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Walkthrough: Creating an External List in SharePoint by Using Business Data

The Business Data Connectivity (BDC) service enables SharePoint to display business data from back-end server applications, Web services, and databases.

This walkthrough shows you how to create a model for the BDC service that returns information about contacts in a sample database. You will then create an external list in SharePoint by using this model.

This walkthrough illustrates the following tasks:

  • Creating a project.

  • Adding an entity to the model.

  • Adding a finder method.

  • Adding a specific finder method.

  • Testing the project.

You need the following components to complete this walkthrough:

To create a project that contains a BDC model

  1. On the menu bar in Visual Studio, choose File, New, Project.

    The New Project dialog box opens.

  2. Under either Visual C# or Visual Basic, expand the SharePoint node, and then choose the 2010 item.

  3. In the Templates pane, choose SharePoint 2010 Project, name the project AdventureWorksTest, and then choose the OK button.

    The SharePoint Customization Wizard appears. In this wizard, you can specify the site that you’ll use to debug the project and set the trust level of the solution.

  4. Choose the Deploy as a farm solution option button to set the trust level.

  5. Choose the Finish button to accept the default local SharePoint site.

  6. In Solution Explorer, choose the SharePoint project node.

  7. On the menu bar, choose Project, Add New Item.

    The Add New Item dialog box opens.

  8. In the Templates pane, choose Business Data Connectivity Model (Farm Solution Only), name the project AdventureWorksContacts, and then choose the Add button.

To add data access classes to the project

  1. On the menu bar, choose Tools, Connect to Database.

    The Add Connection dialog box opens.

  2. Add a connection to the SQL Server AdventureWorks sample database.

    For more information, see Add/Modify Connection (Microsoft SQL Server).

  3. In Solution Explorer, choose the project node.

  4. On the menu bar, choose Project, Add New Item.

  5. In the Installed Templates pane, choose the Data node.

  6. In the Templates pane, choose LINQ to SQL Classes.

  7. In the Name box, specify AdventureWorks, and then choose the Add button.

    A .dbml file is added to the project, and the Object Relational Designer (O/R Designer) opens.

  8. On the menu bar, choose View, Server Explorer.

  9. In Server Explorer, expand the node that represents the AdventureWorks sample database, and then expand the Tables node.

  10. Add the Contact (Person) table onto the O/R Designer.

    An entity class is created and appears on the design surface. The entity class has properties that map to the columns in the Contact (Person) table.

The Business Data Connectivity Model project adds a default entity named Entity1 to the model. Remove this entity. Later, you will add a new entity. Starting with an empty model reduces the number of steps required to complete the walkthrough.

To remove the default entity from the model

  1. In Solution Explorer, expand the BdcModel1 node, and then open the BdcModel1.bdcm file.

  2. The Business Data Connectivity model file opens in the BDC designer.

  3. In the designer, open the shortcut menu for Entity1, and then choose Delete.

  4. In Solution Explorer, open the shortcut menu for Entity1.vb (in Visual Basic) or Entity1.cs (in C#), and then choose Delete.

  5. Open the shortcut menu for Entity1Service.vb (in Visual Basic) or Entity1Service.cs (in C#), and then choose Delete.

Add an entity to the model. You can add entities from the Visual Studio Toolbox onto the BDC designer.

To add an Entity to the model

  1. On the menu bar, choose View, Toolbox.

  2. On the BusinessDataConnectivity tab of the Toolbox, add an Entity onto the BDC designer.

    The new entity appears on the designer. Visual Studio adds a file that’s named EntityService.vb (in Visual Basic) or EntityService.cs (in C#) to the project.

  3. On the menu bar, choose View, Properties, Window.

  4. In the Properties window, set the Name property value to Contact.

  5. On the designer, open the shortcut menu for the entity, choose Add, and then choose Identifier.

    A new identifier appears on the entity.

  6. In the Properties window, change the name of the identifier to ContactID.

  7. In the Type Name list, choose System.Int32.

To enable the BDC service to display a specific contact, you must add a Specific Finder method. The BDC service calls the Specific Finder method when a user chooses an item in a list and then chooses the View Item button on the Ribbon.

Add a Specific Finder method to the Contact entity by using the BDC Method Details window. To return a specific entity, add code to the method.

To add a Specific Finder method

  1. On the BDC designer, choose the Contact entity.

  2. On the menu bar, choose View, Other Windows, BDC Method Details.

    The BDC Method Details window opens.

  3. In the Add a Method list, choose Create Specific Finder Method.

    Visual Studio adds the following elements to the model. These elements appear in the BDC Method Details window.

    • A method named ReadItem.

    • An input parameter for the method.

    • A return parameter for the method.

    • A type descriptor for each parameter.

    • A method instance for the method.

  4. In the BDC Method Details window, open the list that appears for the Contact type descriptor, and then choose Edit.

    The BDC Explorer opens and provides a hierarchical view of the model.

  5. In the Properties window, open the list next to the TypeName property, choose the Current Project tab, and then choose the Contact property.

  6. In the BDC Explorer, open the shortcut menu of the Contact, and then choose Add Type Descriptor.

    A new type descriptor that’s named TypeDescriptor1 appears in the BDC Explorer.

  7. In the Properties window, set the Name property value to ContactID.

  8. Open the list next to the TypeName property, and then choose Int32.

  9. Open the list next to the Identifier property, and then choose ContactID.

  10. Repeat step 6 to create a type descriptor for each of the following fields.

    Name

    Type Name

    FirstName

    System.String

    LastName

    System.String

    Phone

    System.String

    EmailAddress

    System.String

    EmailPromotion

    System.Int32

    NameStyle

    System.Boolean

    PasswordHash

    System.String

    PasswordSalt

    System.String

  11. In the BDC designer, on the Contact entity, open the ReadItem method.

    The Contact service code file opens in Code Editor.

  12. In the ContactService class, replace the ReadItem method with the following code. This code performs the following tasks:

    • Retrieves a record from Contact table of the AdventureWorks database.

    • Returns a Contact entity to the BDC service.

    Note Note

    Replace the value of the ServerName field with the name of your server.

    Public Shared Function ReadItem(ByVal contactID As Integer) As Contact
        Const ServerName As String = "MySQLServerName" 
        Dim dataContext As AdventureWorksDataContext = _
            New AdventureWorksDataContext("Data Source=" & ServerName & _
                ";Initial Catalog=AdventureWorks;Integrated Security=True")
    
        Dim Contact As Contact = _
            (From TempContacts In dataContext.Contacts.AsEnumerable().Take(20) _
            Where TempContacts.ContactID = contactID _
            Select TempContacts).[Single]()
        Return Contact
    End Function
    

To enable the BDC service to display the contacts in a list, you must add a Finder method. Add a Finder method to the Contact entity by using the BDC Method Details window. To return a collection of entities to the BDC service, add code to the method.

To add a Finder method

  1. In the BDC designer, choose the Contact entity.

  2. In the BDC Method Details window, collapse the ReadItem node.

  3. In the Add a Method list under the ReadList method, choose Create Finder Method.

    Visual Studio adds a method, a return parameter, and a type descriptor.

  4. In the BDC designer, on the Contact entity, open the ReadList method.

    The code file for the Contact service opens in Code Editor.

  5. In the ContactService class, replace the ReadList method with the following code. This code performs the following tasks:

    • Retrieves data from the Contacts table of the AdventureWorks database.

    • Returns a list of Contact entities to the BDC service.

    Note Note

    Replace the value of the ServerName field with the name of your server.

    Public Shared Function ReadList() As IEnumerable(Of Contact)
        Const ServerName As String = "MySQLServerName" 
        Dim dataContext As AdventureWorksDataContext = _
            New AdventureWorksDataContext("Data Source=" & ServerName & _
                ";Initial Catalog=AdventureWorks;Integrated Security=True")
    
        Dim Contacts As IEnumerable(Of Contact) = _
            From TempContacts In dataContext.Contacts.Take(20) _
                  Select TempContacts
        Return Contacts
    End Function
    

When you run the project, the SharePoint site opens and Visual Studio adds your model to the Business Data Connectivity service. Create an external list in SharePoint that references the Contact entity. The data for contacts in the AdventureWorks database appear in the list.

Note Note

You might have to modify your security settings in SharePoint before you can debug your solution. For more information, see Designing a Business Data Connectivity Model.

To test the project

  1. Choose the F5 key.

    The SharePoint site opens.

  2. On the Site Actions menu, choose the More Options command.

  3. On the Create page, choose the External List template, and then choose the Create button.

  4. Name the custom list Contacts.

  5. Choose the browse button next to the External Content Type field.

  6. In the External Content Type Picker dialog box, choose the AdventureWorksContacts.BdcModel1.Contact item, and then choose the Create button.

    SharePoint creates an external list that contains contacts from the AdventureWorks sample database.

  7. To test the Specific Finder method, choose a contact in the list.

  8. On the Ribbon, choose the Items tab, and then choose the View Item command.

    The details of the contact that you chose appear on a form.

You can learn more about how to design models for the BDC service in SharePoint from these topics:

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