4 minute read

My question to everyone, Is the Repeater control dynamic enough to create custom tables on the fly? When I think of dynamic it’s something you have complete control over. And can change the display at anytime during execution. Please note that I’m sure there are multiple ways one can accomplish what I’m looking for, this is the way I choose to do it.

The one thing about the repeater control is it’s great for making data that has a unique predefined header and footer. The remaining data can be found in the body (ItemTemplate, AlternatingItemTemplate…) and over all is dynamic. The data that is contained in the body is most of the time very similar in Size and Type. This is because the DataSource of the Repeater control takes any IEnumerable object. This IEnumerable object is a data structure. This data structure is 90%+ of the time displayed to the screen in a table or list because the developer knows what data that structure is going to contain.

So now we have came to the conclusion that the repeater control is great for creating Predefined templates, but when about when you want to create Dynamic Templates on the fly. You’re probably thinking that this is easy; one just has to create a Template class that derives from ITemplate.

public class SomeOnesTemplate : ITemplate

Inside this class if you don’t create multiple template classes (one for Header, Item, and footer) you will have to check the the ListItemType.Item in ITemplate.InstantiateIn and then process the data. One will quickly get this set up and get everything working in no time from here. But the templates are still not completely dynamic because the HeaderTemplate and FooterTemplate are not being passed any data.

In your custom Item templates you can do anything you want with the DataRowView (If the DataSource is a DataView) or DataRow. The row of data is provided to you in your custom template by the repeater control, except for the HeaderTemplate and FooterTemplate.

Apparently Microsoft does not want the user to access any rows of data, I can see their point, as in the row they would pass you would be the first row of actual data, however why can’t they pass you a row with the column names? One can override this default behavior by implementing some more code. But please consider another thing before doing this. Not only does the HeaderTemplate not have access to any DataRow, All templates do not have access to the DataSource. So even if there was not a row of data being sent, one also does not have access to the DataSource.

I think one of the reasons why the user can’t access the DataSource inside any template is because .Net is iterating through the DataSource, and they do not want the Data to become corrupted. Also another point I would like to add. If one did implement it so you could get access to the DataSource, you would want to clone the IEnumerable object, thus creating a lot of overhead, because you’re copying all the data for one simple operation. So there is no really good way around this if you wish to create everything in your Template class.

The Work Around

Here is one of the few ways there are to get around this issue. Remove the HeaderTemplate from your Template Class and overload the following methods:

protected override void Render(HtmlTextWriter writer) {}
public override void DataBind() {}

You will want to create your headers markup dynamically in the DataBind method and then call base method of DataBind. You have full access to the DataSource, and from here you can do anything with the data. You could have something like this

StringBuilder header = new StringBuilder();
DataView dv = DataSource as DataView;
if (dv != null) {
  foreach (DataColumn dc in dv.Table.Columns) {
    header.Append(string.Format("<th scope=\"col\">{0}</th>", dc.ColumnName));

return header.ToString();

The next Step is to write the headers markup that you created before the repeater controls Body (Item) and footer templates run. You can do this by adding the following code to the overridden Render method. HeaderMarkup is a property that stored the Header’s html markup.


And that is how you can create a Dynamic Repeater control, to create custom templates. Now you can show or hide certain columns on the fly.

Read the complete post at telliterns.com/blaken/archive/2007/07/31/repeater-control-is-it-really-that-dynamic.aspx

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