JSON# – Tutorial #5: Deserialising Complex Objects

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The previous tutorial focused on deserialising simple JSON objects. This tutorial describes the process of deserialising a more complex object using JSON#.

Let’s use the ComplexObject class that we’ve leveraged in earlier tutorials:

class ComplexObject : IHaveSerialisableProperties {
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public string Description { get; set; }
    public List<ComplexArrayObject> ComplexArrayObjects { get; set; }
    public List<double> Doubles { get; set; }

    public SerialisableProperties GetSerializableProperties() {
        return new SerialisableProperties("complexObject", new List<JsonProperty> {
            new StringJsonProperty {
                Key = "name",
                Value = Name
            },
            new StringJsonProperty {
                Key = "description",
                Value = Description
            }
            }, new List<JsonSerialisor> {
                    new ComplexJsonArraySerialisor("complexArrayObjects",
                        ComplexArrayObjects.Select(c => c.GetSerializableProperties())),
                    new JsonArraySerialisor("doubles",
                        Doubles.Select(d => d.ToString(CultureInfo.InvariantCulture)), JsonPropertyType.Numeric)
            });
        }
    }

Let’s instantiate this with some values, and serialise to JSON. I won’t bloat this post with details on how to serialise, covered in previous posts. Here is our serialised ComplexObject instance:

{"complexObject":{"name":"Complex Object","description":"A complex object","complexArrayObjects":[{"name":"Array Object #1","description":"The 1st array object"},{"name":"Array Object #2","description":"The 2nd array object"}],"doubles":[1,2.5,10.8]}}

Notice that we have 2 collections. A simple collection of Doubles, and a more complex collection of ComplexArrayObjects. Let’s start with those.

First, create a new class, ComplexObjectDeserialiser, and implement the required constructor and Deserialise method.

Remember this method from the previous tutorial?

    var properties = jsonNameValueCollection.Parse(mergeArrayValues);

This effectively parses the JSON and loads each element into a NameValueCollection. This is fine for simple properties, however collection-based properties would cause the deserialiser to load each collection-element as a separate item in the returned NameValueCollection, which may be somewhat cumbersome to manage:

Flattened JSON collection

Flattened JSON collection

This is where the Boolean parameter mergeArrayValues comes in. It will concatenate all collection-based values in a comma-delimited string, and load this value into the returned NameValueCollection. This is much more intuitive, and allows consuming code to simply split the comma-delimited values and iterate as required.

Compressed JSON Collection

Compressed JSON Collection

Here is the complete code-listing:

class ComplexObjectDeserialiser : Deserialiser<ComplexObject> {
        public ComplexObjectDeserialiser(JsonNameValueCollection jsonNameValueCollection) : base(jsonNameValueCollection) {}

        public override ComplexObject Deserialise(bool mergeArrayValues = false) {
            var properties = jsonNameValueCollection.Parse(mergeArrayValues);

            var complexObject = new ComplexObject {
                Name = properties["complexObject.name"],
                Description = properties["complexObject.description"],
                ComplexArrayObjects = new List<ComplexArrayObject>(),
                Doubles = new List<double>()
            };

            var complexArrayObjectNames = properties["complexObject.complexArrayObjects.name"].Split(',');
            var complexArrayObjectDescriptions = properties["complexObject.complexArrayObjects.description"].Split(',');

            for (var i = 0; i &lt; complexArrayObjectNames.Length; i++) {
                var complexArrayObjectName = complexArrayObjectNames[i];

                complexObject.ComplexArrayObjects.Add(new ComplexArrayObject {
                    Name = complexArrayObjectName,
                    Description = complexArrayObjectDescriptions[i]
                });
            }

            var complexArrayObjectDoubles = properties["complexObject.doubles"].Split(',');

            foreach (var @double in complexArrayObjectDoubles)
                complexObject.Doubles.Add(Convert.ToDouble(@double));

            return complexObject;
        }
    }

As before, we deserialise as follows:

    Json.Deserialise(new ComplexObjectDeserialiser(new StandardJsonNameValueCollection("<JSON string...>")), true);

JSON# does most of the work, loading each serialised element into a NameValueCollection. We simply read from that collection, picking and choosing each element to map to an associated POCO property.
For collection-based properties, we simply retrieve the value associated with the collection’s key, split that value into an array, and loop through the array, loading a new object for each item in the collection, building our ComplexObject step-by-step.

This is the final JSON# post covering tutorial-based material. I’m working on a more thorough suite of performance benchmarks, and will publish the results, as well as offering a more in-depth technical analysis of JSON# in future posts. Please contact me if you would like to cover a specific topic.

The next posts will feature a tutorial series outlining Object Oriented, Test Driven Development in C# and Java. Please follow this blog to receive updates.

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