by Brett Sheppard - GUI Computing
Active Toolbox is an offering from GreenTree that consists of eight ActiveX controls that could save you a lot of programming time. These controls will definitely give you the look and feel of Office 97 without having to go through the rigmarole of doing it all yourself. And let's face it, if your users are already familiar with some elements of your application there will be less of those annoying calls like "How does this work?".
So, without further ado, a brief tour of Active Toolbox.
|One of the cleverer controls out of this package is the GroupList.
This is based on the Microsoft Outlook control from Office 97. (see picture at left to remind you what I am talking about.) It offers some great features such as being able to choose between large and small pictures, with the option of using transparent pictures.
Each group (e.g. Rock, Jazz as below) can also have its own font, back and fore colour to add extra presentation value to your application.
What really looks cool is that once a group is selected, there is an animated scroll so that the group heading seems to "slide" into focus.
Best of all, it is really easy to program. I am talking about 25 lines of code to produce a GroupList with two groups, including images.
This one is going to really annoy Stephan Grieger - who, regular readers will recall, has spent the past few months emulating this in code!
Active Toolbox also comes with a Toolbar which allows you to create toolbars that look like the ones found in Office 97. The ease in which you can add a button to the toolbar with features such as appearing raised when the cursor is over it, providing tooltips, or making it a toggle styled button is terrific. Here is a bit of code which would add two buttons to a toolbar. (One normal, one togged.)
Private Sub Form_Load() Dim objButton As GTButton Dim imgButton As GTListImage ' load the images Set imgButton = GTToolbar1.SmallImages.Add(, "imgFred", , LoadPicture("C:\Fred.bmp")) Set imgButton = GTToolbar1.SmallImages.Add(, "imgWilma", , LoadPicture("C:\Wilma.bmp")) 'create the buttons stating the type of button and the image to be associate with the button. Set objButton = GTToolbar1.Buttons.Add(, , , gtDefault, , "imgFred") 'insert a separator between the two buttons. Set objButton = GTToolbar1.Buttons.Add(, , , gtSeparator) Set objButton = GTToolbar1.Buttons.Add(, , , gtToggle, , "imgWilma") End Sub
You are not limited to just having buttons either. By defining a button with a placeholder style, you can place other controls such as combo boxes onto the tab. A separator bar is also available and can be defined within the add method you see in the code above. A description property is also at your disposal which you can use in a status bar. Property pages are also available where you can load in the necessary buttons and images at design time.
This is yet another cool multi column ListBox, with the usual stack of impressive features. Multiple types of row selection, grid headings, multi-select, colour control and all the rest are there.
The splitter control is a different matter, and stands out from the crowd. It gives you the ability to divide your form into several panes, each of which can host a control. The panes can be divided into horizontal or vertical splitters but does not yet support both. However this can be overcome by using another splitter in an already existing pane.It supports the resizing of panes, and the controls within it well. However, there do seem to be some problems when you place 2 controls within the same pane. I don't know whether this is supposed to be supported or not so we shall reserve judgement on that. You can change the style of the splitter to give them either a round or flat look and the appearance of the panes can be given either a normal or 3d effect. There is also a splitter resize event which enables you to keep tab on things such as the size of fonts in a text box when it is expanded or contracted. All in all, as much functionality as you could reasonably wish for.
GTCheckFrame is a nifty little time saver. This control is a combination between a frame and a checkbox. After you place this control on a form, you can place other controls within it such as a text box or a command button. If the checkframe is checked, then the controls within the frame are enabled, if not the opposite occurs. This is pretty stock but you can improve the appearance of the checkframe with a picture instead of the usual tick as well as changing the alignment of the caption. All in all, as I say, a nifty control.
GTProgress is (surprise, surprise!) a progress bar that allows you to customize the display style. Different settings include the ability to set the
The percentage done is also shown within the progress bar. This may not be the most amazing control in the world but it is a time saver that you can use over and over again. One that should annoy Ross Mack, who's been using his own, hand-coded version for donkey's years… this is a definite step up on that!
GTIntray is a cute little control that allows you to put icons, both animated and normal, into your Windows 95 and NT system trays. (The area where the time is displayed.) The animation is achieved by loading a number of icons into an imagelist that when displayed quickly onto the screen appear to be moving, similar to the way cartoons are developed. You can set the animation to either play once through, cycle through back and forth, or to play continuously. This is the sort of thing that just adds that bit of spice to your application (allowing you to dazzle the user yet again).
Active Toolbar also has a message hook that will enable you to sublcass multiple windows. This control can run invisible at run time and can subclass any window within its Window collection. Each of these windows has a collection of GTMessage Objects. These objects can contain a message value as well as message processing attributes. Obviously, this comes in pretty handy in developing complex toolbars - hence its inclusion.
All in all...
I have to say that I really do like this package. All eight controls are easy to learn and use and you should have no major problems implementing them into some of your applications. If you're looking for the Office 97 feel, and Toolbars are important, then this is definitely worth a long look. It's available from GUI Computing for $A299 (or $A309 with source). You can get a trial version from Green Tree's web site.