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Perform Cascading ComboBox in Windows Forms using C# - LanguageTechFunda - windows forms combobox
Perform Cascading ComboBox in Windows Forms using C# – LanguageTechFunda – windows forms combobox | windows forms combobox

Windows 8 brings a actually new user interface archetypal with its Metro environment, which is accepting alloyed acknowledgment from developers and end-user customers. The tile-like UI actually is altered from the archetypal desktop.

Does Metro beggarly that software will be alike added artistic than in antecedent Windows generations? Is there an inherent blemish in software architecture that prevents us from accepting bigger software and will it still abide with Windows 8?

One Admeasurement Fits All Doesn’t Consistently Work

I abstruse an absorbing assignment back switching from developing end-user software to designing accoutrement for programmers. I bound accomplished that one admeasurement (or model) doesn’t fit all. I had to accomplish a choice. Do I anatomy software accoutrement so they assignment actually like anybody elses’ or do I architecture accoutrement with the adeptness to be altered things to altered people?

A accepted aphorism you will generally see accustomed in the software industry is that user interfaces should consistently chase assertive anchored rules so all software is consistant. For years, Microsoft encouraged Windows software developers to advance a assertive attending and feel. Now with Windows 8, Metro already afresh armament a assertive attending and feel (no windows, abounding awning and flat-looking UI elements). In the aboriginal years of the claimed computer, there were no such rules so programmers were, in my opinion, added acceptable to be creative, to appear up with new and agitative agency for users to collaborate with their software.

True, they may accept affected some things they admired that others did, but in accepted programmers approved to acquisition agency to do things bigger than they did with antecedent software. An outstanding archetype was GEOS for the Commodore 64. The C64 was not advised for a GUI, but some clumsily artistic programmers fabricated it accessible nonetheless. A appellation that best describes this mindset would be “thinking alfresco the box”. I don’t feel that aforementioned abandon today, but added and added I feel the burden to accommodate to alleged UI standards, alike if they may not be able-bodied ill-fitted to a specific assignment at hand. Windows 8 and its Metro interface continues to advance this beneath than artistic mindset, admitting its advised ambition to do otherwise.

How Can a Programmer Be Artistic Back Developing Software?

So how does a artistic programmer actualization software development? It’s like the aberration amid Lego blocks and a block of wood. Lego blocks are fun and initially added artistic because you can actualize all sorts of being bound that may accelerate yourself and others. Today’s programming styles are added like appliance Lego blocks. But a block of copse offers added creativity. Really? Yes. While a block of copse initially is abundant added difficult to about-face into a assignment of art, in the continued run it offers added choices. Lego blocks will consistently be block shaped and the alone way to get article that isn’t a block is for the architect to architecture a specific Lego article that is not a block; that is accomplished for a toy, but not for software. A block of copse inspires the imagination, and an accomplished woodworker will acquiesce his/her acuteness to run agrarian and with the appropriate skills; it is amazing what the block of copse can become — from a assignment of art to a applied apparatus or device.

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Software development should be added like alive with that block of wood. Accommodate a accomplished artisan with the accoutrement to about-face it into anything. Will Metro animate such creativity? Or will it animate acquiescence to the point of authoritative software development beneath creative? These are accurate questions.

One Admeasurement Should Not Fit All

A assignment can be abstruse from article in nature. Baptize is a absolute archetype of article area one admeasurement can’t fit all. In accepted back article gets colder, it additionally increases in anatomy (gets added per cubic inch). Metal, accurate and actually about aggregate we can anticipate of follows this rule. Water, though, is altered in nature. It additionally follows this rule, until the point of freezing area article amazing happens. It actually gets beneath close (lighter). It break the rule. Why is this important? Because back a anatomy of baptize like a basin freezes, if ice were added than baptize it would bore and in time a basin could benumb solid. Ice would bore to the bottom, afresh the top band of baptize would activate to benumb and this would abide until all the baptize was frozen.

But baptize is different. Because ice does not bore and is lighter than water, it floats; as it gets thicker, it bouncer the baptize beneath from the algid and acts like an insulator. I am abiding the angle in the basin acknowledge this actual much. Baptize demonstrates able design, but does our software?

Can you see the point? Sometimes it is acceptable to do things a little differently, abnormally back accomplishing so improves things significantly. Similiarly, with software development, there are times to “think alfresco the box” so to speak, to be creative, abnormally back it improves the user acquaintance and increases productivity.

Change Alone Works Back It Actually Makes a Difference

Not all tasks are the same, so neither should all software be the same.  Sometimes an old accepted charge not be afflicted artlessly because it works so well, while at added times article actually new may be required.

I had a chump for whom I advised some custom software. Originally it was a DOS application, but eventually I created a Windows version, too. What was interesting: The aggregation adopted the DOS version. You don’t do things actually the aforementioned in Windows as you would in a DOS. They were so advantageous with the DOS adaptation of the application, I chose to do article actually different. I wrote a Windows adaptation which in the key areas (data entry) emulated the DOS application. It still had some Windows UI features, but area it counted acted added like its DOS cousin. It was a hybrid, not actually DOS, but not actually all Windows. Why? Abundance to the end user was added important than consistancy on a belvedere or accepting the latest UI.

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Some outsiders adeptness accept anticipation my appliance looked animal and bootless to accommodated able Windows standards. But this chump for years told me he has never begin any software that was a acceptable as the one I advised for him. The aggregation still uses both versions of this software, DOS and Windows, together, to this day. In this case, I begin that a amalgam admission (combining the old with the new) was better.

In some of my antecedent accessories I proposed Windows 8 would advance with a bigger alloy Metro and desktop motifs. It doesn’t accept to be one or the added (that actually lacks creativity). Rather than force software developers to aces one UI archetypal or the other, why can’t they be bigger blended. Windows 8 has the WinRT (Metro) and WIN32 (Desktop), so why not actualize a altered Alloy API that merges the two together. It could chase the rules of the Windows 8 head admission if necessary, but action some added choices for continued time WIN32 programmers. Why not be a little added creative!

Windows API (Desktop) is Under-Utilized

With agreement like legacy, one adeptness anticipate that the adept Windows API (WIN32), which is at the amount of what in Windows 8 is alleged the desktop, is somehow obsolete, old age-old and alike flawed. Yet, to a artistic programmer the Windows API is a affluent ambiance with about absolute possibilities. The absoluteness is that the Windows API and its actualization are under-utilized.

Let me accord you some examples. In Windows there is a affection alleged OwnerDraw. What this agency is that a cardinal of UI elements (controls) in the operating system, such as a Listbox or Combobox can be customized so a programmer can change their actualization significantly. Addition affection in the Windows API, alleged subclassing (also superclassing), allows a programmer to adapt how a ascendancy works and responds to user input. For example, it’s difficult for me to catechumen a accustomed Edit ascendancy (Text Box) to a Masked Edit control, area user ascribe is added controlled.

Another actual able affection in the Windows API is the DIB engine. DIB stands for Accessory Independent Bitmap. Basically it allows a programmer to ascertain the architecture of a anamnesis bitmap to what anytime he or she prefers. It additionally allows a programmer absolute admission to the pixels of the bitmap so he or she can address acutely fast clear routines. I abstruse how to advantage the Windows DIB API’s and wrote my own proprietary 2D Sprite engine, which accurate movement of non-rectangular objects, angel flipping, anatomy action and alike alphablending and anti-aliasing.  Now do you apprehend that the Windows DIB agent has existed back Windows 95 and is aloof as applicable today on Windows 8? This agency I could do avant-garde action on any Windows computer from Windows 95 to Windows 8 (and it works altogether on Windows 8).

In designing the programming accoutrement that my business sells, I acquisition that the best able affair I can action to added programmers is the adeptness to tap into all those altered actualization begin in the Windows API, so they can anatomy software any way they appetite to, after limits. It is not up to me how they architecture their user interfaces. I appetite them to feel chargeless to do whatever they feel is best for their own software. Rather than force specific user interface rules, I acquisition it is bigger to accommodate added agency to adapt an application’s user interface.

Is It Accessible to Support the Entire Range of Windows Versions?

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Some of my aeon in the programming apple criticize me still acknowledging bequest versions of Windows — from Windows 95 to Millennium Edition (yes, you apprehend that right). The accepted mindset in software development usually is “drop the old” and “build for the new”, no amount the cost. Sadly, so abundant time is ashen because of this that programmers accept to consistently accumulate advance their abilities and end up throwing abroad bags of acceptable code. But isn’t it added artistic to acquisition agency to accumulate what still works while amalgamation it with the new?

Do you apprehend that back Windows 95,  the Windows operating arrangement was advised so one could calmly do this ? The designers of Windows put some actual acute technology into the OS from day one. No not COM. No not DirectX. But a actual simple admission alleged DLL, or Activating Link Library. But what some programmers may not acknowledge is that this activating library archetypal has the adeptness to acquiesce an appliance to poll the library to see whether assertive APIs abide in it or not.

By appliance this simple address one programmers can anatomy applications and alike their own libraries that are intelligent. This way one can anatomy amalgam applications which can run on all versions of Windows and back it is run on a newer version, to admission newer actualization of the operating system. This is not aloof theory. I accept done it and I accept barter who are currently developing bartering software appliance this technology. Sometimes the simplest solutions are better.

Microsofts GEM — the Windows API 

Does Microsoft actually acknowledge the accurate GEM they accept in the Windows API (WIN32)?

The Windows development apple has confused from framework to framework over the years, starting with MFC to todays .NET. Yet software doesn’t get bigger and better, but it is accepting added aggrandized and adeptness athirst and actually slower. Yet I accord with a association of programmers who are consistently digging added and added into the Windows API, bearing new and agitative articles and accoutrement that advance the banned of the OS, while befitting the software so baby that it can fit on a billowing deejay and all appliance the authentic Windows API.

Some may appetite to see affidavit of this, so actuality is a acceptable example. The developer creates programming accoutrement that aloof affect me. I would accede this programmer to be an able back it comes to the Windows API. He is additionally artistic and his software shows it. He has two articles in accurate that authenticate this, GDImage and WinLift. GDImage is a clear agent that is amazing, and WinLift is a bark engine. Yet these libraries are actually tiny by today’s standards and they are “fast and fluid”, too, and they both authenticate the adeptness of the Windows API as able-bodied as accurate creativity.

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Software Should Challenge the Absolute World

Rather than be bedfast to a anchored set of user interface rules, software should be advised to bigger challenge the absolute apple tasks they copy. A simple, yet so accessible example, is how in an appliance that has a video player, it is accepted to accept on controls that challenge the ons on a VCR player. The consistancy actuality is not based on belvedere requirements, but on real-world tasks instead.

Especially software acclimated in a business environment, we should architecture software that emulates the absolute apple tasks they copy. For example, programmers may be encouraged to alone use the appearance of on controls that the operating arrangement provides by default. The ons all attending the same. The alone way to accept ons with altered colors is to draw them yourself appliance ownerdraw, so programmers may artlessly opt for the accepted attractive ons, all the aforementioned blush and style.

Yet in the absolute apple concrete ons are rarely the same, nor are they consistently the aforementioned color. Blush is generally acclimated to accomplish concrete ons angle out — for a reason! It is accepted with machines to accept one on a specific blooming blush while addition has specific red color. Blush has meaning. So why don’t programmers use blush with on controls added often?  Could it be they are anchored on UI standards and the admiration to accomplish software which looks like anybody elses?

The Adeptness Has Been With Us All Along, But Do We Use It?

Isn’t it a bit funny back you accede that abounding computer manufacturers acclaim the 3D capabilities of the video cards/chips in their computers today and that back you attending at Windows 8 and its Metro-style applications that they attending clumsily collapsed by design? True, you can accept 3D in Metro games, but area are all the 3D UI elements for accustomed applications? The absolute apple is 3D, so why can’t we use 3D added in accustomed applications? That was my feeling, back my business produced it latest bearing of programming tools.

Fortunately for me, the Windows API has continued accustomed third-party additions to the operating system, decidedly OpenGL. Now OpenGL is advised anachronistic back it comes to Metro. Fortunately for now, Windows 8 (with the appropriate drivers) still supports OpenGL on the alleged bequest desktop. Because OpenGL has the adeptness to be acclimated in assorted adolescent windows (controls) at the aforementioned time in the aforementioned application, it is actually accustomed for me to appetite to architecture a custom ascendancy that uses OpenGL for 3D. I am not talking about a full-size distinct window OpenGL application. I am talking about a absolute custom ascendancy that provides OpenGL. I can actualize a anatomy and afresh add assorted 3D controls area anytime I charge them. I alike wrote my own proprietary 3D OpenGL based scripting accent for the ascendancy and all appliance the Windows API and OpenGL API’s.

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But that isn’t all! Already again, I acclimated the amalgam approach. DirectX is all or nothing, but not so with OpenGL (which is why I acclimated it). The custom ascendancy I advised is a hybrid. It combines the GDI (and alike my 2D proprietary sprite engine) with OpenGL 3D. Now that is not the accepted admission to 3D, but yet it works great, so why not? Why not a absolute 3D ascendancy which you can bung into a accustomed Desktop application?

So whether it is 3D, action or artlessly acceptable business graphics, the adeptness has been with us all along. Yes, the so alleged bequest desktop (WIN32) has consistently had the adeptness to affect us. Don’t accept it? Aloof for fun I installed a software OpenGL disciplinarian for the aboriginal Windows 95 and assumption what? Yes, my little old custom 3D OpenGL ascendancy works altogether on an age-old Windows 95 computer (albeit a little slowly). It additionally works actual able-bodied on the Windows 8 customer examination too.

All Is Not Lost!

Despite all the negativity, Metro is not the abortion abounding would accept us believe. It is article new and different, which in time will accessible up added possibilities, abnormally on book PC’s. Additionally Microsoft was acute to leave us the desktop ancillary of Windows, too, back it still is actual important.

In reality, the botheration is that Metro and the desktop are added like an “odd couple”, with little in common. But like any acceptable adept marriage, the ally over time charge to bigger alloy together. The added abstracted they become, afresh the added acceptable they will annulment and we all apperceive which one will ache the best — the desktop!

Maybe there is still achievement for this absurd marriage. Maybe the two can bigger acknowledge the added and by the time Windows 8 is released, the two will become one. Thats my hope. Call me an optimist.

Photo Credits: StudioSmart/Shutterstock (top); Microsoft (others)

Chris Boss is an advanced Windows API programmer and developer of 10 year-old EZGUI, which is now adaptation 5. He owns The Computer Workshop, which opened for businesses in the backward 1980s. He originally developed custom software for bounded businesses. Now he develops programming accoutrement for use with the PowerBasic compiler.

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