There are some features in the System.Data.DataTable class that a lot of developers don’t utilize. I base that statement on different code samples I’ve seen on blogs and article bases during the last couple of years. Some of these features can improve the performance.

Calculated columns

First of all, I’ll create a DataTable manually, even though it is more likely to be created from querying a database.

DataTable dt = new DataTable();
dt.Columns.Add("Name", typeof(string));
dt.Columns.Add("Price", typeof(double));
dt.Columns.Add("ItemsInStock", typeof(double));

Imaging that there is 100 rows in that DataTable and you now want to calculate total price of all item currently in stock. The calculation is Price*ItemsInStock. What I see in a lot of code samples is that this column is calculated in the database by a SQL statement like this:

SELECT name, price, itemsinstock, (price*itemsinstock) AS stockprice FROM products”

The overhead in letting the database do the calculation is not that much in this particular example, because it is a simple multiplication of two rows. It could easily be more complicated than this example. The thing is, that .NET performs these kinds of calculation much more efficient than a database and that’s why we would like .NET to do them.

The DataTable class supports on-the-fly calculated columns and they are perfect to use in the example. Just add another column to the DataTable and give it a calculation formula.

dt.Columns.Add("StockPrice", typeof(double), "Price*ItemsInStock");

The calculation expression ("Price*ItemsInStock") can also use predefined functions like an if-statement.

"IIF(ItemsInStock = 0, 100, PricePrice*ItemsInStock)"

There a many different functions to use in the calculation expression.

Auto increment

Let’s say you want to bind the DataTable to a DataGrid in an ASP.NET page and that you want a column to display the row number. This can be done by adding a column to  the DataTable that has enabled the AutoIncrement property.

DataColumn col = new DataColumn("#", typeof(int));
col.AutoIncrement = true;
col.AutoIncrementSeed = 1;

Now you have a column named “#” that contains the row number.

Querying the DataTable

You can query a DataTable in different ways in order to find the row you need. If you want all the rows in the DataTable that matches a search expression then you would use the Select method.

DataRow[] rows = dt.Select("Price > 159");

The Select method returns a DataRow array you can loop through like you normally would loop through all the rows in the DataTable.

foreach (DataRow row in rows)

If you just want a single row based on the DataTable’s primary key, then you have to let the DataTable know which of the columns is the primary key.

dt.PrimaryKey = new DataColumn[] { dt.Columns["#"]};

When you have defined the DataTable’s primary key, you can now query directly for that key and get the whole row returned by using the Find method.

DataRow oneRow = dt.Rows.Find("19");

This method is faster than the Select method. If there is no row with the primary key value of “19”, the Find method returns null. So, before you use the returned DataRow, you probably want to check if the row exist first.

if (oneRow != null)

Column totals

You decide to add totals to the footer row of the DataGrid and therefore needs to sum the integer type columns. You can do that very easy with the Compute method.

dt.Compute("sum(price)", null)

Or, put a filter on

dt.Compute("sum(price)", "price > 40")

The DataTable class is very powerful and can improve the performance by removing calculations to .NET instead of doing them on the database. The different ways to query the rows are also very impressive and flexible and that makes the DataTable a serious in-memory database.


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