Improving LINQ code reusability: Select method

Select method is used to project each element of a sequence into a new form, i.e. it can be used to map a collection of one type to a collection of another type. In this article I’ll show you a simple approach that will allow you to reuse the code used in the Select method.

Table of contents

The Problem

Consider the following model:

Let’s suppose that you have a services layer, so you don’t want to expose your domain objects directly to the client applications. Instead you create a set of data contracts (or DTOs, if you prefer):

At some stage you’ll have to convert those Domain objects to data contracts. This is a common way of doing it:

var details = repository.All<Album>().Select(album => new AlbumDetail {
    AlbumId = album.AlbumId,
    Price = album.Price,
    Title = album.Title,

    ArtistId = album.ArtistId,
    GenreId = album.GenreId,
    ArtistName = (album.Artist == null) ? null : album.Artist.Name,
    GenreName = (album.Genre == null) ? null : album.Genre.Name
});

There is a problem with this approach – if you need to query the same collection but using different criteria you have to duplicate the code inside the Select method.

Solution 1 – Creating a method for the mapping

In order to reuse the code, we can create a method that converts Album objects (Domain) to data contract objects:

private static AlbumSummary CreateAlbumSummary(Album album)
{
    return new AlbumSummary {
        AlbumId = album.AlbumId,
        Title = album.Title,

        ArtistName = (album.Artist == null) ? null : album.Artist.Name
    };
}

private static AlbumDetail CreateAlbumDetail(Album album)
{
    return new AlbumDetail {
        AlbumId = album.AlbumId,
        Price = album.Price,
        Title = album.Title,

        ArtistId = album.ArtistId,
        GenreId = album.GenreId,
        ArtistName = (album.Artist == null) ? null : album.Artist.Name,
        GenreName = (album.Genre == null) ? null : album.Genre.Name
    };
}

Using the code:

var albums = Albums.Select(CreateAlbumDetail);
var albumsByGenre = Albums.Where(x => x.GenreId == genreId).Select(CreateAlbumDetail);

// alternative way
var albums2 = Albums.Select(x => CreateAlbumDetail(x));
var albumsByGenre2 = Albums.Where(x => x.GenreId == genreId).Select(x => CreateAlbumDetail(x));

Solution 2 – Creating a generic ObjectMapper object

The previous solution solves the code reusability problem, but there’s still a tight coupling between components. Abstractions should be used to implement loose coupling between components – in this case, to abstract the mapping code.

Step 1: define a contract (interface) with a method that converts one object of type TSource to an object of type TDestination:

public interface IObjectMapper
{
    TDestination Map<TSource, TDestination>(TSource source);
}

Step 2: create a class that implements IObjectMapper (click to expand):

public class ObjectMapper : IObjectMapper
{
    private Dictionary<Type, Func<object, object>> Mappers = new Dictionary<Type, Func<object, object>>
    {
        { typeof(Tuple<Album, AlbumDetail>), CreateAlbumDetail },
        { typeof(Tuple<Album, AlbumSummary>), CreateAlbumSummary }

        // more mappings here
        // ....
    };


    public TDestination Map<TSource, TDestination>(TSource source)
    {
        if(source == null)
            return default(TDestination);

        Func<object, object> mapper = null;
        Type key = typeof(Tuple<TSource, TDestination>);

        if(Mappers.TryGetValue(key, out mapper))
        {
            var newObject = mapper(source);
            return (TDestination) newObject;
        }

        string errorMessage = string.Format("Invalid mapping (Source: {0}, Destination: {1})";,
                                            typeof(TSource).FullName, 
                                            typeof(TDestination).FullName);
        
        throw new InvalidOperationException(errorMessage);
    }


    private static object CreateAlbumDetail(object source)
    {
        var album = source as Album;

        return new AlbumDetail {
            AlbumId = album.AlbumId,
            Price = album.Price,
            Title = album.Title,

            ArtistId = album.ArtistId,
            GenreId = album.GenreId,
            ArtistName = (album.Artist == null) ? null : album.Artist.Name,
            GenreName = (album.Genre == null) ? null : album.Genre.Name
        };
    }

    private static object CreateAlbumSummary(object source)
    {
        var album = source as Album;

        return new AlbumSummary {
            AlbumId = album.AlbumId,
            Title = album.Title,
            
            ArtistName = (album.Artist == null) ? null : album.Artist.Name
        };
    }
}

Example 1: Using LINQ

Using the mapper in a LINQ expression – convert an Album collection to an AlbumSummary collection:

IObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();

IEnumerable<AlbumSummary> summaries = repository.All<Album>()
                                        .Select(mapper.Map<Album, AlbumSummary>);

Example 1: Mapping a single object

Using the mapper for a single object:

var album = new Album {
    AlbumId = 1,
    Price = 10.0m,
    Title = "The Dreamer",
    Artist = new Artist { ArtistId = 1, Name = "José James" },
    Genre = new Genre { GenreId = 1, Name = "Jazz" }
};

IObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();

AlbumDetail albumDetail = mapper.Map<Album, AlbumDetail>(album);

Unit Testing

Some NUnit tests:

[Test]
public void Given_a_non_existing_mapping_when_mapping_object_then_should_throw_InvalidOperationException()
{
    // arrange
    IObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();
    var albumDetail = new AlbumDetail();

    // act/assert
    Assert.Throws<InvalidOperationException>(() => 
        // non-existing mapping
        mapper.Map<AlbumDetail, AlbumSummary>(albumDetail)
    );
}

[Test]
public void Given_an_album_when_mapping_to_album_summary_should_equals_expected_album_summary()
{
    // arrange
    IObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();
    
    var album = new Album {
        AlbumId = 4,
        Price = 10.0m,
        Title = "Heritage",
        Artist = new Artist { ArtistId = 4, Name = "Opeth" },
        Genre = new Genre { GenreId = 4, Name = "Metal" }
    };

    var expectedAlbumSummary = new AlbumSummary {
        AlbumId = 4,
        ArtistName = "Opeth",
        Title = "Heritage"
    };
    
    // act
    AlbumSummary albumSummary = mapper.Map<Album, AlbumSummary>(album);
    
    // assert
    Assert.AreEqual(albumSummary, expectedAlbumSummary);
}

Final thoughts

In this article you learned how to reuse the code used in the Select method, and how you can use that code to map single objects. But writing mapping code is tedious and time consuming. There are mapping tools out there that can make your life easier – AutoMapper is one of them. I’ve used it in the past and I definitely recommend it. So, why use Automapper? Quoting their website:

“What makes AutoMapper interesting is that it provides some interesting conventions to take the dirty work out of figuring out how to map type A to type B. As long as type B follows AutoMapper’s established convention, almost zero configuration is needed to map two types”

“Mapping code is boring. Testing mapping code is even more boring. AutoMapper provides simple configuration of types, as well as simple testing of mappings”

References

Downloads

Download the demo project (VS2010): LINQ-Select.zip

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Entity Framework and T4: Generate Specification Objects for your entities

Learn how to use Specification Pattern and how to generate Specification Objects for your Entity Framework entities using T4 templates.

Table of contents

Specification Pattern Overview

According to Martin Fowler and Eric Evans, a specification define a set of conditions that a candidate object must fulfill in order to meet the specification. Specifications can be used for:

  • Selection: When you need to select a set of objects based on some criteria
  • Validation: when you need to check that only suitable objects are used for a certain purpose

The Specification Pattern can be represented like this in .NET (using generics):

public interface ISpecification<T> where T : class
{
    Expression<Func<T, bool>> GetExpression();
    bool IsSatisfiedBy(T entity);
}

We can also create Composite Specifications by combining other specifications – this allow us to reuse existing specifications to create more complex ones.

Using Specification Pattern

I’m using the MVC Music Store database, this is the model:

Music Store Model
And now some examples. I will assume that you have a repository like this (I’m using this implementation):

public IQueryable All<T>(Expression<Func<bool, T>> expression) where T : class

A generic Specification class

public class Specification<T> : ISpecification<T> where T : class
{
    private Expression<Func<T, bool>> expression;

    public Expression<Func<T, bool>> GetExpression()
    {
        return expression;
    }

    public Specification(Expression<Func<T, bool>> expression)
    {
        this.expression = expression;
    }

    public bool IsSatisfiedBy(T entity)
    {
        var query = (new[] { entity }).AsQueryable();

        return query.Any(this.expression);
    }
}

Creating specifications

Using the generic class to create specifications:

  • One specification for jazz albums
  • One specification for cheap albums (price between 1 and 10)
public static ISpecification<Album> JazzAlbumSpecification
{
	get
	{
		return new Specification<Album>(
			x => x.Genre.Name == "Jazz"
		);
	}
}

public static ISpecification<Album> CheapAlbumSpecification
{
	get
	{
		return new Specification<Album>(
			x => x.Price >= 1 && x.Price <= 10
		);
	}
}

Selecting objects

var albums = from x in repository.All<Album>(JazzAlbumSpecification.GetExpression())
             select x;

Performing validation

Album metalAlbum = GetMetalAlbum();
Album jazzAlbum = GetJazzAlbum();

bool isJazzAlbum = JazzAlbumSpecification.IsSatisfiedBy(metalAlbum); 
isJazzAlbum = JazzAlbumSpecification.IsSatisfiedBy(jazzAlbum);

Composing specifications

Existing specifications can be combined to form more complex ones. Using these extension methods it’s easy to create composite specifications (see this article to understand how to combine lambda expressions):

public static ISpecification<T> And<T>(this ISpecification<T> first, ISpecification<T> second) where T : class
{
    return new Specification<T>(
        first.GetExpression()
        .And(second.GetExpression())
    );
}

public static ISpecification<T> Or<T>(this ISpecification<T> first, ISpecification<T> second) where T : class
{
	return new Specification<T>(
        first.GetExpression()
        .Or(second.GetExpression())
    );
}

The specifications defined above can now be combined to compose a new specification like this:

ISpecification<Album> cheapJazzAlbumSpecification = JazzAlbumSpecification.And(CheapAlbumSpecification);

// using the specification to select all cheap jazz albums
var cheapJazzAlbums = from x in repository.All<Album>(cheapJazzAlbumSpecification.GetExpression())
                      select x;

Using T4 to generate Specification Objects

T4 is a code generator built right into Visual Studio. You can generate any text file using T4 templates: C#, javascript, HTML, XML and many others. If you’ve never heard about it, this is a good place to start:

T4 (Text Template Transformation Toolkit) Code Generation – Best Kept Visual Studio Secret

I’ve created a T4 template that generates automatically all the Specification Objects, one for each entity in our model. All the generated objects have all the public properties of their respective entities, including association properties. All objects were marked with the [Serializable] attribute, so you can easily serialize it if you need.

In a previous article I’ve created query objects for Entity Framework, I’m generating exactly the same properties in this template. You can see a complete description of the generated properties here.

This is the generated object model:


The previous specifications can now be written like this:

public static ISpecification<Album> JazzAlbumSpecification
{
    get
    {
        return new AlbumSpecification() {
            Genre = new GenreSpecification() { Name = "Jazz" }
        };
    }
}

public static ISpecification<Album> CheapAlbumSpecification
{
    get
    {
        return new AlbumSpecification() {
            PriceFrom = 1,
            PriceTo = 10
        };
    }
}

Configuration

In the demo solution double-click ModelSpecification.tt and change the following lines, according to your needs:

string inputFile = @"Model.edmx";
string namespaceName = @"MusicStore.Model";
string filenameSuffix = "Specification.gen.cs";

When you save the template file or you rebuild the project the code will be regenerated. If you don’t want to generate the code, remove the value of the Custom Tool property in the property browser of the template file (by default the value is TextTemplatingFileGenerator).

References

[1] Specification Pattern

[2] Specification (Martin Fowler/Eric Evans)

[3] T4 (Text Template Transformation Toolkit) Code Generation – Best Kept Visual Studio Secret

[4] LINQ to Entities: Combining Predicates

[5] Implementing ISession in EF4

Downloads

Download the demo project: MusicStore-T4-Specification.rar


Entity Framework and T4: Generate Query Objects on the fly, part 1

Generate Query Objects on the fly for your Entity Framework entities using T4 templates. Don’t worry about LINQ, let the objects do all the work for you.

Table of contents

  • Configuration
  • References
  • Downloads
  • I’ve read some stuff about T4 templates in the last 2-3 years, but only recently I decided to give it a try. My first attempt was to generate Query Objects for Entity Framework, that’s what I’ll talk about in this article – what’s their purpose and how to use them.

    In part 2 I’ll create a demo ASP.NET MVC application that uses query objects created with this template. I already have another T4 template that creates javascript objects for my entities, and I’m developing a custom ASP.NET view template for those objects.

    Many thanks to Colin Meek [4], his work has really helpful.

    What is a Query Object?

    A Query Object is an object that represents a database query [1]:

    A Query Object is an interpreter [Gang of Four], that is, a structure of objects that can form itself into a SQL query. You can create this query by referring to classes and fields rather than tables and columns. In this way those who write the queries can do so independently of the database schema and changes to the schema can be localized in a single place.

    Assuming that you have a repository like this (I’m using this implementation):

    public IQueryable All<T>(Expression<Func<bool, T>> expression) where T : class
    

    Instead of:

    var albuns = from x in repository.All<Album>()
                     where x.Artist.Name == "Metallica"
                     && x.Genre.Name.Contains("Metal")
                     && x.Price >= 5 && x.Price
                     select x;
    

    You can do this way:

    var search = new AlbumSearch();
    search.PriceFrom = 5;
    search.PriceTo = 10;
    search.Artist = new ArtistSearch(){ Name = "Metallica" };
    search.Genre = new GenreSearch(){ NameContains = "Metal" };
    
    var albuns = from x in repository.All<Album>(search.GetExpression())
                      select x;
    

    Continue reading