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The Design Environment

But is that enough? We must create increasingly complex interfaces, and to do that we need room. VB 2005 carries forward VB 2002's revolutionary pushpin interface. Figure 7 shows some of the new controls and the pushpin in the upper-right corner.

Figure 7

Figure 7 New controls and a pushpin.

The toolbox can be used much like a vertical blind. By default it's closed, offering more space to the form. When it's time to add controls, place the mouse on the toolbox tab, and the toolbox pops out. If you wish, click the pushpin into the upright position, and the Toolbox stays open and accessible. On my new portable with its wide screen and with this feature enabled, I can create nice interfaces without remembering cryptic keyboard view shortcuts.

And it's a good thing. Remember those 18 or so stock controls and shape tools VB 6 presented? Wow, I thought, that's all I'll ever need. But it wasn't long before application interface standards made those too simplistic. With VB 2005, we have more controls by default, over 100. (I tried counting the controls and dialog boxes and other goodies, but this is a beta product, so any exact count may change.) I think it's easy to see the sophistication of Framework 2.0's interface elements. If you do buy commercial controls, it's easy to group them into families of sorts. A simple right-click, and you can insert a tab or group heading. Drag your controls into the free space, and you now have a new family of controls.

Even with so many more controls and a need for sophisticated interfaces, VB 2005 provides a way to organize those controls and quickly manage your IDE real estate to provide maximum room for the task at hand.

Another new feature is snaplines. Many of us nearly lost our eyesight trying to line up interface elements to the old grid featured in VB 6. Count the dots and maybe you'll see why the alignment looks off just a tad. VB 2005 provides a line between two controls when they're aligned perfectly, as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8

Figure 8 The thin blue (snap)line.

My students ask about enabling the grid in 2005. It's available in VB 2005, so if you want to continue to connect the dots, you can revert to your preferred way of alignment. In fact, Figure 9 shows that VB 2005 carries forward the excellent alignment standards VB 2002 started. Select several controls and the Align menu offers many choices that can make your check box array perfect.

Figure 9

Figure 9 Easy alignment options.

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