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Getting started with the Grid layout panel
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After all, the operating system has one, and it s certainly not the most exciting application ever. The answer is that a calculator is complex enough to make use of a number of WPF capabilities and simple enough that the implementation won t get in our way or require a bunch of pages of code to make it work. The calculator also lends itself well to a Grid, although, as you ll see, the Grid is a good layout for many standard forms and dialogs.
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Getting started with the Grid layout panel
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The Grid layout, as its name implies, lays out controls in a grid, with rows and columns. Children can be placed within specific cells or can cross between cells. When you create a new Window, it automatically creates a new Grid panel. In fact, let s do that now create a new WPF application. The application will come up with a default Window1 window that has a Grid on it. The Grid has exactly one row and one column, so you d be forgiven for mistaking it for a blank Canvas. The Canvas-like behavior is taken a step further if you drag a con- Figure 5.1 When we drop a control on trol (such as a Button) onto the form it stays the Grid editor, it acts as though it has been precisely positioned. where you drop it (figure 5.1). The short lines that appear between the left edge of the window and the button, and the top edge and button, indicate a type of anchoring. If you move closer to the right edge, you ll get a line there indicating that you re anchored to that edge, and so on. You click the little circles to anchor to the associated edge, or the triangles to unanchor. As we mentioned earlier, this behavior is a sort of con, and it s a con that might cause you all sorts of problems down the road. It seems as though the Visual Studio developers wanted people to use layouts but were afraid that most wouldn t be bothered, so the Grid editor is a hybrid. It emulates fixed-position (Canvas) layout, but also acts as a Grid layout. If this were a Canvas layout, the XAML would look something like this:
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<Canvas> <Button Canvas.Left="61" Canvas.Top="34" Width="75" Height="23">Button</Button> </Canvas>
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This provides the location and size of the Button in a fairly easy-to-follow format. Because we re using the Grid layout, though, the XAML looks like this:
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<Grid> <Button Height="23" Margin="61,34,0,0" Name="button1" VerticalAlignment="Top" HorizontalAlignment="Left" Width="75">Button</Button> </Grid>
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The Grid panel
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Behind the scenes, the editor is using the Height, Width, Alignment, and Margin properties to force the Button to be positioned where it was dropped on the Grid. The editor does a nice job with this. If, for example, we want the button to stretch with the screen, we click the little circle on the right (figure 5.2). See the line stretching to the right edge. Now when the window gets wider, so will the button. Look at the XAML for this change:
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Figure 5.2 The Button is now anchored to the left and right edges. The arrows running from button to the sides indicate the edges against which the button is anchored.
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<Grid> <Button Height="23" Margin="61,34,142,0" Name="button1" VerticalAlignment="Top">Button</Button> </Grid>
Looking for an Anchor="Left,Right" property It s not there. Instead, the editor removes the HorizontalAlignment and the Width properties and sets the right margin to 142. This works. (In fact, it works rather more smoothly than Windows Forms anchoring.) But it isn t remotely intuitive. You can figure out what s going on outside the editor, but it s tricky. And if you want to make your own changes, you ll likely do a lot of head-scratching and experimenting to get the settings right. There s another downside to this automatic Grid-panel behavior. When you start using the Grid as a grid when you ve added multiple rows and columns you almost always want items to take up all the space within their individual cells (or have a particular margin). Unfortunately, the editor is busy trying to figure out clever margins and spaces, so it s a bit trickier to use the Grid layout in the way it s intended.
Modifying the Grid When you do want to use the Grid properly, you can either use the editor or directly edit the Grid s XAML. In our experience, it s likely that you ll end up doing both using the editor to roughly get the right things in place and then editing the XAML to get rid of extraneous attributes and set things the way you d like. This is true when setting up the basic row/column layout and also when adding items to the layout.
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