Signum Documentation

The documentation comes from the Markdown files in the source code, so is always up-to-date but available only in English. Enjoy!

Paste your Framework commit SHA

LINQ Element Operators

Element operators is the name that Microsoft gives to this group of LINQ methods: First, FirstOrDefault, Single and SingleOrDefault.

In-Memory behavior:

The behavior of this methods in-memory is clear:

0 elements 1 element N elements
FirstOrDefault null element first element
First EXCEPTION element first element
SingleOrDefault null element EXCEPTION
Single EXCEPTION element EXCEPTION

Example:

List<ProjectEntity> projects = //...
project.Single();

And LINQ to Signum also does exactly that, but only if the query ends in one of this operators. Example:

Database.Query<ProjectEntity>().Single(); //Throws EXCEPTION if 0 or N elements

The problem comes when the operator is in the middle of a LINQ to Signum query:

In-Database behavior:

In the middle of a LINQ to Signum query there's no easy way to throw an exception, for example:

from b in Database.Query<BugEntity>()
let c = b.Comments.Single()
select new { b.Description, c.Text }; 

This query is going to be translated to some SQL, but is not cost-effective to throw exceptions for a particular BugEntity with more (or less) than just one comment.

One alternative that we consider was to translate the four operators to the behavior of FirsOrDefault when in-database, using OUTER APPLY and TOP(1):

SELECT bdn.Description, s2.Text
FROM BugEntity AS bdn
OUTER APPLY (
  (SELECT TOP (1) bdnc.Text
  FROM BugDNComments AS bdnc
  WHERE (bdn.Id = bdnc.idParent))
) AS s2

But having the same translation for the fourth operators is a loss of expressiveness:

  • If you know that there will be always more than zero related rows, the OUTER APPLY could be replaced by CROSS APPLY.
  • If you know that there will never be more than one related row, so the TOP(1) is unnecessary.

So what we did instead is to re-interpret the behavior of the four operators, replacing EXCEPTION -> QRMNS (Query Results Make No Sense).

0 elements 1 element N elements
FirstOrDefault null element first element
First QRMNS element first element
SingleOrDefault null element QRMNS
Single QRMNS element QRMNS

So when you write:

from b in Database.Query<BugEntity>()
let c = b.Comments.Single()
select new { b.Description, c.Text }; 

It will be translated to:

SELECT bdn.Description, s1.Text
FROM BugEntity AS bdn
CROSS APPLY (
  (SELECT bdnc.Text
  FROM BugDNComments AS bdnc
  WHERE (bdn.Id = bdnc.idParent))
) AS s1

This is a beautiful simple query, like the one you could write by hand if you know that there's always exactly one comment for each bug. But notice that, even if let is not meant to increase or reduce the number of results:

  • If there are bugs without comments, The bugs itself will disappear!!
  • IF there are bugs with more than one comment, The bugs will be duplicated!!.

In other words, you'll be able to write slightly cleaner queries, but think that instead of getting exceptions in the error cases, you'll get malformed queries.

  • If you know that there will never be more than one element (i.e: There's a UniqueIndex) you can use SingleXXX instead of FirstXXX.
  • If you know that there will always be some elements and null is impossible, feel free to remove OrDefault. Except in a expressionMethod.

Avoid Single in expressionMethod

Avoid using Single if you're writing an expressionMethod since could be an extension over a potentially null object.

Example:

Imagine we have an inverted relationship between BodyEntity and HeadEntity. The HeadEntity refers to the BodyEntity with his Body column, that has a UniqueIndex. This looks like a sensible expressionMethod:

static Expression<Func<BodyEntity, HeadEntity>> HeadExpression = 
    p => Database.Query<HeadEntity>().Single(h=>h.Body == b); 
[ExpressionField] 
public static HeadEntity Head(this BodyEntity b)
{
    return HeadExpression.Evaluate(b);
}
  • We can use SingleOrDefault instead of FirstOrDefault because we know that there not be two HeadEntity pointing to the same Body (thanks to the UniqueIndex in HeadEntity.Body).
  • If we are sure that there will always be a HeadEntity for each BodyEntity, we could be tempted to use Single instead of SingleOrDefault, but avoid this in expression because you have no control of BodyEntity b being null.

Imagine that a CarEntity has an optional BodyEntity Driver property and someone writes this query:

Database.Query<CarEntity>().Select(c => c.Driver.Head()).ToList();

The writer of this query doesn't know the implementation of Head, and will expect this query to return null for the parked cars without driver, but if we implement Head using Single, the parked cars will disappear!

So, as a general rule, choose FirstOrDefault, First, SingleOrDefault or Single in queries you have total control of, but avoid Single on expressionsMethod since the input parameter could be null.

Finally, if you think this is just too complicated, use FirstOrDefault always inside of the queries, it's the only operator of the four ones that can be accurately translated to SQL.

SingleEx, SingleOrDefaultEx, FirstEx

Signum.Utilities defines alternative methods for Single, SingleOrDefault and First in EnumerableExtensions that return more expressive exception messages than the BCL counterparts.

All this methods are also equally supported in the LINQ provider.