve the task ID.
        Int32 taskID = (Int32)dataGridView1[0, e.RowIndex].Value;

        // Retrieve the Employee object from the "Assigned To" cell.
        Employee assignedTo = dataGridView1.Rows[e.RowIndex]
            .Cells["Assigned To"].Value as Employee;

        // Request status through the Employee object if present. 
        if (assignedTo != null)
        {
            assignedTo.RequestStatus(taskID);
        }
        else
        {
            MessageBox.Show(String.Format(
                "Task {0} is unassigned.", taskID), "Status Request");
        }
    }

}

public class Task
{
    public Task(Int32 id)
    {
        idValue = id;
    }

    public Task(Int32 id, Employee assignedTo)
    {
        idValue = id;
        assignedToValue = assignedTo;
    }

    private Int32 idValue;
    public Int32 Id
    {
        get { return idValue; }
        set { idValue = value; }
    }

    private Employee assignedToValue;
    public Employee AssignedTo
    {
        get { return assignedToValue; }
        set { assignedToValue = value; }
    }
}

public class Employee
{
    public Employee(String name)
    {
        nameValue = name;
    }

    private String nameValue;
    public String Name
    {
        get { return nameValue; }
        set { nameValue = value; }
    }

    public Employee Self 
    { 
        get { return this; } 
    }

    public void RequestStatus(Int32 taskID)
    {
        MessageBox.Show(String.Format(
            "Status for task {0} has been requested from {1}.", 
            taskID, nameValue), "Status Request");
    }
}
Imports System
Imports System.Text
Imports System.Collections.Generic
Imports System.Windows.Forms

Public Class Form1
    Inherits Form

    Private employees As New List(Of Employee)
    Private tasks As New List(Of Task)
    Private WithEvents reportButton As New Button
    Private WithEvents dataGridView1 As New DataGridView

    <STAThread()> _
    Public Sub Main()
        Application.Run(New Form1)
    End Sub

    Sub New()
        dataGridView1.Dock = DockStyle.Fill
        dataGridView1.AutoSizeColumnsMode = _
            DataGridViewAutoSizeColumnsMode.AllCells
        reportButton.Text = "Generate Report"
        reportButton.Dock = DockStyle.Top

        Controls.Add(dataGridView1)
        Controls.Add(reportButton)
        Text = "DataGridViewComboBoxColumn Demo"
    End Sub

    ' Initializes the data source and populates the DataGridView control.
    Private Sub Form1_Load(ByVal sender As Object, _
        ByVal e As EventArgs) Handles Me.Load

        PopulateLists()
        dataGridView1.AutoGenerateColumns = False
        dataGridView1.DataSource = tasks
        AddColumns()

    End Sub

    ' Populates the employees and tasks lists. 
    Private Sub PopulateLists()
        employees.Add(New Employee("Harry"))
        employees.Add(New Employee("Sally"))
        employees.Add(New Employee("Roy"))
        employees.Add(New Employee("Pris"))
        tasks.Add(New Task(1, employees(1)))
        tasks.Add(New Task(2))
        tasks.Add(New Task(3, employees(2)))
        tasks.Add(New Task(4))
    End Sub

    ' Configures columns for the DataGridView control.
    Private Sub AddColumns()

        Dim idColumn As New DataGridViewTextBoxColumn()
        idColumn.Name = "Task"
        idColumn.DataPropertyName = "Id"
        idColumn.ReadOnly = True

        Dim assignedToColumn As New DataGridViewComboBoxColumn()

        ' Populate the combo box drop-down list with Employee objects. 
        For Each e As Employee In employees
            assignedToColumn.Items.Add(e)
        Next

        ' Add "unassigned" to the drop-down list and display it for 
        ' empty AssignedTo values or when the user presses CTRL+0. 
        assignedToColumn.Items.Add("unassigned")
        assignedToColumn.DefaultCellStyle.NullValue = "unassigned"

        assignedToColumn.Name = "Assigned To"
        assignedToColumn.DataPropertyName = "AssignedTo"
        assignedToColumn.AutoComplete = True
        assignedToColumn.DisplayMember = "Name"
        assignedToColumn.ValueMember = "Self"

        ' Add a button column. 
        Dim buttonColumn As New DataGridViewButtonColumn()
        buttonColumn.HeaderText = ""
        buttonColumn.Name = "Status Request"
        buttonColumn.Text = "Request Status"
        buttonColumn.UseColumnTextForButtonValue = True

        dataGridView1.Columns.Add(idColumn)
        dataGridView1.Columns.Add(assignedToColumn)
        dataGridView1.Columns.Add(buttonColumn)

    End Sub

    ' Reports on task assignments. 
    Private Sub reportButton_Click(ByVal sender As Object, _
        ByVal e As EventArgs) Handles reportButton.Click

        Dim report As New StringBuilder()
        For Each t As Task In tasks
            Dim assignment As String
            If t.AssignedTo Is Nothing Then
                assignment = "unassigned"
            Else
                assignment = "assigned to " + t.AssignedTo.Name
            End If
            report.AppendFormat("Task {0} is {1}.", t.Id, assignment)
            report.Append(Environment.NewLine)
        Next
        MessageBox.Show(report.ToString(), "Task Assignments")

    End Sub

    ' Calls the Employee.RequestStatus method.
    Private Sub dataGridView1_CellClick(ByVal sender As Object, _
        ByVal e As DataGridViewCellEventArgs) _
        Handles dataGridView1.CellClick

        ' Ignore clicks that are not on button cells. 
        If e.RowIndex < 0 OrElse Not e.ColumnIndex = _
            dataGridView1.Columns("Status Request").Index Then Return

        ' Retrieve the task ID.
        Dim taskID As Int32 = CInt(dataGridView1(0, e.RowIndex).Value)

        ' Retrieve the Employee object from the "Assigned To" cell.
        Dim assignedTo As Employee = TryCast(dataGridView1.Rows(e.RowIndex) _
            .Cells("Assigned To").Value, Employee)

        ' Request status through the Employee object if present. 
        If assignedTo IsNot Nothing Then
            assignedTo.RequestStatus(taskID)
        Else
            MessageBox.Show(String.Format( _
                "Task {0} is unassigned.", taskID), "Status Request")
        End If

    End Sub

End Class

Public Class Task

    Sub New(ByVal id As Int32)
        idValue = id
    End Sub

    Sub New(ByVal id As Int32, ByVal assignedTo As Employee)
        idValue = id
        assignedToValue = assignedTo
    End Sub

    Private idValue As Int32
    Public Property Id() As Int32
        Get
            Return idValue
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Int32)
            idValue = value
        End Set
    End Property

    Private assignedToValue As Employee
    Public Property AssignedTo() As Employee
        Get
            Return assignedToValue
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Employee)
            assignedToValue = value
        End Set
    End Property

End Class

Public Class Employee

    Sub New(ByVal name As String)
        nameValue = name
    End Sub

    Private nameValue As String
    Public Property Name() As String
        Get
            Return nameValue
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As String)
            nameValue = value
        End Set
    End Property

    Public ReadOnly Property Self() As Employee
        Get
            Return Me
        End Get
    End Property

    Public Sub RequestStatus(ByVal taskID As Int32)
        MessageBox.Show(String.Format( _
            "Status for task {0} has been requested from {1}.", _
            taskID, nameValue), "Status Request")
    End Sub

End Class

Compiling the Code

This example requires:

  • References to the System and System.Windows.Forms assemblies.

See Also

DataGridView
DataGridViewComboBoxColumn
System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxColumn.Items
System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxColumn.DataSource
System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxColumn.ValueMember
DataGridViewComboBoxCell
System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxCell.Items
System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxCell.DataSource
System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewComboBoxCell.ValueMember
System.Windows.Forms.DataGridViewCell.Value
ComboBox
Displaying Data in the Windows Forms DataGridView Control