If you’ve ever created an outstanding balance report or other report that deals with aggregating data into date ranges, you’ll know that it isn’t immediately obvious how to structure your query, whether using SQL or LINQ (at least, it wasn’t to me).

My initial thought was to run multiple queries (one for each time range) and munge the results together. However, an elegant solution is to use SQL’s CASE expression to group date ranges together.

Let’s say you wanted a report that summed the amount of unpaid invoices in 20 day groupings (0-19 days past due, 20-39 past due, 40+). You could write something like this:

SELECT DaysSinceDueRange, SUM(Amount)
		  WHEN GETDATE() - DueDate BETWEEN 20 AND 39 THEN 20
		  WHEN GETDATE() - DueDate > 39 THEN 40
             END AS DaysSinceDueRange,
       FROM Invoices
       WHERE Unpaid=1) inv
GROUP BY DaysSinceDueRange

This is really elegant, but then the question becomes how to do this with an ORM like EntityFramework. There are a couple of tricks required here:

  1. To do the date comparisons, EntityFramework requires the usage of System.Data.Entity.DbFunctions.DiffDays method (in EF 6 – it used to be in System.Data.Objects.EntityFunctions). If you try to do something like (DateTime.Now – invoice.DueDate).TotalDays, you’ll get an exception “DbArithmeticExpression arguments must have a numeric common type” because the subtraction operator is not defined for Dates in SqlServer.
  2. To do CASE / WHEN / THEN / END in EntityFramework, you have to make use of a lot of ternary operators. It can be kind of ugly, but if you write your code well enough, it should be fairly readable (or at least as readable as the SQL expression).

Here is an example of the SQL above translated into LINQ:

       .Where(inv => inv.Unpaid)
       .Select(inv => new
           DaysSinceDueRange = DbFunctions.DiffDays(inv.DueDate, DateTime.Today) < 20 ? 0 :
                               DbFunctions.DiffDays(inv.DueDate, DateTime.Today) >= 20 && 
                                   DbFunctions.DiffDays(inv.DueDate, DateTime.Today) < 40 ? 20 : 
           Amount = inv.Amount
       }).GroupBy(inv => inv.DaysSinceDueRange)
       .Select(g => new
           DaysSinceDueRange = g.Key.DaysSinceDueRange,
           Amount = g.Sum(inv => inv.Amount)

Of course, you can get more complicated in a hurry, but I think this is a pretty elegant way to handle grouping data by date ranges.