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User friendly name for Enumeration fields

Unlike class’s properties, showing user friendly display name for an enumeration field is not that easy.

For example, I would like to use the following Enum. But when I display them on screen, I want to display “Prior Record” instead of “PriorRecord”, and “Future Record” instead of “FutureRecord”.

public enum RecordStatus
   New = 0,

   Error = 1,

   PriorRecord = 2,

   FutureRecord = 4,

   ExcessHours = 8,

I tried to use DisplayNameAttribute, but its not applicable to Enums and Fields. So I had to do something equivalent to it.

1. Create Custom Attribute to specify friendly names

First thing to do is to create a custom attribute which I can use to specify the Display Name of each field. We can take advantage of DisplayNameAttribute by deriving the custom type from it. DisplayNameAttribute has all infrastructure already specified. We just need to create a class with constructors.

public class EnumDisplayNameAttribute : DisplayNameAttribute
    public EnumDisplayNameAttribute()
        : base()
    public EnumDisplayNameAttribute(string displayName)
        : base(displayName)

Note that I have placed an AttributeUsageAttribute to make this attribute available for fields.


2. Use the custom attribute on the Enum fields

Next thing to do is to use the attribute to specify the friendly name.

public enum RecordStatus
	New = 0,
	Error = 1,
	[EnumDisplayName("Prior Record")]
	PriorRecord = 2,
	[EnumDisplayName("Future Record")]
	FutureRecord = 4,
	[EnumDisplayName("Excess Hours")]
	ExcessHours = 8,


3. Write an extension method to Enum

Next thing is to show the DisplayName whenever Enum.ToString() is called. We have to write an overload to the ToString() as an extension.

public static class EnumExtension
/// <summary>
/// Shows the user friendly name specified in EnumDisplayNameAttribute
/// </summary>
/// <param name="enumeration">Enumeration object</param>
/// <param name="indicator">An indicator to enable this extension. 
/// Pass any integer as indicator.</param>
/// <returns>User friendly name of the Enumeration</returns>
public static string ToString(this Enum enumeration, bool indicator)
    string returnValue = enumeration.ToString();
    if (indicator)
        //Flagged enumeration will have comma separated value.
        //Split them into multiple values before use.
        var displayValues =
           //Split is made here to handle all the comma separated enum values
            from enumValue in enumeration.ToString().Split(',')
            //Join is made here to work with field object instead of string.
            join field in enumeration.GetType().GetFields()
            on enumValue.Trim() equals field.Name
            select field
                into enumFields
                //If the field has the EnumDisplayAttribute, display it;
                //otherwise, display the regular field name.
                //Conditional output is done through the ternary operator.
                (enumFields.GetCustomAttributes(false).Any(attribute =>
                    attribute is EnumDisplayNameAttribute) ?
                (from attribute in enumFields.GetCustomAttributes(false)
                    where attribute is EnumDisplayNameAttribute
                    select ((EnumDisplayNameAttribute)attribute).DisplayName)
                : enumFields.Name);
        if (displayValues.Count() > 0)
            returnValue = string.Join(", ", displayValues);
    return returnValue;

Note that the ToString() method contains a Boolean indicator. If it is true, the ToString() would return the friendly names else will return the defaults.

The linq statement in the method has 3 levels of loops.

Loop 1. Since the enum is marked with FlagAttribute, the default ToString() may produce comma separated values such as Error, ExcessHours, FutureRecord. So in the linq we split them into an array of strings.

Loop 2. Find the FieldInfo object based on the string we received from the previous loop.

Loop 3. If the field has EnumDisplayNameAttribute, return the DisplayName. If the field doesn’t have the custom attribute, return the FieldInfo.Name.


4. Use the overloaded ToString() method

Now in the places where we need the friendly name, start using the ToString(true).

class Program
    static void Main(string[] args)
            | RecordStatus.ExcessHours).ToString(true));
            | RecordStatus.FutureRecord);



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