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AutoCAD .

NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

Gopinath Taget Autodesk Inc.

CP 304-4

Good user interface design is paramount for any successful software application, and your AutoCAD .NET add-in is no exception. In this class, you will get an overview of the scale and range of Microsoft .NET WinForms features and how to use them effectively. We show you how to work with .NET WinForms, how to create custom palettes, and how to implement event handling so your interface can respond to actions initiated by the user. We also demonstrate creating reusable .NET controls that can be used easily across multiple .NET applications and in multiple scenarios.

About the Speaker:

Gopinath is a member of the Autodesk Developer Technical Services Team. He has more than 5 years of experience developing and supporting AutoCAD APIs, including ObjectARX, .NET, VBA and LISP. Gopinath also has several years of experience in software development on other CAD platforms, including Microstation, Solidworks, and CATIA -- mainly using C++ and technologies such as MFC and COM. Gopinath was also involved in the development of Web-based applications for MapGuide and AutoCAD Map. Gopinath has Masters Degrees in Civil Engineering and Software Systems. Email:

CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface

Welcome to the class AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface. In this class, we will discuss the usage of the .NET User Interface API called Windows Forms (or WinForms) in an AutoCAD .NET application. The following topics will be covered: 1) The .NET UI elements like controls (buttons, edit boxes, lists etc) and containers (Forms, UserControl). 2) The Usage of .NET WinForms in an AutoCAD .NET application and issues specific to AutoCAD: a. b. c. d. Displaying Modal and Modeless Forms in AutoCAD Interaction between Forms and AutoCAD editor and command line. Integrating with AutoCAD Palettes Integrating with other AutoCAD user elements like Options dialog and the tray

3) Exposing .NET UI to older API technologies like VBA, ObjectARX and Lisp

This class is for developers who are between beginners and intermediate levels and have played around a little with generic .NET programming. We also assume a certain level of comfort with the .NET framework architecture (though we cover the basic premise and theory of the .NET framework in some detail in this handout). This class does not assume that the attendees are experts on .NET programming though. If youve never programmed before or used non-.NET based legacy APIs, then youre probably better signing up for a hands on class to get you started. Also there are other AutoCAD .NET sessions during the week at AU. Attending one or all of these classes will help you understand the content of this session. CP318-3L Hands-On Introduction to C# .NET CP308-3 An Introduction to VB.NET CP214-4 AutoCAD .NET: Using .NET with your LISP Applications CP114-3L Going From VBA to VB.NET in 90 Minutes You can also download the AutoCAD .NET training from the link below. Lab one in this training will show you how to create a .NET project for AutoCAD: 2

CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

Some of the other classes at AU that you may find useful (though these are not beginner level classes): CP222-4 Maximize the .NET in AutoCAD .NET CP204-2 API for CUIx files and the Runtime Ribbon in AutoCAD CP114-5 AutoCAD .NET: UI Design featuring WPF, Part 1 CP118-2 AutoCAD .NET: UI Design Featuring WPF, Part 2 CP208-1 AutoCAD .NET: Developing for AutoCAD Using IronPython and IronRuby

What this handout covers

This handout talks about a lot more than what is really covered in the AU class. The purpose of the handout is to give a theoretical background of the .NET architecture and how it applies to the AutoCAD programming environment. We set out by discussing the evolution of .NET and why it was designed the way it is. We then move on to discuss the various advantages and features of .NET programming and those that will specifically help with .NET programming on AutoCAD. Finally we talk about the design considerations of the AutoCAD .NET UI API and finish off with some discussion on AutoCAD UI API features (which is the real focus of the class at AU). This handout should therefore be treated as supplemental material to the AU class. The more focused material for the class (the PowerPoint presentations and the samples) will also be made available on the AU website in due course.

The .NET Framework

Programming in any technology is not an easy job. Every new technology that arrives on the scene tries to solve issues that served as road blocks in preceding technologies and provide new features in tune with the better hardware that we have. We saw this with the emergence of COM, MFC and VB 5/6 and ATL (VB and ATL are technologies based on COM). Each of these technologies evolved to solve a particular need that other technologies could not solve at all or solved only to a limited extent. For instance, MFC (Microsoft Foundation Classes) provided an Object-Oriented framework for Windows programming that Win32 API (MFCs precursor) could not provide. COM (Component Object Model) provided a programming infrastructure for easy version management and deployment of our application components. VB 6 (Visual Basic 6) provided programming environment for rapid application development. Many other smaller technologies too evolved around these technologies such as DCOM (Distributed COM), ATL (Active Template Library, a C++ based COM infrastructure) and WTL (Windows Template Library, a light-weight alternative for MFC) to solve specific problems that the general technology could not solve. 3

CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

However, as most of these technologies evolved, the technology architects realized that they could only go so far. The MFC framework was becoming too large, complex and unwieldy. Further, the problems that plague generic C++ (e.g. pointers, memory management) were also plaguing MFC. COM was not faring much better either. COM depended on the concept of interfaces which is like a contract between a COM application (called the COM server) and the COM client application that uses the COM server. The problem was this contract or interface was defined at a very low, binary level. There was too much dependence on how the functions were arranged in an interface and their location/address in memory. This made the COM system very sensitive to any changes (even subtle changes) to the interface and made COM Server very flakey and frustrating to use. Crashes would occur for no apparent reason and would be very difficult to diagnose. Further, the two offshoots of the COM architecture (ATL and VB 5/6) did not work as well with each other as one hoped. A complex component created in ATL was not very easy to use in VB and vice-versa. The .NET framework evolved to solve all the issues plaguing these technologies (memory management, complexity, binary dependency of the interfaces and more). This was done by building the technology from ground up without any explicit dependence on the predecessor technologies. The whole of .NET architecture revolves around two fundamental concepts: 1) The virtual machine 2) Application Metadata

The Virtual Machine

A virtual machine in a very simplified sense is a simulator for an operating system. To understand a virtual machine, we need to understand how a normal (non-.NET) application works. When you launch the Word application (which is not a .NET based application) for instance, the operating system performs several operations directly on the application (load the application into memory, call its entry point function and so on). i.e., the interaction between the application and the operating system (OS) is direct with the OS managing the application directly and the application calling directly into the OS for its services. While this can be a big plus in terms of performance and control over what the application does, it can cause havoc with the application (and in some cases with the OS) if the application is written badly. A virtual machine solves this problem. The purpose of the virtual machine is to serve as the layer between an application and the operating system and provide services to the application similar to what the OS would. This has many advantages: 1) The application does not have direct access to the OS services and hence is less likely to corrupt the system 4

CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

2) The virtual machine can provide a lot more in terms of services than the OS does 3) The virtual machine can enforce a comprehensive standard for data types and data exchange irrespective of the hardware. This is particularly helpful because: a. An application that targets the virtual machine can run on any platform that has the virtual machine b. An application that targets with the virtual machine can interoperate with any application that targets the virtual machine. The virtual machine is not a new concept however. It has a proven record by technology predecessors like VB 6 and Suns Java1 technology as a highly productive way to develop software. The core portions of.NET called the Common Language Infrastructure are standardized2.

Application Metadata:
The application metadata in a simplified sense can be considered as the replacement for the binary contract of the COM interface. The metadata in .NET is a machine readable, high level description of all the classes, methods and data defined in a .NET application. This description is not dependent on the binary layout of the .NET classes and interfaces and hence is not limited by the problems that plagued COM. Further, the .NET framework specification (that encompasses metadata specification) has made the metadata specification as comprehensive as possible. Finally, the Metadata for a .NET application module is embedded in the module itself in a separate section of the module. So every .NET module is a combination of code, data and metadata descriptions of the code and data. This concept of metadata has revolutionized programming as it allows: 1) Easy and dependable description of .NET application interfaces 2) Every .NET application (or its modules) can be reliably interrogated for all the classes, methods and interfaces it exposes 3) Allows .NET to provide advanced services like: a. Dynamic generation of code just based on the metadata description b. Allow application to add rich, customized descriptions to the application classes and methods (we will see examples of this in its usage in AutoCAD) These advantages combined with that of the virtual machine makes the .NET framework a truly worthy successor to COM and MFC. Today, the .NET programming environment is the
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CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

preferred development environment of the newer3 Windows platforms. Moreover, in addition to its commercial implementation, Microsoft offers a shared source code version of .NET called Rotor4 for the FreeBSD operating system. There are also 3rd party initiatives (Mono5 and DotGNU6) under way to port .NET for Linux. From the point of view of an AutoCAD developer, .NET offers the following opportunities: 1. Decrease the development cost 2. Increase the quality of new AutoCAD features 3. Provide a unified API environment for developers at all skill levels. We will discuss these opportunities in greater detail in the AU class. In the next section we dig a little deeper into the advantages the.NET architecture provided and how it can be harnessed for AutoCAD programming.

The .NET Advantage

The .NET architecture was designed from the ground up with a strong emphasis on scalability. Scalability depends on reusability, encapsulation and extensibility - all the attributes associated with Object Oriented Design. So, all the languages that support or are supported by the .NET architecture are highly Object Oriented by default. In fact, Microsoft has gone so far as to add new language constructs to C++ and the old VB 6 language for it to be fully compliant with the .NET design philosophy. The .NET Windows Forms (or WinForms for short), a component of the .NET architecture, conform to all these attributes. The WinForms API is built from the ground-up, is highly objectoriented and scalable. There are several reasons why one may want to choose WinForms over other UI technologies on Windows such as Win32, MFC or VB 6 (One can find a lot more information on the internet regarding this7): 1. Direct access to the huge number APIs implemented as a part of the .NET API, such as the database access APIs (ADO .NET), XML APIs and the multi-media APIs. 2. Rich choice of languages to implement ones functionality (C#, VB .NET, C++, etc.). This allows for a gentler and quicker learning curve. 3. A very rich choice of visual controls and types (See Appendix A). 4. Robust memory management system that includes an asynchronous garbage collector. 5. Minimal code migration effort and dependence on compilers. For instance, the same .NET DLL should work without recompile for both 32 bit and 64 bit platforms. 6. Uniform error handling mechanism enforced across the supported languages.

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CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

7. Window definitions (including that of its children) are provided as a class definition and not in a resource file. 8. User interaction happens through events which depend on a robust paradigm called delegates. 9. Integration of the UI for desktop and web based components of an application. This helps applications evolve a uniform look and feel for desktop clients as well as web clients. As one can see, many of the .NET features listed above help in quickly developing robust and maintainable applications and these features by themselves are reason a plenty to move towards .NET platforms for many developers among us. However, the most significant feature from the perspective of development on AutoCAD (and arguably the most relevant for many AutoCAD developers) is the incredibly powerful, rich and easy-to-use Interoperability Infrastructure of .NET. The .NET interoperability infrastructure allows .NET application to communicate with and use unmanaged applications (Unmanaged applications are non-.NET based applications) and APIs like Win32, MFC and ARX applications, COM based applications and APIs like VB 6 and ATL applications. These is particularly relevant to existing AutoCAD API users because, more often than not, these developers develop (or have developed) and maintain applications on top of AutoCAD that use legacy AutoCAD based APIs like Lisp, ActiveX/COM and ObjectARX. These applications have been developed over a number of years representing intellectual property and run into thousands (in some cases millions) of lines of code. Migrating all of this to .NET is not easy to say the least and could mean months if not years of effort. In some cases, it may be impossible to migrate applications completely to .NET. The most optimal solution in such cases is to have a maintainable balance between .NET and the legacy APIs. The .NET interoperability infrastructure is the answer to all the above scenarios. The interoperability infrastructure provides powerful technologies that allow seamless communication between ARX<->.NET and ActiveX<->.NET (As a side note, I highly recommend the excellent class CP214-4 AutoCAD .NET: Using .NET with your LISP Applications for developers with legacy lisp code). These technologies are described briefly in the following section .NET Interoperability. Finally, in the context of UI development, it is interesting to note that Winforms API is built on top of the Microsoft Win32 API. .NET UI components are therefore highly inter-operable with legacy applications that used Win32 or MFC (which is also based on Win32 API). This is very important from AutoCADs point of view since AutoCAD is primarily an MFC application and a reliable technology for interoperability between the MFC code and the .NET code would go a long way in allowing seamless integration of the .NET API into the AutoCAD framework. In summary, the .NET API framework provides a number of powerful features like complete Object-Orientation, vast API repository for different purposes, automatic memory management and robust error management. Combine this with the powerful Interoperability infrastructure and the affinity of the WinForms APIs to with 32 APIs, and we have a very sweet deal indeed! 7

CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

In the following section, we very briefly touch upon the various interoperability technologies as a detailed description is not within the scope of this document. Readers are encouraged to research on the web for more information on these technologies.

.NET Interoperability
There are a few of approaches that one can adopt to establish communication between .NET API and native applications like Win32, MFC or COM (Please check the internet articles Microsoft HowTos QuickStarts Tutorial8, and Mixed (Native and Managed) Assemblies9 for more information):

COM Interoperability
COM interoperability provides support for producing and consuming COM objects from managed code. .NET Objects that are intended to be consumed by COM applications must be designed with interoperability in mind right from the start. Before a type can be consumed by a COM application, the type must meet the following requirements.

The managed (.NET) type (class, interface, struct or enum) must be public. It is strongly recommended that the class explicitly implement an interface, instead of exposing a class directly which contains all of the members of the class and all the members of its base classes. The members of the type that are being accessed from COM must be public, non-static instance members. Private, protected, internal, and static members are not accessible. If you need to instantiate the type from COM, it must have a public, default (parameter less) constructor.

COM interoperability also provides mechanisms that make it possible to use native COM objects (created in say VB 6 or ATL) from .NET code as well. This typically manifests itself as a .NET application using an ActiveX control created using either VB 6 or C++ (ATL/MFC). Most of the time, it is just a case of dragging and dropping the ActiveX component on to the .NET Form and the .NET infrastructure takes care of the gory details of wrapping the ActiveX component up behind-the-scenes so a .NET application can consume it.

Platform Invoke
The platform invoke service (also called P/Invoke or simply PInvoke) makes it possible to call functions that are exported from an unmanaged/C++ application. Using platform invoke is similar to calling the LoadLibrary and GetProcAddress Win32 API functions in C++, which call into an exported function. It is also similar to using a Declare statement in Visual Basic to declare and call Win32 functions. Each unmanaged function being called must have a corresponding managed method declaration in the .NET application. The method declaration can be provided as part of any
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CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

class and is attributed with the DllImport attribute in C# or VB.NET to indicate that the method is implemented in unmanaged code.

Mixed-Managed Applications
Mixed assemblies (an assembly is a self-contained .NET application or library) are C++ applications that are capable of containing both unmanaged (non .NET) code and MSIL (.NET) code. It is important to note here that C++ is the only language environment that is capable of doing this (containing .NET as well as non-.NET code). This capability allows the mixed assemblies to call and be called by other .NET components (pure or mixed), while retaining compatibility with components that are entirely unmanaged. Using mixed assemblies, developers can author applications using a mixture of managed and unmanaged functionality. This makes mixed assemblies ideal for migrating existing Visual C++ applications to the .NET Platform. For example, an existing application (say an MFC or ARX application) consisting entirely of unmanaged functions can be brought to the .NET platform by recompiling just one module with the /clr compiler switch. This module is then able to use .NET features, but remains compatible with the remainder of the application. In this way, an application can be converted to the .NET platform in a gradual, piece-by-piece fashion. It is even possible to decide between managed and unmanaged compilation on a function-by-function basis within the same source file in an application. Please lookup the MSDN topic An Overview of Managed/Unmanaged Code Interoperability10 for more information. As a side note, there are a couple of interesting approaches that demonstrate a Win32-like architecture for .NET UI applications (Explained in the following articles: NET Makes Window Subclassing Easy - Tap into Windows OS messages11 and How to subclass windows in Windows Forms by using Visual C++ .NET or Visual C++ 200512). Given the ease with which one can mix native (unmanaged) and managed (.NET) code in a mixed managed application, the AutoCAD engineering team adopted this approach (using Mixed-Managed Components) to make the power of AutoCAD available via the .NET API. This is manifested by the fact that most of the AutoCAD .NET API classes and methods are just thin wrappers (implemented as mixed managed .NET libraries like acmgd.dll and acdbmgd.dll) over existing ObjectARX API classes and methods. Now that we have a good idea of the .NET framework and its potential as a good application development platform for AutoCAD, we will move on to discuss the AutoCAD .NET UI API. Specifically, we discuss of why the AutoCAD .NET UI API was designed the way it is and specifics of the UI API Architecture.

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Significant effort was expended by the AutoCAD engineering team in implementing the under the hood tie-in between the .NET platform and AutoCAD (though, the .NET framework makes it very seamless). AutoCAD 2005 first integrated the .NET Framework and exposed a limited .NET API that covers the ObjectDBX functionality (functionality related to DWG drawing/database access). AutoCAD 2006 expanded on this.NET API and added coverage for application-level functionality in AutoCAD and some less-used ObjectDBX functionality that was not exposed for AutoCAD 2005. Most of the AutoCAD .NET API types (classes) are implemented as thin wrappers over existing C++ (ObjectARX) classes. The .NET wrappers are implemented in Managed C++. As already discussed, managed C++ is an extension to the Standard C++ language with full support for the .NET Framework. The advantage of using Managed C++ over other .NET languages is that it affords seamless interoperability with unmanaged C++ code (in a mixed managed assembly). Marshalling .NET managed data types to unmanaged C++ types is handled by the compiler. The resulting wrapping code is deceptively simple.

AutoCAD .NET UI Design Considerations

One of the main concerns of the core AutoCAD engineering team designing the AutoCAD .NET API was that frameworks and technologies to create user interfaces change every few years. Therefore, it was not deemed appropriate to build a comprehensive UI framework based on any of the currently popular technologies. The emphasis was on providing APIs that make sure internal and 3rd party developers can use .NET technologies easily to create user interfaces that look similar to AutoCADs own and blend well with the existing UI. The AutoCAD COM API and the .NET CUI API already provide classes to create menus and toolbars that look exactly the same as that of AutoCADs. For other kinds of the UI where C++ developers would use the ObjectARX AdUi/AcUi classes, the following API functionalities were considered: 1. Common UI elements: a. Common dialogs: file, color, linetype, plotstyle, lineweight, textstyle, etc. b. Common icons: upper-left icon for dialogs, pick point, pick entity icons 2. Support UI extension by WinForms: a. Allow WinForm user control in Palettes b. Allow WinForm user control in extensible tabbed dialogs (E.g.: Options Dialog) c. Wrap Status Bar API and expose it to .NET clients


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

The majority of UI elements that the AutoCAD .NET API provides can be found under the Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows namespace. We will discuss below some of the important APIs for AutoCAD specific .NET forms implementation.

Displaying .NET Dialogs

To implement custom .NET forms in AutoCAD, applications can extend the .NET System.Windows.Forms classes directly just as in any typical .NET application. Also typically, a .NET developer would use a method like Form.ShowDialog to display the Form. However, it is strongly advised that developers do not attempt to display .NET forms in AutoCAD using generic .NET APIs (such as Form.ShowDialog) directly. They should instead use the Autodesk.AutoCAD.ApplicationServices.Application.ShowModalDialog and ShowModelessDialog methods to display their custom forms. Using Form.ShowDialog in an AutoCAD extension application may result in unexpected behavior. Here are a few specific reasons for using ShowModalDialog and ShowModelessDialog methods: 1. One can automatically persist the position and size of .NET dialogs invoked with the ShowModalDialog() and ShowModelessDialog() methods 2. These methods provide support for globalization 3. They automatically set up the Dialog UI properly with the AutoCAD icon. 4. Not using these methods have been known to cause problems with enabling/disabling dialogs 5. The .NET application may not behave as desired especially when used in conjunction with VBA Typical usage of these methods:

Autodesk.AutoCAD.ApplicationServices.Application.ShowModalDialog(null, myForm, false);

Hiding Modal Forms during User Interaction

This is a unique requirement that AutoCAD based developers face very often. The scenario: A modal form is displayed with some information about ones application. A modal form as many are aware does not allow user interaction with the AutoCAD editor as long as it is displayed. The modal form has to be closed before the control returns to the AutoCAD editor. This however is not always possible; we may want to temporarily access the AutoCAD editor (to say pick a point or select an entity) and return back to our Modal form to continue with our applications workflow.


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

A developer who has developed a generic .NET application before may be tempted to just hide the .NET form and restore it when we are done with the AutoCAD editor. This however causes a set of problems subtle enough to escape even the most experienced developers at first glance. For instance, a developer who hides the form also has to make sure, the AutoCAD editor is activated and the focus is set to it. That means extra code. However this is a very small problem compared to the real issue. Because of the way AutoCAD is architected, one has to be very careful about how AutoCAD switches between UI elements and how code that access AutoCAD resources (like the editor and entities) from a UI element does it. Not doing it right could mean an AutoCAD crash (we have seen that before!) with no clue as to what caused it. The AutoCAD .NET API makes it very simple and easy to implement user interaction without the need to worry about these issues. Specifically, the AutoCAD .NET class EditorUserInteraction helps us in wrapping up all the functionality that one needs to perform safe switching between a modal form and the AutoCAD editor. The typical usage of this code would look like this:
using (EditorUserInteraction edUsrInt = ed.StartUserInteraction(this)) { // Code to add a couple of entities to AutoCAD PromptPointOptions prPtOpts = new PromptPointOptions("\nPlease select a point to place the ellipse:"); PromptPointResult prPtRes = ed.GetPoint(prPtOpts); Utilities.AddEllipse(prPtRes.Value); prPtOpts.Message = "\nPlease select a point to place the circle:"; prPtRes = ed.GetPoint(prPtOpts); Utilities.AddCircle(prPtRes.Value); ed.WriteMessage("\nAdded an Entity"); edUsrInt.End(); // End the UserInteraction. this.Focus(); }

The object ed represents the AutoCAD editor.

Using .NET User Controls with AutoCAD .NET API

.NET User Controls (represented by the UserControl class) are extraordinarily useful UI elements to the AutoCAD .NET UI developer. They are essentially similar to .NET Forms in that they serve as containers for other controls. However they cannot be displayed directly like a Form. They themselves need to be contained within other regular containers like Forms and AutoCAD .NET Palettes. VB 6 and ATL developers can think of user controls are a throwback to ActiveX controls that one could define in VB 6 and in C++ using ATL/COM. In fact, this analogy is deeper than one may imagine. User Controls can be exposed as ActiveX controls to clients that consume COM based controls. That means, a VB 6 or VBA or even an ObjectARX


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

application can use the .NET User Control as an ActiveX control. As you may have guessed already, this is achieved using the .NET COM Interop infrastructure. Now for the official explanation: According to MSDN, the UserControl (Fully Qualified name: System.Windows.Forms.UserControl) gives one the ability to create controls that can be used in multiple places within an application or organization. One can include all the code needed for validation of common data you ask the user to input. Some examples of this are e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and postal codes. Another efficient use of the user control is to simply preload a ComboBox or ListBox with static items you commonly use in almost every application; some examples of this are countries/regions, cities, states, and office locations. The following sections discuss a couple of scenarios where UserControls can be used within an AutoCAD .NET application.

Creating Custom palettes

One can use custom user controls created in .NET to create custom Palette Sets in AutoCAD. Here is a code snippet from the ObjectARX SDK sample samples\dotNet\DockingPalette:
ps = new Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSet("Test Palette Set",new Guid("63B8DB5B-10E44924-B8A2-A9CF9158E4F6")); ps.Load+=new Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PalettePersistEventHandler(ps_Load); ps.Save+=new Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PalettePersistEventHandler(ps_Save); ps.Style = Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSetStyles.NameEditable | Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSetStyles.ShowPropertiesMenu | Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSetStyles.ShowAutoHideButton | Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSetStyles.ShowCloseButton; ps.MinimumSize = new System.Drawing.Size(300,300); ps.Add("Test Palette 1", new TestControl());

Where TestControl is the user control in the code segment above. Some of the classes associated with palette sets are:
Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.Palette Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSet Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.StateEventIndex Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSetStyles Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.DockSides Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaletteSetTitleBarLocation

Adding Custom tabs to the AutoCAD Options dialog

One can add custom user controls created in .NET as custom tabs in the AutoCAD options dialog. To display a custom tab dialog in the .NET API, there are two steps. The first step is to


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

subscribe to notifications for when the options dialog is launched by passing the address of a member function to be called. Something like this:
public static void AddTabDialog() { Autodesk.AutoCAD.ApplicationServices.Application.DisplayingOptionDialog += new TabbedDialogEventHandler(TabHandler); }

The second step is to implement the callback function; the second argument passed into the callback is a TabbedDialogEventArgs object which we must use to call its AddTab member. AddTab takes a title string, and an instance of a TabbedDialogExtension object, which wraps our form. Within the constructor of TabbedDialogExtension, we pass a new instance of our form, and callback addresses for callbacks to handle OnOK, OnCancel or OnHelp. Here is the code snippet that demonstrates this:
private static void TabHandler(object sender, Autodesk.AutoCAD.ApplicationServices.TabbedDialogEventArgs e) { EmployeeOptions EmployeeOptionsPage = new EmployeeOptions(); e.AddTab("Acme Employee Options", new TabbedDialogExtension( EmployeeOptionsPage, new TabbedDialogAction(EmployeeOptionsPage.OnOk))); }

Where EmployeeOptions type is the user control in the code segment above. The examples above are just two of many other uses of the UserControl. Other uses of a user control include adding it to a .NET form and exposing as an ActiveX control. We will be discussing these scenarios in detail during the actual session at AU. In the following sections, we will be discussing some UI classes that the AutoCAD .NET API provides for free and serve purposes specific to the AutoCAD UI.

Predefined Utility Dialogs

Some classes in the Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows namespace provide access to AutoCAD feature dialog boxes, such as Linetype and Color. These classes provide a ShowDialog method that displays the form. When using these classes, an application automatically gains persistence for its dialog box size and position settings. Here is a list of commonly used utility dialogs:
Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.OpenFileDialog Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.SaveFileDialog


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.ColorDialog Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.LinetypeDialog Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.LineWeightDialog Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PlotStyleDialog

Typical usage of a utility dialog:

[CommandMethod("TestColorDlg")] public void TestColorDlgMethod() { ColorDialog cd = new ColorDialog(); cd.SetDialogTabs(ColorDialog.ColorTabs.ACITab | ColorDialog.ColorTabs.TrueColorTab | ColorDialog.ColorTabs.ColorBookTab); cd.IncludeByBlockByLayer =true; cd.Color =null; cd.ShowDialog(); }

Status Bar Customization

The AutoCAD .NET API provides a number of useful types and methods to query and customize the AutoCAD application status bar. Here are the types associated with this functionality:
Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.StatusBar Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.StatusBarItem Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.Pane Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaneCollection Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.TrayItem Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.TrayItemCollection Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.TrayItemBubbleWindow Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.DefaultPane Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.PaneStyles Autodesk.AutoCAD.Windows.TrayItemBubbleWindowCloseReason

And here is a typical usage scenario:

static TrayItem oneNewTi = null; /// [CommandMethod("MyTray")] public void TrayTest() { StatusBar sb = Application.StatusBar; TrayItemCollection tis = sb.TrayItems;


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

TrayItem oneTi = null; foreach (TrayItem ti in tis) { Application.DocumentManager.MdiActiveDocument.Editor.WriteMessage("Tray -- {0}\n", ti.ToolTipText); oneTi = ti; } if (oneTi != null && oneNewTi == null) { oneNewTi = new TrayItem(); oneNewTi.Visible = true; oneNewTi.Icon = oneTi.Icon; oneNewTi.ToolTipText = "copy of " + oneTi.ToolTipText; tis.Add(oneNewTi); oneNewTi.MouseDown += new StatusBarMouseDownEventHandler(trayMouseDown); } TrayItemBubbleWindow bubble = new TrayItemBubbleWindow(); bubble.Text = "My Bubble Text"; bubble.Title = "My Bubble Title"; bubble.HyperLink =; bubble.HyperText = "Very Cool site"; oneNewTi.ShowBubbleWindow(bubble); bubble.Closed += new TrayItemBubbleWindowClosedEventHandler(bubbleClosed); } static void trayMouseDown(Object o, StatusBarMouseDownEventArgs e) { TrayItem ti = (TrayItem) o; Application.DocumentManager.MdiActiveDocument.Editor.WriteMessage("Tray on Click-- {0}\n", ti.ToolTipText); ti.CloseBubbleWindows(); }

What we have covered in this document is a brief overview of the very rich capabilities of the AutoCAD .NET API that allow you in integrating your application UI with AutoCAD. We will be discussing these capabilities (and more like customizing context menus and creating tool palettes) in depth during the presentation. See you there!

Further reading
Here are a few places you can go to for more information on the AutoCAD .NET API:


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms - for a general overview of the AutoCAD APIs and publicly available resources. - if youre interested in attending classroom training delivered by the Autodesk Developer network team. - to find out how becoming a member of the Autodesk Developer Network can help your application development efforts, including our members-only knowledgebase and unlimited technical support. to download the ObjectARX SDK, this includes AutoCAD .NET API documentation and samples. Kean Walmsleys blog focusing primarily on AutodCAD APIs. Kean is senior manager of the global Autodesk Developer Technical Services team. the Autodesk public discussion group for the AutoCAD .NET API. Watch out for our regular ADN DevLab events. DevLab is a programmers workshop (free to ADN and non-ADN members) where you can come and discuss your AutoCAD programming problems with the ADN DevTech team.


CP304-4 AutoCAD .NET: Developing a User Interface Using WinForms

Appendix A: Windows Forms Component Hierarchy (MSDN: