Bit Flags Type Converter

This article shows an implementation of TypeConverter which allows you to edit bit flags enumerations in PropertyGrid.

While developing one of our components, iGrid.NET, I came across a problem: the PropertyGrid control does not provide you with a comfortable-enough editor for enumerations marked with the Flags attribute (enumerations that can be treated as bit fields; that are a set of flags). The property grid treats them as usual enumerations and allows you to select a single field from the drop-down list or enter a value as text. So I decided to implement own TypeConverter which would help to edit bit fields properties.

 

FlagsEnumConverter.gif

 

There can be a few solutions to this problem, for example we could show a check list box in the drop-down list. My solution is to show flags as sub-properties.

 

To assign a custom type converter to a property, you should use the TypeConverterAttribute attribute:

 

public class TestClass

{

[TypeConverter(typeof(FlagsEnumConverter))]

public FontStyle FontStyle

{

                    get

                    {

                             ...

                    }

                    set

                    {

                             ...

                    }

}

...

}

                       

The parameter passed to the TypeConverterAttribute attribute should be inherited from the TypeConverter class or one of its descendents.

 

Our type converter is named FlagsEnumConverter and is inherited from the standard .NET EnumConverter class:

 

internal class FlagsEnumConverter: EnumConverter

{

          public override PropertyDescriptorCollection GetProperties(ITypeDescriptorContext context, object value, Attribute[] attributes)

          {

                   ...

          }

          public override bool GetPropertiesSupported(ITypeDescriptorContext context)

          {

                   ...

          }

}

                       

TypeConverter has several overridable properties and methods which allow you to customize the appearance of a property in the property grid. In our type converter I overrode two methods: GetPropertiesSupported and GetProperties. By using these methods we inform the property grid that our property is complex (has several nested properties) and return descriptors of these nested properties (we show a single nested Boolean property for each bit flag):

 

public override PropertyDescriptorCollection GetProperties(ITypeDescriptorContext context, object value, Attribute[] attributes)

{

          Type myType = value.GetType();

          string[] myNames = Enum.GetNames(myType);

          Array myValues = Enum.GetValues(myType);

          if(myNames != null)

          {

                   PropertyDescriptorCollection myCollection = new PropertyDescriptorCollection(null);

                   for(int i = 0; i < myNames.Length; i++)

                             myCollection.Add(new EnumFieldDescriptor(myType, myNames[i], context));

                             return myCollection;

          }

}

                       

Each bit flag (nested property) is represented with the EnumFieldDescriptor class inherited from the standard .NET class named SimplePropertyDescriptor. This is a base class which allows you to represent a custom property in property grid. The main interest of the EnumFieldDescriptor class is the GetValue and SetValue methods. The GetValue method is called each time when the property grid displays a custom property (a bit flag) and returns the value of the custom property (in our case it is a Boolean value which indicates whether the bit flag is included in the enumeration property value):

 

public override object GetValue(object component)

{

          return ((int)component & (int)Enum.Parse(ComponentType, Name)) != 0;

}

                       

In the code snippet above ComponentType is the type of the enumeration, and Name is the name of the enumeration field (bit flag).

 

The SetValue method is more complicated, it is called when the user modifies a custom property. In our case it sets a particular bit flag to the enumeration value:

 

public override void SetValue(object component, object value)

{

          bool myValue = (bool)value;

          int myNewValue;

          if(myValue)

                   myNewValue = ((int)component) | (int)Enum.Parse(ComponentType, Name);

          else

                   myNewValue = ((int)component) & ~(int)Enum.Parse(ComponentType, Name);

          FieldInfo myField = component.GetType().GetField("value__", BindingFlags.Instance | BindingFlags.Public);

          myField.SetValue(component, myNewValue);

          fContext.PropertyDescriptor.SetValue(fContext.Instance, component);

}

                       

In this method we accept a boxed enumeration value (the object type component parameter) which we should modify. The main problem is that an enumeration is value type (non-reference type) and if we unbox it (convert from the object type to an enumeration type), we will obtain different object, not the one passed with the component parameter. To solve it, I have done a little trick. Enumeration in core stores its actual value in a private parameter named value__ (you can trace it with a disassembler or decompiler). I have accessed this parameter by using reflection and set its value without unboxing.