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Reading DBF file Binary

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Ok, in reference to the problems I expirienced when trying to read a dbf file using the drivers - Microsoft Jet and VFPOLEDB in a WCF Service ( http://www.dreaminco...1&#entry1661024 ), I decided not to Use the WCF Service and the drivers to read the DBF files, that I am reading in connection with a Shape files. So, because I am not familiar to any other way other than using some of those drivers and Oledb or odbc classes (which are not supported in Silverlight application, at least to my knowledge) I decided to try a binary read of a DBF file. As I am not really good at programming, and not familiar with many things, I am not only saying that "this may not be the best practice", but I kind of guarantee that there is a better way. However this worked for me so, I am pasting the code for a simple Forms application that reads a dbf file and posts the information in a datagridview. I hope someone will find it useful, or help giving some useful insight in how to deal with this kind of situations. Anyway here is what I came up with:
using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using System.IO;

namespace BinaryDBF
    public partial class Form1 : Form
        public Form1()

        public enum EncodingType

        public class Columns
            //This is my custom class to hold all the info of the columns,
            //i get that the names arent really well deviced but I was in a hurry :) 
            public string column_name { get; set; }

            public int column_number { get; set; }

            public string column_property { get; set; }

            public byte length { get; set; }

        public static string ByteArrayToString(byte[] bytes)
            //If called without giving an ecoding type as an argument it uses Unicode as default.
            return ByteArrayToString(bytes, EncodingType.Unicode);

        public static string ByteArrayToString(byte[] bytes, EncodingType encodingType)
            //Here is the method that does the actual encoding of the string. There are 
            //all types of encoding I could think of... ofcourse there are more, if you
            //need to add ...
            System.Text.Encoding encoding = null;
            switch (encodingType)
                case EncodingType.ASCII:
                    encoding = new System.Text.ASCIIEncoding();
                case EncodingType.Unicode:
                    encoding = new System.Text.UnicodeEncoding();
                case EncodingType.UTF7:
                    encoding = new System.Text.UTF7Encoding();
                case EncodingType.UTF8:
                    encoding = new System.Text.UTF8Encoding();
                case EncodingType.UTF32:
                    encoding = new System.Text.UTF32Encoding();
                case EncodingType.BG:
                    encoding = Encoding.GetEncoding("Windows-1251");
            return encoding.GetString(bytes,0,bytes.Length);

        private void button1_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
            //Коментарите са на английски за да го постна в сайта.

                OpenFileDialog dialog = new OpenFileDialog();
                //dialog.Filter = "dBase Files (.dbf) | *.dbf ";
                //For somereason the filter doesnt work, I suspect I have written something wrong :)
                dialog.FilterIndex = 1;
                dialog.Multiselect = false;

                string filePath = dialog.FileName;

                //I open the file
                FileStream filereader = new FileStream(filePath, FileMode.Open);

                //read it in the byte array dbf_file
                long fileLength = filereader.Length;
                Byte[] dbf_file = new Byte[fileLength];

                filereader.Read(dbf_file, 0, (int)fileLength);
                //Close it.

                //the version of the file is stored in the first byte (I dont actually use that but stil ...)
                byte version = dbf_file[0];

                //Then I get the number of records in the file.
                byte[] number_records = new byte[4];
                number_records[0] = dbf_file[4];
                number_records[1] = dbf_file[5];
                number_records[2] = dbf_file[6];
                number_records[3] = dbf_file[7];

                int numberOF_records = BitConverter.ToInt32(number_records, 0);

                //In this list I save the column names, numbers , length and type. 
                //I dont really make any use of type anyway.
                List<Columns> Columns = new List<Columns>();

                int separator = 32; //because the first 32bytes are known

                //13 is the deciman equivalent of the 0x0D which is the carriage return symbol in 
                //the ASCII which is used to separate the records of the fields from the actual data.
                while (dbf_file[separator] != 13)

                //As I begin from 32 the number of the fields should be calculated this way:
                int Column_Number = (separator - 32) / 32;

                //Here I start to read the neccessery info from the columns.
                //In the dbf specification it is said that the first 10 bytes are the field name
                //and etc... I am pasting the link with the specs.
                for (int startBit = 32; startBit < separator; startBit += 32)
                    byte[] columnName = new byte[10];
                    for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++)
                        columnName[i] = dbf_file[startBit + i];
                    Columns column = new Columns();
                    column.column_name = ByteArrayToString(columnName, EncodingType.BG);
                    column.column_number = startBit / 32;
                    byte property = dbf_file[startBit + 11];
                    column.length = dbf_file[startBit + 16];
                    column.column_property = property.ToString();


                //Through here I alwready have the names, length and etc., of the columns in a List.
                //In separator I now have the adress of the byte that countains the 0x0d.

                //Since I have no interest in nothing else rather than the names of the columns and the 
                //data in the rows, And I get everything in a string, not caring if it is double or whatever.
                //I clear all the not neccessery symbols that I noticed are writen in the strings that I got
                //for the column names. Because they have some indent or whatever it was, I just remove them
                //because I dont need them.

                //Removing the "\0" from the names.
                foreach (Columns column in Columns)
                    if (column.column_number == 1)
                        //Well, Here is the thing I am not 100% sure I am doing right but still, it works.
                        //As in the dbf files specification there is a... byte that cointains a symbol which
                        //identifies whether the record is deleted, or some other info. Yet I have no need to 
                        //analyze that info cuz I am certain that I need all records. So I increment the 
                        //length of the first column, because it does no harm, and I implement the following 
                        //algorythm easy.
                    column.column_name = column.column_name.Replace("\0", "");
                    //here is the removing ...

                //Then I Create the columns in the datagridview. I did this for a test application to visualize
                //and see if Im doing the reading correctly. You can use whatever type of container you need to have
                //the data from the dbf file in.
                foreach (Columns column in Columns)
                    DataGridViewTextBoxColumn colona = new DataGridViewTextBoxColumn();
                    colona.Name = column.column_name.Trim() + " | " + column.column_property + " | " + column.length;

                //I noticed there is a 1 byte indent (I didnt pay Too much attention to the dbf specification,
                //without which I could have never done it ofcourse, so there might be better explanations for 
                //the results I am having and the things Im doing. Be sure to read it. ) 
                int readingBegin = separator + 1; //1 байт отстъп.

                //Here is hte Actuall reading of the records.
                //The iteration I chose is by rows. I read the first record, then I iterate through the 
                //the columns to use their lengths for measuring how bytes I need to parse and then I save
                //the info in a cell, that goes in a row, which after going through every column is added to 
                //the datagridview. I even didnt change the name of the gridview :)
                for (int i = 0; i < numberOF_records; i++)
                    DataGridViewRow row = new DataGridViewRow();
                    foreach (Columns col in Columns)
                        byte[] nextCol = new byte[col.length];
                        for (int j = 0; j < col.length; j++)
                            nextCol[j] = dbf_file[readingBegin++];
                        string nextColumn = ByteArrayToString(nextCol, EncodingType.BG).Trim();
                        DataGridViewTextBoxCell cell = new DataGridViewTextBoxCell();
                        cell.Value = nextColumn;

                //Well Ok thats it. There are many many things that this doesnt cover, but I am interested only
                //in the data in the records, not minding whatkind it is or whatever other property it was set
                //in the dbf. Thats all if I have some breaking mistakes or if someone cares to improve the
                //algorythm and post it I would appriciate.
            catch (Exception d)


Hope I helped somehow.

1 Comments On This Entry

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Curtis Rutland Icon

12 July 2012 - 07:57 AM
Thanks for sharing your solution with the community!
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