Overview of Data Controls in ASP.NET 4.0
Part one of a five-part series of blogs

With the introduction of the ListView data control in ASP.NET 3.5, there are now 4 separate tools for displaying multiple rows of data in ASP.NET. Which one is best - GridView, Repeater, DataList or ListView?

  1. Data Controls in ASP.NET 4.0 - Multiple Rows (this blog)
  2. Repeater Web Server Controls in ASP.NET
  3. DataList Controls - ASP.NET data controls
  4. GridView Controls in ASP.NET
  5. ListView Controls - ASP.NET data controls

Posted by Andy Brown on 19 September 2011

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Data Controls in ASP.NET 4.0 - Multiple Rows

Having just finished updating our ASP.NET courseware, I thought I'd blog quickly about the various controls in ASP.NET 4.0 for displaying mulitiple rows of data (while it's fresh in my mind!).

The Data Tools Available

The diagram below shows the data tools in ASP.NET 4.0:

The data controls in ASP.NET

The full range of data controls in ASP.NET 4.0, as seen from Visual Studio 2010.


The controls divide into 4 camps: data sources, multiple row data controls (the subject of this blog), single row data controls and other tools.

Data Sources

The data source controls are:

Control Notes
AccessDataSource Linking to MS Access data
EntityDataSource Linking to entity models
LinqDataSource Use this if you're using LINQ to connect to data
ObjectDataSource Use if you've created your own business objects
SiteMapDataSource Used as a basis for site map control data (eg navigational menus)
SqlDataSource Linking to SQL Server
XmlDataSource Linking to data in XML format

Single Row Data Controls

The controls for displaying a single record from a database are:

Control Notes
FormView Displays a template for all the fields in the underlying record
DetailsView A more restricted way to display a single record in table format

Other Controls

The "other" controls are:

Control Notes
Pointer Used for selection in Visual Studio
Chart Self-explanatory?
QueryExtender Use this with the entity or LINQ data source controls to simplify filtering of data.

Multiple Row Data Controls

This leaves the multiple row data controls, the subject of this article.  These are:

Control Notes
Repeater A simple control for displaying data in tabular format
DataList Allows you to display data in non-table format (such as columns)
GridView Like a Repeater, but giving you much more control over the the table of data appears and behaves
ListView Like a DataList, but again giving you much more control over how the data looks and behaves

In addition, you can use the DataPager control to enable paging with a ListView.

Repeaters, DataLists, GridViews and ListViews

The rest of this blog gives an overview of each of the multiple row data controls in turn.  I've also written a much longer blog on using GridViews in ASP.NET.

Our advice?  Ignore Repeater and DataList controls, use GridViews extensively, and learn ListView controls only if you have to because you want to present data in something other than a table format.

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