Creating Composed Multiple Controls in .NET

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Creating Composed Multiple Controls
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More complex custom controls require that you combine multiple controls. You can think of several custom controls of this type, such as a control that implements Win dows Explorer like functionality by grouping together a TreeView, a ListView, and a Splitter control; or a control made up of two ListBox controls that lets you move items from one ListBox to the other, using auxiliary buttons or drag-and-drop. In this section, I build a composite custom control named FileTextBox, which lets the user enter a filename by typing its name in a field or by selecting it in an OpenFile common dialog box.
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Creating the UserControl Component
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Add a new UserControl module named FileTextBox to the CustomControlDemo project by selecting the project and then selecting Add UserControl on the Project menu. Ensure that you ve selected the CustomControlDemo project before you perform this action otherwise, the custom control will be added to the test application instead. The UserControl class derives from the ContainerControl class, so it can work as a con tainer for other controls. In this respect, the UserControl object behaves very much like the Form object, and in fact, the programming interface of these classes is very similar, with properties such as Font, ForeColor, AutoScroll, and so on. A few typical form properties are missing because they don t make sense in a control for example, MainMenu and TopMost but by and large, you code against a UserControl as if you were working with a regular form. You can therefore drop on the UserControl s surface the three child controls you need for the FileTextBox control. These are a TextBox for the filename (named txtFilename, with a blank Text property); an OpenFileDialog control to display the dialog box (named OpenFileDialog1); and a Button control to let the user bring up the common dialog (named btnBrowse, with the Text property set to three dots). You can arrange these controls in the manner of Figure 18-5. Don t pay too much attention to their alignment, however, because you re going to move them on the UserControl s surface by means of code.
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Part IV:
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Figure 18-5
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The FileTextBox custom control at design time
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Before you start adding code, you should compile the CustomControlDemo project to rebuild the DLL and then switch to the client project to invoke the Customize ToolBox command. You ll see that the FileTextBox control doesn t appear yet in the list of available .NET controls in the Toolbox, so you have to click on the Browse button and select CustomControlDemo.dll once again. If all worked well, the new FileTextBox is in the Toolbox and you can drop it on the test form. You can resize it as usual, but its constituent controls don t resize correctly because you haven t written any code that handles resizing.
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Adding Properties, Methods, and Events
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The FileTextBox control doesn t expose any useful properties yet, other than those provided by the UserControl class. The three child controls you placed on the UserControl s surface can t be reached at all because by default they have a Friend scope and can t be seen from code in the client project. Your next step is to provide program matic access to the values in these controls. In most cases, all you need to do is create a property procedure that wraps directly around a child control property for exam ple, you can implement the Filename and Filter properties, as follows:
<Description( The filename as it appears in the Textbox control )> _ Property Filename() As String Get Return Me.txtFilename.Text End Get Set(ByVal Value As String) Me.txtFilename.Text = Value End Set End Property <Description( The list of file filters ), _ DefaultValue( All files (*.*)|*.* )> _ Property Filter() As String Get Return OpenFileDialog1.Filter End Get Set(ByVal Value As String) OpenFileDialog1.Filter = Value End Set End Property
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