[This article is for Windows 8.x and Windows Phone 8.x developers writing Windows Runtime apps. If you’re developing for Windows 10, see the latest documentation]
You can use the PropertyPath class and the string syntax to instantiate a PropertyPath value either in XAML or in code. PropertyPath values are used by data binding. A similar syntax is used for targeting storyboarded animations. But animation targeting doesn't create underlying PropertyPath values, it keeps the info as a string. For both scenarios, a property path describes a traversal of one or more object-property relationships that eventually resolve to a single property.
You can set a property path string directly to an attribute in XAML. You can use the same string syntax to construct a PropertyPath that sets a Binding in code, or to set an animation target in code using SetTargetProperty. There are two distinct feature areas in the Windows Runtime that use a property path: data binding, and animation targeting. Animation targeting doesn't create underlying PropertyPath values in the Windows Runtime implementation, it keeps the info as a string, but the concepts of object-property traversal are very similar. Data binding and animation targeting each evaluate a property path slightly differently, so we describe property path syntax separately for each.
Property path for objects in data binding
In Windows Runtime, you can bind to the target value of any dependency property. The source property value for a data binding doesn't have to be a dependency property; it can be a property on a business object (for example a class written in a Microsoft .NET language or C++). Or, the source object for the binding value can be an existing dependency object already defined by the app. The source can be referenced either by a simple property name, or by a traversal of the object-property relationships in the object graph of the business object.
You can bind to an individual property value, or you can bind to a target property that holds lists or collections. If your source is a collection, or if the path specifies a collection property, the data-binding engine matches the collection items of the source to the binding target, resulting in behavior such as populating a ListBox with a list of items from a data source collection without needing to anticipate the specific items in that collection.
Traversing an object graph
The element of the syntax that denotes the traversal of an object-property relationship in an object graph is the dot (.) character. Each dot in a property path string indicates a division between an object (left side of the dot) and a property of that object (right side of the dot). The string is evaluated left-to-right, which enables stepping through multiple object-property relationships. Let's look at an example:
Here's how this path is evaluated:
- The data context object (or a Source specified by the same Binding) is searched for a property named "Customer".
- The object that is the value of the "Customer" property is searched for a property named "Address".
- The object that is the value of the "Address" property is searched for a property named "StreetAddress1".
At each of these steps, the value is treated as an object. The type of the result is checked only when the binding is applied to a specific property. This example would fail if "Address" were just a string value that didn't expose what part of the string was the street address. Typically, the binding is pointing to the specific nested property values of a business object that has a known and deliberate information structure.
Rules for the properties in a data-binding property path
- All properties referenced by a property path must be public in the source business object.
- The end property (the property that is the last named property in the path) must be public and must be mutable – you can't bind to static values.
- The end property must be read/write if this path is used as the Path information for a two-way binding.
A property path for data-binding can include references to indexed properties. This enables binding to ordered lists/vectors, or to dictionaries/maps. Use square brackets "" characters to indicate an indexed property. The contents of these brackets can be either an integer (for ordered list) or an unquoted string (for dictionaries). You can also bind to a dictionary where the key is an integer. You can use different indexed properties in the same path with a dot separating the object-property.
For example, consider a business object where there is a list of "Teams" (ordered list), each of which has a dictionary of "Players" where each player is keyed by last name. An example property path to a specific player on the second team is: "Teams.Players[Smith]". (You use 1 to indicate the second item in "Teams" because the list is zero-indexed.)
Note Indexing support for C++ data sources is limited; see Data binding overview.
Property paths can include references to attached properties. Because the identifying name of an attached property already includes a dot, you must enclose any attached property name within parentheses so that the dot isn't treated as an object-property step. For example, the string to specify that you want to use Canvas.ZIndex as a binding path is "(Canvas.ZIndex)". For more info on attached properties see Attached properties overview.
Combining property path syntax
You can combine various elements of property path syntax in a single string. For example, you can define a property path that references an indexed attached property, if your data source had such a property.
Debugging a binding property path
Because a property path is interpreted by a binding engine and relies on info that may be present only at run-time, you must often debug a property path for binding without being able to rely on conventional design-time or compile-time support in the development tools. In many cases the run-time result of failing to resolve a property path is a blank value with no error, because that is the by-design fallback behavior of binding resolution. Fortunately, Microsoft Visual Studio provides a debug output mode that can isolate which part of a property path that's specifying a binding source failed to resolve. For more info on using this development tool feature, see "Debugging" section of the Data binding overview topic.
Property path for animation targeting
Animations rely on targeting a dependency property where storyboarded values are applied when the animation runs. To identify the object where the property to be animated exists, the animation targets an element by name (x:Name). It is often necessary to define a property path that starts with the object identified as the Storyboard.TargetName, and ends with the particular dependency property value where the animation should apply. That property path is used as the value for Storyboard.TargetProperty.
For more info on the how to define animations in XAML, see Storyboarded animations.
If you are animating a property that exists on the targeted object itself, and that property's type can have an animation applied directly to it (rather than to a sub-property of a property's value) then you can simply name the property being animated without any further qualification. For example, if you are targeting a Shape subclass such as Rectangle, and you are applying an animated Color to the Fill property, your property path can be "Fill".
Indirect property targeting
You can animate a property that is a sub-property of the target object. In other words, if there's a property of the target object that's an object itself, and that object has properties, you must define a property path that explains how to step through that object-property relationship. Whenever you are specifying an object where you want to animate a sub-property, you enclose the property name in parentheses, and you specify the property in typename.propertyname format. For example, to specify that you want the object value of a target object's RenderTransform property, you specify "(UIElement.RenderTransform)" as the first step in the property path. This isn't yet a complete path, because there are no animations that can apply to a Transform value directly. So for this example, you now complete the property path so that the end property is a property of a Transform subclass that can be animated by a Double value: "(UIElement.RenderTransform).(CompositeTransform.TranslateX)"
Specifying a particular child in a collection
To specify a child item in a collection property, you can use a numeric indexer. Use square brackets "" characters around the integer index value. You can reference only ordered lists, not dictionaries. Because a collection isn't a value that can be animated, an indexer usage can never be the end property in a property path.
For example, to specify that you want to animate the first color stop color in a LinearGradientBrush that is applied to a control's Background property, this is the property path: "(Control.Background).(GradientBrush.GradientStops).(GradientStop.Color)". Note how the indexer is not the last step in the path, and that the last step particularly must reference the GradientStop.Color property of item 0 in the collection to apply a Color animated value to it.
Animating an attached property
It isn't a common scenario, but it is possible to animate an attached property, so long as that attached property has a property value that matches an animation type. Because the identifying name of an attached property already includes a dot, you must enclose any attached property name within parentheses so that the dot isn't treated as an object-property step. For example, the string to specify that you want to animate the Grid.Row attached property on an object, use the property path "(Grid.Row)".
Note For this example, the value of Grid.Row is an Int32 property type. so you can't animate it with a Double animation. Instead, you'd define an ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames that has DiscreteObjectKeyFrame components, where the ObjectKeyFrame.Value is set to an integer such as "0" or "1".
Rules for the properties in an animation targeting property path
- The assumed starting point of the property path is the object identified by a Storyboard.TargetName.
- All objects and properties referenced along the property path must be public.
- The end property (the property that is the last named property in the path) must be public, be read-write, and be a dependency property.
- The end property must have a property type that is able to be animated by one of the broad classes of animation types (Color animations, Double animations, Point animations, ObjectAnimationUsingKeyFrames).
The PropertyPath class
Most of the time, you can apply a PropertyPath in XAML without using any code at all. But in some cases you may want to define a PropertyPath object using code and assign it to a property at run-time.
PropertyPath has a PropertyPath(String) constructor, and doesn't have a default constructor. The string you pass to this constructor is a string that's defined using the property path syntax as we explained earlier. This is also the same string you'd use to assign Path as a XAML attribute. The only other API of the PropertyPath class is the Path property, which is read-only. You could use this property as the construction string for another PropertyPath instance.