Windows Programming Power with Custom Controls

by Paul Cilwa & Jeff Duntemann

     Title: Windows Programming Power with Custom Controls
   Authors: Paul Cilwa & Jeff Duntemann
 Publisher: The Coriolis Group Books
      ISBN: 1-883577-00-4
      Info: 496 pages (with 3.5" disk)
     Price: $39.93
Windows Custom Controls come nowadays in (at least) two flavors: standard custom controls and VBX style custom controls. Windows Programming Power with Custom Controls is a new book intended for both users and designers/ programmers of both kinds of custom controls. You don't have to be an experienced Windows programmer to learn what custom controls are or how to use them, as the book explains in depth the history of standard custom controls and VBX-style controls. By reading this book you learn what the differences are between these two. Unfortunately, no mention of OLE custom controls (OCX-style controls, an extention of VBXs) is found.

The book shows how to use C/C++ to creats you own custom controls, both standard and VBX-style, to emphasize on the difference between these two control styles in design as well as in use. This is no doubt the best way to master them! To implement VBX contols you need the VB SDK, but don't worry, even without this SDK the book contains a lot of useful information about usage of VBX controls.

The first two chapters describe the historic details of custom controls and Windows, written in the exiting Duntemann-style. After these two chapters, the reader will learn to see custom controls as ideal software components and not only 'gadgets'. Also, VBX controls will be presented as having use beyond Visual Basic (today, we can use VBX level 1.0 controls at least with Visual C++ and Borland C++, and Delphi should support VBXs too).

The third chapter starts the real work, when a framework or "skeleton" custom control is built. In fact, it does nothing, but it serves at the platform - with already half the work done - to build future example custom controls in subsequent chapters. Much detail is given in this chapter, as it is the foundation for the rest of the book.

Chapter four describes guidelines and some different ways custom controls can be used in an application. This is a really short chapter, in preparation for chapter five through eleven, where a total of seven custom contols are implemented in both general and VBX-style. Source and executables are both on the accompanying disk, and worth the price of the book alone!

  • The Panel Control gives your programs a 3D high-tech look and feel. This control is only presented in the standard custom control format. As a bonus, however, it is also presented with a Borland Pascal interface unit.
  • The Virtual Listbox Control can display 32K items in a listbox, but just 32K of total data size as with normal windows listboxes.
  • The Pagelist Control will let you pick one or more page icons from a horizontal list of icons.
  • The Browser Control is a read-only viewer to examine, for example, records in a database, much like the Visual Basic Data control.
  • The Text File Viewer Control can view up to 32K lines, and can be expanded to show even more lines.
  • The Text File Editor Control, based on the Text File Viewer, can edit up to 32K lines. Compare that to the normal windows Edit Control that can hold up to 32K of data only. This text file editor supports communication with the clipboard and all common text editing features. Ready for use in all your windows applications now!
  • The IniData Control is a special-purpose edit control that manages windows INI files. It even contains a security feature that enables you to encrypt selected items from an INI file.

    The appendix gives a detailed view of using these custom controls. At $39.93 the custom controls on disk with this usage description alone are worth every cent of it. These VBX controls are usable with Borland C++, Microsoft Visual C++ and Visual Basic. The generic version of these custom controls can be used by any windows development environment.
    The disk also contains full C/C++ source code of the book, including project files for Turbo C++ and Borland C++ and makefiles for Visual C++. The on-line documentation includes a windows helpfile for every example custom control. The code quality is good, clear code using enough comments. I'm a little disapointed that there are almost no specific C++ sources (like a C++ class wrapper around the skeleton custom control, for example), but the generic C source code itself can easily be extended by the readers of course.

    This book will teach you the inner working of windows custom controls. The C/C++ skeleton custom control can be used to built you own custom controls, while enough examples are given in great detail to really master building and using windows custom controls. No serious windows programmer should be without a copy!

    (Bob Swart)

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