In my last post I talked about LINQ to DASL, a LINQ provider that converts query expressions into their DASL equivalent in order to efficiently filter item collections in Outlook.  But LINQ to DASL solves only a very specific problem for one particular application.  The Office object model has many types of collections that we might like to use in LINQ expressions.  How do we do that?  The answer is: it depends. 

(If you don't care about the background information, skip to the end of the post to see how you can use the Office Interop API Extensions to simpliy the use of LINQ with the Office object model.)

Most collections in the Office object model implement IEnumerable, which allows them to be used in foreach statements.  Let's take Word's Documents collection interface, for example:

Word.Documents docs = Application.Documents;

foreach (Word.Document doc in docs)

{

MessageBox.Show(doc.Name);

}

LINQ expressions, however, require collections to implement IEnumerable<T>.  Luckily, .NET 3.5 includes the Cast<T>() and OfType() extension methods that convert an IEnumerable into the IEnumerable<T>, as shown in this example:

 Word.Documents docs = Application.Documents;

var names =

from doc in docs.Cast<Word.Document>()

select doc.Name;

foreach (var name in names)

{

MessageBox.Show(name);

}

There are some collections which do not implement IEnumerable but still expose a GetEnumerator() method.  These can also be used in foreach statements.  The Windows interface in the Excel object model is one such collection, as shown in this example:

Excel.Windows windows = Application.Windows;

foreach (Excel.Window window in windows)

{

MessageBox.Show(window.WindowNumber.ToString());

}

Unfortunately, there is no direct conversion between a type which exposes a GetEnumerator() method and IEnumerable<T>.  For that, our own conversion routine is needed.  We can actually make this an extension method on the Windows interface to simplify things, as shown below:

 public static class Extensions

{

public static IEnumerable<Excel.Window> ToEnumerable(this Excel.Windows windows)

{

foreach (Excel.Window window in windows)

{

yield return window;

}

}

}

The extension method simply iterates over each element in the collection and yields it back to the caller.  (The cast to Window is implicit in the foreach statement.)  We can now use the Windows collection in a LINQ expression:

Excel.Windows windows = Application.Windows;

var numbers =

from window in windows.ToEnumerable()

select window.WindowNumber.ToString();

foreach (var number in numbers)

{

MessageBox.Show(number);

}

There is one final category of Office collection that does not implement IEnumerable nor expose a GetEnumerator() method.  These cannot be used in foreach statements.  How then, you might ask, do you iterate over such a collection?  The answer is, with a for loop!  These collections instead expose a Count (or possibly Length) property and an indexer with which you can enumerate each item.  With that we can create an extension method that returns IEnumerable<T> which can be used in a LINQ expression, such as the one shown below:

public static IEnumerable<float> ToEnumerable(this Word.Adjustments adjustments)

{

for (int i = 1; i <= adjustments.Count; i++)

{

yield return adjustments[i];

}

}

Note the count from 1 through Count, rather than the typical 0 through Count - 1.  The Office object model, originally targeted for languages like VBA, uses 1-based indexing.  With that, we can then write the following LINQ expression using the Adjustments interface:

Word.Shape shape = Shapes.AddTextbox(Microsoft.Office.Core.MsoTextOrientation.msoTextOrientationHorizontal, 0, 0, 100, 100);

Word.Adjustments adjustments = shape.Adjustments;

var numbers =

from adjustment in adjustments.ToEnumerable()

select adjustment.ToString();

foreach (var number in numbers)

{

MessageBox.Show(number);

}

To sum up, there are three very different ways to use an Office collection in a LINQ expression depending on how each collection interface was defined.  If your Office application uses many different collections, that can mean several different coding conventions across your code.  Yuck!  Not to mention having to remember which collection requires which enumeration method.  This is where the Office Interop API Extensions comes in.  The Office Interop API Extensions is one of the VSTO Power Tools and simplifies the use of the Office object model.  Specifically, it exposes a consistent Items() extension method on many collection interfaces* which return the appropriate IEnumerable<T>.  You need not remember to use Cast<T>() for one collection or create your own enumerator for another.  Just call Items() and be on your way!  Using our previous examples, retrieving an IEnumerable<T> with the Office Interop API Extensions is as simple as:

docs.Items() // Returns IEnumerable<Word.Document>.

windows.Items() // Returns IEnumerable<Excel.Window>.

adjustments.Items() // Returns IEnumerable<float>.

The VSTO Power Tools are expected for release in the very near future.  Keep an eye out for them and use the Office Interop API Extensions to enable LINQ in your Office applications! 

*Not all of the collections are extended in this initial release.  The bulk of the extensions are in the Word and Excel object models, with a key set of collections extended across the rest of the Office suite.