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CHAPTER
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Exploring the Layout Controls
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resenting information to your users is of paramount importance. Effective presentation is harder than you may think, and you need a set of tools that give you the flexibility to do it properly. Fortunately, the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) comes with a wide variety of tools that allow you to lay out and present your user interface (UI). Part of the theme of this book, and WPF in general, is to allow close interaction between designer and developer, and a common frustration between the two is that the technology can limit what the developer can implement, frustrating the dreams of the designer for how the application should look and how it should function. WPF s designer-friendly approach, including tools such as Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer as well as Visual Studio 2005, intends to ease this tension and allow you to work more effectively to deliver world-class applications. Layout tools are a huge part of the designer trade, and as a developer, it is useful to get to know them well. In this chapter, you will learn about the different tools and controls that are available to WPF, including the different types of layout, panel, grid, and canvas controls. By the end of this chapter, you ll understand more about how to render and display your UI.
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Understanding Layout Basics
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At the root of WPF layout is the concept of a panel. A panel is an area of the screen that can contain a number of controls and handle their layout. The type of panel you choose to use will determine how your UI is designed. The different panel types are as follows take note that although an element s position is always controlled by its parent panel, some panels will also manage the size of their children: A StackPanel will lay out its children in a vertical or horizontal stack. It can be useful, powerful, and effective in simple UI applications. A DockPanel allocates the entire edge of its client area to each child. If you think in terms of dockable areas within Visual Studio or Microsoft Office, you ll get the idea of a DockPanel. A Grid arranges its child controls in rows and columns, aligning them without forcing you to set fixed sizes and positions.
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CHAPTER 5 EXPLORING THE LAYOUT CONTROLS
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A Canvas allows you to lay out children freely, using absolute positioning, by setting their top, left, width, and height properties. You don t need to resort to fixed sizes and positions. A WrapPanel lays out the child elements in a sequential position from left to right, breaking content onto the next line when it reaches the edge of the containing box, giving a wrapping effect. In the next sections, you ll look at each of these in detail and learn how you can use them to lay out your UI using Cider, the Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) designer in Visual Studio 2005.
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Using the StackPanel Control
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When building a WinFX Windows application in Visual Studio 2005, you will use the Cider designer, and the Toolbox that contains the XAML controls. Here you can find the StackPanel control (see Figure 5-1).
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Figure 5-1. The StackPanel Toolbox control Double-clicking this tool will place it on your application canvas in the Cider designer. The Cider designer is a little different from what you may be used to; you can see it in Figure 5-2.
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CHAPTER 5 EXPLORING THE LAYOUT CONTROLS
Figure 5-2. The StackPanel on the Cider designer At the bottom of the screen, you ll see three tabs. The first tab, Design, gives you the Cider designer, which you use to lay out your controls. It is similar to the Windows forms designer, allowing you to drag, drop, and arrange your controls and use the Properties window for fine-tuning. The second tab, Xaml, allows you to view the XAML code underlying your UI. So, as you are dragging and dropping controls and tuning them using their properties, you are really generating XAML code under the hood, displayed on the Source tab, that will be used to render your application at runtime. So, for example, the simple UI you see in Figure 5-2 has a StackPanel on the screen. When you look at its XAML, it will look something like Listing 5-1. Listing 5-1. StackPanel XAML <Window x:Class="StackPanel.Window1" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation" xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml" Title="StackPanel" Height="300" Width="469"> <Grid> <StackPanel MinHeight="50" MinWidth="50" VerticalAlignment="Top" HorizontalAlignment="Left" Grid.Column="0" Grid.ColumnSpan="1" Grid.Row="0" Grid.RowSpan="1" Margin="10,10,0,0"
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