Entities (Row)

Serenity entity system is a micro-orm that is in love with SQL just like Dapper.

Unlike full blown ORMs like NHibernate / Entity Framework, Serenity provides minimum features required to map and query databases with intellisense, compile time checking and easy refactoring.

Serenity entities are usually named like XYZRow. They are subclasses of Serenity.Data.Row.

Let's define a simple row class:

using Serenity;
using Serenity.ComponentModel;
using Serenity.Data;

public class SimpleRow : Row
{
	public string Name
	{
		get { return Fields.Name[this]; }
		set { Fields.Name[this] = value; }
	}
	
	public Int32? Age
	{
		get { return Fields.Age[this]; }
		set { Fields.Age[this] = value; }
	}
	
	public static RowFields Fields = new RowFields().Init();
	
	public SimpleRow()
		: base(Fields)
	{
	}

	public class RowFields : RowFieldsBase
	{
		public StringField Name;
		public Int32Field Age;
	}	
}

Yes, it looks a bit more complicated than a simple POCO class. This is required to make some features work without using proxy classes like some ORMs use (Entity Framework, NHibernate etc).

This structure allows us to build queries with zero reflection, do assignment tracking, enable INotifyPropertyChanged when required. It makes it also possible to work with custom, user defined fields.

Rows are JSON serializable, so they can be returned from services without any problems. You don't need extra POCO/DTO classes unless you have a good reason to use them.

Let's study parts of a row declaration.

public class SimpleRow : Row

Here we define an entity named SimpleRow, which probably maps to a table named Simple in database.

Row suffix here is not required, but common practice, and it prevents clashes with other class names.

All entity classes derive from Serenity.Data.Row base class.

public string Name
{
	get { return Fields.Name[this]; }
	set { Fields.Name[this] = value; }
}

Now we declare our first property. This property maps to a database column named Name in the Simple table.

It is not possible to use an auto property here (like get; set;). Field values must be read and set through a special object called Field.

Field objects are very similar to WPF dependency properties. Here is a dependency property declaration sample:

public static readonly DependencyProperty MyCustomProperty = 
    DependencyProperty.Register("MyCustom", typeof(string), typeof(Window1));

public string MyCustom
{
    get { return this.GetValue(MyCustomProperty) as string; }
    set { this.SetValue(MyCustomProperty, value); }
}

Here we define a static dependency property object (MyCustomProperty), that contains property metadata and allows us to set and get property value through its GetValue and SetValue methods. Dependency properties allows WPF to offer features like validation, data binding, animation, and more.

Similar to dependency properties, Field objects contains column metadata and clears way for some features like assignment tracking, building queries without expression trees, change notification etc.

While dependency properties are declared as static members in class they are used, Field objects are declared in a nested class named RowFields. This allows to group and reference them easier, without having to add Field or Property suffix, and keeps our entity clear from field declarations.

public Int32? Age
{
	get { return Fields.Age[this]; }
	set { Fields.Age[this] = value; }
}

Here is our second property, named Age, with type Int32?.

Serenity entity properties are always nullable, even if database column is not nullable.

Serenity never use zero in place of null.

This might seem unlogical, if you have a background of other ORMs, but consider this:

Is it not possible for a not null field to have a null value, if you query it through a left/right join? How can you say, if its retrieved value is null or zero in that case?

Reference types are already nullable, so you can't write String?.

public static RowFields Fields = new RowFields().Init();

We noted that field objects are declared in a nested subclass named RowFields (usually). Here we are creating its sole static instance. Thus, there is only one RowFields instance per row type, and one field instance per row property.

Init is an extension method that initializes members of RowFields. It creates field objects that are not explictly initialized.

public SimpleRow()
	: base(Fields)
{
}

Now we define SimpleRow's parameterless constructor. Base Row class requires a RowFields instance to work, and we pass our static Fields object. So all instances of a row type (SimpleRow) share a single RowFields (SimpleRow.RowFields) instance. This means they share all the metadata.

public class RowFields : RowFieldsBase
{
	public StringField Name;
	public Int32Field Age;
}

Here we define our nested class that contains field objects. It should be derived from Serenity.Data.RowFieldsBase. RowFieldsBase is a special class closely related to Row that contains table metadata.

We declared a StringField and a Int32Field. Their type is based on their property types, and they must match exactly.

Their names must also match the property names, or you'll get an initialization error.

We didn't initialize these field objects, so their values are initially null.

Remember that we wrote new RowFields().Init() above. This is where field objects are automatically created.

It's also possible to initialize them in RowFields constructor manually, but not recommended, except for special customizations.