DataGrid to Edit almost anything in VB.NET


Windows Forms DataGrid as supplied supports two column types:

  • DataGridTextBoxColumn for editing Strings and
  • DataGridBoolColumn for editing Booleans

Of course the Windows Forms Library developers realized that this would not be sufficent so they provided a base class (DataGridColumnStyle) that can be used to implement additional column types. This article discusses the enhancement of the DataGrid with new column types to allow the editing of a wide range of data types. The source for these enhancements is released to the public domain as part of the SekosPD.Windows.Forms library.


Demo Application

The screen grab above shows a simple demonstration application that allows the input of the contributors for a set of scientific fields. The dataset schema is shown below. Each contributor has photo column and a number of property columns for dates of birth and death and colour code.


To keep the sample simple, the data is persisted by writing the DataSet to disk as an XmlDocument. In a real application, DataSet changes would of course be persisted to a Data Tier- probably a database such as Microsoft SQLServer.

New Column Styles

For this demo, we'll be augmenting the column types with:

  • DataGridDataPictureColumn for editing Pictures and
  • DataGridPropertyEditorColumn for editing pretty well any other data type

Because the AgileStudio product from which this code is derived is an Add-In for Visual Studio, it is able to override the standard collection editor for ColumnStyles. Thus the Add dropdown lists all the column styles available. Indeed the designer is also overidden to allow columns to be added to a DataGrid with Drag and Drop.


Because the demo in this article is standalone, you will only see the two standard column styles in your editor and will have to manually add the appropriate code. (One way to do this is to add a standard DataGridTextBoxColumn and then change its type afterwards in the code window. Once you have done this you will be able to change properties such as Mapping in the editor.) If you are interested in how to avoid this, let me know and I'll cover it in a subsequent article.

Friend WithEvents DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1 As SekosPD.Windows.Forms.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn
Me.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1 = New SekosPD.Windows.Forms.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn
<System.Diagnostics.DebuggerStepThrough()> Private Sub
Me.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1.HeaderText = "Born"
Me.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1.MappingName = "Born"
Me.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1.NullText = ""
Me.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1.PropertyType =

.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1.UseStringAsUnderlyingType = False
Me.DataGridPropertyEditorColumn1.Width = 150

Editing Pictures

This is done by having a column of type DataGridDataPictureColumn. A right mouse click will bring up a context menu to allow the transfer of images via the clipboard or to allow the pasting of an image from a file.



Currently ADO.NET only supports a small range of data types. For this reason the picture field is encoded as base64Binary which is equivalent in .NET types to an array of byte. Internal functions ByteArrayToImage and ImageToByteArray handle the required conversions.

If you are using Microsoft SQLServer as your data tier, make sure you are handling base64 binary correctly. For example if you are getting the data as XML, use a statement like the following:


Editing nearly any other Data Type

This is accomplished by having a column of type DataGirdPropertyEditorColumn. The DataGridPropertyEditorColumns in this example makes use of two editors- one for System.DateTime and one for System.Drawing.Color. Both these were implemented by Microsoft as DropDowns. This is the most common method but editors for some types, for example System.Drawing.Font, are implemented as Popup Dialogs.


The really nice thing is that there are dozens of UITypeEditors and TypeConverters included with .NET as standard. These are needed to drive the PropertyGrid that is used to edit properties in Visual Studio. You get to leverage all this functionality with almost no work. Just set the PropertyType property in your Column as appropriate and everything else is automatic. It is also fairly easy to implement a TypeConverter and UITypeEditor for a type that you have written yourself.

There is one other property of DataGridPropertyEditorColumn that is important to mention: UseStringAsUnderlyingType. This should be set to true when binding to a DataSet if the type that you are binding is not one of the types supported by DataSet (For example System.DateTime is supported, but System.Drawing.Color is not.) If you are binding to a different data source that does not have this restriction, you can set alwaysUseStringAsUnderlyingType to false for more efficent data transfer.

Points of Interest

DataGridDataPictureColumn and DataGridPropertyEditorColumn employ DataPicture and PropertyEditor internally to handle a cell in edit mode. Both these controls can be used independently outside the DataGrid using standard simple data binding.

The source code for the SekosPD.Windows.Forms library is released to the public domain and is available here. Reference style documentation for the library source will be available here. You may also want to read the article "Edit Almost Anything - Part I", which examines other controls as well as the DataGrid.

The code released with this article is based on a portion of the AgileStudio product, which extends Visual Studio. Check out the free evaluation at which automatically maintains the datasets and SQL StoreProcs required for a specific user interface (for Windows or Web applications).


The code in this article is currently in VB.NET. If you would like a version in C#, let me know. I would also like to examine some of the really neat things that you can do with UITypeEditors including CollectionEditors to make the DataGridPropertyEditorColumn really fly. If you would like an article about this, get in touch.