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Portable databases: using SQLite with .NET

Most of applications we develop on .NET in a professional way use to imply the existence of a database, usually SQL Server, Oracle, DB2 or MySQL. Nevertheless, sometimes, even we need database support, it’s not necessary to mantain a database manager, because its portability, licensing, data volume and complexity…

In Android, each application uses a single local SQLite database. Why not applying the same philosophy to a .NET application? Well, it’s possible to encapsulate the database in a .db file inside a local directory on the same way Android applications do. Let’s see now how to install SQLite for .NET and programming a little application which makes CRUD (Create, Retrieve, Update, Delete) operations over an entity. From there, it will be extrapolated to more complex entitites.

SQLite installation in .NET

First of all: downloading the SQLite library adapted to .NET. We can download it from this website.

We must to choose the version best adapted to our application: framework (2.0, 3.5, 4, 4.5…) such architecture (32 or 64 bits). In our case, we use Visual Studio 2012 over a x82 (32 bits) machine, so we look for the link displayed above. From the, we’ll choose the version that is able to install the Visual Studio 2012 components (the upper one). Next, we’ll begin the installation process.

We’ll select then the SQLite elements we want to install. In our case, we’ll check all the options.

Creating the project

Our test application will be simple: it will consist in a desktop application where we’ll code all the data access logic. Therefor, we’ll select File > New Project… and we’ll choose the option “Windows Forms Application.”

We need to add two references: one of them will be the component System.Configuration so we can access to the connection string, and the another one will be the DLL which implements the SQLite access. We’ll do right-click over our project and we’ll select Add Reference….

We can find the first element in the section Framework. We search the assembly and we’ll check it.

The second element must be selected through the Browse option. We must look out inside the directory we previously installed SQLite (C:\Program Files\System.Data.SQLite\2012\bin by default) and selecting the assembly System.Data.SQLite.dll.

Creating the UI

Let’s begin the house from the rooftop, adding some controls to our application. We’ll show a DataGridView, three labels, three textboxes and four buttons:

  • The DataGridView will show the list with the retrieved data.
  • TextBoxes will obtain data from a single registry for insertion, updating or deleting.
  • Buttons will trigger the insertions, updates and deletes (and, of course, exiting the application).

Creating the database

Hold on! we have the connector and the UI, but… we haven’t a database yet! How can we create it? Well, an option is using the tool SQLiteBrowser, a little manager which will allow us to create and work with SQLite databases. We can download it from this link.

Once the application has been executed, we can see that the interface is pretty intuitive. If you want to create a new database, just push over the first icon from the left, which represent a blank document.

Then we must to create the tables with their respective fields. Needless to say that SQLite is a very limited database, much mor than SQL Server or Oracle, so that besides providing less funcionality, it contains a set of restrictions which must be satisfied, as the existence of an integer primary key in each table. Thus, we’ll create a table with an UserId field, which type will be INTEGER PRIMARY KEY.

Let’s add the rest of the fields we want to create. In example, Name and Surname. Once created these fields, we’ll push Create button and we’ll save the database, that won’t be more than a file with ‘.db’ extension.

Configuring the Connection String

As happens with other databases, it’s possible to use a connection string to connect to SQLite. To do so, we must to indicate the following fields in our app.config file:

  • Data Source: path of the file we just created.
  • Version: SQLite Version. At present is version 3.
  • New: Indicates if database exists or not.
  • Compress: Using or not using data compression.

The file will be shown as follows:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
        <supportedRuntime version="v4.0" sku=".NETFramework,Version=v4.5" />
    <add name="db" connectionString="Data Source=clients.db;Version=3;New=False;Compress=True;"/>

Coding the application

First of all, we must add the using clause to import SQLite elementos and the creation of the private attributes we’re going to make use to.

using System.Data.SQLite;

Elements we’re going to create are: connection string, connection itself and the strings which will implement the four operations we can perform over the table. Notice that we’ll launch the queries directrly over the database through ADO.NET. SQLite allows also the use of Entity Framework, but that’s something we’ll see another time.

private String connectionString;
private SQLiteConnection connection;

private String SQLInsert = "INSERT INTO User(Name, Surname) VALUES(?, ?)";
private String SQLUpdate =
    "UPDATE User SET Name = ?, Surname = ? where UserId = ?";
private String SQLSelect = "SELECT * FROM User";
private String SQLDelete = "DELETE FROM User WHERE UserId = ?";

As we can check, parameter entries are coded through the question mark symbol, which will be replaced on runtime for the corresponding SQLiteParameter. We’ll begin the application extracting the connection string from the app.config file and using it to create a new connection.

public Form1()
    connectionString = System.Configuration.ConfigurationManager.ConnectionStrings["db"].ConnectionString;
    connection = new SQLiteConnection(connectionString);

We’ll make double click over the “Exit” button and we’ll apply the following code to the button, in which we’ll close the connection if it’s still open and finish the program.

private void btnExit_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    if (connection.State == ConnectionState.Open)

Next, we must control that, when a row of the DataGrid is selected, its data should be loaded inside the text boxes. To do so, we select the DataGrid and, in its properties, we’ll perform double click over the RowEnter event.

After that, we’ll add the neccesary code to pass the row’s data to the text boxes.

private void dataGrid_RowEnter(object sender, DataGridViewCellEventArgs e) {
  // Retrive ID, name and surname from the row
  int id = int.Parse(dataGrid.Rows[e.RowIndex].Cells[0].Value.ToString());
  String name = (String)dataGrid.Rows[e.RowIndex].Cells[1].Value;
  String surname = (String)dataGrid.Rows[e.RowIndex].Cells[2].Value;

  // Assign values to the textboxes
  txtId.Text = id.ToString();
  txtName.Text = name;
  txtSurname.Text = surname;

The following step will be code the search process. We will create a search method which creates a SQLiteCommand from the string with the SELECT clause. Then, we will fulfill a DataTable using a DataAdapter, everything from the connection.

Despite of the grid load forces the first row to be selected by default, we remove the event handler before loading the DataGrid, restoring it again after the load is complete.

private void search() {
  // Remove the handler of the RowEnter event to avoid that it should be
  // triggered when the search is performed
  dataGrid.RowEnter -= dataGrid_RowEnter;

  // Open the connection
  if (connection.State != ConnectionState.Open)

  // Create the SQLiteCommand and assign the query string
  SQLiteCommand command = connection.CreateCommand();
  command.CommandText = SQLSelect;

  // Create a new DataTable and a DataAdapter from the SELECT.
  // Then fill the DataTable with the DataAdpater
  DataTable dt = new DataTable();
  SQLiteDataAdapter da = new SQLiteDataAdapter(command);

  // Associate the DataTable to the DataGrid and close the connection
  dataGrid.DataSource = dt;

  // Assign again the handler of the event
  dataGrid.RowEnter += dataGrid_RowEnter;

The method associated to the search button will perform a simple invocation of this procedure.

private void btnSelect_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)

Another auxiliary method will be a cleaning procedure, which will reset the content of the textboxes and it will be called every time an insertion, update or deletion is performed.

private void clean()
    txtId.Text = String.Empty;
    txtName.Text = String.Empty;
    txtSurname.Text = String.Empty;

Now, let’s code the behavior of the ‘Save’ button. It will perform two different operations:

  • If Id field is empty, it will create a new record with the data inserted in the Name and Surname fields.
  • Else, it will update the record whose ID matches the value of the ID textfield..

In this case, we’ll make use of parameters as follows:

private void btnSave_Click(object sender, EventArgs e) {
  // If the textbox is empty, it will be an insertion
  if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(txtId.Text)) {
    if (connection.State != ConnectionState.Open)

    // Create a command with the string of the INSERT sentence.
    SQLiteCommand command = connection.CreateCommand();
    command.CommandText = SQLInsert;

    // Add the Name y Surname parameters
    command.Parameters.AddWithValue("Name", txtName.Text);
    command.Parameters.AddWithValue("Surname", txtSurname.Text);

    // Execute the INSERT statement and close the connection
  } else {
    if (connection.State != ConnectionState.Open)

    // Create a command with the UPDATE statement string.
    SQLiteCommand command = connection.CreateCommand();
    command.CommandText = SQLUpdate;

    // Add parameters Name, Surname and UserId
    command.Parameters.AddWithValue("Name", txtName.Text);
    command.Parameters.AddWithValue("Surname", txtSurname.Text);
    command.Parameters.AddWithValue("UserId", int.Parse(txtId.Text));

    // Execute the update statement and close the connection

At last, we’ll code the delete process, similar to the previous one, passing a parameter with the ID to delete (checking before that the ID field is properly fulfilled)

private void btnDelete_Click(object sender, EventArgs e) {
  // Check the existence of a selected ID
  if (!String.IsNullOrEmpty(txtId.Text)) {
    if (connection.State != ConnectionState.Open)

    // Create the command from the DELETE statement
    SQLiteCommand command = connection.CreateCommand();
    command.CommandText = SQLDelete;

    // Add the ID as parameter
    command.Parameters.AddWithValue("UserId", int.Parse(txtId.Text));

    // Execute the SQL statement


Testing the program

Let’s push F5 key and launch the program. Then, we’ll fill the Name and Surname fields and then, we’ll push Save. This will insert a new record on the database, and it must be shown in the GridView, cleaning the textboxes.

This operation also can be performed pushing the ‘Search’ button. The result will be as follows:

If we add a second record and then we select it, the ID field will take the value of the record identifier. If we modify its values in the textfields and we push Save, the record will be updated in the SQLite database.

Finally, to delete a record, it will be enough with select the column and push the Delete button.

This covers the four basic operations over a database, providing a portable application and independent from a complex database engine.

You can download the source code of this example from here.

You can find the Spanish version of this post here.

Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 3:18 AM .net , sqlite , example , c# , database , sql , | Back to top

This article is part of the GWB Archives. Original Author: DANIEL GARCIA

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