James James - 10 months ago 41
C# Question

How do I create an expression tree for run time sorting?

Using Entity Framework 4, I'm trying to implement dynamic sorting based on a collection of member names. Basically, the user can select fields to sort and the order of the sorting. I've looked at expression tree examples and can't piece this together. Here are some details:

Collection of column names:

public List<string> sortColumns;
sortColumns = new List<string>();

/// Example subset of video fields. The collection will vary.

The video class is defined as follows:

public class Video
public string Title { get; set; }
public int Width { get; set; }
public int Height { get; set; }
public float Duration { get; set; }
public string Filename { get; set; }
public DateTime DateCreated { get; set; }
public List<Video> Videos;

What I would like to do is enumerate through the sortColumns collection to build an expression tree at run time. Also, the user could specify either ascending or descending sorting and the expression tree should handle either.

I tried the Dynamic LINQ library for VS 2008, but it doesn't appear to work in VS 2010. (I could be doing something wrong.)

The bottom line is I need an expression tree to dynamically sort the Videos collection based on user input. Any help would be appreciated.

Answer Source

First you need the OrderBy extension method that @Slace wrote here. All credit to Slace for an awesome piece of code and by far the most difficult part of the solution! I made a slight modification for it to work with your specific situation:

public static class QueryableExtensions
    public static IQueryable<T> OrderBy<T>(this IQueryable<T> source, string sortProperty, ListSortDirection sortOrder)
        var type = typeof(T);
        var property = type.GetProperty(sortProperty);
        var parameter = Expression.Parameter(type, "p");
        var propertyAccess = Expression.MakeMemberAccess(parameter, property);
        var orderByExp = Expression.Lambda(propertyAccess, parameter);
        var typeArguments = new Type[] { type, property.PropertyType };
        var methodName = sortOrder == ListSortDirection.Ascending ? "OrderBy" : "OrderByDescending";
        var resultExp = Expression.Call(typeof(Queryable), methodName, typeArguments, source.Expression, Expression.Quote(orderByExp));

        return source.Provider.CreateQuery<T>(resultExp);

Create a method to sort the list. A couple of things to note in the method below:

  1. The List<string> is converted to an IQueryable<string> since Enumerable operators don't take expression trees.
  2. The method iterates through the list of sort columns in reverse order (assuming you want to give the first item in the list the highest sort priority)


private void PrintVideoList(IEnumerable<string> sortColumns, ListSortDirection sortOrder)
    var videos = this.GetVideos();
    var sortedVideos = videos.AsQueryable();

    foreach (var sortColumn in sortColumns.Reverse())
        sortedVideos = sortedVideos.OrderBy(sortColumn, sortOrder);

    // Test the results
    foreach (var video in sortedVideos)

You should then be able to use the method like this:

// These values are entered by the user
var sortColumns = new List<string> { "Width", "Title", "Height" };
var sortOrder = ListSortDirection.Ascending;

// Print the video list base on the user selection
this.PrintVideoList(sortColumns, sortOrder);