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Beth Massi is a Senior Program Manager on the Visual Studio team at Microsoft and a community champion for .NET developers. Learn more about Beth.
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Often times in business applications we have a lot of information to present on a screen, and depending on the user’s screen resolution that information may scroll off the page. Visual Studio LightSwitch’s screen templates are set to automatically apply a vertical scrollbar to screens when this happens, however, sometimes we rather allow the user to resize sections of the screen how they see fit. It’s common in screen design to use splitter controls to do this. Splitters are a useful UI feature where the width or height of a control on the screen can be modified to show more or less information. In this post I’ll show you how you can enable splitter controls to appear in LightSwitch as well as control how scrollbars behave.
First create a screen with all the information you want to display. For this example I will use the ContactDetails screens we created in the Address Book Sample. In this example, Contacts have many Addresses, PhoneNumbers and EmailAddresses. By default, LightSwitch will place the Contact fields at the top of the screen with a Tab Control of three DataGrids representing the children.
Here is what the screen looks like:
And here is the content tree for the screen:
Imagine that over time our contacts get more and more email addresses, phone numbers, and/or addresses. If the user’s screen resolution is low (or the size of the application shell is not maximized) then LightSwitch will place a vertical scrollbar on the screen by default (I added the green box for clarity ;-))
This is controlled by selecting the topmost Rows Layout and under the Appearance properties you will see “Vertical Scroll Enabled” checked. Notice there is also a “Horizontal Scroll Enabled” property you can use to enable horizontal scrollbars when needed. All group controls in LightSwitch have these properties (i.e. Rows Layout, Columns Layout, Table Layout)
Leaving this checked however, means that the user cannot see all the email addresses and the First & Last name fields at the same time. There are a couple things we can do here. One is we can disable vertical scroll of the screen. Once we do that LightSwitch will automatically place the scrollbar into the grid itself instead.
But what if we aren’t using a DataGrid (or list control) below the list of fields? Or what if we want the user to choose how many rows they need to view at a time? In those cases, we can allow the user to resize the panels of information using a splitter.
In order to provide this functionality, we can place a splitter between the list of fields at the top and the tab control below. While the application is running in debug mode, click the “Design Screen” at the top-right of the shell to open Customization Mode. Select the nested Rows Layout control for Contact and under the sizing properties you will see a check box “Is Row Resizable”.
Check that and then click Save to save your changes. You will now see a splitter control that you can use to resize the top and bottom panels.
In this case you probably also want to set a minimum and maximum height of this Rows Layout panel so that the user doesn’t use the splitter to wipe the grid completely off the screen. Right now if you take and drag the splitter off the screen, the grid will completely disappear. In order to stop this, you can set the MinHeight and MaxHeight properties. You can enable a scroll bar to appear in the top panel when needed by checking “Vertical Scroll Enabled” as well.
You can also add vertical splitters in a similar way. Instead of displaying DataGrids in separate tabs, say we want to display them side-by-side. Open customization mode again and change the Tabs Layout to a Columns Layout.
Then select each DataGrid and in the Sizing properties, check “Is Column Resizable”.
Now you can resize all of the columns containing the DataGrids. The DataGrids will automatically put a horizontal scrollbar at the bottom so users can see all the fields as necessary.
Splitters and scrollbars really start helping you out when you have sections of information and/or commands that you want to allow the user to resize. Here I modified the Contoso Construction example to allow resizing of the tab control of commands on the left and the information on the right.
There are a lot of things you can do with the LightSwitch Screen designer in order to provide completely customized layouts. Controlling scrollbars and adding splitters is just another way you can achieve what you want. For more tips and tricks on customizing screens see:
Great tips, as usual! Thanks Beth!
Always good ideas for the blog post.
Great job Beth.