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Entity Framework Model-Based Conventions (EF6 onwards)
 

Updated: October 23, 2016

EF6 Onwards Only - The features, APIs, etc. discussed in this page were introduced in Entity Framework 6. If you are using an earlier version, some or all of the information does not apply.

Model based conventions are an advanced method of convention based model configuration. For most scenarios the Custom Code First Convention API on DbModelBuilder should be used. An understanding of the DbModelBuilder API for conventions is recommended before using model based conventions.

Model based conventions allow the creation of conventions that affect properties and tables which are not configurable through standard conventions. Examples of these are discriminator columns in table per hierarchy models and Independent Association columns.

The first step in creating a model based convention is choosing when in the pipeline the convention needs to be applied to the model. There are two types of model conventions, Conceptual (C-Space) and Store (S-Space). A C-Space convention is applied to the model that the application builds, whereas an S-Space convention is applied to the version of the model that represents the database and controls things such as how automatically-generated columns are named.

A model convention is a class that extends from either IConceptualModelConvention or IStoreModelConvention. These interfaces both accept a generic type that can be of type MetadataItem which is used to filter the data type that the convention applies to.

Model conventions are added in the same way as regular conventions classes. In the OnModelCreating method, add the convention to the list of conventions for a model.

using System.Data.Entity; 
using System.Data.Entity.Core.Metadata.Edm; 
using System.Data.Entity.Infrastructure; 
using System.Data.Entity.ModelConfiguration.Conventions; 
 
public class BlogContext : DbContext  
{  
    public DbSet<Post> Posts { get; set; }  
    public DbSet<Comment> Comments { get; set; }  
 
    protected override void OnModelCreating(DbModelBuilder modelBuilder)  
    {  
        modelBuilder.Conventions.Add<MyModelBasedConvention>();  
    }  
}

A convention can also be added in relation to another convention using the Conventions.AddBefore<> or Conventions.AddAfter<> methods. For more information about the conventions that Entity Framework applies see the notes section.

protected override void OnModelCreating(DbModelBuilder modelBuilder) 
{ 
    modelBuilder.Conventions.AddAfter<IdKeyDiscoveryConvention>(new MyModelBasedConvention()); 
}

Renaming columns generated by EF is an example of something that you can’t do with the other conventions APIs. This is a situation where using model conventions is your only option.

An example of how to use a model based convention to configure generated columns is customizing the way discriminator columns are named. Below is an example of a simple model based convention that renames every column in the model named “Discriminator” to “EntityType”. This includes columns that the developer simply named “Discriminator”. Since the “Discriminator” column is a generated column this needs to run in S-Space.

using System.Data.Entity; 
using System.Data.Entity.Core.Metadata.Edm; 
using System.Data.Entity.Infrastructure; 
using System.Data.Entity.ModelConfiguration.Conventions; 
 
class DiscriminatorRenamingConvention : IStoreModelConvention<EdmProperty>  
{  
    public void Apply(EdmProperty property, DbModel model)  
    {            
        if (property.Name == "Discriminator")  
        {  
            property.Name = "EntityType";  
        }  
    }  
}

Another more complicated example of model based conventions in action is to configure the way that Independent Associations (IAs) are named. This is a situation where Model conventions are applicable because IAs are generated by EF and aren’t present in the model that the DbModelBuilder API can access.

When EF generates an IA, it creates a column named EntityType_KeyName i.e. for an association named Customer with a key column named CustomerId it would generate a column named Customer_CustomerId. The following convention strips the ‘_’ character out of the column name that is generated for the IA.

using System.Data.Entity; 
using System.Data.Entity.Core.Metadata.Edm; 
using System.Data.Entity.Infrastructure; 
using System.Data.Entity.ModelConfiguration.Conventions; 
 
// Provides a convention for fixing the independent association (IA) foreign key column names.  
public class ForeignKeyNamingConvention : IStoreModelConvention<AssociationType> 
{ 
 
    public void Apply(AssociationType association, DbModel model) 
    { 
        // Identify ForeignKey properties (including IAs)  
        if (association.IsForeignKey) 
        { 
            // rename FK columns  
            var constraint = association.Constraint; 
            if (DoPropertiesHaveDefaultNames(constraint.FromProperties, constraint.ToRole.Name, constraint.ToProperties)) 
            { 
                NormalizeForeignKeyProperties(constraint.FromProperties); 
            } 
            if (DoPropertiesHaveDefaultNames(constraint.ToProperties, constraint.FromRole.Name, constraint.FromProperties)) 
            { 
                NormalizeForeignKeyProperties(constraint.ToProperties); 
            } 
        } 
    } 
 
    private bool DoPropertiesHaveDefaultNames(ReadOnlyMetadataCollection<EdmProperty> properties, string roleName, ReadOnlyMetadataCollection<EdmProperty> otherEndProperties) 
    { 
        if (properties.Count != otherEndProperties.Count) 
        { 
            return false; 
        } 
 
        for (int i = 0; i < properties.Count; ++i) 
        { 
            if (!properties[i].Name.EndsWith("_" + otherEndProperties[i].Name)) 
            { 
                return false; 
            } 
        } 
        return true; 
    } 
 
    private void NormalizeForeignKeyProperties(ReadOnlyMetadataCollection<EdmProperty> properties) 
    { 
        for (int i = 0; i < properties.Count; ++i) 
        { 
            int underscoreIndex = properties[i].Name.IndexOf('_'); 
            if (underscoreIndex > 0) 
            { 
                properties[i].Name = properties[i].Name.Remove(underscoreIndex, 1); 
            }                 
        } 
    } 
}

If you need to write a convention that is similar to one of the conventions that Entity Framework already applies to your model you can always extend that convention to avoid having to rewrite it from scratch. An example of this is to replace the existing Id matching convention with a custom one. An added benefit to overriding the key convention is that the overridden method will get called only if there is no key already detected or explicitly configured. A list of conventions that used by Entity Framework is available here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/system.data.entity.modelconfiguration.conventions.aspx.

using System.Data.Entity; 
using System.Data.Entity.Core.Metadata.Edm; 
using System.Data.Entity.Infrastructure; 
using System.Data.Entity.ModelConfiguration.Conventions; 
using System.Linq;  
 
// Convention to detect primary key properties. 
// Recognized naming patterns in order of precedence are: 
// 1. 'Key' 
// 2. [type name]Key 
// Primary key detection is case insensitive. 
public class CustomKeyDiscoveryConvention : KeyDiscoveryConvention 
{ 
    private const string Id = "Key"; 
 
    protected override IEnumerable<EdmProperty> MatchKeyProperty( 
        EntityType entityType, IEnumerable<EdmProperty> primitiveProperties) 
    { 
        Debug.Assert(entityType != null); 
        Debug.Assert(primitiveProperties != null); 
 
        var matches = primitiveProperties 
            .Where(p => Id.Equals(p.Name, StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase)); 
 
        if (!matches.Any()) 
       { 
            matches = primitiveProperties 
                .Where(p => (entityType.Name + Id).Equals(p.Name, StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase)); 
        } 
 
        // If the number of matches is more than one, then multiple properties matched differing only by 
        // case--for example, "Key" and "key".  
        if (matches.Count() > 1) 
        { 
            throw new InvalidOperationException("Multiple properties match the key convention"); 
        } 
 
        return matches; 
    } 
}

We then need to add our new convention before the existing key convention. After we add the CustomKeyDiscoveryConvention, we can remove the IdKeyDiscoveryConvention. If we didn’t remove the existing IdKeyDiscoveryConvention this convention would still take precedence over the Id discovery convention since it is run first, but in the case where no “key” property is found, the “id” convention will run. We see this behavior because each convention sees the model as updated by the previous convention (rather than operating on it independently and all being combined together) so that if a previous convention updated e.g. a column name to match something of interest to your custom convention (when before that the name was not of interest) then it will apply to that column.

public class BlogContext : DbContext 
{ 
    public DbSet<Post> Posts { get; set; } 
    public DbSet<Comment> Comments { get; set; } 
 
    protected override void OnModelCreating(DbModelBuilder modelBuilder) 
    { 
        modelBuilder.Conventions.AddBefore<IdKeyDiscoveryConvention>(new CustomKeyDiscoveryConvention()); 
        modelBuilder.Conventions.Remove<IdKeyDiscoveryConvention>(); 
    } 
}

A list of conventions that are currently applied by Entity Framework is available in the MSDN documentation here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/system.data.entity.modelconfiguration.conventions.aspx. This list is pulled directly from our source code. The source code for entity framework is available at https://entityframework.codeplex.com/ and many of the conventions used by Entity Framework are good starting points for custom model based conventions.