Site logo
Published on

LINQ extensions for pagination and ordering by property name in Entity Framework


Why another extension?

If you are building an API, at some stage, you will need a pagination endpoint to paginate through a list of entities. Pagination and ordering by property names can be implemented (with relative ease) using LINQ queries and a few lines of custom code. But, if you have to write the same piece of pagination and ordering logic for every controller with a pagination endpoint, it makes sense to extract the code into a reusable class. These 2 opinionated LINQ extensions will ensure that your pagination and ordering stays simple without any external dependencies (except for Entity Framework Core of course).


The pagination extension will receive 3 parameters:

  • skip (int) - The amount of items to skip when querying data. Usually skip = pageSize * (pageNumber - 1) - i.e. if your page size is 10 and you are fetching page number 2, skip will be 10.
  • take (int) - The maximum amount of items to query. The take value is your page size.
  • orderBy (string) - The orderBy value, if specified, is a comma-separated list of order-by clauses. Each order-by clause is a space-separated string value containing the property name to order by and asc (ascending) or desc (descending) to indicate the order direction. For example, if you specify orderBy = "name asc, age desc, height asc", the selected entities will be ordered by name in ascending order, then by age in descending order and then by height in ascending order.

The pagination extension will return a Page<T> object with a list of items and the total item count.

public class Page<T> where T : class
    public IEnumerable<T> Items { get; set; }
    public int TotalItemCount { get; set; }

The extension method and helper methods look like this:

public static async Task<Page<T>> ToPagedAsync<T>(this IQueryable<T> src, int skip, int take, string orderBy = null) where T : class
    var queryExpression = src.Expression;
    queryExpression = queryExpression.OrderBy(orderBy);

    if (queryExpression.CanReduce)
        queryExpression = queryExpression.Reduce();

    src = src.Provider.CreateQuery<T>(queryExpression);

    var results = new Page<T>
        TotalItemCount = await src.CountAsync(),
        Items = await src.Skip(skip).Take(take).ToListAsync()

    return results;

private static Expression OrderBy(this Expression source, string orderBy)
    if (!string.IsNullOrWhiteSpace(orderBy))
        var orderBys = orderBy.Split(new[] { ',' }, StringSplitOptions.RemoveEmptyEntries);
        for (int i = 0; i < orderBys.Length; i++)
            source = AddOrderBy(source, orderBys[i], i);

    return source;

private static Expression AddOrderBy(Expression source, string orderBy, int index)
    var orderByParams = orderBy.Trim().Split(new[] { ' ' }, StringSplitOptions.RemoveEmptyEntries);
    string orderByMethodName = index == 0 ? "OrderBy" : "ThenBy";
    string parameterPath = orderByParams[0];
    if (orderByParams.Length > 1 && orderByParams[1].Equals("desc", StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase))
        orderByMethodName += "Descending";

    var sourceType = source.Type.GetGenericArguments().First();
    var parameterExpression = Expression.Parameter(sourceType, "p");
    var orderByExpression = BuildPropertyPathExpression(parameterExpression, parameterPath);
    var orderByFuncType = typeof(Func<,>).MakeGenericType(sourceType, orderByExpression.Type);
    var orderByLambda = Expression.Lambda(orderByFuncType, orderByExpression, new ParameterExpression[] { parameterExpression });

    source = Expression.Call(typeof(Queryable), orderByMethodName, new Type[] { sourceType, orderByExpression.Type }, source, orderByLambda);
    return source;

private static Expression BuildPropertyPathExpression(this Expression rootExpression, string propertyPath)
    var parts = propertyPath.Split(new[] { '.' }, 2);
    var currentProperty = parts[0];
    var propertyDescription = rootExpression.Type.GetProperty(currentProperty, System.Reflection.BindingFlags.IgnoreCase | System.Reflection.BindingFlags.Instance | System.Reflection.BindingFlags.Public);
    if (propertyDescription == null)
        throw new KeyNotFoundException($"Cannot find property {rootExpression.Type.Name}.{currentProperty}. The root expression is {rootExpression} and the full path would be {propertyPath}.");

    var propExpr = Expression.Property(rootExpression, propertyDescription);
    if (parts.Length > 1)
        return BuildPropertyPathExpression(propExpr, parts[1]);

    return propExpr;

Finally, the extension can be used like this:

/// <summary>
/// Get messages paged
/// </summary>
/// <param name="skip"></param>
/// <param name="top"></param>
/// <param name="orderBy"></param>
/// <returns></returns>
public async Task<ActionResult<Page<Message>>> GetPaged(int skip, [Required]int take, string orderBy)
    var page = await _context.Messages.ToPagedAsync(skip, take, orderBy);
    return Ok(page);

Ordering by property name

Normally, the LINQ OrderBy operator is used like this: _context.Messages.OrderBy(m => m.Id). But, if you have an endpoint where the property name can be passed as a parameter, having multiple if-statements to check which property to order by is not optimal. With these few lines of code you can create a LINQ extension that uses the string property name to order items:

public static IOrderedQueryable<T> OrderBy<T>(this IQueryable<T> source, string propertyName)
    return source.OrderBy(ToLambda<T>(propertyName));

public static IOrderedQueryable<T> OrderByDescending<T>(this IQueryable<T> source, string propertyName)
    return source.OrderByDescending(ToLambda<T>(propertyName));

private static Expression<Func<T, object>> ToLambda<T>(string propertyName)
    var parameter = Expression.Parameter(typeof(T));
    var property = Expression.Property(parameter, propertyName);
    var propAsObject = Expression.Convert(property, typeof(object));

    return Expression.Lambda<Func<T, object>>(propAsObject, parameter);

Now, you can write a LINQ query using the OrderBy operator like this:


// instead of

_context.Messages.OrderBy(m => m.Id);

To view the complete source code for both extensions check out this file.