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data binding

What is data binding?

Data binding is the process that couples two data sources together and synchronizes them. With data binding, a change to an element in a data set automatically updates in the bound data set.

Data binding may be used for many reasons, such as to link an application's user interface (UI) and the data it displays, for data entry, reporting and in text box elements. It also lets internet users manipulate the representation of data in the elements of a web page without needing to use a complicated programming or scripting processes.

Data and data objects of different logic functions can be bound together in data binding. Data types with different languages can also be bound, such as data binding Extensible Markup Language (XML) and UI.

Each data change in one data set automatically reflects in the other bound data set. In binding syntax, the data source is the data provider, and the other data set is the data consumer. The binding forms the link between the data provider and the data consumer, enabling the connection between visual element data and a data source.

Data binding eliminates the need for Document Object Model (DOM) manipulation. DOM is an application programming interface, or API, for Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and XML.

What are the types of data binding?

Types of data binding are typically defined by their data flow and include the following:

  • One-way binding is a relatively simple type of data binding. Changes to the data provider update automatically in the data consumer data set, but not the other way around.
  • Two-way binding is where changes to either the data provider or the data consumer automatically updates the other.
  • One-way-to-source binding is the reverse of one-way binding. Changes to the data consumer automatically update the data provider but not the other way around.
  • One-time binding is where changes to the data provider do not automatically update the data consumer. This approach is useful when only a snapshot of the data is needed, and the data is static.

Data binding can be simple or complex. Microsoft defines simple data binding as the ability to bind to a single data element. Complex data binding is when multiple elements are bound together.

diagram of how data binding works
Learn how data binding works through this visualization.

How to use data binding

The data binding architecture consists of data source objects (DSOs) that supply information to viewed pages. DSOs also supply information to data consumers that display the DSO information and agents that ensure the data is synchronized between the DSOs and the consumers.

In a Windows .NET framework, both simple and complex data binding options are available. Simple data binding is configured so that one control in the UI is bound to the data value from the data source.

Windows Presentation Foundation in .NET uses data binding by connecting the properties of target objects and data sources, including Common Language Runtime, Language Integrated Query and XML objects. Data templates are also provided to control the presentation of data.

Data binding libraries enable users to bind UI components to data sources in a declarative format. These libraries also provide classes and methods to make changes in data observable. Consequently, collections, fields and objects are more visible.

Data binding examples

The following examples show how data binding can be used:

  • Reporting. Binding is a common way to compile reports that display data from a data source to a screen or printer.
  • Data entry. Data binding is also a common way to enter large amounts of data and keep it updated and synchronized to a data source.
  • Lookup tables. Lookup tables are information tables that are typically a part of larger data displays. Data binding and controls are used to display and change data.
  • Master-detail formats. This is a model for communication protocols where one device or process controls another. These formats may have two tables of data bound together.

Data binding tools

Data binding tools include the following:

  • Visual Studio is a Microsoft product that provides design tools for working with custom objects as a data source in applications. Visual Studio is also used to bind UI controls. Changes made to objects are automatically made in a database.
  • Data Binding Library is a support library for Android developers that binds UI components to data sources.
  • Google Web Toolkit is an open source tool from Google that enables web developers to create and maintain browser-based Java applications deployed as JavaScript. Google Web Toolkit has a feature called UiBinder that allows the creation of UIs.
  • AngularJS is an open source JavaScript web framework that facilitates the development of single-page applications. The framework uses HTML and two-way data binding to synchronize data providers or data consumers automatically. As of January 1, 2022, Google is no longer releasing updates for AngularJS, and it has discontinued long-term support.

Learn about security compromises in XML data binding and other automated processes found in third-party toolkits.

This was last updated in May 2022

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