LLBLGen Pro feature highlights: automatic element name construction

(This post is part of a series of posts about features of the LLBLGen Pro system)

One of the things one might take for granted but which has a huge impact on the time spent in an entity modeling environment is the way the system creates names for elements out of the information provided, in short: automatic element name construction. Element names are created in both directions of modeling: database first and model first and the more names the system can create for you without you having to rename them, the better. LLBLGen Pro has a rich, fine grained system for creating element names out of the meta-data available, which I'll describe more in detail below. First the model element related element naming features are highlighted, in the section Automatic model element naming features and after that I'll go into more detail about the relational model element naming features LLBLGen Pro has to offer in the section Automatic relational model element naming features.

Automatic model element naming features

When working database first, the element names in the model, e.g. entity names, entity field names and so on, are in general determined from the relational model element (e.g. table, table field) they're mapped on, as the model elements are reverse engineered from these relational model elements. It doesn't take rocket science to automatically name an entity Customer if the entity was created after reverse engineering a table named Customer. It gets a little trickier when the entity which was created by reverse engineering a table called TBL_ORDER_LINES has to be named 'OrderLine' automatically. Automatic model element naming also takes into effect with model first development, where some settings are used to provide you with a default name, e.g. in the case of navigator name creation when you create a new relationship.

The features below are available to you in the Project Settings. Open Project Settings on a loaded project and navigate to Conventions -> Element Name Construction.

The above example 'TBL_ORDER_LINES' shows that some parts of the table name might not be needed for name creation, in this case the 'TBL_' prefix. Some 'brilliant' DBAs even add suffixes to table names, fragments you might not want to appear in the entity names. LLBLGen Pro offers you to define both prefix and suffix fragments to strip off of table, view, stored procedure, parameter, table field and view field names. In the example above, the fragment 'TBL_' is a good candidate for such a strip pattern. You can specify more than one pattern for e.g. the table prefix strip pattern, so even a really messy schema can still be used to produce clean names.

Underscores Be Gone
Another thing you might get rid of are underscores. After all, most naming schemes for entities and their classes use PasCal casing rules and don't allow for underscores to appear. LLBLGen Pro can automatically strip out underscores for you. It's an optional feature, so if you like the underscores, you're not forced to see them go: LLBLGen Pro will leave them alone when ordered to to so.

PasCal everywhere... or not, your call
LLBLGen Pro can automatically PasCal case names on word breaks. It determines word breaks in a couple of ways: a space marks a word break, an underscore marks a word break and a case difference marks a word break. It will remove spaces in all cases, and based on the underscore removal setting, keep or remove the underscores, and upper-case the first character of a word break fragment, and lower case the rest. Say, we keep the defaults, which is remove underscores and PasCal case always and strip the TBL_ fragment, we get with our example TBL_ORDER_LINES, after stripping TBL_ from the table name two word fragments: ORDER and LINES. The underscores are removed, the first character of each fragment is upper-cased, the rest lower-cased, so this results in OrderLines. Almost there!

Pluralization and Singularization
In general entity names are singular, like Customer or OrderLine so LLBLGen Pro offers a way to singularize the names. This will convert OrderLines, the result we got after the PasCal casing functionality, into OrderLine, exactly what we're after.

Show me the patterns!
There are other situations in which you want more flexibility. Say, you have an entity Customer and an entity Order and there's a foreign key constraint defined from the target of Order and the target of Customer. This foreign key constraint results in a 1:n relationship between the entities Customer and Order. A relationship has navigators mapped onto the relationship in both entities the relationship is between. For this particular relationship we'd like to have Customer as navigator in Order and Orders as navigator in Customer, so the relationship becomes Customer.Orders 1:n Order.Customer.

To control the naming of these navigators for the various relationship types, LLBLGen Pro defines a set of patterns which allow you, using macros, to define how the auto-created navigator names will look like. For example, if you rather have Customer.OrderCollection, you can do so, by changing the pattern from {$EndEntityName$P} to {$EndEntityName}Collection. The $P directive makes sure the name is pluralized, which is not what you want if you're going for <EntityName>Collection, hence it's removed.

When working model first, it's a given you'll create foreign key fields along the way when you define relationships. For example, you've defined two entities: Customer and Order, and they have their fields setup properly. Now you want to define a relationship between them. This will automatically create a foreign key field in the Order entity, which reflects the value of the PK field in Customer. (No worries if you hate the foreign key fields in your classes, on NHibernate and EF these can be hidden in the generated code if you want to). A specific pattern is available for you to direct LLBLGen Pro how to name this foreign key field. For example, if all your entities have Id as PK field, you might want to have a different name than Id as foreign key field. In our Customer - Order example, you might want to have CustomerId instead as foreign key name in Order. The pattern for foreign key fields gives you that freedom.

Abbreviations... make sense of OrdNr and friends
I already described word breaks in the PasCal casing paragraph, how they're used for the PasCal casing in the constructed name. Word breaks are used for another neat feature LLBLGen Pro has to offer: abbreviation support. Burt, your friendly DBA in the dungeons below the office has a hate-hate relationship with his keyboard: he can't stand it: typing is something he avoids like the plague. This has resulted in tables and fields which have names which are very short, but also very unreadable. Example: our TBL_ORDER_LINES example has a lovely field called ORD_NR. What you would like to see in your fancy new OrderLine entity mapped onto this table is a field called OrderNumber, not a field called OrdNr. What you also like is to not have to rename that field manually. There are better things to do with your time, after all.

LLBLGen Pro has you covered. All it takes is to define some abbreviation - full word pairs and during reverse engineering model elements from tables/views, LLBLGen Pro will take care of the rest. For the ORD_NR field, you need two values: ORD as abbreviation and Order as full word, and NR as abbreviation and Number as full word. LLBLGen Pro will now convert every word fragment found with the word breaks which matches an abbreviation to the given full word. They're case sensitive and can be found in the Project Settings: Navigate to Conventions -> Element Name Construction -> Abbreviations.

Automatic relational model element naming features

Not everyone works database first: it may very well be the case you start from scratch, or have to add additional tables to an existing database. For these situations, it's key you have the flexibility that you can control the created table names and table fields without any work: let the designer create these names based on the entity model you defined and a set of rules. LLBLGen Pro offers several features in this area, which are described in more detail below. These features are found in Project Settings: navigate to Conventions -> Model First Development.

Underscores, welcome back!
Not every database is case insensitive, and not every organization requires PasCal cased table/field names, some demand all lower or all uppercase names with underscores at word breaks. Say you create an entity model with an entity called OrderLine. You work with Oracle and your organization requires underscores at word breaks: a table created from OrderLine should be called ORDER_LINE. LLBLGen Pro allows you to do that: with a simple checkbox you can order LLBLGen Pro to insert an underscore at each word break for the type of database you're working with: case sensitive or case insensitive. Checking the checkbox Insert underscore at word break case insensitive dbs will let LLBLGen Pro create a table from the entity called Order_Line. Half-way there, as there are still lower case characters there and you need all caps. No worries, see below

Casing directives so everyone can sleep well at night
For case sensitive databases and case insensitive databases there is one setting for each of them which controls the casing of the name created from a model element (e.g. a table created from an entity definition using the auto-mapping feature). The settings can have the following values: AsProjectElement, AllUpperCase or AllLowerCase. AsProjectElement is the default, and it keeps the casing as-is. In our example, we need to get all upper case characters, so we select AllUpperCase for the setting for case sensitive databases. This will produce the name ORDER_LINE.

Sequence naming after a pattern
Some databases support sequences, and using model-first development it's key to have sequences, when needed, to be created automatically and if possible using a name which shows where they're used. Say you have an entity Order and you want to have the PK values be created by the database using a sequence. The database you're using supports sequences (e.g. Oracle) and as you want all numeric PK fields to be sequenced, you have enabled this by the setting Auto assign sequences to integer pks. When you're using LLBLGen Pro's auto-map feature, to create new tables and constraints from the model, it will create a new table, ORDER, based on your settings I previously discussed above, with a PK field ID and it also creates a sequence, SEQ_ORDER, which is auto-assigns to the ID field mapping. The name of the sequence is created by using a pattern, defined in the Model First Development setting Sequence pattern, which uses plain text and macros like with the other patterns previously discussed.

Grouping and schemas
When you start from scratch, and you're working model first, the tables created by LLBLGen Pro will be in a catalog and / or schema created by LLBLGen Pro as well. If you use LLBLGen Pro's grouping feature, which allows you to group entities and other model elements into groups in the project (described in a future blog post), you might want to have that group name reflected in the schema name the targets of the model elements are in. Say you have a model with a group CRM and a group HRM, both with entities unique for these groups, e.g. Employee in HRM, Customer in CRM. When auto-mapping this model to create tables, you might want to have the table created for Employee in the HRM schema but the table created for Customer in the CRM schema. LLBLGen Pro will do just that when you check the setting Set schema name after group name to true (default). This gives you total control over where what is placed in the database from your model.

But I want plural table names... and TBL_ prefixes!
For now we follow best practices which suggest singular table names and no prefixes/suffixes for names. Of course that won't keep everyone happy, so we're looking into making it possible to have that in a future version.


LLBLGen Pro offers a variety of options to let the modeling system do as much work for you as possible. Hopefully you enjoyed this little highlight post and that it has given you new insights in the smaller features available to you in LLBLGen Pro, ones you might not have thought off in the first place. Enjoy!

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