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If you re new to layout managers, you might be wondering which layout manager to choose. Except for very simple applications, you ll generally use many layout managers and combine them in ways that meet your design and behavior goals. This isn t a far cry from the previous approaches; and, for web developers, it s standard operating procedure. 4
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In some circles, menus are falling out of favor. One big member of that circle appears to be Microsoft. Looking at Office 2007, MSN Messenger, or Internet Explorer 7, one thing you won t see are a lot of menus.4 Menus do have a few drawbacks. Like any UI element, menus can end up holding more information than they can reasonably support. When this happens, some users may consider the menus overwhelming and may find it difficult to understand them. Menus certainly can be abused; submenus can be particularly difficult to use, especially with every increasing level of depth. Poorly organized menu structures can irritate users and prevent them from finding the functions they need. At the same time, some people really love menus. Some use menus as a discovery tool to explore what s possible in an application. Menus also offer a known geography of features that users can memorize, allowing them to become comfortable and efficient in an application. Menus that present options in a clear and consistent manner can be a great benefit as well. From our standpoint, menus have proven to be useful, and a not insignificant number of users are fairly upset with the trend away from menus, so we think covering both approaches is appropriate. We ll leave it to you to decide how far you want to go with it.
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In our application, the layouts are nested, mirroring the structure of the XAML, so we ll have to start from the outside and work toward the center. Because we re going with a more traditional look, the first thing we need to do is structure the menus and toolbars.
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Preparing the layout for menus and toolbars If you don t have the toolbox open, select View/Toolbox to bring it up. If you don t see a set of controls, click in the middle of the WikiWindow and they should appear. The first thing we need is a DockPanel. The DockPanel will control the position of the menu bar, status bar, and hold the main layout panel of our application. Expand the Common section of the Toolbox to get a DockPanel and drag it to the WikiWindow (figure 9.4). Adding the DockPanel doesn t behave quite as we d like. As you can see in figure 9.5, the designer positions a small rectangle in the middle of the Grid element, using margins to control position and size. This is fairly easy to correct; go to the XAML view and delete all the attributes of the DockPanel or set the margin to 0 in the property editor.
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<DockPanel Margin="130,107,112,110" Name="dockPanel1" />
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Well, that isn t strictly true. Windows Live Messenger hides all the menus behind a single icon on the titlebar area; pressing the Alt key exposes the menu in IE 7, and there are many context menus throughout the applications. But the writing is on the wall.
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Figure 9.4 The WPF DockPanel can be found in the Common Containers section of the ToolBox.
Figure 9.5 By default, the DockPanel is positioned uselessly in the main window.
Now that we have a DockPanel on top of a Grid, this is a good time to note that Visual Studio 2008 has a number of ways to select the various elements in your WPF classes. Typically, you click the element you want and interact with it. As you start nesting controls, that isn t as easy as it sounds. Clicking the middle of the form selects the DockPanel, and clicking the window edge selects the Window, but how do you select the Grid Aside from selecting the XAML, there are three primary methods: A context-menu click on any element above the desired element, the Document Outline window, and the location bar. Figure 9.6 shows all three methods at once. Not all of these are new ways of selecting UI elements in the designer, but these methods become far more important with the deeply nested hierarchies in WPF. It isn t uncommon to have five or ten elements on top of each other in a deeply composed design.
Adding menubars, statusbars, and toolbars Now that the DockPanel is set up, we re ready to add the menus and toolbars. In the Toolbox, open the section titled Controls and find the Menu item. Drag the Menu over to the newly created DockPanel. Note that the menu now has an attached property from the Dock called DockPanel.Dock. Set this property to Top. Now we need some menu items. Click the button next to Items in the property editor. This will bring up an interactive dialog where you can add and edit the commands. Go ahead and just add the top-level menu items for File, Edit, Format, Tools and Help. For the moment, we re just going to set the Header Text the text to display for the menu and the Name for each MenuItem. Figure 9.7 shows the interactive menu editor.
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