You want to use an ASP.NET control to display some data in a tabular format.
Use a Repeater, DataList, DataGrid, or GridView control. Always choose the smallest and fastest control that meets your needs, which invariably will be influenced by other criteria as in these examples:
ASP.NET provides four excellent options for displaying tabular data: Repeater, DataList, DataGrid, and GridView. Each comes with trade-offs. For instance, the GridView control is versatile, but you can pay a price in terms of performance. On the flip side, the Repeater control is lighter weight but is for read-only display; if you later decide you need to edit your data, you will have to rework your code to use the DataList, DataGrid, or GridView control instead (unless, of course, you want to embark on your own custom coding odyssey).
The impact on performance is because ASP.NET creates a control for every element of a DataGrid and GridView control, even white space, which is built as a Literal control. Each of these controls is responsible for rendering the appropriate HTML output. The DataGrid and the GridView are, therefore, the heavyweights of the grid control group because of the server processing required to build the applicable output. The DataList is lighter and the Repeater lighter still.
Table 2-1 summarizes the built-in features supported by the tabular controls and only includes controls that support data binding. (A standard Table control is not included because it does not inherently support data binding though individual controls placed in a table can be data bound.) With custom code, there are almost no limits to what you can do to modify the behavior of these controls.
Performance issues aside, you must consider other aspects when choosing a tabular control. As a rule, the DataGrid and GridView work well for a quick-and-dirty tabular display (see Recipe 2.2) and for other situations in which you think you'll be reasonably satisfied with its default appearance and behavior. Indeed, because the DataGrid and GridView are so versatile, this chapter provides many recipes for modifying and adapting them. However, if you anticipate needing a lot of flexibility in controlling the organization and layout of the tabular display or you do not need to edit or paginate the data, you may want to consider using the DataList or Repeater instead. For example, Recipe 2.3 shows how you can use templates to organize and enhance the output of a tabular display. Take a look at that recipe's output (Figure 2-2) to see what we're driving at. Some upfront planning in this respect can save you considerable time and effort down the road.