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Navigating to Forms
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As soon as you have more than one form in your application, you need a way to navigate between the forms There are several common approaches for de ning how your forms work together in the user interface for your application This section looks at the most common Windows user interface conceptual designs and several techniques for implementing the code for the
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Building the User Interface Layer
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user interface It then details the code required to navigate between the forms of your application The next section details the MDI approach Even if you are not using the MDI approach for your user interface, you may want to use some of the techniques presented in that section Speci cally, you may want to implement a programmatic interface as described in the Calling a Custom Method in the Active Form section
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Selecting a User Interface Approach
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One of the key tenets of user interface design is consistency Once the users know how to access one feature of the application, they should be able to directly leverage that knowledge to access the other features of the application To promote consistency, select one primary user interface conceptual design approach for your application and use that approach throughout the application The following is an overview of the most common Windows user interface approaches
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Single Document Interface
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The Single Document Interface (SDI) approach de nes a single primary form in the application, with secondary forms used only for supplemental tasks Notepad is an example of an SDI application If you are building a text editor application, for example, you can de ne one single primary form that is the text editor Your secondary forms provide for supplemental tasks such as selecting fonts or colors These secondary forms are most often modal, allowing the user to make a selection and then immediately dismiss the form before continuing Other types of applications that bene t from an SDI approach include point of sale applications and management console applications Having one primary form in your application reduces confusion and distractions for the user SDI is great for situations where you want the user to focus on one key form
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The controller form approach de nes a primary form in the application and all the other forms are accessed from this form This is similar to the SDI approach but allows for extended functionality and modeless secondary forms
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If you are building a simple management application, such as Customer Management, you may have a grid form that lists all your customers This is the primary form in the application Double-clicking on one of the entries in the grid form displays the customer information details for review or edit Right-clicking a grid entry provides a menu to access the customer s credit information, purchase history, and so on So the primary form controls access to all the other forms in the application This approach works best in single purpose applications that don t have a large number of forms The downside of this approach is that it is easy to lose track of all the forms of the application because they are not constrained by a single workspace or container
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Multiple Document Interface
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4 BUILDING THE USER INTERFACE LAYER
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The Multiple Document Interface (MDI) approach de nes a container within which all the other features of the application are accessed The container normally includes a menu, toolbar(s), and a status bar Options on the menu and toolbar provide access to all the other forms that are displayed as independent windows within the client area of the MDI form Microsoft Excel is an example of an MDI application You can easily work with multiple spreadsheets within the Excel workspace MDI allows the user to view many different types of information as separate forms within the MDI container The user can lay out the forms, or use the MDI options to arrange the forms in a cascading fashion or tiled vertically or horizontally And minimizing the MDI container minimizes all the forms within the container, making it easy to keep track of all the forms
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NOTE: Visual Studio itself can be set to use the MDI approach (Tools | Options | Environment | General | Window Layout) When you set the Window Layout to Multiple documents the editors and designers each appear as separate forms within the Visual Studio container
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A built-in MDI Parent Form template is provided in Visual Studio to assist you with building an MDI user interface It includes the standard set of menu and toolbar options to save you the time of de ning them all manually Use the MDI approach when you have different types of information to display and you want the user to be able to view multiple types simultaneously MDI is great for multifeatured business applications, such as Purchase Tracker
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