One of the best new features of .NET 3.5 is LINQ. It's great for accessing data from databases like SQL Server but it's far more useful than just that. LINQ to objects is the killer feature in .NET 3.5 and it can change the way you write code for the better.

I am finding more cases where I can use LINQ for general data manipulation to simplify the code that I write. Coupled with Extension Methods it's a really powerful new way to write algorithms over your data types.

One of my favorite new tricks is to use LINQ to make recursion over a tree of objects simpler. There are many cases where this type of pattern is possible. For instance when working with controls in ASP.NET or Windows Forms each Control has a property named Controls, which is a collection of its child controls. If you need to perform some operation over all of them you can gather them all in just one LINQ statement similar to this:

ChildControls = from nested in 
                    c => c.Controls.Cast<System.Web.UI.Control>())
                select nested;

 The above code is a lot simpler to express than the recursion code that would have been necessary to work with each of the nested controls. And if you need to filter the child controls returned you can just add a LINQ Where clause (or any of the other LINQ operators).

Note: The Cast<T> function above is necessary since the Controls property return a non-generic IEnumerable. Cast<T> simple wraps the non-generic IEnumerable and returns a typed IEnumerable<T>.

The trick that makes this work is a function called Descendants, which is an extension method that I wrote. You can use it with any IEnumerable<T> collection to descend into those collections. It will descend into those collections by way of a Func<T, IEnumerable<T>> lambda that you supply. In the above example I pass it a lambda function that tells it how to retrieve the nested child controls.

Here is that extension method:

static public class LinqExtensions
    static public IEnumerable<T> Descendants<T>(this IEnumerable<T> source, 
                                                Func<T, IEnumerable<T>> DescendBy)
        foreach (T value in source)
            yield return value;

            foreach (T child in DescendBy(value).Descendants<T>(DescendBy))
                yield return child;


You could just as easily write a lambda function to descend into a tree structure or any other data structure as long as it supports implemented IEnumerable<T>. Since you can supply the function you need to descend into the data structures, it makes Descendants a generic way to traverse into nested data structures.

Flux and Mutability

The mutable notebook of David Jade