Walkthrough: Creating a Master/Detail Form Using Two Windows Forms DataGridView Controls


One of the most common scenarios for using the DataGridView control is the master/detail form, in which a parent/child relationship between two database tables is displayed. Selecting rows in the master table causes the detail table to update with the corresponding child data.

Implementing a master/detail form is easy using the interaction between the DataGridView control and the BindingSource component. In this walkthrough, you will build the form using two DataGridView controls and two BindingSource components. The form will show two related tables in the Northwind SQL Server sample database: Customers and Orders. When you are finished, you will have a form that shows all the customers in the database in the master DataGridView and all the orders for the selected customer in the detail DataGridView.

To copy the code in this topic as a single listing, see How to: Create a Master/Detail Form Using Two Windows Forms DataGridView Controls.

In order to complete this walkthrough, you will need:

  • Access to a server that has the Northwind SQL Server sample database.

To create a master/detail form

  1. Create a class that derives from Form and contains two DataGridView controls and two BindingSource components. The following code provides basic form initialization and includes a Main method. If you use the Visual Studio designer to create your form, you can use the designer generated code instead of this code, but be sure to use the names shown in the variable declarations here.

    using System;
    using System.Data;
    using System.Data.SqlClient;
    using System.Windows.Forms;
    public class Form1 : System.Windows.Forms.Form
        private DataGridView masterDataGridView = new DataGridView();
        private BindingSource masterBindingSource = new BindingSource();
        private DataGridView detailsDataGridView = new DataGridView();
        private BindingSource detailsBindingSource = new BindingSource();
        public static void Main()
            Application.Run(new Form1());
        // Initializes the form.
        public Form1()
            masterDataGridView.Dock = DockStyle.Fill;
            detailsDataGridView.Dock = DockStyle.Fill;
            SplitContainer splitContainer1 = new SplitContainer();
            splitContainer1.Dock = DockStyle.Fill;
            splitContainer1.Orientation = Orientation.Horizontal;
            this.Load += new System.EventHandler(Form1_Load);
            this.Text = "DataGridView master/detail demo";

  2. Implement a method in your form's class definition for handling the detail of connecting to the database. This example uses a GetData method that populates a DataSet object, adds a DataRelation object to the data set, and binds the BindingSource components. Be sure to set the connectionString variable to a value that is appropriate for your database.

    System_CAPS_ICON_important.jpg Important

    Storing sensitive information, such as a password, within the connection string can affect the security of your application. Using Windows Authentication (also known as integrated security) is a more secure way to control access to a database. For more information, see Protecting Connection Information.

        private void GetData()
                // Specify a connection string. Replace the given value with a 
                // valid connection string for a Northwind SQL Server sample
                // database accessible to your system.
                String connectionString =
                    "Integrated Security=SSPI;Persist Security Info=False;" +
                    "Initial Catalog=Northwind;Data Source=localhost";
                SqlConnection connection = new SqlConnection(connectionString);
                // Create a DataSet.
                DataSet data = new DataSet();
                data.Locale = System.Globalization.CultureInfo.InvariantCulture;
                // Add data from the Customers table to the DataSet.
                SqlDataAdapter masterDataAdapter = new
                    SqlDataAdapter("select * from Customers", connection);
                masterDataAdapter.Fill(data, "Customers");
                // Add data from the Orders table to the DataSet.
                SqlDataAdapter detailsDataAdapter = new
                    SqlDataAdapter("select * from Orders", connection);
                detailsDataAdapter.Fill(data, "Orders");
                // Establish a relationship between the two tables.
                DataRelation relation = new DataRelation("CustomersOrders",
                // Bind the master data connector to the Customers table.
                masterBindingSource.DataSource = data;
                masterBindingSource.DataMember = "Customers";
                // Bind the details data connector to the master data connector,
                // using the DataRelation name to filter the information in the 
                // details table based on the current row in the master table. 
                detailsBindingSource.DataSource = masterBindingSource;
                detailsBindingSource.DataMember = "CustomersOrders";
            catch (SqlException)
                MessageBox.Show("To run this example, replace the value of the " +
                    "connectionString variable with a connection string that is " +
                    "valid for your system.");

  3. Implement a handler for your form's Load event that binds the DataGridView controls to the BindingSource components and calls the GetData method. The following example includes code that resizes DataGridView columns to fit the displayed data.

        private void Form1_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
            // Bind the DataGridView controls to the BindingSource
            // components and load the data from the database.
            masterDataGridView.DataSource = masterBindingSource;
            detailsDataGridView.DataSource = detailsBindingSource;
            // Resize the master DataGridView columns to fit the newly loaded data.
            // Configure the details DataGridView so that its columns automatically
            // adjust their widths when the data changes.
            detailsDataGridView.AutoSizeColumnsMode = 

You can now test the form to make sure it behaves as expected.

To test the form

  • Compile and run the application.

    You will see two DataGridView controls, one above the other. On top are the customers from the Northwind Customers table, and at the bottom are the Orders corresponding to the selected customer. As you select different rows in the upper DataGridView, the contents of the lower DataGridView change accordingly.

This application gives you a basic understanding of the DataGridView control's capabilities. You can customize the appearance and behavior of the DataGridView control in several ways:

Displaying Data in the Windows Forms DataGridView Control
How to: Create a Master/Detail Form Using Two Windows Forms DataGridView Controls
Protecting Connection Information