Guide to Building a VS 2008 User Control in VB

Quite often we have a need for a VB control that
has some requirements that don’t quite exist within the current control set.
Recently a client required that all data-entry controls be on a single page,
not across multiple tabs, and the page should scroll much like the page you’re reading
now.

Rather
than doing the quick large Picturebox inside a smaller Picturebox with
scrollers, and duplicating the same across multiple forms, I decided to create
a quick user control to simplify the effort on the second and third forms.

Little
did I know that I was in for a challenge, and spent much more time working on
this than planned.

The First Obstacle

Not many people are aware that user controls have two
working modes; Design mode and Running mode. The user-control code runs in both
modes however Debugging only works in running mode; code breaks will not
trigger during design time. This obviously leads to problems testing; however
you often can replicate design time actions in the run time to fully debug
specific options.

Most of
the time you need to set up the control properly, so to start, add a Component
class to your project and modify the code as below.

Imports System.ComponentModel
Imports System.Drawing
Imports System.Drawing.Drawing2D
Imports System.ComponentModel.Design
Imports System.Windows.Forms

<Designer("System.Windows.Forms.Design.ParentControlDesigner,System.Design", GetType(IDesigner))> _
Public Class TestControl
    Inherits Control

End Class

This prepares the control for the
designer, and allows you to add controls to it. Now that our base user control
is ready, let’s start with our experiments. (Thanks to Hannes for showing me
this when I started).

Experiment 1

First try was a user control with
a Picturebox inside a Picturebox. This works like a charm on the form.

In the
class Designer we add a Picturebox, only one for now so that we can test. But
aren’t we doing a Picturebox inside a Picturebox? Yes we still going to use
that method and the Component class is the first Object and the smaller holder
of the two. Our Picturebox is the second and larger of the two, which will
ultimately hold the final controls.

To start
we need to initialize the controls.

    Public Sub New()
        ' This call is required by the Windows Form Designer.
        InitializeComponent()

        ' Add any initialization after the InitializeComponent() call.

        Me.Controls.Add(PictureBox1)

    End Sub

And now let’s expose a few
properties of the Picturebox so that we can play with it in the designer.

    Public Property Z_Width() As Integer
        Get
            Return PictureBox1.Width
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Integer)
            PictureBox1.Width = value
        End Set
    End Property
    Public Property Z_Height() As Integer
        Get
            Return PictureBox1.Height
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Integer)
            PictureBox1.Height = value
        End Set
    End Property
    Public Property Z_Top() As Integer
        Get
            Return PictureBox1.Top
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Integer)
            PictureBox1.Top = value
        End Set
    End Property
    Public Property Z_Left() As Integer
        Get
            Return PictureBox1.Left
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Integer)
            PictureBox1.Left = value
        End Set
    End Property

Lets test this quickly.

NOTE: even if we added the
Scrollers at this time, they are not active in the designer and you would still
need to adjust the position of the inner controls via the properties. So the
Scrollers are left out until we know where we going to go.

Build the
control, and then add it to a form, Adjust the Z_width and Z_Height so that our
Picturebox is wider and higher than the control. Now add a few other controls
to our control. Adjust Z_top and Z_left to move our inner control around.

Now we’re
shifting the Picturebox about; remember, negative values will pull the inner
Picturebox up and left, exposing the hidden parts. However, there’s a problem,
none of the added controls are shifting around.

The problem
is they are all children controls at the same level as the Picturebox, and not
children of the Picturebox, and because of this they do not move with it.

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