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Best Practices for Scaling the Windows Forms DataGridView Control

The DataGridView control is designed to provide maximum scalability. If you need to display large amounts of data, you should follow the guidelines described in this topic to avoid consuming large amounts of memory or degrading the responsiveness of the user interface (UI). This topic discusses the following issues:

  • Using cell styles efficiently

  • Using shortcut menus efficiently

  • Using automatic resizing efficiently

  • Using the selected cells, rows, and columns collections efficiently

  • Using shared rows

  • Preventing rows from becoming unshared

If you have special performance needs, you can implement virtual mode and provide your own data management operations. For more information, see Data Display Modes in the Windows Forms DataGridView Control.

Each cell, row, and column can have its own style information. Style information is stored in DataGridViewCellStyle objects. Creating cell style objects for many individual DataGridView elements can be inefficient, especially when working with large amounts of data. To avoid a performance impact, use the following guidelines:

Each cell, row, and column can have its own shortcut menu. Shortcut menus in the DataGridView control are represented by ContextMenuStrip controls. Just as with cell style objects, creating shortcut menus for many individual DataGridView elements will negatively impact performance. To avoid this penalty, use the following guidelines:

  • Avoid creating shortcut menus for individual cells and rows. This includes the row template, which is cloned along with its shortcut menu when new rows are added to the control. For maximum scalability, use only the control's ContextMenuStrip property to specify a single shortcut menu for the entire control.

  • If you require multiple shortcut menus for multiple rows or cells, handle the CellContextMenuStripNeeded or RowContextMenuStripNeeded events. These events let you manage the shortcut menu objects yourself, allowing you to tune performance.

Rows, columns, and headers can be automatically resized as cell content changes so that the entire contents of cells are displayed without clipping. Changing sizing modes can also resize rows, columns, and headers. To determine the correct size, the DataGridView control must examine the value of each cell that it must accommodate. When working with large data sets, this analysis can negatively impact the performance of the control when automatic resizing occurs. To avoid performance penalties, use the following guidelines:

For more information, see Sizing Options in the Windows Forms DataGridView Control.

The SelectedCells collection does not perform efficiently with large selections. The SelectedRows and SelectedColumns collections can also be inefficient, although to a lesser degree because there are many fewer rows than cells in a typical DataGridView control, and many fewer columns than rows. To avoid performance penalties when working with these collections, use the following guidelines:

Efficient memory use is achieved in the DataGridView control through shared rows. Rows will share as much information about their appearance and behavior as possible by sharing instances of the DataGridViewRow class.

While sharing row instances saves memory, rows can easily become unshared. For example, whenever a user interacts directly with a cell, its row becomes unshared. Because this cannot be avoided, the guidelines in this topic are useful only when working with very large amounts of data and only when users will interact with a relatively small part of the data each time your program is run.

A row cannot be shared in an unbound DataGridView control if any of its cells contain values. When the DataGridView control is bound to an external data source or when you implement virtual mode and provide your own data source, the cell values are stored outside the control rather than in cell objects, allowing the rows to be shared.

A row object can only be shared if the state of all its cells can be determined from the state of the row and the states of the columns containing the cells. If you change the state of a cell so that it can no longer be deduced from the state of its row and column, the row cannot be shared.

For example, a row cannot be shared in any of the following situations:

In bound mode or virtual mode, you can provide ToolTips and shortcut menus for individual cells by handling the CellToolTipTextNeeded and CellContextMenuStripNeeded events.

The DataGridView control will automatically attempt to use shared rows whenever rows are added to the DataGridViewRowCollection. Use the following guidelines to ensure that rows are shared:

To determine whether a row is shared, use the DataGridViewRowCollection.SharedRow method to retrieve the row object, and then check the object's Index property. Shared rows always have an Index property value of –1.

Shared rows can become unshared as a result of code or user action. To avoid a performance impact, you should avoid causing rows to become unshared. During application development, you can handle the RowUnshared event to determine when rows become unshared. This is useful when debugging row-sharing problems.

To prevent rows from becoming unshared, use the following guidelines:

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