Entity Framework 4 "Code-First": Custom Database Schema Mapping
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by Scott Guthrie
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Scenario 1: Customize a Table Name

Let’s now look at a few ways we can use the OnModelCreating method to customize the database persistence of our models.  We will begin by looking at a pretty common scenario – where we want to map a model class to a database schema whose table names are different than the classes we want to map them to. 

For example, let’s assume our database uses a pattern where a “tbl” prefix is appended to the table names.  And so instead of a “Dinners” table we have a “tblDinners” table in the database: 


We want to still map our clean “Dinners” model class to this “tblDinners” table – and do so without having to decorate it with any data persistence attributes:


We can achieve this custom persistence mapping by overriding the “OnModelCreating” method within our NerdDinners context class, and specify a custom mapping rule within it like so:


The code within our OnModelCreating() method above uses a Fluent API design – which is a style of API design that employs method chaining to create more fluid and readable code.  We are using the ModelBuilder object to indicate that we want to map the “Dinner” class to the “tblDinners” table. 

And that is all the code we need to write.  Now our application will use the “tblDinners” table instead of the “Dinners” table anytime it queries or saves Dinner objects.  We did not have to update our Dinner or RSVP model classes at all to achieve this – they will continue to be pure POCO objects with no persistence knowledge.

Trying out the Above Change

If you downloaded the completed NerdDinner sample from my previous blog post, you can modify it to include the above custom OnModelCreating() method and then re-run it to see the custom database persistence in action.

We enabled the automatic database creation/recreation feature within EF “code-only” with the previous blog post.  This means that when you re-run the downloaded NerdDinner application immediately after making the above OnModelCreating() code change, you’ll notice that the SQL CE database is updated to have a “tblDinners” table instead of a “Dinners” table.  This is because EF detected that our model structure changed, and so re-created the database to match our model structure.  It honored our custom OnModelCreating() mapping rule when it updated it – which is why the table is now “tblDinners” instead of “Dinners”.

Several people asked me at the end of my first blog post whether there was a way to avoid having EF auto-create the database for you.  I apparently didn’t make it clear enough that the auto-database creation/recreation support is an option you must enable (and doesn’t always happen).  You can always explicitly create your database however you want (using code, .sql deployment script, a SQL admin tool, etc) and just point your connection string at it – in which case EF won’t ever modify or create database schema.

I showed the auto-database creation feature in the first blog post mostly because I find it a useful feature to take advantage of in the early stages of a new project.  It is definitely not required, and many people will choose to never use it.

Importantly we did not have to change any of the code within the Controllers or Views of our ASP.NET MVC application.  Because our “Dinner” class did not change they were completely unaffected by the database persistence change.

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