Monday, January 21, 2013

Modifying Business Objects using Attributes

Very often there is a need to add new members to existing Business objects that live in assemblies that we do not own.

Take the following example: We have a persistent object DashboardDefinition:

public class DashboardDefinition : BaseObject {

    public DashboardDefinition(Session session)

        : base(session) {



    public XPCollection<DevExpress.ExpressApp.Security.Strategy.SecuritySystemRole> Roles {

        get {

            return GetCollection<DevExpress.ExpressApp.Security.Strategy.SecuritySystemRole>("Roles");





We want to create a many to many relation between DashboardDefinition and SecuritySystemRole objects. We already wrote the one part of the association in the DashboardDefinition –>Roles property. However we need to add a new collection of DashboardDefinition to the SecuritySystemRole, so we have 3 alternatives:

  1. Change in the source project, add the new property. then recompile then use the new assembly in your project —> Very tedious and hard to support approach.
  2. Create a custom class that derives from SecuritySystemRole, add the new property there and use the new class instead of SecuritySystemRole —> This design suffers from flexibility, at some point we will end with a lot of SecuritySystemRoles descendants.
  3. Create an ProvidedAssociationAttribute that when decorates a member will result in runtime creation of the other part.

In simple English the problem goes as following:

  1. Design a ProvidedAssociationAttribute that can hold the association name:


    public class ProvidedAssociationAttribute : Attribute {

        readonly string _associationName;


        public ProvidedAssociationAttribute(string associationName) {

            _associationName = associationName;



        public string AssociationName {

            get { return _associationName; }



  2. We want to write code to access and customize Types information (add new member). So, we need to override the CustomizeTypesInfo method in a module or implement IModelExtender interface in a controller (see also How to: Access Business Class Metadata).

    sealed partial class ProvidedAssociationModule : ModuleBase {

        public override void CustomizeTypesInfo(ITypesInfo typesInfo) {



  3. For all persistent objects with members decorated with the ProvidedAssociationAttribute:

    public override void CustomizeTypesInfo(ITypesInfo typesInfo) {


        var memberInfos = MemberInfos(typesInfo);

        foreach (var memberInfo in memberInfos) {





    IEnumerable<IMemberInfo> MemberInfos(ITypesInfo typesInfo) {

        Func<IMemberInfo, bool> hasAttribute = info => info.FindAttribute<ProvidedAssociationAttribute>() != null;

        return typesInfo.PersistentTypes.SelectMany(info => info.Members).Where(hasAttribute);


  4. Create the dynamic collection using metadata taken from the decorated member

        foreach (var memberInfo in memberInfos) {





    void CreateMember(IMemberInfo memberInfo) {

        var dictionary = XpoTypesInfoHelper.GetXpoTypeInfoSource().XPDictionary;

        var providedAssociationAttribute = memberInfo.FindAttribute<ProvidedAssociationAttribute>();

        var customMemberInfo = dictionary.GetClassInfo(memberInfo.ListElementType).CreateMember(memberInfo.Owner.Name + "s", typeof (XPCollection), true);

        var associationAttribute = new AssociationAttribute(providedAssociationAttribute.AssociationName,memberInfo.Owner.Type);


        memberInfo.AddAttribute(new AssociationAttribute(providedAssociationAttribute.AssociationName));


  5. Decorate Roles of the DashboardDefinition object to dynamically create a DashboardDefinitions collection in the SecuritySystemRole object




The ProvidedAssociationAttribute idea exist in our community project ( a few years now and it happens to be a favorite one among eXpand users. Through the years of course we created a real world implementation of it. I decouple all related files in this XAF Solution for everybody to give a quick try or even copy paste it in your solutions!

PS: Although the current implementation is XAF depended is rather easy to replace all XAF related code with XPO and use it to non XAF projects as well.

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