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Walkthrough: Persisting an Object (C# and Visual Basic)

Although you can set an object's properties to default values at design time, any values entered at run time are lost when the object is destroyed. You can use serialization to persist an object's data between instances, which enables you to store values and retrieve them the next time that the object is instantiated.

Note Note

In Visual Basic, to store simple data, such as a name or number, you can use the My.Settings object. For more information, see My.Settings Object.

In this walkthrough, you will create a simple Loan object and persist its data to a file. You will then retrieve the data from the file when you re-create the object. Finally, you will modify the code to persist the object in a SOAP format.

Security note Security Note

This example creates a new file, if the file does not already exist. If an application must create a file, that application must Create permission for the folder. Permissions are set by using access control lists. If the file already exists, the application needs only Write permission, a lesser permission. Where possible, it is more secure to create the file during deployment, and only grant Read permissions to a single file (instead of Create permissions for a folder). Also, it is more secure to write data to user folders than to the root folder or the Program Files folder.

Security note Security Note

This example stores data in a binary or SOAP format file. These formats should not be used for sensitive data, such as passwords or credit-card information.

Note Note

The dialog boxes and menu commands you see might differ from those described in Help depending on your active settings or edition. To change your settings, click Import and Export Settings on the Tools menu. For more information, see Customizing Development Settings.

The first step is to create a Loan class and a test application that uses the class.

To create the Loan class

  1. Create a new Class Library project and name it "LoanClass". For more information, see Creating Solutions and Projects.

  2. In Solution Explorer, right-click the Class1 file and click Rename. Rename the file to Loan and press ENTER. Renaming the file will also rename the class to Loan.

  3. Add the following public members to the class:

    public class Loan : System.ComponentModel.INotifyPropertyChanged
    {
        public double LoanAmount {get; set;}
        public double InterestRate {get; set;}
        public int Term {get; set;}
    
        private string p_Customer;
        public string Customer
        {
            get { return p_Customer; }
            set 
            {
                p_Customer = value;
                PropertyChanged(this,
                  new System.ComponentModel.PropertyChangedEventArgs("Customer"));
            }
        }
    
        public event System.ComponentModel.PropertyChangedEventHandler PropertyChanged;
    
        public Loan(double loanAmount,
                    double interestRate,
                    int term,
                    string customer)
        {
            this.LoanAmount = loanAmount;
            this.InterestRate = interestRate;
            this.Term = term;
            p_Customer = customer;
        }
    }
    

You will also have to create a simple application that uses the Loan class.

To create a test application

  1. To add a Windows Forms Application project to your solution, on the File menu, point to Add, and then click New Project.

  2. In the Add New Project dialog box, enter LoanApp as the name of the project, and click OK to close the dialog box.

  3. In Solution Explorer, select the LoanApp project.

  4. On the Project menu, click Set as StartUp Project.

  5. On the Project menu, click Add Reference.

  6. In the Add Reference dialog box, click the Projects tab and select the LoanClass project.

  7. Click OK to close the dialog box.

  8. In the designer, add four TextBox controls to the form.

  9. In the Code Editor, add the following code:

    private LoanClass.Loan TestLoan = new LoanClass.Loan(10000.0, 0.075, 36, "Neil Black");
    
    private void Form1_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        textBox1.Text = TestLoan.LoanAmount.ToString();
        textBox2.Text = TestLoan.InterestRate.ToString();
        textBox3.Text = TestLoan.Term.ToString();
        textBox4.Text = TestLoan.Customer;
    }
    
  10. Add an event handler for the PropertyChanged event to the form by using the following code:

    private void CustomerPropertyChanged(object sender, 
        System.ComponentModel.PropertyChangedEventArgs e)
    {
        MessageBox.Show(e.PropertyName + " has been changed.");
    }
    

At this point, you can build and run the application. Note that the default values from the Loan class appear in the text boxes. Try to change the interest-rate value from 7.5 to 7.1, and then close the application and run it again—the value reverts to the default of 7.5.

In the real world, interest rates change periodically, but not necessarily every time that the application is run. Rather than making the user update the interest rate every time that the application runs, it is better to preserve the most recent interest rate between instances of the application. In the next step, you will do just that by adding serialization to the Loan class.

In order to persist the values for the Loan class, you must first mark the class with the Serializable attribute.

To mark a class as serializable

  • Change the class declaration for the Loan class as follows:

    [Serializable()]
    public class Loan : System.ComponentModel.INotifyPropertyChanged
    {
    

The Serializable attribute tells the compiler that everything in the class can be persisted to a file. Because the PropertyChanged event is handled by a Windows Form object, it cannot be serialized. The NonSerialized attribute can be used to mark class members that should not be persisted.

To prevent a member from being serialized

  • Change the declaration for the PropertyChanged event as follows:

    [field: NonSerialized()]
    public event System.ComponentModel.PropertyChangedEventHandler PropertyChanged;
    

The next step is to add the serialization code to the LoanApp application. In order to serialize the class and write it to a file, you will use the System.IO and System.Xml.Serialization namespaces. To avoid typing the fully qualified names, you can add references to the necessary class libraries.

To add references to namespaces

  • Add the following statements to the top of the Form1 class:

    using System.IO;
    using System.Runtime.Serialization.Formatters.Binary;
    

    In this case, you are using a binary formatter to save the object in a binary format. Later in this walkthrough, you will modify the code to save the object in a SOAP format.

The next step is to add code to deserialize the object from the file when the object is created.

To deserialize an object

  1. Add a constant to the class for the serialized data's file name.

    const string FileName = @"..\..\SavedLoan.bin";
    
  2. Modify the code in the Form1_Load event procedure as follows:

    private LoanClass.Loan TestLoan = new LoanClass.Loan(10000.0, 0.075, 36, "Neil Black");
    
    private void Form1_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        if (File.Exists(FileName))
        {
            Stream TestFileStream = File.OpenRead(FileName);
            BinaryFormatter deserializer = new BinaryFormatter();
            TestLoan = (LoanClass.Loan)deserializer.Deserialize(TestFileStream);
            TestFileStream.Close();
        }
    
        TestLoan.PropertyChanged += this.CustomerPropertyChanged;
    
        textBox1.Text = TestLoan.LoanAmount.ToString();
        textBox2.Text = TestLoan.InterestRate.ToString();
        textBox3.Text = TestLoan.Term.ToString();
        textBox4.Text = TestLoan.Customer;
    }
    

    Note that you first must check that the file exists. If it exists, create a Stream class to read the binary file and a BinaryFormatter class to translate the file. You also need to convert from the stream type to the Loan object type.

Next you must add code to save the data entered in the text boxes to the Loan class, and then you must serialize the class to a file.

To save the data and serialize the class

  • Add the following code to the Form1_FormClosing event procedure:

    private void Form1_FormClosing(object sender, FormClosingEventArgs e)
    {
        TestLoan.LoanAmount = Convert.ToDouble(textBox1.Text);
        TestLoan.InterestRate = Convert.ToDouble(textBox2.Text);
        TestLoan.Term = Convert.ToInt32(textBox3.Text);
        TestLoan.Customer = textBox4.Text;
    
        Stream TestFileStream = File.Create(FileName);
        BinaryFormatter serializer = new BinaryFormatter();
        serializer.Serialize(TestFileStream, TestLoan);
        TestFileStream.Close();
    }
    

At this point, you can again build and run the application. Initially, the default values appear in the text boxes. Try to change the values and enter a name in the fourth text box. Close the application and then run it again. Note that the new values now appear in the text boxes.

So far this example has demonstrated how to persist an object to a text file by using a binary format. A binary format is fine for most Windows applications. For Web applications or Web services, you may want to persist the object to an XML file by using a SOAP format, which makes the object easy to share.

In order to persist the object to a SOAP format, you must first reference the SoapFormatter class. The SoapFormatter class resides in its own namespace: System.Runtime.Serialization.Formatters.Soap.

To persist the object by using SOAP format

  1. In Solution Explorer, select the LoanApp project.

  2. On the Project menu, click Add Reference.

  3. In the Add Reference dialog box, click the .NET tab and select the System.Runtime.Serialization.Formatters.Soap component.

  4. Click OK to close the dialog box.

  5. In the Code Editor, add the following statement to the top of the Form1 module:

    using System.Runtime.Serialization.Formatters.Soap;
    
  6. Change the file name from SavedLoan.bin to SavedLoan.xml.

  7. In the Form1_Load event procedure, change the declaration of the deserializer variable to the following:

    SoapFormatter deserializer = new SoapFormatter();
    
  8. In the Form1_FormClosing event procedure, change the declaration of the serializer variable to the following:

    SoapFormatter serializer = new SoapFormatter();
    

At this point, you can build and test the application. When you first run the application, the SavedLoan.xml file is created. To view the file, select the Show All Files option in Solution Explorer; it is located in the Bin node for the Windows Application project.

Note Note

If you are already in Show All Files mode, you must refresh the view by clicking Refresh from the View menu in order to see the file.

Note that the three members of the LoanClass are displayed in XML format. Change the InterestRate value in the XML file, save it, and then run the application again. The new interest rate appears in the second text box.

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