Customizing the Table Control: Sortable by Column (Kevin Mehlhaff)

The Table control is a new way to display a collection of data in the LightSwitch HTML Client as of Visual Studio 2013. Like all controls in the LightSwitch HTML client, you can take over the rendering and write your own custom code. Today we will be leveraging the power of the LightSwitch middle tier and the flexibility of HTML to make one such customization. We will be adding sortable column headers to the table so that the user of the application can choose to sort by a particular field. This makes it easy for the user to find the data he or she is looking for.

Adding Custom Query

First we will create a new LightSwitch HTML application. For this example, attach to an external data source, choose the Northwind OData feed at and import the Customer entity.

Then add a new server query on the Customers table, named SortedCustomers.


Next add two new parameters to the query, SortPropertyName, of type String, and SortAscending of type Boolean:


Then select Write Code to edit the SortedCustomers_PreprocessQuery method:


In order to sort by a dynamic property name we will need to build up the LINQ query programmatically. Create two Extension methods on the IQueryable interface in order to do this. Add the following class before the NorthwindEntitiesDataService class definition:


Module OrderByExtensions

    Private ReadOnly OrderByMethod As MethodInfo = 
Function(method) method.Name = "OrderBy").Where(Function(method)
method.GetParameters().Length = 2).[Single]()
Private ReadOnly OrderByDescendingMethod As MethodInfo =
Function(method) method.Name = "OrderByDescending").
Function(method) method.GetParameters().Length = 2).[Single]() Private Function GetOrderByMethodForProperty(Of TSource)(source As IQueryable(Of TSource),
As String,
As MethodInfo)
As IQueryable(Of TSource) ' Create a parameter "x", where x is of TSource type Dim parameter As ParameterExpression = Expression.Parameter(GetType(TSource), "x") ' Access a property on the parameter: "x.<propertyName>" Dim parameterProperty As Expression = Expression.[Property](parameter, propertyName) ' Create a lambda of the form "x => x.<propertyName>" Dim lambda As LambdaExpression = Expression.Lambda(parameterProperty, {parameter}) Dim orderByMethodTyped As MethodInfo =
GetType(TSource), parameterProperty.Type}) Dim retVal = orderByMethodTyped.Invoke(Nothing, New Object() {source, lambda})
Return DirectCast(retVal, IQueryable(Of TSource)) End Function <System.Runtime.CompilerServices.Extension> Public Function OrderByPropertyName(Of TSource)(source As IQueryable(Of TSource),
As String)
As IQueryable(Of TSource)
Return GetOrderByMethodForProperty(Of TSource)(source, propertyName, OrderByMethod) End Function <System.Runtime.CompilerServices.Extension> Public Function OrderByPropertyNameDescending(Of TSource)(source As IQueryable(Of TSource),
As String)
As IQueryable(Of TSource) Return GetOrderByMethodForProperty(Of TSource)(source,
End Function End Module


public static class OrderByExtensions
        private static readonly MethodInfo OrderByMethod =
            .Where(method => method.Name == "OrderBy")
            .Where(method => method.GetParameters().Length == 2)

        private static readonly MethodInfo OrderByDescendingMethod =
            .Where(method => method.Name == "OrderByDescending")
            .Where(method => method.GetParameters().Length == 2)

        private static IQueryable<TSource> GetOrderByMethodForProperty<TSource>
            (IQueryable<TSource> source, string propertyName, MethodInfo orderByMethod)
            // Create a parameter "x", where x is of TSource type
            ParameterExpression parameter = Expression.Parameter(typeof(TSource), "x");
            // Access a property on the parameter: "x.<propertyName>"
            Expression parameterProperty = Expression.Property(parameter, propertyName);
            // Create a lambda of the form "x => x.<propertyName>"
            LambdaExpression lambda = Expression.Lambda(parameterProperty, new[] { parameter });
            MethodInfo orderByMethodTyped = orderByMethod.MakeGenericMethod
                (new[] { typeof(TSource), parameterProperty.Type });
            object retVal = orderByMethodTyped.Invoke(null, new object[] { source, lambda });
            return (IQueryable<TSource>)retVal;
        public static IQueryable<TSource> OrderByPropertyName<TSource>
            (this IQueryable<TSource> source, string propertyName)
            return GetOrderByMethodForProperty<TSource>(source, propertyName, OrderByMethod);

        public static IQueryable<TSource> OrderByPropertyNameDescending<TSource>
          (this IQueryable<TSource> source, string propertyName)
            return GetOrderByMethodForProperty<TSource>(source, 
OrderByDescendingMethod); } }

We will also need to add two using statements at the top of the file.


Imports System.Reflection
Imports System.Linq.Expressions


using System.Reflection;
using System.Linq.Expressions;

Once we have these extension methods, we can use them in the SortedCustomers_PreprocessQuery method:


Private Sub SortedCustomers_PreprocessQuery(SortPropertyName As String,
        SortAscending As System.Nullable(Of Boolean),
        ByRef query As System.Linq.IQueryable(Of LightSwitchApplication.Customer))

    If Not String.IsNullOrEmpty(SortPropertyName) Then
        If (Not SortAscending.HasValue OrElse SortAscending.Value) Then
            query = query.OrderByPropertyName(SortPropertyName)
            query = query.OrderByPropertyNameDescending(SortPropertyName)
        End If
    End If
End Sub


 partial void SortedCustomers_PreprocessQuery(string SortPropertyName, 
bool? SortAscending, ref IQueryable<Customer> query) { if (!String.IsNullOrEmpty(SortPropertyName)) { if (!SortAscending.HasValue || SortAscending.Value) query = query.OrderByPropertyName(SortPropertyName); else query = query.OrderByPropertyNameDescending(SortPropertyName); } }

Adding Functionality to the Table Control

Now that we have a query that can handle sorting based on the name of a property, add a screen. Add a Browse Screen and select the SortedCustomers query as the data source:


Click OK to create the screen. Notice that in the Data Members List on the left two screen properties have been automatically added from the template. The first, CustomerSortPropertyName, is bound to the SortPropertyName parameter on the SortedCustomers query while the second, CustomerSortAscending, is bound to the SortAscending query parameter. These screen properties are automatically added to the screen in the Screen Content Tree. We will refer to these properties in custom code later but we do not need these on the screen, so select them from the tree and delete:


Now change the collection type of Sorted Customers on the screen from a List to a Table control:


Edit the postRender method for the Table by selecting the Table on the screen and clicking the Write Code dropdown:


Since everything in JavaScript is an object, give a name, CustomerPostRender, to the postRender function so we can reference it later. In this case we will use it to store static variables that retain their values between calls to the function. Add the following code to the function:

// Give a name, CustomerPostRender, to this function so 
// that we can use it to store static variables
myapp.BrowseSortedCustomers.Customer_postRender =
function CustomerPostRender(element, contentItem) { // Write code here. if (CustomerPostRender.ascending == undefined) { CustomerPostRender.ascending =
contentItem.screen.CustomerSortAscending != undefined ? contentItem.screen.CustomerSortAscending :
true; } $("th", $(element)).each(function (i) { // Get the column header contentItem based on the index var headerContentItem = contentItem.children[0].children[i]; // Some columns might contain contentItems that do not directly display the value // of a sortable property. For example, a column could contain a navigation property // (navigation properties are not order comparable) or a column could contain a // button. We skip adding an onclick handler in these cases. if (headerContentItem.kind !== "Value") { return; } var propertyName =; // Add a click handler for each table header $(this).on("click", function () { var text = $(this).text(); // The same column has been clicked twice, so reverse the sort order. if (CustomerPostRender.lastColumnClicked == this) { text = $(CustomerPostRender.lastColumnClicked).data("originalText"); CustomerPostRender.ascending = !CustomerPostRender.ascending; } else { // A different table header was clicked than the previous one if (CustomerPostRender.lastColumnClicked != undefined) { // Reset the last table header to remove the sort graphic $(CustomerPostRender.lastColumnClicked).html( $(CustomerPostRender.lastColumnClicked).data("originalText")); } } applySortGraphic(this, text, CustomerPostRender.ascending); contentItem.screen.CustomerSortPropertyName = propertyName; contentItem.screen.CustomerSortAscending = CustomerPostRender.ascending; // Store the original text of the table header by using the JQuery data api $(this).data("originalText", text); CustomerPostRender.lastColumnClicked = this; }); // Set the column that is sorted initially if (propertyName == contentItem.screen.CustomerSortPropertyName) { $(this).data("originalText", $(this).text()); CustomerPostRender.lastColumnClicked = this; applySortGraphic(this, $(this).text(), CustomerPostRender.ascending); } }); };

Add an additional function to the code-behind file to apply the sort graphic. Here we are just using HTML entities to make it easy to display an up triangle or a down triangle:

function applySortGraphic(element, text, ascending) {
    // Use html entity for up triangle and down triangle respectively
    var graphic = ascending ? "&#9650;" : "&#9660;";
    $(element).html(text + " " + graphic);

To sort by a default property and direction we can edit the screen’s created entry point to set default values. Go back to the screen designer and select the created entry in the Write Code drop down:


Add the following code to set the table to initially sort by the ContactName property in the ascending direction:

myapp.BrowseSortedCustomers.created = function (screen) {
    screen.CustomerSortAscending = true;
    screen.CustomerSortPropertyName = "ContactName";

Now if we F5, we see the browse screen that is initially sorted by the Customer’s ContactName property. Clicking a different column header will sort by that column while clicking the same column header twice will reverse the sort direction.



Using the flexibility of HTML and the LightSwitch middle tier, we were quickly able to add additional functionality on top of the existing Table control. All we had to do was create a custom server query that could sort on a property name and then create a basic UI on top of the column headers.

– Kevin Mehlhaff, Software Development Engineer in Test, LightSwitch Team