06 Jan 2015
I would like to show you how to use ASP.NET MVC helper function
class with generic Dictionaries, such as
Dictionary<string, string> or
Dictionaries can be quite useful for a number of scenarios – serving as a data source for select
lists of countries, states, time zones, age ranges, genders – basically any pre-defined, fixed-set
This article is one of the ‘DropDownList series’ articles that should help you in dealing with DropDownList / SelectList / SelectListItem related problems. Check out other DropDownList articles here:
Also, check out my previous articles on how DropDownListFor works, how to get the selected value in your controller and how to make sure the selected value is rendered back, as well as how to use enums in the drop down lists in a humane, non-cryptic way.
Let’s start with a simplistic user registration page that amongst other things, has a drop down list with names of US states (I used Australian states in my earlier example, so this should balance it nicely). A user needs to be able to see full names of the states, such as ‘Alabama’, and when a state is selected, we want to get its abbreviation, such as ‘AL’, in the controller.
In the example above I used
Html.DropDownListFor helper function, which needs a collection of
SelectListItem so it can render the correct options. There’s a very handy (yet treacherous, but I’ll
get back to that later) helper class
SelectList which can convert a Dictionary (or any collection,
for that matter) into a list of
SelectListItem instances. Let’s see how it’s done.
Firstly, let’s get us some data in the controller – there I pretend that I get an instance of
Dictionary<string, string> from a DB layer/helper. Nothing exciting here, let’s move along to the
The view is a bit more interesting – the most important bit here is how we convert the dictionary,
Model.States, into an instance of
IEnumerable<SelectListItem> that’s needed by
That magical line
new SelectList(Model.States, "Key", "Value") is what does the job – it
basically says – ‘take this collection, and for each dictionary item, create a
Value property set to the
Key property and its
Text property set to
of a given dictionary item’.
So in the end you get some nice and clean HTML that looks like this:
You might have noticed in the documentation for one of the
SelectList constructors a benignly
selectedValue, whose name suggests that you should, naturally, use it to select an
item in the list. The description only confirms this. But there be dragons.
This parameter is meant to be used as a default value when a form with a drop down is rendered for the first time. A good example would be trying to pre-fill new user’s state based on their IP address to save them some time.
This default value is only going to be taken into account by
DropDownListFor if the corresponding
model field (
Model.State in our case) that’s used for storage of user’s selection is set
If the model field has got any value, the default
selectedOption parameter is going to be
ignored by ASP.NET MVC.
If we were to modify the earlier example to pre-select, say Maine (because there’s a lot of pine trees and the air is clean), that’s how it would look like:
Notice the “ME” parameter in the
new SelectList(...) call above - but remember it’s going to be
ignored by ASP.NET MVC if
Model.State is not
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