Language Integrated Query Tutorial
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  • Language Integrated Query

    Language Integrated Query LINQ, pronounced "link" is a Microsoft .NET Framework component that adds native data querying capabilities to .NET languages, originally released as a major part of .NET Framework 3.5 in 2007.

    LINQ extends the language by the addition of query expressions, which are akin to SQL statements, and can be used to conveniently extract and process data from arrays, enumerable classes, XML documents, relational databases, and third-party data sources. Other uses, which utilize query expressions as a general framework for readably composing arbitrary computations, include the construction of event handlers or monadic parsers. It also defines a set of method names called standard query operators, or standard sequence operators, along with translation rules used by the compiler to translate fluent-style query expressions into expressions using these method names, lambda expressions and anonymous types. Many of the concepts that LINQ introduced were originally tested in Microsoft's Cω research project.

    Ports of LINQ exist for ]

    Architecture of LINQ in the .NET Framework

    In what follows, the descriptions of the operators are based on the application of working with collections. Many of the operators take other functions as arguments. These functions may be supplied in the form of a named method or anonymous function.

    The set of query operators defined by LINQ is exposed to the user as the Standard Query Operator SQO API. The query operators supported by the API are:

    The Select operator performs a projection on the collection to select interesting aspects of the elements. The user supplies an arbitrary function, in the form of a named or lambda expression, which projects the data members. The function is passed to the operator as a delegate.

    The Where operator allows the definition of a set of predicate rules that are evaluated for each object in the collection, while objects that do not match the rule are filtered away. The predicate is supplied to the operator as a delegate.

    For a user-provided mapping from collection elements to collections, semantically two steps are performed. First, every element is mapped to its corresponding collection. Second, the result of the first step is flattened by one level. Note: Select and Where are both implementable in terms of SelectMany, as long as singleton and empty collections are available. The translation rules mentioned above still make it mandatory for a LINQ provider to provide the other two operators.

    These operators optionally take a function that retrieves a certain numeric value from each element in the collection and uses it to find the sum, minimum, maximum or average values of all the elements in the collection, respectively. Overloaded versions take no function and act as if the identity is given as the lambda.

    A generalized Sum / Min / Max. This operator takes a function that specifies how two values are combined to form an intermediate or the final result. Optionally, a starting value can be supplied, enabling the result type of the aggregation to be arbitrary. Furthermore, a finalization function, taking the aggregation result to yet another value, can be supplied.

    The Standard Query Operator API also specifies certain operators that convert a collection into another type:

    While LINQ is primarily implemented as a library for .NET Framework 3.5, it also defines optional language extensions that make queries a first-class language construct and provide syntactic sugar for writing queries. These language extensions have initially been implemented in C# 3.0, VB 9.0, F# and Oxygene, with other languages like Nemerle having announced preliminary support. The language extensions include:

    For example, in the query to select all the objects in a collection with SomeProperty less than 10,

    var results =  from c in SomeCollection
                   where c.SomeProperty < 10
                   select new {c.SomeProperty, c.OtherProperty};
    foreach var result in results

    the types of variables result, c and results all are inferred by the compiler in accordance to the signatures of the methods eventually used. The basis for choosing the methods is formed by the query expression-free translation result

    var results =
            .Wherec => c.SomeProperty < 10
            .Selectc => new {c.SomeProperty, c.OtherProperty};
    results.ForEachx => {Console.WriteLinex.ToString;}

    The C#3.0 specification defines a Query Expression Pattern along with translation rules from a LINQ expression to an expression in a subset of C# 3.0 without LINQ expressions. The translation thus defined is actually un-typed, which, in addition to lambda expressions being interpretable as either delegates or expression trees, allows for a great degree of flexibility for libraries wishing to expose parts of their interface as LINQ expression clauses. For example, LINQ to Objects works on IEnumerable<T>s and with delegates, whereas LINQ to SQL makes use of the expression trees.

    The expression trees are at the core of the LINQ extensibility mechanism, by which LINQ can be adapted for many data sources. The expression trees are handed over to LINQ Providers, which are data source-specific implementations that adapt the LINQ queries to be used with the data source. If they choose so, the LINQ Providers analyze the expression trees contained in a query in order to generate essential pieces needed for the execution of a query. This can be SQL fragments or any other completely different representation of code as further manipulatable data. LINQ comes with LINQ Providers for in-memory object collections, Microsoft SQL Server databases, ADO.NET datasets and XML documents. These different providers define the different flavors of LINQ:

    The LINQ to Objects provider is used for in-memory collections, using the local query execution engine of LINQ. The code generated by this provider refers to the implementation of the standard query operators as defined on the Sequence pattern and allows IEnumerable<T> collections to be queried locally. Current implementation of LINQ to Objects perform interface implementation checks to allow for fast membership tests, counts, and indexed lookup operations when they are supported by the runtime type of the IEnumerable.

    The LINQ to XML provider converts an XML document to a collection of XElement objects, which are then queried against using the local execution engine that is provided as a part of the implementation of the standard query operator.

    The LINQ to SQL provider allows LINQ to be used to query Microsoft SQL Server databases, including SQL Server Compact databases. Since SQL Server data may reside on a remote server, and because SQL Server has its own query engine, LINQ to SQL does not use the query engine of LINQ. Instead, it converts a LINQ query to a SQL query that is then sent to SQL Server for processing. However, since SQL Server stores the data as relational data and LINQ works with data encapsulated in objects, the two representations must be mapped to one another. For this reason, LINQ to SQL also defines a mapping framework. The mapping is done by defining classes that correspond to the tables in the database, and containing all or a subset of the columns in the table as data members. The correspondence, along with other relational model attributes such as primary keys, are specified using LINQ to SQL-defined attributes. For example,

    public class Customer
         [ColumnIsPrimaryKey = true]
         public int CustID;
         public string CustName;

    This class definition maps to a table named Customers and the two data members correspond to two columns. The classes must be defined before LINQ to SQL can be used. Visual Studio 2008 includes a mapping designer that can be used to create the mapping between the data schemas in the object as well as the relational domain. It can automatically create the corresponding classes from a database schema, as well as allow manual editing to create a different view by using only a subset of the tables or columns in a table.

    The mapping is implemented by the DataContext that takes a connection string to the server, and can be used to generate a Table<T> where T is the type to which the database table will be mapped. The Table<T> encapsulates the data in the table, and implements the IQueryable<T> interface, so that the expression tree is created, which the LINQ to SQL provider handles. It converts the query into T-SQL and retrieves the result set from the database server. Since the processing happens at the database server, local methods, which are not defined as a part of the lambda expressions representing the predicates, cannot be used. However, it can use the stored procedures on the server. Any changes to the result set are tracked and can be submitted back to the database server.

    Since the LINQ to SQL provider above works only with Microsoft SQL Server databases, in order to support any generic database, LINQ also includes the LINQ to DataSets. It uses ADO.NET to handle the communication with the database. Once the data is in ADO.NET Datasets, LINQ to DataSets execute queries against these datasets.


    Non-professional users may struggle with subtleties in the LINQ to Objects features and syntax. Naive LINQ implementation patterns can lead to a catastrophic degradation of performance.

    LINQ to XML and LINQ to SQL performance compared to ADO.NET depends on the use case.


    Version 4 of the .NET framework includes PLINQ, or Parallel LINQ, a parallel execution engine for LINQ queries. It defines the ParallelQuery<T> class. Any implementation of the IEnumerable<T> interface can take advantage of the PLINQ engine by calling the AsParallel<T>this IEnumerable<T> extension method defined by the ParallelEnumerable class in the System.Linq namespace of the .NET framework. The PLINQ engine can execute parts of a query concurrently on multiple threads, providing faster results.