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Drag and Drop via ReorderList (C#)

By Christian Wenz|

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The ReorderList control in the AJAX Control Toolkit provides a list that can be reordered by the user via drag and drop. The current order of the list shall be persisted on the server.


The ReorderList control in the AJAX Control Toolkit provides a list that can be reordered by the user via drag and drop. The current order of the list shall be persisted on the server.


The ReorderList control supports binding data from a database to the list. Best of all, it also supports writing changes to the order of the list element back to the data store.

This sample uses Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition as the data store. The database is an optional (and free) part of a Visual Studio installation, including express edition. It is also available as a separate download under For this sample, we assume that the instance of the SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is called SQLEXPRESS and resides on the same machine as the web server; this is also the default setup. If your setup differs, you have to adapt the connection information for the database.

The easiest way to set up the database is to use the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio Express ( ). Connect to the server, double-click on Databases and create a new database (right-click and choose New Database) called Tutorials.

In this database, create a new table called AJAX with the following four columns:

  • id (primary key, integer, identity, not NULL)
  • char (char(1), NULL)
  • description (varchar(50), NULL)
  • position (int, NULL)

The layout of the AJAX table (Click to view full-size image)

Next, fill the table with a couple of values. Note that the position column holds the sort order of the elements.

The initial data in the AJAX table (Click to view full-size image)

The next step requires to generate an SqlDataSource control to communicate with the new database and its table. The data source must support the SELECT and UPDATE SQL commands. When the order of the list elements is later changed, the ReorderList control automatically submits two values to the data source's Update command: the new position and the ID of the element. Therefore, the data source needs an <UpdateParameters> section for these two values:

<asp:SqlDataSource ID="sds" runat="server" ConnectionString="Data Source=(local)\SQLEXPRESS;Initial Catalog=Tutorials;Integrated Security=True" ProviderName="System.Data.SqlClient" OldValuesParameterFormatString="original_{0}" SelectCommand="SELECT [id], [char], [description], [position] FROM [AJAX] ORDER BY [position]" UpdateCommand="UPDATE [AJAX] SET position=@position WHERE [id]=@original_id"> <UpdateParameters> <asp:Parameter Name="position" Type="Int32" /> <asp:Parameter Name="original_id" Type="Int32" /> </UpdateParameters> </asp:SqlDataSource>

The ReorderList control needs to set the following attributes:

  • AllowReorder: Whether the list items may be rearranged
  • DataSourceID: The ID of the data source
  • DataKeyField: The name of the primary key column in the data source
  • SortOrderField: The data source column that provides the sort order for the list items

In the <DragHandleTemplate> and <ItemTemplate> sections, the layout of the list can be fine-tuned. Also, databinding is possible using the Eval() method, as seen here:

<ajaxToolkit:ReorderList ID="rl1" runat="server" SortOrderField="position" AllowReorder="true" DataSourceID="sds" DataKeyField="id"> <DragHandleTemplate> <div class="DragHandleClass"> </div> </DragHandleTemplate> <ItemTemplate> <asp:Label ID="ItemLabel" runat="server" Text='<%#Eval("description") %>' /> </ItemTemplate> </ajaxToolkit:ReorderList>

The following CSS style information (referenced in the <DragHandleTemplate> section of the ReorderList control) makes sure that the mouse pointer changes appropriately when it hovers over the drag handle:

<style type="text/css"> .DragHandleClass { width: 12px; height: 12px; background-color: red; cursor:move; } </style>

Finally, a ScriptManager control initializes ASP.NET AJAX for the page:

<asp:ScriptManager ID="asm" runat="server" />

Run this example in the browser and rearrange the list items a bit. Then, reload the page and/or have a look at the database. The altered positions have been maintained and are also reflected by the values in the position column in the database and that all without any code, just by using markup.

The data in the database changes according to the new list item order (Click to view full-size image)

This article was originally created on June 2, 2008

Author Information

Christian Wenz

Christian Wenz – Christian Wenz is an author, trainer, and consultant. His main focus of working and writing is on web technologies and security. Christian has written or co-written over 100 books for various publishers. He works with both open source and closed source web technologies. This leads to the unusual situation that he has both been awarded a Microsoft MVP for ASP/ASP.NET and is listed in Zend's Who is Who of PHP. He is also listed in Mozilla's credits (about:credits) and is considered an expert in browser-agnostic JavaScript.