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📓 Read with EF Core

In this lesson, we'll begin refactoring our existing To Do List models and controllers, learning how to retrieve and display information from a database using EF Core in the process. We'll also start using the Microsoft LINQ library, which gives us access to a simple syntax for querying lists or databases.


Updating the Item Model

With EF Core, we no longer need to write verbose custom methods to query a database, like Find() and Save(). Instead, we use simple built-in methods, which we'll call from the controller. That means our first step is to delete all of the custom methods in our Item class. When we've done that, our Item class should look like this:

namespace ToDoList.Models
public class Item
public int ItemId { get; set; }
public string Description { get; set; }

Updating the Controllers

Next, we need to update our controllers to manage our To Do List entries. Let's comment out all of the content of our CategoriesController.cs and begin refactoring ItemsController.

Let's replace all of the content of ItemsController.cs with the following:

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc;
using ToDoList.Models;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;

namespace ToDoList.Controllers
public class ItemsController : Controller
private readonly ToDoListContext _db;

public ItemsController(ToDoListContext db)
_db = db;

public ActionResult Index()
List<Item> model = _db.Items.ToList();
return View(model);

We've added some new code here, including a property, a constructor, and an Index route.

  • We add a new using directive for System.Linq. This will allow us to use LINQ's ToList() method, which we'll cover in a moment.

  • The line private readonly ToDoListContext _db; declares a private and readonly field of type ToDoListContext. This property will hold our database connection as a ToDoListContext type.

  • In the constructor, we set the value of our new _db property to our ToDoListContext db. The ToDoListContext db parameter is passed an argument through dependency injection when our web application host is built. The argument that gets passed into the ItemsController constructor is the exact ToDoListContext that we set up as a service in Program.cs:

... // omitted code

dbContextOptions => dbContextOptions
builder.Configuration["ConnectionStrings:DefaultConnection"], ServerVersion.AutoDetect(builder.Configuration["ConnectionStrings:DefaultConnection"]

... // more code omitted
  • Finally, instead of using a verbose GetAll() method with raw SQL, we can instead access all our Items in List form by doing the following: _db.Items.ToList(). That's exactly what we do in our Index() action method.

Next, let's understand exactly what we're doing with _db.Items.ToList(), which uses a LINQ method to query our database.

Language-Integrated Queries (LINQ)

LINQ is short for Language-Integrated Query. It's a form of standard data interpretation. We'll use LINQ to grab values from our dataset and display them in our views.

In the above example, our dataset is _db.Items. However, we can't actually use a dataset as our model for our view. To get around this, we run the LINQ method ToList() on our data set. This generates a list with elements of the Item data type. In other words, LINQ translates the dataset into C# types: a List of Items that we can use in the view.

Let's walk through how this works by breaking down the line _db.Items.ToList() further:

  • db is an instance of our ToDoListContext class. It's holding a reference to our database.

  • Once there, it looks for an object named Items. This is the DbSet we declared in ToDoListContext.cs.

  • LINQ turns this DbSet into a list using the ToList() method, which comes from the System.Linq namespace.

  • The whole expression _db.Items.ToList() is what creates the model we'll use for the Index view.

There's a lot to learn about LINQ and how EF Core uses it to query our database. To learn more, visit this article on querying with EF Core.

To learn about other method we can use to query our database, visit the MS Docs on the System.Linq.Enumerable class methods. We'll learn about other LINQ methods as we continue to refactor our To Do List app to use EF Core.

Updating Views

Since we will be restructuring our models to account for our database, let's go ahead and remove all of the views in the Views/Items directory and remove the entire Views/Categories directory.

Let's create an Index.cshtml view in our now empty Views/Items directory to see if our database query is properly working:

Layout = "_Layout";

@using ToDoList.Models;


@if (@Model.Count == 0)
<h3>No items have been added yet!</h3>

@foreach (Item item in Model)

We can now start the server. Ignore the links in the homepage and instead navigate to localhost:5000/Items by explicitly typing in the URL in the address bar. Since our database is newly created, we shouldn't have any items in it, and we should see the "No items have been added yet!" notice. We'll introduce functionality to add entries to our database in the next lesson.