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DataColumn.Expression Property

Gets or sets the expression used to filter rows, calculate the values in a column, or create an aggregate column.

[Visual Basic]
Public Property Expression As String
public string Expression {get; set;}
public: __property String* get_Expression();
public: __property void set_Expression(String*);
public function get Expression() : String;
public function set Expression(String);

Property Value

An expression to calculate the value of a column, or create an aggregate column. The return type of an expression is determined by the DataType of the column.


Exception Type Condition
ArgumentException The AutoIncrement or Unique property is set to true.
FormatException When using the CONVERT function, the expression evaluates to a string, but the string does not contain a representation that can be converted to the type parameter.
InvalidCastException When using the CONVERT function, the requested cast is not possible. See the Conversion function below for details on possible casts.
ArgumentOutOfRangeException When using the SUBSTRING function, the start argument is out of range.


When using the SUBSTRING function, the length argument is out of range.

Exception When using the LEN function or the TRIM function, the expression does not evaluate to a string. This includes expressions that evaluate to Char.


One use of the Expression property is to create calculated columns. For example, to calculate a tax value, the unit price is multiplied by a tax rate of a given region. Since tax rates vary from region to region, it would be impossible to put a single tax rate in a column; instead, the value is calculated using the Expression property, as shown in the Visual Basic code below:

DataSet1.Tables("Products").Columns("tax").Expression = "UnitPrice * 0.086"

A second use is to create an aggregate column. Similar to a calculated value, an aggregate performs an operation based on the entire set of rows in the DataTable. A simple example is to count the number of rows returned in the set, which is the method you would use to count the number of transactions completed by a particular salesperson, as shown in this Visual Basic code:

DataSet1.Tables("Orders").Columns("OrderCount").Expression = "Count(OrderID)"


When creating an expression, use the ColumnName property to refer to columns. For example, if the ColumnName for one column is "UnitPrice", and another "Quantity", the expression would be:

"UnitPrice * Quantity"

When creating an expression for a filter, enclose strings with single quotes:

"LastName = 'Jones'"

The following characters are special characters and must be escaped, as explained below, if they are used in a column name:

\n (newline)

\t (tab)

\r (carriage return)





















If a column name contains one of the above characters, the name must be wrapped in brackets. For example to use a column named "Column#" in an expression, you would write "[Column#]":

Total * [Column#]

Because brackets are special characters, you must use a slash ("\") to escape the bracket, if it is part of a column name. For example, a column named "Column[]" would be written:

Total * [Column[\]]

(Only the second bracket must be escaped.)


User-defined values may be used within expressions to be compared against column values. String values should be enclosed within single quotes. Date values should be enclosed within pound signs (#). Decimals and scientific notation are permissible for numeric values. For example:

"FirstName = 'John'"

"Price <= 50.00"

"Birthdate < #1/31/82#"

For columns that contain enumeration values, cast the value to an integer data type. For example:

"EnumColumn = 5"


Concatenation is allowed using Boolean AND, OR, and NOT operators. You can use parentheses to group clauses and force precedence. The AND operator has precedence over other operators. For example:

(LastName = 'Smith' OR LastName = 'Jones') AND FirstName = 'John'

When creating comparison expressions, the following operators are allowed:









The following arithmetic operators are also supported in expressions:

+ (addition)

- (subtraction)

* (multiplication)

/ (division)

% (modulus)


To concatenate a string, use the + character. Whether string comparisons are case-sensitive or not is determined by the value of the DataSet class's CaseSensitive property. However, you can override that value with the DataTable class's CaseSensitive property.


Both the * and % can be used interchangeably for wildcards in a LIKE comparison. If the string in a LIKE clause contains a * or %, those characters should be escaped in brackets ([]). If a bracket is in the clause, the bracket characters should be escaped in brackets (for example [[] or []]). A wildcard is allowed at the beginning and end of a pattern, or at the end of a pattern, or at the beginning of a pattern. For example:

"ItemName LIKE '*product*'"

"ItemName LIKE '*product'"

"ItemName LIKE 'product*'"

Wildcards are not allowed in the middle of a string. For example, 'te*xt' is not allowed.


A parent table may be referenced in an expression by prepending the column name with Parent. For example, the Parent.Price references the parent table's column named Price.

A column in a child table may be referenced in an expression by prepending the column name with Child. However, because child relationships may return multiple rows, you must include the reference to the child column in an aggregate function. For example, Sum(Child.Price) would return the sum of the column named Price in the child table.

If a table has more than one child, the syntax is: Child(RelationName). For example, if a table has two child tables named Customers and Orders, and the DataRelation object is named Customers2Orders, the reference would be:



The following aggregate types are supported:

Sum (Sum)

Avg (Average)

Min (Minimum)

Max (Maximum)

Count (Count)

StDev (Statistical standard deviation)

Var (Statistical variance).

Aggregates are usually performed along relationships. Create an aggregate expression by using one of the functions listed above and a child table column as detailed in PARENT/CHILD RELATION REFERENCING above. For example:



An aggregate can also be performed on a single table. For example, to create a summary of figures in a column named "Price":


Note   If you use a single table to create an aggregate, there would be no group-by functionality. Instead, all rows would display the same value in the column.

If a table has no rows, the aggregate functions will return a null reference (Nothing in Visual Basic).

Data types can always be determined by examining the DataType property of a column. You can also convert data types using the Convert function, shown below.


The following functions are also supported:


Description Converts given expression to a specified .NET Framework Type.
Syntax Convert(expression, type)
Arguments expression-- The expression to convert.

type-- The .NET Framework type to which the value will be converted.

Example: myDataColumn.Expression="Convert(total, 'System.Int32')"

All conversions are valid with the following exceptions: Boolean can be coerced to and from Byte, SByte, Int16, Int32, Int64, UInt16, UInt32, UInt64, String and itself only. Char can be coerced to and from Int32, UInt32, String, and itself only. DateTime can be coerced to and from String and itself only. TimeSpan can be coerced to and from String and itself only.


Description Gets the length of a string
Syntax LEN(expression)
Arguments expression-- The string to be evaluated.

Example: myDataColumn.Expression="Len(ItemName)"


Description Checks an expression and either returns the checked expression or a replacement value.
Syntax ISNULL(expression, replacementvalue)
Arguments expression-- The expression to check.

replacementvalue-- If expression is a null reference (Nothing), replacementvalue is returned.

Example: myDataColumn.Expression="IsNull(price, -1)"


Description Gets one of two values depending on the result of a logical expression.
Syntax IIF(expr, truepart, falsepart)
Arguments expr-- The expression to evaluate.

truepart-- The value to return if the expression is true.

falsepart-- The value to return if the expression is false.

Example: myDataColumn.Expression = "IIF(total>1000, 'expensive', 'dear')


Description Removes all leading and trailing blank characters like\r,\n,\t, ' '
Syntax TRIM(expression)
Arguments expression-- The expression to trim.


Description Gets a sub-string of a specified length, starting at a specified point in the string.
Syntax SUBSTRING(expression, start,


Arguments expression-- The source string for the substring.

start-- Integer that specifies where the substring begins.

length-- Integer that specifies the length of the substring.

Example: myDataColumn.Expression = "SUBSTRING(phone, 7, 8)"

Note   You can reset the Expression property by assigning it a null value or empty string. If a default value is set on the expression column, all previously filled rows are assigned the default value after the Expression property is reset.


[Visual Basic, C#, C++] The following example creates three coumns in a DataTable. The second and third columns contain expressions; the second calculates tax using a variable tax rate, and the third adds the result of the calculation to the value of the first column. The resulting table is displayed in a DataGrid control.

[Visual Basic] 
Private Sub CalcColumns()
     Dim cPrice As DataColumn
     Dim cTax As DataColumn
     Dim cTotal As DataColumn
     Dim rate As Single
     rate = .0862
     dim t as DataTable = New DataTable 
     ' Create the first column.
     cPrice = New DataColumn
     With cPrice
         .DataType = System.Type.GetType("System.Decimal")
         .ColumnName = "price"
         .DefaultValue = 50
     End With
     ' Create the second, calculated, column.
     cTax = New DataColumn
     With cTax
         .DataType = System.Type.GetType("System.Decimal")
         .ColumnName = "tax"
         .Expression = "price * 0.0862"
     End With
    ' Create third column
     cTotal = New DataColumn
     With cTotal
         .DataType = System.Type.GetType("System.Decimal")
         .ColumnName = "total"
         .Expression = "price + tax"
     End With
     ' Add columns to DataTable
     With t.Columns
     End With
     Dim r As DataRow
     r = t.NewRow
     Dim dView As New DataView
     dView.Table = t
     DataGrid1.DataSource = dView
 End Sub

private void CalcColumns(){
    DataColumn cPrice;
    DataColumn cTax;
    DataColumn cTotal;
    DataTable myTable = new DataTable ();
    // Create the first column.
    cPrice = new DataColumn();
    cPrice.DataType = System.Type.GetType("System.Decimal");
    cPrice.ColumnName = "price";
    cPrice.DefaultValue = 50;
    // Create the second, calculated, column.
    cTax = new DataColumn();
    cTax.DataType = System.Type.GetType("System.Decimal");
    cTax.ColumnName = "tax";
    cTax.Expression = "price * 0.0862";
    // Create third column.
    cTotal = new DataColumn();
    cTotal.DataType = System.Type.GetType("System.Decimal");
    cTotal.ColumnName = "total";
    cTotal.Expression = "price + tax";
    // Add columns to DataTable.
    DataRow myRow;
    myRow = myTable.NewRow();
    DataView myView = new DataView(myTable);
    dataGrid1.DataSource = myView;

void CalcColumns(){
    DataColumn* cPrice;
    DataColumn* cTax;
    DataColumn* cTotal;
    DataTable* myTable = new DataTable ();
    // Create the first column.
    cPrice = new DataColumn();
    cPrice->DataType = System::Type::GetType(S"System.Decimal");
    cPrice->ColumnName = S"price";
    cPrice->DefaultValue = __box(50);
    // Create the second, calculated, column.
    cTax = new DataColumn();
    cTax->DataType = System::Type::GetType(S"System.Decimal");
    cTax->ColumnName = S"tax";
    cTax->Expression = S"price * 0.0862";
    // Create third column.
    cTotal = new DataColumn();
    cTotal->DataType = System::Type::GetType(S"System.Decimal");
    cTotal->ColumnName = S"total";
    cTotal->Expression = S"price + tax";
    // Add columns to DataTable.
    DataRow* myRow;
    myRow = myTable->NewRow();
    DataView* myView = new DataView(myTable);
    dataGrid1->DataSource = myView;

[JScript] No example is available for JScript. To view a Visual Basic, C#, or C++ example, click the Language Filter button Language Filter in the upper-left corner of the page.


Platforms: Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows 2000, Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003 family, .NET Compact Framework

See Also

DataColumn Class | DataColumn Members | System.Data Namespace