Developer .NET UPDATE—brought to you by SQL Server Magazine

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January 16, 2004--In this issue:

1. Developer .NET Perspectives

  • More Compact Framework Tips and Tricks

2. Announcements

  • 5 Years Worth of SQL Server Content in One Place
  • Need to Get Your Hands Wrapped Around SQL Server?

3. Resource

  • Featured Thread: Windows .NET Architecture to Port to Mac OS X

4. Event

  • New Web Seminar: Email Is a Service--Manage It Like One

5. New and Improved

  • Create Web-Based Surveys and Forms

6. Contact Us

  • See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

1. Developer .NET Perspectives

by Marquis Howard, marquish@interknowlogy.com

  • More Compact Framework Tips and Tricks
  • In the column "Compact Framework Tips and Tricks" (http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/41243/41243.html), I told you about certain UI limitations you encounter when designing Windows .NET Compact Framework applications. The primary UI limitation relates to the available display area for controls on your form. In "Compact Framework Tips and Tricks," I showed you how to work around problems associated with using the DataGrid. In this column, I show you how to work around problems associated with the TextBox control.

    If your form for a Compact Framework application requires no input from the user and basically displays data by way of a Label control, DataGrid, Combo Box control, or most any control besides a TextBox control, your main concern will be the layout of the controls. Are the controls positioned on the form in a way that makes sense? If the application has multiple forms, is the navigation consistent throughout the entire application? All these elements will measure the application's usability.

    If you need to use TextBox controls to gather input from users, you might encounter a problem that's easily overlooked. When working with a Compact Framework application, you must take into consideration the relationship between the location of the text box and how data is entered. Data entry on most handheld devices isn't typed but rather tapped in. Users use a stylus to tap a soft input panel (SIP). A SIP is basically a small onscreen keyboard that contains the same characters as a regular keyboard. When users need to enter data, they open the SIP and the SIP appears at the bottom of the screen.

    The SIP takes up about a third of the bottom of the screen. This detail is important to remember when you're laying out your TextBox controls. If you place a TextBox control toward the bottom of the screen, it might be partially or fully hidden by the SIP when it appears.

    To paint a mental picture, let's say your form needs to have eight TextBox controls with eight accompanying Label controls, with one TextBox control and one Label control per row. Using the default sizes of each control, you can place five rows of TextBox controls on a form before the SIP would hide the last three rows of TextBox controls.

    You could place five text boxes on one form and the other three text boxes on an additional form, which would force the user to go to another screen to finish entering data. Some customers might find this approach reasonable. Other customers, however, might find this approach unacceptable.

    In the latter case, one solution is to use a mechanism that prompts the form to scroll. That way, you can add as many rows of TextBox controls as needed yet always have each text box positioned above the SIP. But what if a customer doesn't want any scrolling? Don't fret--here's a solution that has worked quite well for me. From the Toolbox inside of Visual Studio .NET, place a Panel control on your form. This unseen but useful control lets you group controls together. By grouping controls into a panel, applications can hide or display the group of controls with one command.

    After you have your panel on the form, size it so that you have enough room to place the last three rows of TextBox and Label controls inside the panel's borders. Next, position the panel and its controls at the bottom portion of your form. The desired effect is to make the last three rows seem as though they're part of the form, so make sure that the three TextBox and Label controls line up with the other five TextBox and Label controls.

    The final step is to write a method that will shift the panel to a position above the SIP when the users initially tap one of the text boxes in the panel. This way, your user can see the text they're entering without having to switch to another form in the application. Here's a sample method that illustrates this technique:

    private void TextBox_GotFocus(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
    \{

    // See whether the SIP is currently visible.
    if (this.SIPcontrol == null || !this.SIPcontrol.Enabled)
    \{
    this.SIPcontrol.Enabled = true;
    \}

    // Move the panel so that the text boxes are visible.
    this.panelTextBoxes.Top = 48;
    \}

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    2. Announcements
    (brought to you by SQL Server Magazine)

  • 5 Years Worth of SQL Server Content in One Place

  • Subscribe to the SQL Server Magazine Master CD and get real-time, portable access to all articles, code, tips, tricks, and expertise published in SQL Server Magazine and T-SQL Solutions. Search by keyword, subject, author, or issue and find fast answers to your SQL Server questions. Subscribe today!

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  • Subscribe to SQL Server Magazine and get all the newest information and tools needed for SQL Server. You'll receive 12 print issues, along with full access to the entire online article archive. Bonus--you'll also get the latest Microsoft System Table Map Poster. Subscribe today!

    https://secure.pentontech.com/nt/sql/index.cfm?promocode=psep2141fd

    3. Resource

  • Featured Thread: Windows .NET Architecture to Port to Mac OS X
  • Novice forum member Paulspal reports that the Windows .NET architecture will soon be ported to Mac OS X, according to representatives at the MacWorld Conference & Expo last week. If you want to comment on this development, go to the following URL:

    http://www.winnetmag.com/forums/rd.cfm?cid=55&tid=66680

    4. Event
    (brought to you by SQL Server Magazine)

  • New Web Seminar: Email Is a Service--Manage It Like One
  • True end-to-end management of the messaging infrastructure requires an integrated, service-oriented approach. This free Web seminar introduces service-driven management and best practices for managing and monitoring the key elements crucial to ensuring email health and performance, including Exchange Server, Active Directory, network, and storage. Sign up today!

    http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars/emailservice/index.cfm?code=adzt

    5. New and Improved
    by Shauna Rumbaugh, products@sqlmag.com

  • Create Web-Based Surveys and Forms
  • Quask released FormArtist 3.0, desktop software that lets Web developers, customer relationship management (CRM) professionals, and other professionals create and publish Web- and email-based surveys, forms, e-brochures, and opinion polls. The product has a WYSIWYG interface, style sheets, and a library of data-collection objects and form-design features for creating forms easily and quickly without the need for programming. To further customize surveys and forms, developers can use the dialog-driven script manager or write JavaScript directly to interact with the form. FormArtist Presto is the most basic edition, and FormArtist Standard adds a database and lets users export data to charts and tables. FormArtist Professional and FormArtist Enterprise integrate with third-party CRM software. The enterprise edition includes advanced server-side Microsoft .NET and Microsoft SQL Server components. See the vendor's Web site for pricing information or to download a free trial version.

    http://www.quask.com

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    6. Contact Us

  • About Developer .NET Perspectives -- bills@interknowlogy.com
  • About the newsletter -- kbemowski@winnetmag.com
  • About technical questions -- http://www.sqlmag.com/forums
  • About product news -- products@sqlmag.com
  • About your subscription -- Developer_dot_NET_update@winnetmag.com
  • About sponsoring an UPDATE -- contact Kate Silvertooth (ksilvertooth@sqlmag.com)
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