Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Simple Property Editor using Reflection in C#

I am working on an internal project where I need to be able to pass an object that has both read and write properties to a simple editor.  The editor must understand when a property can be changed and how to do conversions correctly back into the original object.  I use reflection to accomplish this.  See the scree below:


Notice the Property Description column.  A "friendly" description of each property is achieved through the DescriptionAttribute.  Here is an example of applying this attribute to a property:

[Description("Specifies whether scheduling constraints take precedence over dependencies.")]
public bool HonorConstraints
    get { return _HonorConstraints; }
    set { _HonorConstraints = value; }
Here is the object creation and the instantiation of the property editor:
ProjectCreationOptions options = new ProjectCreationOptions 
                                     {   AutoCalculateActualAndRemainingWorkAndCosts = true, 
                                         CalculateActualCosts = false, 
                                         CalculateMultipleCriticalPaths = true, 
                                         CalendarGuid = Guid.NewGuid(), 
                                         /*Guid = Guid.NewGuid(),*/ 
                                         HonorConstraints = true, Name = "test"

PropertyEditorForm propertyEditorForm = new PropertyEditorForm(options);

if (propertyEditorForm.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK)
    Debug.Print((propertyEditorForm.Object as ProjectCreationOptions).Name);

The form's constructor looks like this:

public PropertyEditorForm(object objectWithProperties)

      _ObjectWithProperties = objectWithProperties;

      Type type = _ObjectWithProperties.GetType();

      _PropertyInfo = type.GetProperties();

      foreach (PropertyInfo property in _PropertyInfo)
          object[] attributes = property.GetCustomAttributes(false);

          string description = string.Empty;

          foreach (object attribute in attributes)
              var descriptionAttribute = attribute as DescriptionAttribute;

              if (descriptionAttribute != null)
                  description = descriptionAttribute.Description;

          object returnValue = property.GetValue(_ObjectWithProperties, null);

          if (returnValue == null)
              returnValue = string.Empty;

          propertiesGridView.Rows.Add(new object[] {property.Name, description, returnValue.ToString()});

          if (!property.CanWrite)
              propertiesGridView.Rows[propertiesGridView.Rows.Count - 1].ReadOnly = true;
              propertiesGridView.Rows[propertiesGridView.Rows.Count - 1].DefaultCellStyle.BackColor = Color.SlateGray;

The essence of what is going on above is this: 

  • Get the properties from the incoming type (type.GetProperties())
  • For each property, get the custom attributes (in order to get at the DescriptionAttribute)
  • If the description is defined, store it
  • Get the value of the property for the particular instance
  • If the value of the property is null, convert it to string.empty
  • Add a new row to the property editor data grid view
  • If the property is read-only, set the row to read-only and make its background gray

In the editor, if the row is not read-only, changes can be made to the values in the furthest right column.  Clicking "OK" persists those values back into the object, which in turn is available as a public property of the editor dialog.  The code looks like this (error handling removed):

string propertyName = (string) row.Cells[PROPERTY_NAME_COLUMN_INDEX].Value;

foreach (PropertyInfo propertyInfo in _PropertyInfo)
    if (propertyInfo.Name == propertyName && propertyInfo.CanWrite)
        object value = 

        propertyInfo.SetValue(_ObjectWithProperties, value, null);


The interesting part here is the call to TypeDescriptor.GetConverter handles the conversion for simple types.

Hope this helps someone.

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