February 5, 2009

A Grid with Ajax/Pagination/Sorting/Filtering on MVC with ExtJS and Enitiy Framework

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — yasi8h @ 9:18 am

I am new to all these JS libraries like jQuery and ExtJS(there are many more out there…). when i got started with mvc i looked in to jQuery. and i was absolutely amazed with all the functionality it offered with very simple and neat syntax! a while ago i did a post on “Ajax Enabling MVCContrib Grid’s Pagination with jQuery”. In which i added AJAX/pagination support to MVCContrib’s Grid. but with time i needed more and more features from the grid. like sorting and filtering(through AJAX of course). then i came across the wonderful JS library called ExtJS. it have grate UI components done and ready to be used. i love all ExtJS stuff that is related to UI. and their components seems to be very extensible as well.

Ext JS Overview

Ext JS is a cross-browser JavaScript library for building rich Internet applications. It includes:

  • High performance, customizable UI widgets
  • Well designed and extensible Component model
  • An intuitive, easy to use API
  • Commercial and Open Source licenses available

i liked there Grid and it had all the features i needed. so i decided to go ahead with it.


the main points i had to look at:

  • including a ExtJS distribution with my mvc project which is already using jQuery
  • inserting the relevant JS to render the grid in my views
  • creating the necessary controller actions to support the grid’s actions(get data/sort/filter data…etc)

Including a ExtJS distribution

ExtJS JS library can use other libraries(such as jQuery…) as its base library. so been a fan of jQuery, i choose to build a custom version of ExtJS which uses jQuery as its base.  this version of the library includes the jQuery adapter within it self. but you still need to include the jQuery library by your self. it is NOT included in the custom version that you built for your self.  so in your site.master(you can put these where ever you like, not necessary in the site.master. just make sure these are included where ever you use them) you have to include the libraries in the following order: include jQuery first, then include any jQuery plugins you use and finally include ExtJS(any of your custom JS files should be included afterward).

now you are done including the JS libraries necessary . but ExtJS’s UI components need a few more things to be included in your site.master for them to work correctly. you need to include the necessary style sheets/images used by ExtJS components. to get these download ExtJS SDK. this includes all the style sheets and the images among other things. you will need to include the necessary plugins as well.

  • ext-2.2resourcescssext-all.css
  • ext-2.2resourcesimages – images used by ExtJS components
  • all JS files under ext-2.2examplesgrid-filteringgrid – includes necessary plugins needed for the grid filtering functionality

now you are ready to roll. note that we can use what ever jQuery we want when we are working with extjs components. and as we are using the jQuery core(and also because we are already using jQuery in out mvc project) the size of the ExtJS library is much lower.

Rendering the grid

looking at the samples(look under ext-2.2examplesgrid-filtering) included in the extjs sdk. its not that hard to figure out how to render the grid using javascript. the extjs API reference would be helpful as well.

i ran across a bug in the GridView component when i tried to use disable ‘autoHeight’ ‘feature’ of the grid. how ever there was a fix available for it in the the extjs forums.  following is the JS code that i used in my view(in which the grid resides). i just included them in a script tag within the view. but the best way to use them would be to extract them in to some helper methods and then using the helpers.

some notes about ExtJs grids

  • a grid is ‘bound’ to a data store.
  • when rendering a grid you will have to create a data record, column modal and a data reader(JsonReader in this case).
  • column modal – how the columns are structured
  • data record – how a data record(or a person object, in the context of this example) is structured. what fields does it contain…etc
  • data reader – where to get/ how to read data
  • filters and paging is connected to the grid in a ‘pluggable’ manner

        //Sugguested Fix for the bug: "Grid autoHeight disables horizontal scrolling too"
        Ext.override(Ext.grid.GridView, {
            layout: function() {
                if (!this.mainBody) {
                var g = this.grid;
                var c = g.getGridEl(), cm =,
                expandCol = g.autoExpandColumn,
                gv = this;
                var csize = c.getSize(true);
                var vw = csize.width;
                if (vw < 20 || csize.height < 20) {
                if (g.autoHeight) {
                    csize.height = this.mainHd.getHeight() + this.mainBody.getHeight();
                    if (!this.forceFit) {
                        csize.height += this.scrollOffset;
                this.el.setSize(csize.width, csize.height);
                var hdHeight = this.mainHd.getHeight();
                var vh = csize.height - (hdHeight);
                this.scroller.setSize(vw, vh);
                if (this.innerHd) {
           = (vw) + 'px';
                if (this.forceFit) {
                    if (this.lastViewWidth != vw) {
                        this.fitColumns(false, false);
                        this.lastViewWidth = vw;
                } else {
                this.onLayout(vw, vh);
        //end bug fix here

        Ext.onReady(function() {
            Ext.QuickTips.init(); //for enabling tool tips

   = {
                gt: '/Scripts/extjs/plugins/grid-filter/img/greater_then.png',
                lt: '/Scripts/extjs/plugins/grid-filter/img/less_then.png',
                eq: '/Scripts/extjs/plugins/grid-filter/img/equals.png'
            Ext.grid.filter.StringFilter.prototype.icon = '/Scripts/extjs/plugins/grid-filter/img/find.png';


        function createAndShowGrid() {

            order =;
	        { name: 'Id' },
	        { name: 'FirstName' },
	        { name: 'Email' }

            orderReader = new{
                root: 'dataitems',
                totalProperty: 'totalItems' //number of total records
            //data store creation
            ds = new{
                proxy: new{
                    url: '/Person/ListJson'
                reader: orderReader,
                sortInfo: { field: 'Id', direction: "ASC" },
                remoteSort: true

            columnModel = new Ext.grid.ColumnModel(&#91;{
                header: 'Person Id',
                dataIndex: 'Id'
            }, {
                header: 'Person Name',
                dataIndex: 'FirstName'
            }, {
                header: 'Person Email',
                dataIndex: 'Email'

            columnModel.defaultSortable = true;

            var filters = new Ext.grid.GridFilters({
                filters: &#91;
	                { type: 'string', dataIndex: 'Id' },
	                { type: 'string', dataIndex: 'FirstName' },
	                { type: 'string', dataIndex: 'Email' }

            var pagingBar = new Ext.PagingToolbar({
                pageSize: 10,
                store: ds,
                displayInfo: true,
                displayMsg: 'Displaying Persons {0} - {1} of {2}',
                emptyMsg: "No Persons to display",
                plugins: filters

            grid = new Ext.grid.GridPanel({
                store: ds,
                cm: columnModel,
                width: 500,
                autoHeight: true,
                title: 'Persons List',
                frame: true,
                loadMask: true,
                stripeRows: true,
                plugins: filters,
                bbar: pagingBar // paging bar on the bottom

  { params: { start: 0, limit: 10} });
<div id="personGrid"

<h4>Controller actions to support the grid's actions(get data/sort/filter data...etc)</h4>
A ExtJS grid can be fed data in various ways. i am going use a controller action to give the grid the data it needs to render it self. the data would be in json format. we would have a controller action like the following, that returns a JsonResult. we can use the Json method in the mvc framework to serialize the data to json with ease. i am doing it by constructing a anonymous type that hosts the data and then serializing it to json. please note that the following example uses the Entity Framework to deal with the back-end data. although this is example uses the EF. you can easily port it to use any other ORM technology(Linq...etc).

source of /Person/ListJson action

public JsonResult ListJson()
            int totalOjectCount;
            var personsList = ExtJSGridFilterHelper.GetResults(Request, new ObjectEntities().Person,out totalOjectCount);
            var list = new ArrayList();
            foreach (var person in personsList) //populate data containers with read data
                                 Id = person.ID,
                                 FirstName = person.FirstName,
            return Json(new { dataitems = list.ToArray(), totalItems = totalOjectCount });

note that the json result that is returned, basically contains a array of items and a another property called totalItems. this total items property tell the grid, the number of(obviously ) total items that it will have to display. this is helpfule for the grid when pagination is enabled. and you should make sure that this property is specified in your json output if you want the pagination to work correctly.

example json output that is produced by the above action

{"dataitems":[{"Id":"5","FirstName":"jhon Lalic","Email":""},{"Id":"6","FirstName":"Maureen Joesph","Email"

this contains two records. and the totalItems property.

ExtJSGridFilterHelper is a helper class that harbours most of the logic related to implementing sorting/paging and filtering of data. i am not going to explain what the source code is doing, step by step. but you can always read the source ;). 

parsing of parameters sent by the grid…(for the full source code please look at the source of ExtJSGridFilterHelper)

parameters related to paging

  • start
  • limit

parameters related to the sorting

  • sort => the name of the property to be sorted(as given in the client side(aka field name))
  • dir => direction
if (sort != null) //do sorting
                objectsList = query.OrderBy("it." + sort).ToList();
                if (dir == "DESC") objectsList.Reverse();
                objectsList = query.ToList();

parameters related to the filters

public Filter(int id, HttpRequestBase request)
                Id = id;
                Field = request.Params[string.Format("filter[{0}][field]", id)];
                DataType = request.Params[string.Format("filter[{0}][data][type]", id)];
                DataValue = request.Params[string.Format("filter[{0}][data][value]", id)];
                Datacomparison = request.Params[string.Format("filter[{0}][data][comparison]", id)];

how filters are processed, extract from the getExpression() method

<pre>public FilterExpressionResult getExpression()
                string expressionString = null;
                var expressionParams = new List(); //paramerters collection
                switch (DataType)
                    case "string":
                        expressionString = string.Format("(it.{0} like '{1}%')", Field, DataValue);
                    case "boolean":
                        expressionString = string.Format("(it.{0} = {1})", Field, (DataValue == "true") ? 1 : 0);
                    case "numeric":
                        switch (Datacomparison)
                            case "gt":
                                Datacomparison = ">";
                            case "lt":
                                Datacomparison = "";
                            case "lt":
                                Datacomparison = "<";
                                Datacomparison = "=";

                        expressionParams.Add(new ObjectParameter("Param" + Id, DateTime.Parse(DataValue)));
                        expressionString = string.Format("(it.{0} {2} {1})", Field, "@" + "Param" + Id, Datacomparison);
                    case "list":
                        var split = DataValue.Split(new&#91;&#93; { ',' });
                        var r = new string&#91;split.Length&#93;;
                        for (var i = 0; i < split.Length; i++)
                            r&#91;i&#93; = string.Format("(it.{0} = '{1}')", Field, split&#91;i&#93;);
                        expressionString = string.Format("({0})", string.Join("OR", r));

source of ExtJSGridFilterHelper

public class ExtJSGridFilterHelper
public static List GetResults(HttpRequestBase request, ObjectQuery query, out int totalOjectCount)
var sort = request.Params[“sort”];
var dir = request.Params[“dir”];

//get non null values
int intStart, intLimit;
if (!int.TryParse(request.Params[“start”], out intStart)) intStart = 0;
if (!int.TryParse(request.Params[“limit”], out intLimit)) intLimit = 10;

List objectsList;

totalOjectCount = query.Count();
var i = 0;
var exspressions = new List();
var parameters = new List();
while (true) //check for filters starting from 0, if one exists move to the next one(0 -> 1…), .
if (!Filter.checkExistence(i, request.Params)) break; //…if not stop looking further
var expression = new Filter(i, request).getExpression();
i++; //keep track of index
var exspression = string.Format(“({0})”, string.Join(“AND”, exspressions.ToArray()));
//build the final expression
if (exspression != “()”) query = query.Where(exspression, parameters.ToArray()); //filter collection on the expression

if (sort != null) //do sorting
objectsList = query.OrderBy(“it.” + sort).ToList();
if (dir == “DESC”) objectsList.Reverse();
objectsList = query.ToList();

if (intStart + intLimit > objectsList.Count)
intLimit = objectsList.Count – intStart; //make sure the range we select is valid
objectsList = objectsList.GetRange(intStart, intLimit);
return objectsList;

#region Nested type: Filter

public class Filter
public string Datacomparison { get; set; }
public string DataType { get; set; }
public string DataValue { get; set; }
public string Field { get; set; }

public int Id { get; set; }

public static bool checkExistence(int filterIndex, NameValueCollection @params)
return (@params[string.Format(“filter[{0}][field]”, filterIndex)] != null);

public Filter(int id, HttpRequestBase request)
Id = id;
Field = request.Params[string.Format(“filter[{0}][field]”, id)];
DataType = request.Params[string.Format(“filter[{0}][data][type]”, id)];
DataValue = request.Params[string.Format(“filter[{0}][data][value]”, id)];
Datacomparison = request.Params[string.Format(“filter[{0}][data][comparison]”, id)];

public FilterExpressionResult getExpression()
string expressionString = null;
var expressionParams = new List(); //paramerters collection
switch (DataType)
case “string”:
expressionString = string.Format(“(it.{0} like ‘{1}%’)”, Field, DataValue);
case “boolean”:
expressionString = string.Format(“(it.{0} = {1})”, Field, (DataValue == “true”) ? 1 : 0);
case “numeric”:
switch (Datacomparison)
case “gt”:
Datacomparison = “>”;
case “lt”:
Datacomparison = “”;
case “lt”:
Datacomparison = “<"; break; default: Datacomparison = "="; break; } expressionParams.Add(new ObjectParameter("Param" + Id, DateTime.Parse(DataValue))); expressionString = string.Format("(it.{0} {2} {1})", Field, "@" + "Param" + Id, Datacomparison); break; case "list": var split = DataValue.Split(new[] { ',' }); var r = new string[split.Length]; for (var i = 0; i < split.Length; i++) { r[i] = string.Format("(it.{0} = '{1}')", Field, split[i]); } expressionString = string.Format("({0})", string.Join("OR", r)); break; } return expressionString != null ? new FilterExpressionResult { Expression = expressionString, Parameters = expressionParams } : null; } #region Nested type: FilterExpressionResult public class FilterExpressionResult { public string Expression { get; set; } public List Parameters { get; set; } } #endregion } #endregion } [/sourcecode] ah! that's it for now. i might post some helpers that can be used in your views when you want to render the grid. the advantage of using this would be, so you won't need to repeat all that javascript code in each and every view that you want to display a grid in. hope this will be helpful to someone. cheers!

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