Data Table to CSV

Convert an array of objects to CSV is one of the classic activities.

Here's a workable method for converting a System.Data.DataTable to CSV.

public static string ToCsv(this DataTable table, string fieldSeparator = ",", string recordSeparator = "\r\n", string fieldQualifier = "\"")
{
    var result = new StringBuilder();
    for (int i = 0; i < table.Columns.Count; i++)
    {
        var tableName = table.Columns[i].ColumnName;
        result.Append(EscapeAndQualifyAsNeeded(tableName, fieldSeparator, recordSeparator, fieldQualifier));
        result.Append(i == table.Columns.Count - 1 ? recordSeparator : fieldSeparator);
    }

    foreach (DataRow row in table.Rows)
    {
        for (int i = 0; i < table.Columns.Count; i++)
        {
            string value;
            if (row[i] is System.DateTime)
            {
                value = string.Format("{0:yyyy-MM-dd HH:mm:ss}", row[i]);
            }
            else
            {
                value = row[i].ToString();
            }

            result.Append(EscapeAndQualifyAsNeeded(value, fieldSeparator, recordSeparator, fieldQualifier));
            result.Append(i == table.Columns.Count - 1 ? recordSeparator : fieldSeparator);
        }
    }

    return result.ToString();
}

public static string EscapeAndQualifyAsNeeded(string value, string fieldSeparator = ",", string recordSeparator = "\r\n", string fieldQualifier = "\"") 
{
    if (value.Contains(fieldSeparator) || value.Contains(recordSeparator) || value.Contains(fieldQualifier) || value.StartsWith(" ") || value.EndsWith(" "))
    {
        value = fieldQualifier + value.Replace(fieldQualifier, fieldQualifier + fieldQualifier) + fieldQualifier;
    }

    return value;
}

...The bit I care about is the EscapeAndQualifyAsNeeded method.

Common mistakes people make are:

  1. Don't do any escaping or qualifying and end up with unparseable CSV.
  2. Qualify every field, whether it needs to be qualified or not.
  3. Trim fields before qualifying. That's changing the data, and should only be done if its explicitly needed. (Some people hide steganographic codes in trailing whitespace... this would eradicate the message.)
  4. Only check for embedded fieldSeparators, don't check for embedded record separators, etc.

Love CSV? Hate CSV? Try NimbleText for your CSV transforming needs.

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