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Making the Most of Your Controls

Designing for the Pocket PC is a lesson in restraint. But that’s not a bad thing. Tab pages are supported, allowing you to insert your credits, instructions, and other stuff. Using a stylus versus a mouse lets you navigate the interface with incredible speed. And the format of the Pocket PC just begs for a minimalist approach to computing. Doctors and nurses who need to record quick status on their patients find these devices very useful. In fact, most Pocket PCs have a built-in microphone for recording audio notes, which can be bound into your applications. Try doing that with a paper form!

The purpose of most GUI controls is to allow input without a lot of writing. Do you need to input the date, in order to have a filename for the list of absent students? Don’t use a text box and risk bad input or awkward data validation. Instead, try a DateTimePicker control. Need to get a filename from the user, to know what file to open? Use an OpenFileDialog.

Most beginners use too many text boxes. Typing input is easy on a laptop. But this is a Pocket PC. Expand your knowledge of Visual Basic’s controls. Let users use those controls in addition to text boxes (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2 A simple interface.

Don’t use this example as a guide to create "the perfect interface." This one seems jumbled and disorganized. It almost demands that you reorganize it. And that’s its purpose: This demonstration application will encourage my students to fix it.

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