Sie sind auf Seite 1von 470

Programmer's Guide

Programming System for Windows ™

Microsoft Corporation
Information in this document is subject to change without notice and <loes not represent a commitment
on the part of Microsoft Corporation. The software described in this document is furnished under a
license agreement or nondisclosure agreement. The software may be used or copied only in accordance
with the terms of the agreement. It is against the law to copy the software on any medium except as
specifically allowed in the license or nondisclosure agreement. No part of this manual may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying and recording, for any purpose without the express written permission of Microsoft

© 1991 Microsoft Corporation. Ali rights reserved .

Portions of this product were developed for Microsoft by Cooper Software, inc.

Except as otherwise noted, compariies, names, and data used in examples, sample output, and screen
shots are fictitious and are used solely to illustrate potential uses of this Microsoft product.

Microsoft, MS, MS-DOS , the Microsoft logo, PowerPoint, CodeYiew, and GW-BASIC are registered
trademarks and Microsoft QuickBasic, Visual Basic, and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft
Corporati on. OS/2 and Operating System/2 are reg istered trade marks and Presentation M anage r is a
trademark licensed to Microsoft Corporation .
IBM and PS/2 are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation .

Microsoft documentation uses the term "OS/2" to refer to the OS/2 systems - Microsoft& Operating
System/2@(MS@OS/2@) and IBM@OS/2®. The term "DOS" refers to the Microsoft@MS -DOS@and
IBM@Personal Computer DOS operating systems. The name of a specific operating system is used
when it is necessary to note features that are uniqu e to that system .

Thi s manu al was produced using Microsoft Word.

Doc umc nt I umber DB 129 7--1 -04 1 1

Print cct in l rcland : en

MicrosoftVisual Basic..

. Mi cro s oft Vi sun l Ba s te d es 1 ni

f il e !; d,t (; od e 8 un 't{,ndow t!e lp - --
1 as k H ame

jButl o nH~w j! j P1oc: jc1,ck
• [xec ut ed t,h e never ""Hpw•· bu t ton is c li c ked

S ub Outto nHr1>1_ C J i ck ( )
Di fll l as k As l a s k l y p e. HeuHame As St d ng
HP"1Ha - 1 as k HaJne . r e x l

· S hot-J ano l1 1e 1· 1 o n 11
St- l ec t Ca s l' r 1· i o ri ty
Ca se H I Cll
H i Pt· i o,· i ' y - S h o,,,
Case ll[0 I Ul-1
1-IPdP d o t"i ty. Shou
Ca s r L Oll "'"'"''
•. ~· A• ,oon a s po u 1blc • l li!Jt,

-~ Oate · !-t ed,um

-r~,d~ ~u sl 1~ [IJ 1
,._ ~' ,t J , ... { • : ~• • • :•. ••• • ,,.. ~ ~ •,._-• ', 1 -'1'••, ·1 ,,.rff-' ~- •lo' ,'}~~ ~-,TT .. ~~ •~ . , ,~Mf ~ .~..l ~ "" ,., ~- -;-. -;:-• •-~~


. ~


Document Conventions x111

Part 1 Getting Started

Chapter 1 What Is Visual Basic? 3
What You Should Know F irst 4
Vi sual Bas ic and Its Environme nt 4
M eeting the Challe nge o f Graphi cal A ppl ications 6
Wh at Can You Crea te? 9
The Vi sual Basic Doc um e nta ti o n Set I O
Wh at to Do Next 1 1

Chapter 2 Setup 13
Befare You Run Setup 14
Running Setup 15
Starting Visual Bas ic 17
Setting Up Your Printer 18

Chapter 3 Using the Tutorial 19

Wh at's in the Tutori al 20
Using the Tutorial 20

Chapter 4 Using Help 23

Wh at's in Help 24
Gettin g Help 24
Leaming to U se Help 28
Running Code Exampl es fro m He lp 29

Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

Chapter 5 Overview of Visual Basic Development 35
Your Firs t Applicati on 36
Workin g with Proj ec ts 43
Saving Yo ur Work 45

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programm er's Guide

rv Contents

Chapter 6 Drawing the Interface 47

Drawing Controls 48
Resizing , Moving , and Del eting Controls 53
Saving the Investment Calculator 55

Chapter 7 Setting Properties 57

The Role of Properties in Vi sual Basic 58
Using the Properties Bar 58
Setting Properties for the ln vestment Calcul ator 6 1
Other Ways to Set Properti es 64

Chapter 8 Attaching Code 65

When Do You eed Code') 66
Writing Event Procedure s 67
How the Code Works 74
Creating an Executablc Fil e 76

Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Chapter 9 Language Elements 79
Microsoft QuickBasic and Visua l Basic 80
Sorne Mechanics (Commcnt s. umbers, Stateme nts) 80
Setting and Retrievi ng Properti es and Storing Data 8 1
Vi sual Basic Variables 82
Scope of Variables 84
Control Structures 86
Sub and Function Proccdurcs 93
Vi sual Basic Operators 98

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 101

Responding to Command Bu tt ons 102
Controlling Command Button s at Run Time 107
Crcat ing a Men u-Dri ven Arr li ca ti on 109
Contro lling Menu s at Run T ime 1 13
Add in g and Deleting Menu Co mmands 11 6
Shortcut and Access Keys 120
Co ntrollin g the Tab Order 12 1

Microsoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

Contents v

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 123

Advanced U se of Text Boxes 124
Providing Choices with Option Buttons 129
Using Check Boxes 132
Providing Choices with List and Combo Boxes 134
Getti ng Inp ut with Scroll Bars 140
Prompting for Input with InputBox$ 143

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 145

Displaying Temporary Information with MsgBox 146
Using Labels to Display Output 147
Setting Charac teristics of Text (Fonts) 149
Printing to Form s and Picture Boxes 151
Printing Tabul ar Data 154
Formattin g Numbers, Dates, and Times 156
Send ing Output to the Printer 158

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 161

Adding Pictures to Your Forms 162
Moving Control s Dynamically 166
Resizing Controls Dynamicall y 168
Showing and Hiding Controls 168
Adding and Removing Controls 169
Sett ing an Object ' s Coordinate System 17 l
The Fundamental s of Drawing 175
Drawing Lines and Shapes 182

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 195

Mouse Events 196
Positi oning a Control with the Mouse 197
Graphical Mouse Application s 198
The Button and Shift Arguments 202
Draggin g and Dropping 207 ;=--

Chapter 15 Creating Multiple-Form Applications 215

Methods and Statements that Handle Forms 2 16
Setti ng Form Properties 217
Designatin g a Startup Form or Module 220
Ch oos ing An lean 221

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

v1 Conte nts

Load in g and Displ ay ing Forms 222

Hiding Forms 224
Unl oad in g Forms 226
Exi ting a Multipl e-Form Appl ication 226

Chapter 16 Dt;!bugging 227

Approac hes to Debugging 228
Design T ime, Run Time, and Break Mode 229
Halting Exec uti on at a Problem Statement 230
Run ning Selected Portions of Yo ur Appl ication 233
Testing Data and Procedu res in the Immediate Window 235
Special Considerati ons in Debugging Events 239
Testing and Us ing Co mmand-Line Arguments 240

Part 4 Advanced Applications

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Features 243
Cont ro lling Exec uti on 244
Data Dec lara tion 247
Array s 252
The Globa l Modul e 257
Ty pe and Constant De finiti ons 258

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 263

Workin g wi th Se lec ted Text 264
Us ing the Clipboard Object 265
si ng Time r Controls 268
Writing !die Loops with DoEvents 273
Writ ing Low-Leve l Keyboard Handl ers 275

Chapter 19 Handling Run-Time Errors 279

Why se Erro r Handling? 280
How to Hand le Erro rs 282
Unanticipated Errors 286
Cen tra lized Error Handling 288
Dc laycd Erro r Handli ng 292
Turn in g Off Error Handli ng 293

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Contents vii

Chapter 20 Using the File-System Controls 295

Examining the File System 296
The Launch Pad Application 298
A File + Open Dialog Box 305
Other Ways of Using File-System Control s 314

Chapter 21 Processing Files 315

Working with Data Files 316
Using Sequential Access for Text Files 320
Records in Random-Access Files 331
Binary File VO 350

Chapter 22 Communicating with Other Applications 353

What Is Dynamic Data Exchange? 354
Creating Links At Design Time 356
Link Properties 358
Link Events 362
Enabling Users to Create Their Own Hot Links 365
U sing Methods to Perform DDE Operati ons 369
Handling Errors 372
Sending Key strokes to Other Applicati ons 375

Chapter 23 Extending Visual Basic 377

Loading Custom Controls 378
Declaring and Calling DLL Routines 379
Special Con siderations When Declarin g DLL Ro utin es 380
Calling DLL Routines with Specific Data T ypes 382

Part 5 Appendixes
Appendix A Adapting Basic Code 391
Importing Bas ic Files 392
Program Structure 392
Scope of Variables 394
Event and Error Handling 395
Input and Output 395
Language Mec hanics 396
Unsupported Key word s 396
Keywords with Specifi c Differences 397

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

viii Contents

Appendix B lcon Library 399

Arrows and Pointers 400
Communication 401
Computers 402
Flags 403
Mail 404
Miscellaneous 404
Office 406
Traffic Signs 408
Writing 408

Appendix C Glossary 411

lndex 423

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

¡{-.h.. . ,,: . ... .. . ·~ '<"' • •. • •• '. •• · . ·"/. _-•, . ;~ , •; ,'f_t •it•:•• ·- ,. :•~ . ,., , '· •• ••. , ,'•' • .,, . º~~~ .,,•" ..¡ ·•:•,..~

~ ~

Figures and Tables

Figure 1.1 The Vi sual Basic Interface 6
Figure 1.2 How objects respond to events 7
Figure 1.3 Sorne of the properti es of a text box, with corresponding settings 8
Figure 1.4 A sampling of applications you can create with Visual Basic 9
Figure 2.1 Quitting Setup 16
Figure 3.1 The Help Menu 20
Figure 3.2 The Main Menu 2 1
Figure 3.3 Buttons in T utorial lessons enable you to navigate or see where
you are. 22
Figure 3.4 The Opti ons Menu 22
Figure 4 .1 Using F l to get Help 25
Figure 4.2 Search Di alog Box 26
Figure 4.3 A jump in Help 27
Figure 4.4 Definiti on Window 27
Figure 4.5 Index in Using Windows Help 28
Figure 4.6 Click the jump to go to acode example. 29
Figure 4.7 The Forrn_Click procedure with LineDemo entered 30
Figure 4.8 An exarnple with code that goes in the global module 3 1
Figure 5.1 The Project Window 36
Figure 5.2 Text box and command button tools in the Toolbox 37
F igure 5.3 Text box and command button controls on a form 38
Fi gure 5.4 The Pro perti es Bar 38
Figure 5.5 The Properti es bar with Ct!Name property set to Readout 39
Figure 5.6 The Code window wi th code for the Readout text box 39
Figure 5.7 The Code window with the Click procedure di splayed, and with a li st
of other eve nts 4 1
Figure 5.8 The Code window with the completed HelloButton_Click
procedu re 42 ~
Figure 6.1 The Toolbox 48
Figure 6.2 The Completed ln vestm ent Calcul ator 49
Figure 6.3 Contro ls with default names 50
Figure 6.4 Text box too! selected in the Toolbox 50
Figure 6.S Draw ing th e text box S 1
Figure 6.6 The !abe! and co mmand button too ls in th e Toolbox 5 l

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programm er's Guide

X Figures and Tables

Figure 6.7 A selected tex t box displays sizing handles. 53

Figure 6.8 Multiple-selected controls are outlined with gray sizing handles. 54
Figure 7.1 The Properties Bar 59
Figure 7.2 The Settings box displays a list of possible settings for the
selec ted property , 60
Figure 7.3 The ln vestment Calculator before and after properties are set 62
Figure 7.4 Property settings for size and position 64
Figure 8. 1 The co mpleted Investment Calculator 66
Figure 8.2 Selecting an object in the Code window 69
Figure 8.3 Selecting the CalcCmd_Click procedure 70
Figure 8.4 Event procedure in the Code window 72
Figure 9.1 Variable levels, from local to global 84
Figure 9.2 How general procedures are called by event procedures 93
Figure 10.1 Command button with caption 102
Figure 10.2 Picture box with icon from the Icon Library 103
Fig ure 10.3 An application with two command buttons 104
Figure 10.4 A shell application 106
Figure 10.5 Action and Info Menus 109
Figure 10.6 Menu Design window for the Try Menus application 110
Figure 10.7 A menu command with a check mark 114
Figure 10.8 The Window menu of the Program Manager 116
Figure 10.9 A Co ntrol Array 116
Figure 10.10 Application Manager 117
Figure 11 .1 Validation Example 125
Figure 11 .2 Us ing option buttons to give the user a choice 129
Figure 11.3 Choos ing a number sys tem with option buttons 130
Figure 11 .4 Check Box Example 132
Fi gure 11 .5 When this check box is selected, letters are entered as uppercase 132
Figure 11 .6 A li st box 134
Figure 11.7 A combo box wi th list closed and with list opened, and a drop-down
li st box 134
Figure 11 .8 The Population s List Box 136
Fig ure 11 .9 A Ji st box , command button, and text bóx that work together 138
Figure 11 . 10 Scroll bars in th e Windows Control Panel 140
Fig ure 11.1 1 Horizo ntal and vert ical scroll bar controls in Visual Basic 140
Fi gure 11.12 Using scroll bars to control color 142
Fig ure 11.1 3 A dialog box created with InputBox$ 144
Figure J 2. 1 MsgBox Example 146
Fig ure 12.2 Temperature Co nverter 147
Figure 12.3 Us ing built-in print zones 154
Figure 12.4 Using tabs in a tabl e 155

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Figures and Tab les xi

Figure 13.1 Samples from the Visual Basic Icon Library 164
Figure 13 .2 Icons MAIL16A.ICO and MAIL16B.ICO from the Icon Library 165
Figure 13.3 Left and Top properties 166
Figure 13.4 A button that moves when clicked 167
Figure 13.5 A control array of three command buttons 169
Figure 13.6 Scale running from (100,100) to (200,200f- 173
Figure 13 .7 Scale with negative ScaleHeight setting 173
Figure 13.8 Byte layout of color values 180
Figure 13 .9 A line drawn with the Line method 182
Figure 13.10 A spoked pattern 183
Figure 13 .11 Lines of varying width 184
Figure 13.12 Lines drawn with different settings of the DrawStyle property 185
Figure 13.13 Comparing the color value 187
Figure 13 .14 Filling a box with a salid pattern l 89
Figure 13 .15 Ellipses drawn with the Circle method 19 1
Figure 13.16 How angles are measured for a circle 192
Figure 13.17 Using the Circle method to draw ares 193
Figure 13.18 Using negative arguments to connect an are to its center 194
Figure 13.19 Effect of reversing arguments 194
Figure 14.1 Moving a control to the location of the mouse pointer 197
Figure 14.2 The Cli ck-A-Li ne application draws lines wi th the Line method 198
Figure 14.3 The Scribble Application 199
Figure 14.4 A demonstration of where MouseMove events occur 200
Figure 14.5 How bits represent the state of the mouse 202
Figure 14.6 How bits represent the state of the SHIFf, CTRL, and ALT keys 206
Figure 14.7 Dragging a control at run time 207
Figure 15.1 The Beatles Form 217
Figure 15.2 The GroupChoice form is a dialog box. 2 19
Figure 15.3 The Welcome form is th e startup form . 220
Figure 15.4 Visual Basic standard icon and the icon for the We lcome form 221
Figure 15 .5 The GroupChoice Form 223
Figure 16.1 Run-time errors such as "Type mismatch" halt executi on. 23 1
Figure 16.2 A procedure halted by a breakpoint 232 _
Figure 16.3 The Immediate W indow 236
Figure 16.4 Using a question mark to print to the Immediate window 236
Figure 18.1 Moving data to and from the Clipboard wi th SetText and GetText 265
Figure l 8.2 A timer control 268
Figure 18 .3 The Digi tal Clock Application 270
Fi gure 19. 1 Program flow with Resume and Resume Nex t 284
Figure 20. 1 The tool s for the file-system contro ls 296

Microsoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

xii Figures and Tables

Figure 20.2 The file-system controls in action 296

Figure 20.3 The Launch Pad Application 299
Figure 20.4 The Filelnfo Dialog Box 305
Figure 21.1 The Text Editor Application 321
Figure 21.2 How records appear in a random-access file 331
Figure 21.3 The Record Editor Application 336
Figure 21.4 Adding a horizontal scroll bar to Record Editor 349

Table 2.1 Command-Line Options 17
Table 9.1 Standard Variable Types 83
Table 9.2 Vi sual Basic Operators 98
Table 22.1 DDE Statements in Microsoft Excel, Word, and Visual Basic 372

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

.,'-:·•·•'. . . . . ·., ,,. : '···.,--,._.a:-.-; __.,,~t .,;, . :_ '."'f ,. -/- •,: .. , -'· , . ~ :.:~ - , .•.. : ,._... ,. ,,~L ., -. . .' . .,
. .
f '

Document Conventions

This manual uses the following typographic conventions. _

Example of convention '
Sub, If, ChDir, Print, Time$ Words in bold with initial letter capitalized
indicate language-specific keywords with
special meaning to Visual Basic.
BackColor, Click, Debug object N ames of properties, events, and special
objects appear with initial letter capitalized.
setup Words you're instructed to type appear in
event-driven In text, italic letters are used for defined
terms, usually the first time they occur in the
book. Italics also are used occasionally for
eventname In syntax , italic letters indicate placeholders
for information you supply.
[expressionlist] In syntax, items inside square brackets are
{While IUntil} In syntax, braces and a vertical bar indicate a
mandatory choice between two or more
items. You must choose one of the items
unless ali of the items also are enclosed in
square brackets.
Synta x error This font is used for variables and error
Sub HelloB utt on_ Click () This font is used for code .
Rea dout. Text = "Hell o. worl d ! "
End Sub

Readout. Text = "Thi s shoul d a 11 be The line-continuation character ( • )

• on one 1 i ne in t he Code wi ndow." indicates that-code continued from one Iine
to the next in the book should be typed ali
on one line in the Code window .
CONST ANT.TXT Words in ali capital Ietters indicate
filenames .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

xiv Docum ent Conv entio ns

E T ER Small capital letters are used for the names

of keys and key sequences, such as ENTER
and CTRL+R. (Key names in online Help
have only the initial letter capitalized.) The
key names correspond to the names on the
IBM Personal Computer keyboard. Other
machines may use different names.
ALT+FI A plus sign (+) between key names indicates
a combination of keys . For example, ALT +Fl
meaos to hold down the ALT key while
pressing the Fl key.
DOWN ARROW Individual direction keys are referred to by
the direction of the arrow on the key top
(Left, Right, Up, or Down). The phrase
"arrow keys" is used whe n describing the
keys collectively.
HOME Other navi gational keys are referred to by
their specific names.
Graphical User Interface (GUI) Acronyms are usually spelled out the first
time they are used.

ma These icons are used to mark refere nces to

information in the online Help and Tutoría!.

Note M icrosoft documentation uses the term "OS/2" to refer to the OS/2 systems -
Microsoft® Operating System/2~ (MS@OS-/2@) and IBM@OS/2@. The term "DOS " refers to
the M icrosoft® MS -DOS ~ and IBM@Personal Computer DOS operating sys tems. The name
of a spec ific operatin g sys tern is used when it is necessary to note features that are un.ique to
that syste rn .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Document Conventions X\

Programming Style in This Manual

The following guidelines are used in writing programs in this manual. For more information .
see Chapter 9, "Language Elements."
• Keywords appear with initial letters capitalized, while constants appear in all capital
letters: ~

' Sub , If, ChDir , Print , Ti me$ are keywords.

Print "Title Page "

' TRUE and FALSE are constants

' equal to -1 and O, respectively.
Global Const TRUE = -1
Global Const FALSE= O

• Variable names are lowercase with an initial capital letter. Variable names with more
than one syll able may contain other capital letters :
Gov As String * 30
PerCapincome As Double

• Line labels are used instead of line numbers. The use of line labels is restricted to error-
handling routines :
If Err = 71 Then
Print Error$
End If

• An apostrophe ( ') introduces comments:

This is a comment ; these two lines
' are ignored when the program is running .

• Control-flow blocks and statements in Sub and Function procedures are indented from
the enclosing code:
Sub Commandl_Click
If X > O Then
Textl.Text = " X is greater than O."
End If
End Sub

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

xv1 Document Conventions

• As noted earlier, lines too long to fit on one line in this manual may be continued on the
next line using a line-continuation character ( • ).
Sub Form_MouseDown (Button As Integer , Shift As Integer , X As Single,
• Y As Single)

Microsoft Visual Ba sic Programmer's Guide

Part 1 begins your exploration of Visual Basic. It introduces y ·
Visual Basic is all about, explains how to use the documenta n t, and
helps you get Visual Basic installed on your computer. Afte ea ng Part l .
you'll want to run the online Tutorial and read Part 2, "Vi al
Essentials," to see what Visual Basic can do.
What Is Visual Basic?

Welcome to the graphical user interface (GUI) revolution . If you want to create applications
for Microsoft Windows or OS/2 Presentation Manager, Visual Basic is the product for you.
Visual Basic is a development system especially geared toward creating graphical
applicati ons. It includes graphical design tools and a simplified, high-level language. It
emphas izes feedback and debugging tools that quickly take you from an idea to a running
applicati on.

-- ----~---
Visual Bas ic is centered around two types of obj ects: You create windows, called forms, and
on those forms you draw other objects, called controls. Then yo u program how form s and
controls respond to user actions. The applicati ons you produce are fas t and can include all of
the most common features users expect in a GUI environment.
This chapter gives you an overview of Visual Basic and suggests th e best ways to use the
doc umentation set. The main sections in this chapter are:
• What You Should Know First
• Visual Basic and Its Environment
• Meeting the Challenge of Graphical Applicati ons
• What Can Yo u Create?
• The Visual Basic Documentation Set
• What to Do Next

4 Part 1 Getting Started

What Vou Should Know First

Before you begin using the Visual Basic documentation set (this manual, the Language
Reference , the online Tutorial, and online Help), you need to understand the fundamentals of
using Windows or Presentation Manager. The documentation assumes you know how to use
a mouse, open a menu, and select options. lf you need to review these techniques, consult
the documentation that comes with Windows or Presentation Manager.
You also should have sorne understanding of programming. No extensive experience or
specific language knowledge is required, but you '11 probably find this manual easier to
follow if you already know how to use loops, lf... Then ... Else statements, and variables.

Note If you're experienced with Microsoft QuickBasic, you'll learn Visual Basic all the
faster. However, you can transfer QuickBasic code to Visual Basic only after making certain
changes. (In sorne cases, large amounts of code can be transferred almost directly, but user
interface code must be rewritten.) See Appendix A, "Adapting Basic Code."

Visual Basic and lts Environment

You may find that Visual Basic is unlike any programming too! or application you've ever
used. To understand Visual Basic, first consider the world in which it works.

The Graphical User Interface

The Windows and Presentation Manager operating environments differ from DOS in at least
two important ways:
• Applications share screen space. A Visual Basic application runs in a group of one or
more windows and rarely takes over the whole screen.
• Applications share computing time . An application cannot run continually, or if it doe s. it
has to be able to run in the background .

The event-driven approach used by Visual Basic enables you to share computing time and
other resources (such as the Clipboard). An event-driven application consists of objects that
wait for a particular event to happen. (An event is an action recognized by a Visual Basic
object. Objects include forms and controls.)
Your Visual Basic code doesn ' t work in the linear fashion of a DOS program- starting at
the top, proceeding toward the bottom, and finally stopping. Instead, in event-driven
programming, you use code that remains idle until called upon to respond to specific user-
caused or system-caused events.
For example, you might program a command button to respond to a mouse click. When the
command button recognizes that the event has occurred, it invokes the code you wrote for
that event.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 1 What Is Visua l Basic?

While your application is waiting for an event, it remains in the environment (unless the use ,
closes the application). In the meantime, the user can run other applications, resize window s
or customize system settings such as color. But your code is always present, ready to be
activated when the user retums to your application.

Features Supported
Visual Basic enables you to take fu]] advantage of~raphical environments and operating
systems. With it you can create:
• A fu]] set of the objects you need to create Windows applications, including: command
buttons, option buttons, check boxes, list boxes, combo boxes, text boxes, scroll bars,
frames, file and directory selection boxes, and menu bars .
• Multiple windows in an application.

Visual Basic also offers:

• Highly flexible response to mouse and keyboard events at run time, including automated
drag-and-drop support.
• Ability to show and hide any number of items at run time.
• Direct access to the environment's Clipboard and to the printer.
• Direct system calls to Windows and Presentation Manager functions .
• Communication with other Windows or Presentation Manager applications through
dynamic data exchange (DDE), and extensibility via dynamic-link libraries. For example.
a user can call dynamic-link libraries (including Windows functions) from within Visual
Basic code.

In addition, Visual Basic adds a number of specific programming features, which you'll
leam more about later in this manual :
• Graphics statements.
• A powerful math an d string-handling library.
• Easy-to-use string variables .
• Both fixed arrays and dynamic arrays. (The latter help to simplify memory-management
problems .)
• Random-access and sequential file support.
• Sophisticated run -time error handling.

Visual Basic also makes development easier by providing a set of powerful debugging
commands that help you isolate and correct errors in your code. Visual Basic operates as an
interpreter, instantly translatin g your statements into "runnable" form as soon as you type
them. But once you 've completed your app lication , you can convert it into an executable file
that is relatively small and fast and can run outside the Visual Basic environment.
The Visual Basic package also includes an Icon Library. The library consists of icons that
you can use to add visual appeal and functionality to your applications .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

6 Part 1 Getting Started

Meeting the Challenge of Graphical Applications

GUI environments generally make computing easier - and more fun-for the user. But
these environments create new challenges for developers, who now must think visually,
write code that responds to events, and anticipate how users will interact with applications.
VisuaJ. Basic helps you think visually because it enables you to draw objects just as you want
them to appear to your users.
The objects you can create include:
• Forms: windows that you customize.
• Controls: graphi cal objects drawn on a form , including text boxes, command buttons,
picture boxes, scroll bars, directory and file controls, and timer controls .
Timer control s are count-down or alarm-clock mechanisms that you draw like other
controls, but whi ch are alw ays hidden when an application is run. You can program a
timer to take ac ti on ata particular time._

Figure 1.1 shows th e Vi sual Basic interface. You ' ll leam more about the various parts of the
interface in Chapter 5, "Overview of Visual Basic Development."

Form Properties bar

=I Microsoft Visual Ba s ic (design] 1·1·

Eile .!;_dit .(;_ode Bun '.r!'indow .t!e lp
lcaption W l x l ✓ I orm1 li! I lt : 1020.1 1 55 1 ¾17 72Ll5 x Ll5Ll5

=I Fo rml 1· 1·11
~ ~ ..
A [M 3llllmllllE
oo =I Fo rm1
1 View Form 11
¡i¡¡j Global.has
Vi ew Code

~ ® Object: lro,m 1~ Proc: j Click •-~ ·"'•""'
~. ~. Sub Fonn_ Cli c k ()
~ fil 1
End Sub
o El
EJ ~

+I 1 l +I 11

Toolbox Code window Pro ·ect window

Figure 1.1 The Visual Basic Interface

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 1 What Is Visual Basic? 7

Understanding Event-Driven Programs

For each type of object you create, Visual Basic predefines a set of events that you can
respond to by writing code. It's easy to respond to events: Forms and controls have the built -
in ability to recognize user actions and invoke the code associated with them.
You don't have to write code for all events. When you do want an object to respond toan
event, you write code called an event procedure -fprocedure that Visual Basic invokes in
response to an event. The procedure is named according to this convention:

The name itself establishes the association between the procedure and the event. When your
application is running, Visual Basic automatically invokes the appropriate procedure each
time an event occurs.
Here's how a Visual Basic application works :
1. An action is recognized as an event by sorne form or control. The action can be caused
by the user (such as a mouse click or keystroke) or by the environment (such as a timer
event) .
2. If there is a corresponding event procedure, it gets executed.
3. The application waits for the next event.

Figure 1.2 demonstrates how objects in Visual Basic respond to events. For example, when
the user clicks the command button named Commandl , the command button recognizes thi s
action as the Click event. Visual Basic then executes the Commandl_Click procedure, if it

Visual Basic ca/Is

In response to this action: this procedure:

User chooses the button

(usual/y with a mouse click) .. . ~C_l_
ick_~I • Command l _ Cli ck

User tabs to the button ... GotFocus •

1 1 Commandl Command l _ GotFocu s

User presses a key while the

button is selected... KeyPress •
I Command 1_KeyPress

Eventname Visual Basic procedures

attached to Command1

Figure 1.2 How objects re spond to events

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

8 Part 1 Getting Started

The procedures you write to respond to events can perform calculations, get input, and
manipulate parts of the interface. In Visual Bas ic, you manipulate objects by changing the
values of properties.

The Role of Properties

A property is a charac teristic of an object. For each type of object, Visual Basic predefines a
set of properties that apply to the object.
For example , sorne of the properties of a text box are shown in Figure 1.3 . (The ful] set of
properties is actu all y mu ch larger.) Note that even the name of the text box itself is a
property, as are the con tents of the text box, which are specified by the Text property .

Text box "Readout" Property Setting

¿ Ct!Name
~ T e xt

Abcl 1 Height 400 twips

2000 twips
~ w;dili
ForeColo black
BackColo white

Figure 1.3 Sorne of the properties of a text box, with corresponding settings

Each property has a name and a setting. The setting is the value of the property ; for instance,
the setting of the Bac kColor property could be white. You can change the settin g of most
properties whi le yo u are building an application, and with code when the application is run.
Much of the magic of Visual Basic stems from the fact that when you change the value of a
property, Visual Basic responds ri ght away, doing whatever is necessary to graphicall y
reflect the change . For exa mple, changing the value of the Height property causes Visual
Basic to immediately resize th e object.

An Enhanced Basic Language

The Visual Basic lang uage uses the si mplified sy ntax of BASICA and GW-BASIC, and
supports nearly ali of their capabilities. But Visual Basic also enhances them in severa)
major ways:
• It uses the modern progra mmin g structure of QuickBasic , including elegant structures for
controllin g progra m flow . If you 've used C, Pascal, or so rn e other structured language,
you'll find Visual Basic co nvenient and natural to use, and capable of expressi ng
complex programmin g log ic.
• It 's built aro un d events - ac ti ons recognized by Visual Basic objects.
• It has many direc t " hooks" into the graphi cal environment and operating sys tem.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 1 What Is Visua l Basic? 9

Visual Basic supports the majority of statements and function s supported in other versions of
Basic. It also adds sorne new capabilities in the form of methods. A method is a Visual Bas ic
keyword that is similar to a function or statement, but which always acts on a particular
object. For each object, Visual Basic predefines a set of methods you can use.

What Can Vou Create?

Visual Basic elirninates many of the complexities associated with using the Windows or
Presentation Manager Software Development Kit (SDK), yet it retains most of the
flexibility. Although there are sorne things possible only with the SDK, Visual Basic
supports the most typical things you ' d want to use in a graphical application.
Figure 1.4 shows a sampling of very different (and useful ) applications created with Visual
Basic: Calculator, a standard simulation of a hand-held calculator; IconWorks, an
application you can use to view and edit icon files; Cardfil e, another standard Windows
application ; and Scribble, a simple drawing program. As yo u' Íl see in Chapter 14,
"Responding to Mouse Events," Scribble requires onl y one line of code.

la Cardfile - (untitled) DD
Eile .!;_dit '{iew ~ard .S.earch !::!elp •
Card View • • 1 Card

la lconWorks Editor: IUntitledl DD

e=== = = = = = = ==I file .!;_dit Qptions Iool s !con s .!;!rus h !::!e lp

Spanish Rice

1/2 cup cbopped onion

1/2 cup cbopped green
2 cups instant rice
1 pound ba • burger (op
1 can (16 oz_) to • ato ••
3- -drop s bot sauce
1 cup •ater
Undo to:

M o use B uttons

• •
Lelt Righl

~=¡==¡=¡==¡===¡==¡==='j ®

- ~ -....~ - -............¡ 1 . 961

;:- 0 00 [QE]
0 0 Oill C:J •
u00 00
1 ° l u0 •
Figure 1.4 A sampling of applications you can ereate with Visual Basic

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer 's Guide

10 Part 1 Getting Started

The Visual Basic Documentation Set

The Vi sual Bas ic package includes fo ur documentation tool s, each designed to help you
learn and use a parti cul ar as pect of the product:
• The online Tutorí a! provides a hands-on introduction to the Visual B asic environment
and sorne fundam enta l Vi sual B asic concepts. You should start with the Tutorial. It is
fas t-paced, and its m odul ar structure enables you to leam in sm all segments.
• Thi s manual, Programmer's Cuide, concentrates on working with the Vi sual Basic
language . It ex plains programming techniques and uses frequent examples to show how
those techniques work in ac tu al applicati ons. After running the Tutorial, you will
probabl y want to read this manu al fo r di scussion of how and why the code works.
• The Language Reference summarizes the Visual Basic language by programming tasks
and li sts the methods, properties, and events that apply to each obj ect. It al so includes a
detailed A- Z reference fo r fu nctions, statem ents, m ethods, properties, events and o bjec ts.
(The sa me reference info rmati on is in online Help.) In addition , the Language Reference
contain s an ANS I chart and a table of trappable error m essages.
• Th e Help sys tem is a ready reference to the Visual Basic interface and to Vi sual B asic
language statements. Once you have a sol id understanding of Vi sual B asic fundamentals,
refer to Help for a me mory refresher orto learn about sorne advanced techniques. The
Vi sual Basic language topics in Help include substantial code exampl es th at you can
copy and paste directly into your own applications.

Cha pters 3 and 4 give more complete descriptions of the Tutori al and H elp.
T he fo ur parts of the doc umentati on se t are designed to complement one anoth er. To help
yo u qu ickl y find infor mati on in Help and the T utorí a!, thi s manu al includes a number of
cross- references . In the fo ll ow ing chapters, m ost of the cross-references are marked with
these icons:

m Search Help for:

controls a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Basic "

T he Help ico n represents the Fl key. You can press that key while running Vi sual B asic to
go to Help . T he word o n the second lin e is call ed a keyword. ("Keyword" in thi s case m eans
a search term ; lang uage keywords incJude fun ction s, state ments, operators, and method s.)

To search Help for a keyword:

1 In th e He lp window, press ALT +S o r just S.
2 Type th e keyword .
3 Press ENTER to carry o ut th e search.
T op ics assoc iated w ith the keyword are di splayed in the Topics Fo und li st box . Use the
arrow keys to se lec t the top ic yo u want.
4 Press ENTER to go to the se lected topic .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 1 What Is Visual Basic? 11

The text next to the Tutorial icon refers you to a specific lesson. To start the Tutori al, choosc
Tutorial from the Help menu in Visual Basic.
The index for this manual also includes cross-references to the Tutorial and to Help .
In addition to the documentation , the V isual Basic package comes with a set of sampl e
applications that you can load into Vi sual Basic . These ·applications are useful in the mselves.
but are also excellent leaming tool s. You can copy "1!Y part of them into your own
applications, modifying them as you need to.

How This Book Is Organized

This manual is organized around five parts, each with a distinct purpose :
• Part 1, "Getting Started," describes preliminary steps, including installation (th e Setup
program) and how to use the Tutorial and Help.
• Part 2, "V isual Basic Essenti als," describes the basics of drawing a Visual Basic inte rfac e
and attachin g code to it.
• Part 3, "Application-Building Tec hniques," explains the meth ods for writin g code to do
common tasks, including getting input, di splaying output, mouse events, and creatin g
graphical effec ts.
• Part 4, "Advanced Applicati ons," ex pl ai ns techniques used in substanti al appli cations,
including file handling, error hand ling, and DDE.
• Part 5, "Appendi xes," includes guidelines for adapting code written in other versions of
Microsoft Basic, di sc ussion and illu strations of the Icon Library , anda glossary of
technical terms.

What to Do Next
This chapter has introduced you to sorne ge neral Visual Basic concepts. To really get th e
feel of the product, you' ll need to build and run sorne applications .

lmportant If you have the product installed airead y and are anxious to build an application , turn to
Chapter 5, "Overv iew of Visual Basic Development," which leads yo u through a simple

For the most thorough introduction to Visua l Basic:

1. Run the Tutorial. Work th rough the e ntire Tutorifü , or choose th e lessons and topics that
interest you the most.
2. Work throu gh Part 2 of thi s manu al, preferably at the computer, to understand some
fundamental s of Visua l Basic code and how it is used.
3. Read Part 3 to leam the most frequently used coding techni ques.
4. Refer to Help or th e Languag e Reference whil e you work.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

12 Part 1 Getting Started

Alternatively, if you are fami liar with event-driven programming and with the Windows or
Presentation Manager environment, you might try a faster track:
1. After working through Chapter 5, start exploring Visual Basic, referring to Help or the
Language Reference when you need to.
2. Skim through the rest of Part 2, paying particularly close attention to Chapter 8,
"f.,.ttaching Code."
3. Read Part 3 to learn the most frequently used coding techniques.
4. Use the Tutorial for lessons on selected topics.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide


This chapter explains how to install Visual Basic on_your computer using the program
SETUP.EXE. Toe Setup program (which was writte1i in Visual Basic) creates new
directories and copies a number of files - Visual Basic itself, the Help system, the Tutoría! ,
sample applications, and the Icon Library - from the distribution disks to your hard disk.

lmportant You cannot simply copy files from the distribution disks to your hard disk and run Visual
Basic. You must use the Setup program to decompress and install the files.

nning Setup, yo u' 11 have a working version of Visual Basic on your

14 Part 1 Getting Started

Befare Vou Run Setup

You ' re probably eager to install Visual Basic immediately. But first, take a few minutes to
make sure your computer meets sorne minimum requirements and your Vi sual Basic
package is complete.

Check the Hardware and System Requirements

To run Visual Basic you must have certain hardware and software installed on your
computer. The requirements are different depending on whether you're running Visual Basic
for Windows or Vi sual Basic for Presentation Manager.

Visual Basic for Windows

Visual Basic for Windows run s in either standard or enhanced mode of Microsoft Windows
version 3.0 or hi gher. The bas ic requirements are:
• Any IBM-compatible machi ne built on the 80286 processor or higher.
• A hard disk.
• A mouse.
• A CGA, EGA , YGA , 85 14, Hercules, or compatible display. (EGA or hi gher resolution
is recommended.)
• MS-DOS version 3.1 or hi gher.
• Windows versio n 3. 0 or hi gher in standard or enhanced mode.
• One megabyte of rn e mory.

Visual Basic for Presentation Manager

Visual Basic for Prese ntation Manager req uires:
• Any IBM-compat ibl e machi ne built on the 80286 processor or hi gher.
• A hard di sk.
• A mouse.
• A CGA , EGA, YGA , 85 14, Hercul es, or compatible di splay. (EGA or hi gher resoluti on
is recommended.)
• OS/2 vers ion 1.2 or hi gher.
• Four mega bytes of memory .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter2 Setup 15

Check the Visual Basic Package

These items should be in the Visual Basic package:
• Registration card: Please take time to fill out and mail this card. If you do, you'll be
notified of future software releases, and it will be easier to get customer assistance.
• Disks: The disk labels indicate how many disks sh.9uld be present; check to make sure al 1
the disks are there. The disk labeled Disk 1 contai!Th a text file named PACKING.LST
that lists the location and description of all disk files on the Microsoft Visual Basic disks .
• Programmer 's Guide: the book you're reading now. lt explains how to use Visual Basic.
• wnguage Reference: an alphabetic reference to Visual Basic language function s,
statements, and methods, in addition to all objects, events, and properties.

If any pieces are missing, contact the retailer from whom you bought Visual Basic.

Make Backup Copies of the Distribution Disks

Before you run Setup, back up the Visual Basic disks using the Copy or Diskcopy command
in DOS or OS/2. Or, use the Copy Diskette command on the Disk menu in the File Manager.

Read the README.TXT File

If there are corrections or additions to this book or the wnguage Reference, they 're listed in
a file called README.TXT. Toread the file, double-click the ReadMe icon in the File
Manager. Check the first section of README.TXT for corrected information on installing
Visual Basic.

Running Setup
When you run the Setup program (SETUP.EXE) to install Visual Basic on your computer,
you'll set a path for Visual Basic and then select which of the Visual Basic files you want to
install .
You can start Setup from Windows or Presentation Manager, or from DOS .

To start Setup from Windows or Presentation Manager:

1 Insert Disk l in drive A.
2 In the Fi le Manager, choose Run from the File men_µ.
3 Type a: setup
4 Follow the Setup instructions on the screen.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

16 Part 1 Getting Started

To start Setup from DOS:

1 Insert Disk I in drive A.
2 Switch to that dri ve by typing a:
3 Type win setup
4 Follow th e Setup instructions on the screen.

Ouitting Setup
To quit Setup , click the Exit button in the lower right of the Setup screen, as shown in
Figure 2.1. This di splays a Yes/No message. Choosing Yes quits Setup; choosing No cancel s
your req uest to quit and retums you to the Setup program.

Microsoft Visual Basic Setup

Type your full name or the name of the company that

purchased Microsoft Visual Basic.

The name you type will be used by Setup for subseque·nt .

installations of Visual Basic and will appear in the
application itself.

Name :

Continue 1 Exit

Figure 2.1 Ouitting Setup

Changing Options After Ouitting Setup

To reinstall Visual Basic later in another directory or install other portions of Visual Basic,
run Setup again . You may run Setup as many times as you wish.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 2 Setup 17

Starting Visual Basic

You can start Visual Basic from Microsoft Windows or Presentation Manager, or from DOS.
Note that the following methods won' t work unl ess Visual Basic is in the path in your

To start Visual Basic from W indows or Presentation Manager:

1 In the File Manager, choose Run from the File menu.
2 Type vb

To start Visual Basic from DOS:

• At the system prompt, type win vb

Using Command-Line Options

lnstead of starting Visual Basic in its default mode as described above, you can use
command-line options to control what Visual Basic does when you start it.

To use command-line options from Win dows or Presentation Manager:

1 In the File Manager, choose Run fro m the File menu .
2 Type vb [[/run] filename ] [/cmd commandline ]

To use command-line options from DOS:

• Type win vb [[lrun]filename ] [/cmd commandline]

Table 2.1 explains what each of the opti ons does.

Table 2.1 Command-Line Options
Command-line option Explanation
/RUN Run s the spec ifi ed proj ect in Vi sual Basic. (A
filename must be specifi ed.)
filename Loads the spec ifi ed file.
/CMD Allows you to use later everything typed after
/CMD (the comm and-line arg uments) .
For more information on using comm and-line options:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

18 Part 1 Getting Started

Setting Up Vour Printer

Visual Basic prints to the printer that you set up in Windows or Presentation Manager. For
information on how to set up that printer, consult the documentation for Windows or
Presentation Manager.
To-print from Visual Basic, choose Print from the File menu.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Using the Tutorial

The online Tutorial gives you a quick understandin~of how Visual Basic works. It shows
yo u the Visual Basic interface and demonstrates techniques you'll use in building
app lications. One of the best ways to learn Visual Basic is to run the Tutorial first and the n
read this manual.
You run the Tutoría! from within Visual Basic, so it's easy to retum to it when you want to
learn more. You don ' t need to finish all of the lessons befare you start using Visual Basic.
lf you want to run the Tutorial right away, choose Tutorial from the Help menu. To learn
more about the Tutorial befare you run it, read thi s chapter. The section s in this chapter are :
• What's in the Tutorial
• Using the Tutoría!

20 Part 1 Getting Starte d

What' s in the Tutorial

The Tutorial has four lessons, as described in the following table. It's best to go through
them in the order shown , but that 's not required. The table gives you an estímate of the time
to complete each lesso n.
Time to
Lesson lnformation presented complete
"Introducing Visual Basic" Explains what Vi sual Basic is and what 20 minutes
kinds of applications you can create with it.
Shows you what a graphical user interface
is. Introduces you to the Visual Basic
development environment and shows you
how to use Help.
··working with Walks you through the process of creating a 30 minutes
Vi sual Basic" simple application in Vi sual Basic .
Introduces projects, forms, controls, events,
me nus, code, and debugging.
·'Creatin g Custom Demonstrates advanced design ideas suc h as 60 minutes
App lications" the use of graphics, color, and layout. Shows
you how to manage data stored in text fil es.
"Sample Applications" Demonstrates sorne of the sample 20 minutes
applications included with Visual Bas ic.

Using the Tutorial

To start the Tutori al, c hoose Tutorial from the Help menu , as shown in Fig ure 3. J.

lcaplion 1035. 11~0


Figure 3.1 The Help Menu

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 3 Usin g the Tutorial 21

T he first scree n is the Menu , as shown in Figure 3.2. This is where you choose the lesson
yo u want to see. Noti ce th e buttons at the bottom of the scree n: Exi t and Instructions. To qui 1
the Tutoría! , click Ex it. To see in structions on how to use the Tutoría! , click Instructions.

- Visual Basic TutoñaJ - ~t1@~oft ~

Select a lesson o r c hoose ins huclions:

~ lntrodu c in g Vi sua l Bas ic

[ii] W o rk,ng with Visua l Bas ic

~ Creat,n g Custom Application s

[I]. Sampl e Appli cation s

Exil 1 1
lns huc tions 1

Ci,cK to ex,t Turorial. Click to see instructions on

how to use the Tu toría/.
Figure 3.2 The Mai n Menu

Each lesso n in the Tutorial includes severa! topics. Move through a topic by clicking the
Nex t button , or by pressing the SPACEBAR. To find out where yo u are in the lesson, click th e
icon in th e upper left of the screen, as shown in Figure 3.3 on the next page. The Tutoría!
d isplays a map th at shows you where you are in relation to other topics in the lesson.

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

22 Part 1 Getting Started

Click here to find out where

you are in the /esson.

_This tapie presents ttn overview of the Vi sual Btts ic

design environment. You'II learn about:

• Projects • Visual Basi c languttge

• Forms and co ntrol s • Menu bars
• Modules • Co lor palette

Eile [dil !;,ounlry

Popula tion
l 10.800.000
GNP S12.600.000.000
lncome pe , Capita ~I$_1_.1_67_ _ _ _~

Options Nexl

C/ick Next ar press the SPACEBAR

to see the next screen.
Figure 3.3 Buttons in Tutorial lessons e na ble you to navigate or see where you are .

Click Options to display the Options menu , as shown in Figure 3.4. Use the buttons on the
Options menu to move around within the Tutori al, orto retum to Visual Basic. You also can
get instructions on how to proceed durin g a lesson, or see a sllmmary of the current lesson.


lnstructions Displays instructions on how to proceed.

Back Returns to the previous step.
~ ummary Jumps to the Summary far that lesson.
Menu Returns to the Menu.
Ex it Tutorial
Clases the Tutoría/ and returns to Visual Basic.

Cancel : Ese Clases the Options menu.

Figure 3.4 The 0ptions Menu

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Using Help

Because it is an integral part of Visual Basic, online He!f> is installed automatically when
you run Setup. Help is the primary reference for the Visual Basic interface and one of two
prime sources of information on the Visual Basic language (the other being the Language
Reference manual). lt gives you instant reference information about properties, events, and
error messages, plus step-by-step instructions for each phase of building an application. Help
also includes reference on advanced tapies such as debugging and dynamic data exchange.
lt' s easy to keep Help handy as you work with Visual Basic, because you can move the Help
window where you want it and change its size to what suits you best.
For detailed information on Help, choose Using Help from the Help menu in Visual Basic,
or run the "Using Help" tapie in the first lesson of the Tutoría!.
The main sections in this chapter are:
• What's in Help
• Getting Help
• Learning to Use Help
• Running Code Examples from Help
24 Part 1 Getting Started

What' s in Help
Online Help is a comprchensive reference for nearly all aspects of Visual Basic. The
followin g table Ii sts the majar parts of Help. To start or switch to Help from Visual Basic,
press FI or choose Index from the Help menu, then choose one of the index entries.
Fo~_Help on From the Help index, choose
Essential steps in building an application Creating An Application
Visual Basic windows and tools Visual Basic Interface
Visual Basic menu commands and dialog Commands
box options
Conunon tasks in Visual Basic HowTo ...
Objects, properties, events, and methods Properties, Events & Methods
The Visual Basic programming language Programming Language
Useful key comb in ations Keyboard Guide
Using icons to enhance your applications Icon Library

There also is a part of Help called "Using Windows Help" that explains how to use Help
itself. For more information , see " Leaming to Use Help" later in this chapter.

Getting Help
In addition to using the index , there are four other ways to reach specific information in
Help .
When you're in Visual Basic:
• Selecta context-sensitive element of Visual Basic and press FI .

When you're in Help:

• Search for a spec ific keyword (either a earch term or language keyword) using the
Search command .
• Click a jump. A jump is an underlined word you can click to go to a topic related to th e
• Click a word or phrase with a dotted underline to see its definition .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 4 Using Help 25

Context-Sensitive Help (F1)

Three parts of Visual Basic are context-sensitive, as shown in Figure 4. 1. "Context-
sensitive" means you can get help on these parts directly without having to go through the
Help menu. For example, you can get help on any word in the Visual Basic language by
placing the insertion point on or beside that word in th~Code window and pressing Fl.
... with the insertion = :.
File fdit Bookmark Help
' I•
. .,.
point on ar next
to a keyword ~
!ndex 1 \~;:ck
; '·, 1 Bfowse
•• 1 8'QWse
•• ~
Press Fl to get Help =I Form Sub St atement .!
without having to go Object: 1Textl Acti on
Declares the narne. arguments. and code that
through the Help menu ... Subl Textl _ Change ()
form the body of a .S.\Ü! .RfQ~!t!:!~_r_e
End Sub Syntwc
[Static] Sub glob,rlntll71e [( ,,,g11mentns1 )]
[ st,rtementblod ]

., .,
[Exit Sub]
,,..,, •

... while in = .r•• .

:., · I·
anywindow File f dit Bookmark !jelp

=I Form
1 \;,
1 s,~,. 1 "~!,. 1 s~

A @fil
Toolb ox
The Toolbox conto.ins a set of tools lhatyou

can use to draw. move. or resize .GQfl.\r_o_l~ on
, Textl your fRrrn-You can choose thetoolyouwant
-~181 @ to use by clicking it.

- ffi . ~ • To open th e T oolbox. choose th e T oolbox

command from the Wí nd ow menu

-o El

-g -
To el ose the T oolbox, ch o ose the aose

., command from the C.0D)(Rl.m.~!!M-


= ; 1• ¡ . ,a- ' : · I·
Eil e f dit Bo okma rk !:le lp an error
jndex 1 ·~ - I ,~\. 1 !!"' 1 Se~
message Out of memory •

Error 7
=I Mi crosoft Vis

CD Ou t o f m e m o r .
More memor-¡ wa!> reqwred 1hon 1s evo.110.ble
Close ony opphc0.t1ons. docum ents. ar
source files the1a,e 1n memo,y but not

E ..
• Cons,d e, the program mto multrple


Figure 4.1 Using F1 to get Help

M icrosoft Visual Basic Programme r's Guide

26 Part 1 Getting Started

Press Fl from any context-sensitive part of Visual Basic to display information about that
part. The context-sensitive parts are:
• Words that are part of the Visual Basic language (statements, functions, properties,
methods, events, and so on)
• Error messages
• Every window in Visual Basic (Properties bar, Code window, dialog boxes, and so on)

Inside Help itself, you can press Fl to display the index to the Using Windows Help topics.

Searching Help
The quickest way to find a particular topic in Help is to use the Search command. Y ou can
use either the mouse or the keyboard to initiate the search; the latter is probably faster.

To search Help:
1 In the Help window, press ALT +S or just S to display the Search dialog box .
Help displays the Search dialog box, as shown in Figure 4.2.

.S.earch For:


access keys
access prope rties

No T opics Found

Figure 4.2 Search Dialog Box

2 Type the first letter of the word or phrase you're looking for.
Select a word or phrase from the list of keywords.
When you type a letter in the Search For box, the selection in the list shifts to the first
keyword that starts with that letter. If several keywords start with the same letter, you can
type additional letters to move the selection to the keyword you want.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 4 Using Help 27

3 Press ENTER to carry out the search.

Topics associated with the keyword are displayed in the Topics Found list box. You can
use the arrow key s to change the selection in the list.
4 Press ENTER to go to the selected topic.

Jumps ....

The topics in Help are linked by jumps. Jumps are easy to spot because they are underlined
(and green on color monitors) , as shown in Figure 4.3. To see the topic related to ajump,
click the jump (or press TAB until the jump is highlighted, then press ENTER). Togo back to
the previous topic, click the Back button in the Help window, or press ALT+B (or just B).

lliJ .,\ ,: ••
!ndex i::r,·;:A $ ' ~ BrQwse

tJ,. Visual Basic Help

Steps to build an application.
Guide to windows and tools
Command s Reference to menu command s
and dialog boxes.
Ste p-by-step in structions •
+ ·

A 1ump to another tapie

Figure 4.3 A jump in Help

Sorne of the words and phrases in Help are marked with a dotted underline (and are green on
color monitors). Help provides definition s for these terms. To see the definition , click the
underlined word or phrase and hold the mouse button down, as shown in Figure 4.4. Help
displays a definition window until you release the mouse.

Click a defined term in Help to see an explanation.

To view a defined term :

1 Po sition the pomte_r on the i:!.eft,:,_e_QJ!'!rm.
2 Pre ss the 1/ defin ed term ~
1 Oef1rnt1on s appear in a window like th1s
To learn more ebout Help, choose th1s tapie Getting
Ilnformation fr orn Cross-Relerences
Figure 4.4 Definition Window

Micro soft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

28 Part 1 Gettin g Started

Learning to Use Help

Thi s chapter prov ides an overview of how to use Help. For more information, see "Using
Windows Help," the Help file supplied with Windows. To reach Using Windows Help:
• Choose Using Help from the Help menu in Visual Basic.
• Press F I from anywhere in Help.
• In Help itself, choose Using Help from the Help menu .

The Using Windows Help topics include complete information on Help basics, buttons,
commands, keys, and procedures, including navigating and searching. Figure 4.5 shows the
Using Windows Help index topic. When you use the Search command while in Using
Windows Help, the search does not include topics about Visual Basic - only information
about usi ng Help .

Ei_le_ ~d~it_B_o_o_km._ar_k_t!~e_lP_ _~_
f; ___,. }- Help commands
~ _,ex__.'-__ _•._e ______,,_,. }- Help buttons
_,._,:_:.::_, ••_. .._B__
....._,. ____
lnd ex t o Usíng Help
11 you are new to Wmdows Help. choos e Help
Bas, cs
Usin g Help To pi cs
Help Bas,cs
Help Button s
Help Cornrnands
Help Kevs
Help Pro cedures
To choo s e a Help t opic:

~ •

Figure 4.5 lndex in Using Windows Help

C lic k the lndex button to retum to Visual Basic Hel p.

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programme r's Guide

Chapter 4 Using Help 29

Running Code Examples from Help

Many of the language topics in Help contain code examples. You can run these examples
from the Code window or from the lmmediate window. Both ways are described below
using the example code from the Line method topic. A special case involving the global
module is explained at the end of this section.
To run a code example, first copy the example into the.Code window. Then run it from the
Code window or from the Immediate window, as explained later in this section.

To copy a code example from Help to the Code window:

1 Create a new form by choosing New Form from the File menu, or use an existing form .
(For more information on creating and using forms, see the section on building the
"Hello, World!" application in Chapter 5, "Overview of Visual Basic Development. ")
2 Press Fl to open Help or switch to it.
3 In Help, search for "line," and go to the topic called "Line Method." Then page down to
the Exarnple heading and click the jump to the example for the Line method, as shown in
Figure 4.6.

Eile _E dil Bookmark ):!elp

Pro p erty. FillColor _Property. FillStyle

Prope rty. F ore Color Property. Color
Quick Reference RGB OBColor
Exe.mpl e
The exe.m le uses the Line method to dre.w
concentnc xes on e. form . To try th1s
example, p te the code into the
Declarat1on sectio n of e. forrn . Ce.11

Jump to example code

Figure 4.6 Click the jump to go to a code example.

4 Choose Copy from the Edit menu in Help to copy the entire example, or press CTRL+INS .
5 Exit or minimize Help.
6 Double-click the form to show the Code window.
7 In the Object box, select "(general)."
8 Choose Paste from the Edit menu to paste the example into the Code window, or press

Note that the name of the procedure -LineDemo --,-fo!Jows the word "Sub."

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

30 Part 1 Getting Started

To runa code example from the Code window:

1 Copy the example to the Code window as described above.
2 In the Object box, choose Form.
3 lf it's not already displayed, choose the Click procedure in the Procedure box, A
template for the Form_Click event procedure is displayed in the Code window.
4 Type the name of the example code procedure, "LineDemo," in the body of the Click
event procedure, as shown in Figure 4.7.

· Sub Form Click ()

· LineDemo
: · End Sub

Figure 4.7 The Form_Click procedure with LineDemo entered

5 From the Run menu , choose Start, or press F5.

6 Click the form. Visual Basic executes th e LineDemo procedure.

Each time you click the form , the LineDem o code will run again .
7 When you're fini shed, choose End from the Run menu .

To runa code example from the lmmediate wi ndow:

1 Copy the example to the Code window as desc ribed above .
2 From the Run menu, choose Start, or press FS .

3 Press CTRL+BREAK and click the Immedi ate window to bring it forward .
4 Type the name of the procedure, "LineDemo,"' in th e lmmediate window and press

To run the demo again , place the cursor aft er th e word LineDemo and press ENTER .
5 When you ' re finished , choose End from th e Run menu .

There are a few language topics whose exampl es mu st be divided between form code and
the global module. Those examples are clearl y marked by comments in the first few lines of
the example, as shown in Figure 4.8 . The procedure followin g the illustration describes how
to copy and run such a piece of code (in thi s case , th e example for the Global statement).

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 4 Using Help 31

Visual Basic Help - VB.HLP

[ile ];_dit Bookmark tlelp
~ ••::-. ~H
lnde• Back
'Global Statement Example
Global TestArray() As Integer Put these two lines
Global Size As Integer global module .
Cut these lines
and paste into
Sub Globa lDemo global module.
Size = Int(lOO * Rnd + 1 ) Generate random s1ze
ReD1m TestArray (S ize ) Define how many elements .
For 1% = 1 to Size Index for number o f elements
TestArray(I %) = 1% Put number in each element .

Figure 4.8 An example with code that goes in the global modu le

To runa code example that must use the global module:

1 Copy the exarnple from Help to the Code window as described earlier.
2 In the Code window, select "(declarations)" from the Procedure box .
3 Cut the appropriate lines out of the Declarations section usi ng Cut from the Edit menu,
4 In the Project window, double-click the li sting for the global module.
5 Paste the lines into the Code window for th e global module.
6 Run the code from the Code window or the lrnmediate window as described above.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Part 2 introduces you to th e process of crcatin g appli cation s wit h Visual
8asic. Thc e mphasis is on fund ame ntal ski li s and co nccpts. Chaptcr 5
pnw idcs an ove rvicw or how Vi sual Basi c wo rk s by walkin g you through th
crca ti on ora simpl e -- Heli o. worl d' .. appli cati on. Chapters 6, 7. and 8 go into
more J ctail about usin g th c Visual Basic interfac e. and show you how t0
build a sli ghtl y more compli cat cd appli cati on - an inves tment ca lculator
that yo u rn ay find useful.
T hc nc.\ t pan or thi s boo k. Part J ... Appli ca ti on-Buildin g Tec hniques,"
L"O\'crs th c dctails or writin g code in th e Vi sual Basic lan guage. Detailed
info rrna ti on abo ut indi vidual co nt ro ls. propc rti cs. and eve nts can be found in
th c Lu11g11uge Refe rence . and in Hclp .
You ab o can lea rn th e run da rn cnta ls of deve lopin g appli cations witµ Visual
Ba-. ic by goin g th ro ugh th c Tut orial.
Overview of Visual Basic Development

Microsoft Vi sual Bas ic simplifies programm in g fo r the Microsoft Windows and Prese ntati on
Manager environments. With Vi sual Basic . yo u create th e entire use r interface for your
~- appli cati on without writing any code . Thcn. to make th e interface fun ctional , yo u attach code
th at responds when th e user clicks a button or oth erwi se interacts with the interface.
Thi s chapter explain s th e Vi sual Bas ic rnoJel by showing yo u how to create a simpl e
app licati on. lt then prov ides detai ls on \\'Orki ng with Visual Basic ril es. in cludin g how to
save yo ur work.
The main secti ons in thi s chap ter are:
• Your First App licati on
• Worki ng with Proj ec ts
• Sav ing Your Work

t .
36 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

Vour First Application

To give you a feel for how thin gs wo rk in Vi sual Bas ic, this section leads you through
building an application that di spl ays " He li o. world! " on the screen in response to a mou se
click. Sorne of the term s and conce pts may be new to you ; they ' ll be more fully explained in
the chapters that follow this o ne .
As -you read thi s section , keep in mine! th at there are three general steps for creating a Vi sual
Basic application:
1. Draw the objects that make up yo ur user interface.
2 . Set properties for the obj ec ts to change the ir appearance and behavior.
3. Attach code to the objec ts.

Starting Visual Basic

If you went through Chapter 2. ""Setu p," Vi sual Bas ic should be installed on your compute r.
You can start Visual Basic from the Fil e Manager in Windows or Presentation M anager by
doubl e-clicking the icon for VB. EXE. or by choosin g Run from the File menu ancl typing
vb . From DOS , you can start Vis ua l Bas ic by typing win vb at the system prompt.
To reduce screen clutter, you may wa nt to set th e Windows options so that Program
Manager is minimi zed when yo u start Visual Bas ic . To set that option, choose Minimi ze o n
Use from the Options menu in Prog ram Manage r. lf you plan to start Vi sual Basic fro m the
File M anager, set the same op tion there.
Wh en you start Visual Basic, it auto maticall y ope ns a new project and di spl ays th e Projec t
window . The application is th e ac tu al program the user run s, while the proj ect is th e set o f
fil es th e developer uses to build the applicati o n. The Proj ect windo w conta ins a li st of eac h
fil e in th e project.
Althou gh there is always a projec l open in Vi sual Basic, you can clase the Project window .
To open it again, choose Project W indow fro m th e Winclow menu. Visual Basic hieles th e
Project window when you run an app li ca ti on.
Fig ure 5. 1 shows what th e Project window loo ks like wh en you start Visual Basic .

Figure 5.1 The Project Window

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 5 Overview of Visual Basic Development 37

For more information on projects, see the next section, "Working with Projects."

The Parts of an Application

A Visual Basic application can include three kinds of files: forros, modules, and a global
modul e. A form is a file that contains visual elements plus code, while the module and
global module file s are only code. ~ '
You work with forros and modules at design time, which is any time yo u' re building an
application. When you switch to run time by running the application , Visual Basic hides the
modules, and di splays only the forros you've programmed to be visible at startup .
The "Helio, world!" application uses only one form, but many of yo ur applications will use
two or more. To create a new form, choose New Form from the File menu.

Forms and Controls

Visual Basic uses the term "form" to refer to a window you create and customize, as
opposed to a built-in window such as the Project window. On forros, you draw graphical
objects called controls, which are used to get user input and to display output. Controls
include text boxes, comrnand buttons, and list boxes.
For more information on forros and controls, see the Language Reference , or:

m Search Help for:


Much of the work you do with Visual Basic involves customizing forms and co ntrol s.
Because they are built into Visual Basic, you don't have to do any programming to display
them on the screen. You simply draw them to create your application' s user interface.
Drawing controls is much like drawing an object in a graphics program such as Windows
Paintbrush. To draw a text box for the "Hello, world!" application , cli ck the tex t box too! in
the Toolbox, shown in Figure 5.2. (The Toolbox is a set of tools you use at design time to
place con trol s on a form.) Then móve the pointer to the form and d1:ag to draw a text box .
Repeat the process for the command button .
~ fM
A @fil Text box too/

o -o - -
Command button too/

Figure 5.2 Text box and command button tools in the Toolbox

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

38 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

The result is a form w ith two controls, as shown in Figure 5.3. Each of these items - the
form and eac h con trol - is considered an object by Visual Basic code.

la Formt aa
1 >:: ::: ...

Figure 5.3 Te xt box and command button controls on a form

Fine-Tuning Vour Interface with the Properties Bar

After you draw co ntrol s on a form , yo u adjust their appearance and behavior by usin g th e
Properties bar, whi ch is located beneath the menu bar, as shown in Figure 5.4.

Eile .!;_dit Code Bun ':6:'indow !:!elp

ICt1Name 3000. 1800 l-'L::11.; 121 5 X~95

Figure 5.4 The Properties Bar

Every characteri stic of an object in Visual Basic is specified by a property. These

characteri stics include the objec t's name, contents, size, position, and color. Visual Basic
defines a specific se t of properties for eac h type of object. When an object is c reated. Visual
Basic sets its properties to initial (default) values. The value of a property is called a se tting.
As you design your appli cati on. you se t properti es to fashion the look of yo ur interface.
When users run yo ur application , th e code you' ve written monitors and ofte n changes
property settings in response to user actions such as mouse c licks.
You change property se ttings at design time by using the Properti es bar. To create the
"Hello, world !'' exa mpl e, yo u se t the fol lowi ng three properties .
Property name Meaning
Ct!Name The name of a control as it appears in Visual
Basic code.
Text The contents of a text box , Iist bo x, or
co mbo box.
Capti on The text displayed on a comma nd button ,
opti o n button , check box , o r a number of
other control s.

Visual Basic g ives th e tex t box th e defau lt name Textl and the comm and button th e defa ult
name Command 1. but it 's helpful to use more meaningful names so you ca n eas il y refer to
them in code. In this exam pl e, we ' II use the names Readout and HelloButton .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 5 Overview of Visual Basic Development 39

Click the text box once, then look to see whether the CtlName property is selected in the
Properties list box at the left of the Properties bar. (If it 's not selec ted, click the a1rnw at the
right of the list box and select Ct!Name.) Then type Readout. As you type, the text appears
in the Settings box in the rniddle of the Properties bar, as shown in Figure 5.5 .

lct1Name 11) 3000. 1800

Figure 5.5 The Properties bar with CtlName property set to Readout

Now click the command button and type HelloButton, then press ENTER. You've just
assigned new values to the CtlName property for each control.
Although the words you typed appeared in the Properties bar, you didn't see any change in
the text on the controls themselves. That's because Readout and HelloButto_n are control
names that appear only in code. The way to tell that a con trol name has changed is by
opening the Code window and looking at the code for the control. The Code window is
where you write, display, and edit Visual Basic code. You can open a Code window for each
form and module in your project. Double-click th e Readout text box to see what code is
attached, as shown in Figure 5.6.

O bject: i
R eadout

Sub Readout_ Change ()

End Sub

+ . •

The name Readout represents the text box in code.

Figure 5.6 The Code window with code for the Readout text box

You ' ll return to the Code window when you start addin g code. For now, close it or minimize
it, and continue setting properties.
The CtlName property settings for the text box and co mm and putton don ' t affect what the
user sees, but the Text and Caption property settin gs do ._The Text property for the text box
specifies the contents of the text box, and the Caption pr'ciperty for th e command button
specifies the text displayed on the button.

Note When you create a text box , Visual Basic initiall y sets th e Ct!Name property and the
Text property to the same default value ..:_ in thi s case, Text 1.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

40 Part 2 Vi sual Basic Essentials

For the "Helio, world! " application, you want the text box to start off empty. You do that by
setting its Text property toan empty string.

To change the text box so it displays an empty string on startu p:

1 Click the text box .
2 Click the arrow in the Properties list box at the left of the Properties bar.
Vi sual Basic di splays a list of ali the properties defined for the text box .
3 Press the letter T until the Text property is selected, then press ENTER .
4 Select the existing text in the Settings box, press DELETE, and then press ENTE R.
The text box should now be blank.

Now, you change the caption displayed on the HelloButton command button .

To change the command button so it displays "Click Here":

1 Click the command button.
If the Caption property is selected in the Properties bar, skip to Step 4.
2 Click the arrow in the Properties list box at the left of the Properties bar.
Vi sual Basic di spl ays a list of ali the properties defined for the command button .
3 Press the letter C until the Caption property is selected, then press ENTER .

4 Type Click Here

As you type, the new caption appears on the command button.

With the interface for the "Hello, world!" application complete, you ' re ready to add the code
th at tell s the command button how to respond to a mouse click at run tim e.

Writing Code to Respond to Events

Earli er yo u read th at each object (form or control) has a predefined set of properties, and th at
each of these properties has an initial value you can change at design time .
Similarly, eac h object you create is associated with a predefined set of eve nts. An e vent is a
specific action , such as a mou se cl ick, that is recognized by a form or control. An eve nt
typically occurs as a result of a user action, but may also be generated by the sys te m.
Although obj ec ts in Visual Bas ic automatically recognize a predefined set of eve nts, yo u
determine if and how they will respond toan event. You program the res pon se by writin g
code. You don ' t have to write code for every combination of object and eve nt. I f an object
recognizes an event, but there is no code attached for that event, Visual Bas ic ignores it.
When you do want an object to respond toan e vent, you put the instructions in th e form of
cude called an event procedure.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programme r's Guide

Chapter 5 Overview of Visual Basic Oevelopment 41

An Event Procedure for the Command Button

To make the HelloButton command button respond to a mouse click at run time, you write
code for the Click event. First, double-click the command button to open up the Code
window for the form.
When you double~click a command button, the Code window selects the Click event by
default, as shown at the left of Figure 5.7. But you ca~write code for any of the events
recognized by the command button. To see a list of those events, click the arrow in the
Procedure box , as shown at the right of Figure 5.7. Click the arrow again to close the lis t.

Objecl: jHe lloB utton

Sub HelloButton_Click ()

End Sub

Sub HelloButton_ Click () DragDrop

End Sub GotFocus

+ +

Figure 5.7 The Code window with the Click procedure displayed, and with a list ot other events

The Procedure box lists al i of the events recognized by the current object (i n this case, the
command button). When you select Click in the Procedure box, Visual Basic displays acode
template for the event procedure HelloButton_Click. Acode template includes the first and
last lines of an event procedure.
An event procedure is the code that is invoked when a form or control recognizes that a
particular event has occurred. Visual Basic knows which procedure to invoke because the
name of the procedure includes the names of both the object and the event, joined by an
underscore, like thi s:

The objectname is the same as the value of the Ct!Name property. The eventname must be
on the li st of events that Visual Basic defines for the object. Because the naming convention
establishes a link between the object and the code, event procedures are said to be attached
to forms and controls.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

42 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

How Things Happen in Code

Earlier, yo u learned how to use the Properties bar to change initial settings for properties. To
change a property setting at run time, you entera Visual Basic statement with this syntax:
obj ectname.propertyname = new setting

The. text box in the "Helio, world!" application is named Readout, and the Text property
determines what it displays. Therefore, the line of code that prints "Hello, world !" is :
Readout.Text = "Hello, world!"

Enter that line between the Sub and End Sub statements in the HelloButton_Click
procedure. Figure 5.8 shows what the completed procedure should look like, and it also
points out what each part of the procedure does.

Procedure name determines what event to respond to.

Sub HelloButton_ Click ()

Readout.Text = "Hello, world!"
End Sub

• •
Name after the period determines what property to change.
Name befare the period determines what object to act on.
Figure 5.8 The Code window with the completed HelloButton_Click procedure

Now yo u can press F5 to run the application. To make sure the code works, click th e
command button; the words "Heli o, world !" should be displayed in the text box . Choose
End from the Run rnenu to retum to design tim e.
To create a variation, you can add a statement that causes the command button to display the
text , "You clicked me!" Although yo u use the Text property to specify what is displayed in
text boxes, you use the Caption property to specify what appears on buttons . The event
proced ure with the add itional line of code should look like this:
Sub HelloButton _ Click ()
Readout.Text = "H ello, world!"
HelloButton.Caption = "You clicked me!"
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 5 Overview of Visual Basic Development 43

You ' ve now drawn control s, set properties, and written code to create a simple application in
Visual Basic. The las t secti on in thi s chapter, "Saving Your Work," explains how to save what
yo u' ve done.
For more information on the steps in building an application, see Chapter 6 , "Drawing t:1e
Interface," Chapter 7 , " Settin g Properties," and Chapter 8, "Attaching Code," or:

m Search Help for:

build a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Basic"

You tested the "Helio, world !" application by running it inside Visual Basic. You also can
co nvert an application to an executable file so that it can run outside Visual Basic. For more
information, see Chapter 8, or:

m Search Help for:

exe cutable a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Basic"

Working with Projects

The prev ious section defined a proj ec t as a collection of all the fil es that make upan
applicati on. Visual Basic di spl ays a listing for each fil e in the Proj ect window. A projec t has:
• Zero or more form file s. Stored in each fil e are the visual representation of the form and
the controls drawn on it, event procedures attached to the form and control s, and general
procedures not attac hed to objects. Most applications include at least one form .
• Zero or more module files. A module is -a collection of general procedures that can be
called from anywhere in the application. ~_oduJes are_us~d_in larger_applications to store
p.!:_oc~d ures shared by the entire applica,~j_Ql) . · - · -
• G lobal module fil e. The global module stores variable, constant, and type information
shared by the entire application . The global module has no procedures. There is always
one (and onl y one) global module in a project, but like regular modules, you don ' t have
to use it.

For a co mplete di scuss ion of modul es and the global module, see Chapter 17 , "Advanced
Language Features ."

Opening and Closing Projects

As men ti oned earlier, when yo u start Vis ual Basic, it aut_omatically opens a new projec t. To
ope n an ex istin g project, choose Open Project from the Fil e menu . You cannot have more
th an one project open at a tim e, but yo u can copy controls and code from one proj ect to
You do not close a proj ec t as yo u woul d a file . Instead, a proj ec t is closed whe n yo u quit
Vi sual Basic , or when yo u ope n another new or existin g proj ec t. In each case, yo u will be
prompted to save th e project you were working on. For more inforn1ation on saving the fil es
in a project, see the sec ti on "Saving Yo ur Work" at the end of thi s chapter.

Microso ft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

44 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

Where Project Files Are Stored

When you open a new project, Visual Basic creates a blank form and a global module. The
form is automatically opened in the center of your screen, and the Project window di splays
li stin gs for the form and the global module .
However, although the listings in the Project window represent fil es, Visual Basic does not
automatically create files on your di sk when you open a new project. Only when you choose
one of the Save comrnands from the File menu does Visual Basic actually save anything to
When you choo se Save Project, Visual Basic first prompts you to save each of the forms in
the project with the default extension .FRM. It then prompts you to save the project fil e with
the default extension .MAK. The project file does not contain any forms or code. It is simpl y
a Ii st of all the files associated with a particular project. That list is updated every time yo u
save the project.
The files that make upa project don't have to be in one direc tory on your hard drive,
because the project file tells your application where to fi nd them . In addition, a single file ,
such as a form, can be part of more than one project. When you build an executable version
of an application, Visual Basic copies the form and module files and combines the copies
into one executable file, but leaves the original files intact.

Note 1f you delete or rename a fil e from inside Vi sual Basic using the Remove File or Save
File As commands on the File menu , the project fi le is updated to reflect those changes the
nex t time the project is saved. However, if yo u rename or delete a file outside of Vi sual
Basic and then open the project, Vi sual Basic display s an error message to warn you th at a
file is mi ssin g. To add a new or renamed file into a project, open the project and choo se the
Add Fil e command from the File menu .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 5 Overview of Visual Basic Development 45

Saving Vour Work

Visual Basic prompts you to save the files in a project to di sk whenever changes would
otherwise be lost (for example, when quitting Visual Basic) . However, it 's a good idea to
save regularly while yo u're creating an application.
When you save a {01m file , you also save any code you ' ve attached to both the form and
controls. However, you also can save the code separatefy, as text. The following tabl e
explains the Save comrnands that are available in Visual Basic.
Save command Action
Save Project (File menu) Saves all th e files in the current project and
the project file itself in binary formal.
Save Project As (File menu) Like Save Project, but enables you to save
the project file under a new name while also
retaining the original file.
Save File (File menu) Saves the currently se lected form or modul e
in binary formal.
Save File As (File menu) Like Save File, but enables yo u to save a file
under a new name while also retainin g the
origi nal file. The new file remains in the
project, but the original file is closed and
removed from the project. (See note below .)
Save Text (Code menu) Saves the code in the currently selected
form or module in text (ASCII ) formal.

Note The Save File As comrnand saves the file, and any changes made since the last save,
unde r a new name that you specify. The old version of the file, without a ny of the changes
made since the last time you saved, is retained also. However, only the newly named file
remains associated with the project. You can add the old version back into the project by
using the Add File command from the File menu.

For more information on saving your work :

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Drawing the Interface

The fi rst step in creating an appli cation with Visual Basic is to dra w the user interface: th e
command buttons. tcxt boxes , and oth er objects the user will see and use. You th en set
propert ies and write Vi sua l Basi c code to make the interface ac ti ve.
Thi s chapter ex plain s how to draw the interface for an application th at calcul ates th e re turn
on an investment. Chapter 7, ··Setting Properties," and Chapter 8, "Attaching Code,"' use thc
same examp le. lf yo u work at your computer as yo u read throu gh the next three chap ters,
you' ll end up with a rully func ti onal investment calculator.
The main sectiom, in thi'.:. chapter are:
• Drawin g Controls
• Resizing. Mo\'ing . and Deleting Control s
• Saving the In vestmcnt Calcul ator

'-...~ •-t:•:-.
. ··... ··.......
··-.:·-.. ·-==·
'··{ : ~· :--,......
· . ·. 0··
··..:· --#
- ·-
Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

Drawing Controls
Chapter 5, "Overview of Visual Basic Development," explained that you draw controls on
forms to create the interface for your application. This chapter provides more detai ls on
drawing controls and how to move and resize them once they're drawn. Although each type
of control is different, you use the same process to draw al i co ntrol s.

The Toolbox
The center of the drawing process is the Toolbox, which you can position anywhere on the
screen. It contains one tool for each control, plus a pointer to manipulate controls after
they ' re drawn. You use the tools to draw controls on a form muchas you would use tools in
a graphics program to draw lines and shapes.
The Toolbox opens automatically when you start Visual Basic. If it has been closed, you can
open it again by choosing Toolbox from the Window men u. Figure 6.1 shows the Toolbox
with its tools labelled .
Pointer - ~ ~ - Picture box
Label - A ~ - Text box
Frame - oo - Command button
Check box - [8J @ - Option button
Combo box - ~. gJ - List box
Horizontal sera// bar - 8!] ~ - Vertical sera// bar
Timer - o
. El - Orive list box
Directory list box - o ~ - File list box

Figure 6.1 The Toolbox

This chapter describes only the controls used to build th e In ves tmcnt Calc ulator in the nex t
section . For information on ali Visual Basic controls, see the individuaJ entri es on controls in
the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

contro ls a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Bas ic"

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 6 Drawing the Interface 49

The Interface of the lnvestment Calculator

With Vi sual Basic, it' s possible to build a useful application such as an Investment
Calculator by drawing only a few controls and writing relatively simple code. The
calculator, shown in Figure 6.2, computes the endin g bal ance of an investment when interest
is compounded daily.

Starting Balance '-----__J.____ _ _ ___,' - Text box

lnteres t Rate in %1._5___ _ __,

Duration in Y ear s .
1 ____ _ __,

¡Compute Ending Balance ¡ ~ - -------&- Command button

1 5 13
Ending Balance . _º _- _ _
l ___ __J

Figure 6.2 The Completed lnvestment Calculator

As yo u can see, the lnvestment Calculator uses three types of controls: labels, text boxes,
and a command button. A label displays text th at cannot be directly changed by the user. A
text box provides a place to display or enter text, and a command button is a control that can
be programmed to carry out a command or ac tion when the user clicks it. (Sorne other
products refer to command buttons as "push buttons," and to text boxes as "edit fi elds.")
The first three text boxes accept input for th e startin g balance, interest, and duration of the
in ves tm ent. The command button starts the computation and displays the result in the fourth
tex t box. The labels show the user wh at each text box contains.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

50 Part 2 Visua l Ba sic Ess enti als

Drawing a Text Box

You can start to build the lnvestment Calculator by opening a new project and followin g the
steps below to draw a text box on the blank fonn . Then use the same procedure to draw the
rest of the controls. When you ' re done, your form should look like Figure 6.3 . Notice that all
of the co ntrol s di splay their default names - he names assigned by Visual Basic. You ' ll
leam how to change default names in Chapter 7, "Setting Properties ."

1m Forml aa
: : Labell IText1
: : : Label2
~ITe-xt2- ~I
Labe13 1 Tesl3


Label4 IText4

Figure 6.3 Controls with default names

To draw a text box:

1 lf th e Toolbox is not visible, choose Toolbox from the Window menu .
2 Click th e text box too] , as shown in Figure 6.4 .

Texr box too /

Figure 6.4 Text box tool selected in the Toolbox

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 6 Drawing the Interface 51

3 Move the pointer onto your form . The pointer becomes a cross hair, as shown in
Figure 6.5.

~ ~
mi Forml aa
A ~
oo 1 ¡:.::
··· ~ - - - -
. +. :::
181 ®
~. ~.
o El
cJ ~

Figure 6.5 Orawing the text box

4 Place the cross hair where you want the upper-left comer of the control.
5 Drag the cross hair until the control is the size you want.
6 Release the mouse button. The text box appears on the form .

To complete the interface, draw three more text boxes, four labels, and a command button .
You can draw them using the steps above, or use the shortcut described in the next section .
Figure 6.6 shows where the label and command button tool s are located in the Toolbox .
After drawing the controls, arrange them as shown in Figure 6.3 .
~ ~
A = La bel too!

oo ,-- Command button too/

¡g¡ @
- - -
Figure 6.6 The label and command button tools in the Toolbox

For information on how to manipulate co ntrol s, see "Resizin g, Moving, and Deleting
Controls" later in thi s chapter, or:

m Search Help far:

manipulate controls a See Tutorial Lesson:
"W~king with Visual Basic"

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

52 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

A Shortcut
If you follow the steps in the procedure above for drawing a text box , you can select, place,
and size each control in turn. However, if you have a lot of controls to draw, you may find it
fas ter to crea te all of the controls first , and then arrange them on the form. Y ou can crea te a
default-size control, without drawing it, by doubl e-clickirig the appropriate too! in the
Toolbox .

To create a control by double-clicking:

• In th e Toolbox , double-click the too! for the co ntrol you want to create.
The control appears in the center of th e form . When you double-click agai n, another
control appears on top of the first. You then ca n move each control to where you want it.

You can create ali of the controls you need for the Investment Calculator by double -clicking
the appropriate tool s in the Toolbox , and then moving the controls until they are arranged as
show n in Fig ure 6.3. You can resize controls as ex plained in the next section , but you'll
act ually save time if you wait to resize the co nt ro ls until after you've set the captions. That
way you ca n be sure that the captions fit in the control. Setting captions is explained in
C hapter 7, "Setting Properties."

Copying and Pasting Controls

You can copy and paste controls within a form or from one form to another. Thi s is hand y if
you want to quickly create severa! identical co ntrols. For more information :

m Search Help for:

copy controls
See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Basic"

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 6 Drawing the Interface 53

Resizing, Moving, and Deleting Controls

After you draw a control yo u can change its size, move it, or delete it. Resizing and moving
are essential if you create controls with the double-clicking shortcut.

To resize a control:
1 Click the control to select it.
The control is outlined with small black rectangles called sizing handles, as shown in
Figure 6.7.

mi Forml aa

I Text1 1- • _ Text2~
'1---i ~~~- [

Click control to display

sizing handles.
Figure 6.7 A selected text box displays sizing handles.

2 To size the heigh t and width of the control at the same time, drag one of the com er sizing
To size the control in one direction only , draga sizing handl e on one of its sides.
3 Release the mouse button to redraw the control to the new size .
To cancel the selec ti on, cli ck an em pty part of the form .

To move a control:
• Posi tion the pointer anywhere inside the border of the control and drag it to the new
location on the form .

You can move a control that ' s already selec ted, but be careful not to drag one of the sizing
handles. When you re lease the mouse button after moving a control , the sizing handles will
be di splayed (even if they weren't before the move) .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

54 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

To move two or more controls at once:

1 Press the CTRL key and click each control you want to move.
(You don ' t have to press CTRL to select the first control. )
As you click each control, it' s outlined with gray sizing handles, as shown in Figure 6.8 .

mi Forml aa
•.. CTextl :

1 Multiple-selected controls
Figure 6.8 Multiple-selected controls are outl ined with gray sizing handles.

2 Drag the selected controls to the new location on th e form .

To cancel the selection, click an empty part of the form .

To delete a control:
1 Click the contro l to select it.
2 Press the DEL key .
- or-
From the Edit menu , choose Delete.

To delete two or more controls at once:

1 Press the CTRL key and click each control you want to delete.
2 Press the DEL key .
- or-
From the Edit menu , choose Delete.

Aligning Controls on the Form

When you move a control, you may notice that it "jumps" by small increments. What's
happenin g is that Vi sual Bas ic is movin g it along a built-in grid. The grid is di splayed as
dotted lines in the backgro und of every form at design tim e.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 6 Drawing the Interface 55

The grid is there to make it easier for you to line up controls. If you want to move controls
by increments smaller th an the grid allows, choose Grid Settings from the Edit menu and
tum off the Ali gn to Grid option. When you tum the grid back on, you can use the Align to
Grid command on the Edit menu to line up selected controls on the grid. You also can
change the increments for the grid by typing in new Spacing se ttin gs in the Grid Settings
dialog box.
For more information on using the grid:

111 Search Help for:

grid a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Basic "

Saving the lnvestment Calculator

This chapter walked you through the first stage of building the Inves tment Calculator:
drawing th e control s. The nex t two chapters use the same example, so you should save your
work if you want to con tinu e building the application .

To save the files in the lnvestment Calculator:

1 From the File menu, choose Save Project.
If you have not previously saved the project, Visual Basic displays the Save File As
dialog box asking you to provide a name for the form.
2 Type invest.frm
3 Choose OK or press ENTER to save the form.
Visual Basic displays the Save Project As dialog box ask in g yo u to provide a name for
th e project.
4 Type invest.mak
5 Choose OK or press ENTER to save the project.

For more information on saving your work, see Chapter 5 , " Overview of Visual Basic
Development," or:

111 Search Help for:

save a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Basic "

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Setting Properties

Chapter 6, "Drawing the Interface," took you through the first steps in building an
application. Working with a bl ank fo rm as the framework , you drew co ntrol s and set their
size and locati on to make a "rough draft" of yo ur application' s interface. Now yo u can refine
the interface by fine-tuning the appearance and behavior of the control s.
You accompli sh thi s fine-tuning by settin g properties. For exampl e, you ca n add a border to
a label control by setting its BorderSty le prope rty to 1. Or, you can set the MultiLine
property for a text box to True so it ca n acco mm odate multiple lines of tex t.
Thi s chapter explain s how to set properti es at desig n time usin g th e Properti e bar. It
continues the creation of the ln vestm ent Calcu lator described in C hapter 6 by show ing yo u
how to set properties for the objects th at mak e up that app li catio n. The main secti ons in thi s
chapter are:
• The Role of Properti es in Vi sual Bas ic
• U ing .the Properties Bar
• Setti ng Properties for the In vestment Ca lcu lator
• Other Ways to Se t Prope rtie ~

X X >
58 Part 2 Visual Basic Es se ntials

The Role of Properties in Visual Basic

Eac h objec t (fo nn or co ntrol ) in Vi sual Basic has a predefined set of properties. These
properti es determin e the object 's appearance and behavior. For example, the Enabled
prope rty determ ines whether a text box can respond to events, while the FontBold propert y
determines wh eth er text is di splayed in a bold font.
When an obj ec t is created, its properties are set to initial values, called default settings. A
default setting is th e valu e a property has if you do nothing to change it. For exampl e, the
default setting fo r the Enabled property is True - which means the property is "on ." So,
unless you specify otherwise, ali form s and controls are enabled and can respond to events.
In man y cases yo u' ll find th at default settings work fine. You don ' t have to set the value of
every property of an obj ec t - only the ones in which you want a different value from the
You set propen ies at design time using the Properties bar, and at run time using code.
Changing property settings at run time is one of the keys to making an application work . For
information on se tting properti es at run time, see "Other Ways to Set Properti es" later in thi s
chapter, or Chapter 8. "Attachin g Code."
For explanati ons of al i Visual Bas ic properties, see the Language Ref erence, or:

m Search _Help for:

111111 See Tutorial Lesson:
111 "Working with Visual Basic "

Using the Properties Bar

The Properti es bar is located beneath the menu bar, as shown in Figure 7 .1. You use it to
vie w and se t prope rti es fo r the selected control or form .

To see the properties for a form:

• Click a blank pa rt of the fo rm .
The fo rm 's propert ies are di spl ayed in the Properties bar.

To see the pro perties for a control :

• Cli ck the cont ro l.
- Or -
• Press TAB to se lec t the control.
The control" s prope rti es are di spl ayed in the Properties bar.

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 7 Setting Properties 59

To change a property setting for a form or control:

1 Click the control or a blank part of the form .
2 In the Properties list box at the left of the Properties bar, select the property you want to
3 Type the new setting.

Type a new setting here.

X ✓ Commandl 1800. 2760 ~i::1

1 2535 X 375

FontName •

Click here ar press ENTER to

confirm the new setting.
Figure 7.1 The Properties Bar

4 To confirm the setting you've typed, press ENTER, or click the Enter button (the one with
a check mark).
To cancel the new setting, press ESC, or click the Cancel button (the one with an X) .

The Properties li st box at the left of the Properties bar lists all of the properties you can se t
for the selected object at design time. (Sorne properties can be set only at run time .) The
Properties list box always di splays one property for the selected object, and you can cli ck the
arrow at the right of the li st box to scroll through a list of other properties for that object.
You then can click one of the properties to select it and to display its setting in the Settings
box at the middle of the Properties bar. The boxes at the right of the Properties bar display
the position and size of the selected object, both when it's in one place and while you move
or resize it.
Visual Basic makes it easy to change a property setting: You just select an object, select a
property, and type to change the setting. You don't have to select the setting in the Settings
box - you just type to rep lace it. _

Hint A quick way to find a property is to click the arrow in the Properties list box and then
press the first letter of the property name. The selection shifts to the first property th at starts
with that letter. Press the letter again to move to other words that begin with the same letter,
or use the arrow keys. Press ENTER and then type ro edit the property setting.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

60 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

Sorne properties have a fixed list of se tting . For instance, the Visible prope11y , w hi ch
determ ines whether the user can see a form or control , mu st be either True or False. Rath er
th an typ ing new settings for such properti es, you click the arrow at the right of the Settings
box and choose from a list, as shown in Figure 7 .2.

f il e .!;_ dit ~ode B un '.:6'.indow !::!e lp

¡visible w 3000, 1800


lf the arrow at the right of the Settings box is

ena bled, click the arrow and se/ect from the list.
Figure 7.2 The Settings box displays a list of possible settings far the selected property.

To choo se from a fixed list of property settings:

1 Click the control ora blank part of the fo rm .
2 In the Properties list box , selecta propert y.
If th e selec ted property has a fixed number of settings, the arrow at the right of the
Settings box is enabled (and shaded bl ack rather than gray) .
3 Cli ck the arrow.
Vi sual Basic displays a li st of poss ible se ttin gs .
4 Select the setting you wa nt from the li st.

Hint There's another way to chan ge se ttin gs for properties with a fixed number of settin gs:
Fo ll ow Steps I and 2 in the procedure above. then press the first letter of the settin g (such as
" F" for False), and press ENTER

Vi sual Basic also provides key combina ti ons yo u can use to see and set properti es in the
Properti es bar. For more informat ion :

m Search Help for:

Properties bar

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 7 Setting Properties 61

Setting Properties for the lnvestment Calculator

In Chapter 6, " Drawing the Interface," you started a new project and drew controls as the
first step in building an Investment Calculator. Now that you know how to set properties,
you can continue building the application by changing the appearance of the controls.

Setting the Caption Property

The previous sec tion explai ned how to set properties for any object. You can practice what
you learned by settin g the Caption property for the command button in the Investment
Calculator. The Caption property determines what text is di splayed on the button . The
procedure ass umes yo u have started Visual Basic and opened the Investment Calculator
project, which you were asked to save as INVEST.MAK in Chapter 6.

To set the Caption property:

1 If necessary, open the form for the Investment Calculator by doubl e-c licking the
INVEST.FRM li sting in the Project window .
2 Click the co mm and button on the form.
The Properties bar di splays the properties for the command button . By default, the
property initi all y di spl ayed for a command button is Caption. So unless sorne other
property is di splayed , you can skip Step 4 and proceed to Step 5.
3 In the Properties list box at the left of the Properties bar, select th e Caption property.
The Caption property is di splayed in the list box, and its current setting is di spl ayed in
the Settings box at the middle of the Properties bar.
4 Type Compute Ending Balance
5 To confirm th e new se tting, press ENTER, or click the Enter button (the one with a check
You may need to resize the command button if "Compute Ending Balance" doesn' t fit.
Note th at Vi sual Basic autom ati call y centers text on the command button .

A Shortcut
Sorne of the app li cati ons yo u create with Visual Basic may require you to set a number of
properties for eac h of your controls. One way to do that is to set ali of the necessary
properti es for one control, then set them for the next control, and so on. However, that wi ll
mean repeated ly se lecting properties for each control. _
You can avo id th at by tak ing advantage of a handy fe ature: Once yo u selecta property, the
Properties bar co ntinues to di splay th at property for each object you select. That means you
can set one property-such as Caption-for each control to which it applies without having
to reselect the property in the Properties bar. You simp ly select the nex t control and type a
new settin g. Jf you se lec t an object to whi ch a property does n' t app ly, the Properties bar
di splays the default or most commonl y used property for th e selec ted object.

Micro soft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

62 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

To set the same property for severa! controls in succession:

1 Select the first control.
2 In the Properties list box at the left of the Properties bar, select the first property you
want to set.
3 Type the new setting.
4 Click the next control.
- or-
Press E TER, and then press TAB to move the selection from one control to the next.
(When you click the next control, you don't have to press ENTER to confirm the change
for the previous control; Visual Basic confirms it automatically .)
5 Repeat Steps 3-4 until you have set the first property for each of the co ntrols to which it
6 Repeat Steps 1-5 for each of the properties you want to set.

Setting Other Properties for the lnvestment Calculator

Now that you've set the Caption property for the command button in the Investment
Calculator, you can set properties for the other controls. Figure 7 .3 shows the Investment
Calculator before and after its properties have been set. You ca n see differences in what' s
displayed on each control, but you'll be making other changes, too.

1m Forml aa 1m lnvestment Calculator aa

Labe ll • , Te•t1
.: :
Sta,ting Balance
1 1

Label2 : 1Te•t2 .. lnte,est Rate in ~

1 1 1

Label3 j Te•t3 Ou, ation in Years:

1 •

Command1 Compute Ending Balance

1 1

. : . Labe l4 : ITe•t4 1
E nding Balance

Figure 7.3 The lnvestment Calculator befare and after properties are set

As mentioned earl ier, you often don ' t need to c hange th e default se tting for a property . The
following table lists the properties you do need to set for eac h co ntrol in the ln vestm ent
Calculator. The first column lists the default name th at Visual Basic assigned to each object
when you created it. The other columns list the settin gs for eac h property. Further
explanation follows the table.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 7 Setting Properties 63

In Chapter 8, "Attaching Code," you ' II finish the lnvestment Calculator by attaching code
to the command button.
Default name Caption CtlName Text
Forml lnvestment
Textl StartTexi (blank)
Text2 RateText (blank)
Text3 YearsText (blank)
Text4 EndText (blank)
Labell Starting Balance
Label2 Interest Rate in %
Label3 Duration in Y ears
Label4 Ending Balance
Commandl Compute Ending CalcCmd

The Form
The Caption property places a caption in the form's title bar.

The Text Boxes

The Ct!Name property uniquely identifies eac h control you draw . You use thi s name to refer
to the control in code. It's a good idea to give objects descriptive names that help you
remember what they ' re for. The na mes used here for the text boxes identify what each holds:
StartText for the starting balance, and so on. The "Text" at the end of the name helps you
re member what type of control it is.
The Text property determines what te xt is displayed in a text box, or reflects what the user
has typed in at run time. The default se tting for the Text property is the same as its CtlName
property . That helps you tell one text box from another. However, for the lnvestment
Calculator, you want the text boxes to be blank so the user can enter numbers into them. To
make them blank, select the Text property in the Properties list box, then select the default
setting in the Settings box and delete it or replace it with a blank space.

The Labels
Labels have a Caption property that determines what text they display. When a label is
created, its Ct!Name property and Caption property are the same. It doesn 't matter whether
the default names for your labels match the default names in the table, as long as the
captions match the ones shown in Figure 7.3.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

64 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

The Command Button

You may have already set the Caption property for the command button , but you must also
set its Ct!Name property so you can refer to it later in code. The name suggested for the
co mmand button ends with an abbreviation that helps you to keep the type of control in
mind - in this case, CalcCmd.

Other Ways to Set Properties

Setting properties at design time using the Properties bar is only one of three ways to change
properties. You also can set properties at run time - either by using code or, for most
co ntrols, by allowing the user to make changes.
The text box provides a good example of these methods. The following li st explains three
ways the Tex t property can be changed.
lf you want to Set the Text property by
Display a fixed message to the user. Typing the text in the Properties bar.
Accept input typed by the user. Typing a blank space in the Properties bar.
At run time, the user's input will
automatically reset the Text property .
Di splay text in response to sorne event (such Writing code that says, in effect, "assign this
as the results of a calculation). setting to the Text property." That setting
(the text) will be displayed in the text box
when the code executes .

Although most properties can be set from code, only a few can be se t directly by the user.
For more information about setting properties from code, see Chapter 8, " Attaching Code."

Setting Properties for Size and Position

The properties that determine the size and position of a form or control - Left, Top, Height, and
Width - are set automatically when you move or resize a control or form . These properties are
di splayed in boxes at the right of the Properties bar, and they chan ge as yo u move or resize an
object with the mouse. You cannot type in these boxes, but you can change properties for size
and position the same way you change other properties: Select them in th e Properties list box at
the left of the Properties bar and type new settings.

1 2295 X ~95

Width x He,ght
Figure 7.4 Property settings for size and position

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Attaching Code

Once yo u' ve finished creating an application ' s interface, yo u' re ready to attach code to the
objects in the interface to make them respond to events. ::You write that code in the Code
This chapter explains the various features of the Code window, and reviews the structure of
the event procedures you write there. It also describes the event procedure that completes the
Investment Calculator you've been building in the previous two chapters. After you finish
this chapter, yo u should have a fully functional calculator - and you' 11 understand how it
works .
Details on programming in Visual Basic are provided in Part 3 of this book.
The main sections in thi s chapter are:
• When Do You Need Code?
• Writing Event Procedures
• How the Code Works
• Creating an Executable File

66 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

When Do Vou Need Code?

In traditional applications, ali of the functionality comes from the code you write. In Vi sual
Basic, a lot of functionality has been built into the forms and controls themselves . So it ' s
important to understand when code is and isn ' t necessary in building applications.
Simply put, you need code in Visual Basic to activate your interface, not to creare it in th e
firsi place . You don ' t have to write code to creare the objects that make up your interface,
but you usually do have to write code to make somerhing happen when users interact with
those objects.
For example, consider the Investment Calculator described in the previous two chapters and
show n in Figure 8.1. The user enters numbers in the text boxes (labeled Starting Balance.
lnteres t Rate in %, and Duration in Years) and then clicks the command button , Compute
Ending Balance. The application responds by di splaying rhe answer in the Ending Balance
text box.

S tarting Balance ~ - - ~ > - - - -- ---11- Text box

lnterest Rate in Z
~1___ ~

Ouration in Years l._1 _ __ ~

!Compute Ending Balance · ---- -- - - Comm and button

1 5 13
Ending Balance _º _- _ _ ~

Figure 8.1 The completed lnvestment Calculator

To make the applicati o n work as described , you don ' t need to write an input statement to
allow the user to enter numbers in the first three text boxes. Text boxes have a built-in
capabilit y of accepting text. Nor do yo u need to program the fourth text box to be able to
di splay text - that functionality is a lso built in . However, you do need to write code to do
four things in thi s application :
• Ret ri eve th e text that the user types in the text boxes
• Convert th at text to nurnbers that can be used in a calculation
• Calculate the ending balance
• Format th e endi ng balance and display it in the Ending Balance text box

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 8 Attaching Code 67

Because ali of these tasks are rela~ed to co mputin g and di splaying the ending balance, the
code can go into a single event procedure. And because you want the final calculation to
take place when the user clicks the command button, you'll attach the event procedure to
that button . Ali event procedures follow the same general format, as explained next.

Writing Event Procedures

When an object in Visual Basic recognizes that an event has occurred, it automaticall y
invokes the event procedure with the name that corresponds to the event. Because the name
establishes an association between the object and the code, event procedures are said to be
attached to forms and controls.
An event procedure for a control combines the control' s actual name (specified in the
CtlName property), an underscore, and the event name. For instance, if you want a
command button named M yButton to invoke an even.t procedure when it is clicked, use th e
procedure MyButton_Click.
An event procedure for a form combines the word "Form," an underscore, and the event
name. If you want a form to invoke an event procedure when it is clicked, use the proced ure
Form_Click. (Like controls, forms do have unique names, but they are not used in th e names
of event procedures. )

Note Although you can write event procedures from scratch, it's better to use the code
templ ates provided by Visual Bas ic, which automatic ally include the correct procedure
name. (The next section, "Using the Code Window," tells you more about templates .)

All event procedures use the same general sy ntax, as shown in the followin g table.
Syntax for control events Syntax for form events
Sub controlname_eventname () Sub Form_eventname ()
statementblock statementblock
End Sub End Sub

The words Sub and End Submark the beginning and end of the procedure. The words
followin g Sub are the procedure's name, and statementblock is the code you want exec uted
when the event occurs. For exampl e, the following procedure is invoked when the user
clicks the control named Command 1:
Sub Co mm and l _Click ()
Commandl.Height = Commandl.Height + 100 -
Commandl . Wid t h = Commandl.Width + 100
End Sub

Similarly , th e following proced ure is invoked when th e user c licks a form:

Sub Form_Click ()
BackColor = 255
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

68 Part 2 Vis ua l Basic Essentials

lmportant If you change the name of a control after attaching a procedure to it, yo u also mu st change
th e name of the procedure, to match the new nam e of the co ntrol. Otherwise, Visual Basic
won' t be able to match the control to the proced ure. When a procedure name does not match
a co ntro l name, it becomes a general procedure: In the Code window, select "(general)"
from the Object box, then select the procedure name from th e Procedure box .

Vi sual Basic recognizes numerous events, each of whi c h has a particular use . For
ex planations of ali events, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

. . See Tutorial Lesson:
. . "Working with Visual Basic "

Using the Code Window

The Code wi ndow is where you write, di splay, and edit Visual Basic code. It helps you
attac h code to form s and controls by automati call y generating templates for event
proced ures . The templates follow the naming convention mentioned in the prev ious section.
When you first start using Visual Basic, you may just wan t to see code written by someone
else, such as the code in the sampl e application s shipped with Visual Basic. You can use the
Code window to view ex isting codeas we ll as to write new code.
You can open a different Code window for each form and module in yo ur project, and copy
and paste code between them .

To open the Code window:

• Double-click a form or control.
(To open a new form, choose New Form from th e File menu . To open an existin g form ,
doubl e-c li ck the form icon in the Proj ec t window.)
- Or -
• From the Code menu , choose Vi ew Code.

The Code window has three primary parts: two drop-down list boxes and an editing area.
The Object box , on the left, lists "general ," the names of ali the controls on the form , and
"form. " (Yo u' II leam more about "general" later.)
The Procedure box, on the right, li sts all of the eve nts recogni zed by the fo rm or control
selected in the Object box . If you have airead y written a procedure for an even t, the Object
bo x di spl ays th e event in a bold font. Wh en you se lect an eve nt in the Procedure box, the
procedure assoc iated with it (ora code template) is di spl ayed in the editin g area in the
bottom part of the Code window .

Microsoft Visual Ba sic Programmer 's Guide

Chapter 8 Attaching Code 69

To attach code to a form or control:

1 Double-click the control or a blank part of the form.
The Code window opens, or moves to the front. If you double-clicked a blank part of the
form, the Object box displays the name of the form. If you double-clicked a control , the
Object box displ ays the name of the control.
The Procedure box di splays a default event for the form or control (usually the Click
event), or the most recently selected event. If a procedure already exists for that event,
the event name is displayed in a bold font.
The procedure associated with the selected event is displayed in the Code window. If you
want to see procedures associated with another object, continue with Step 2. lf yo u want
to see a different procedure for the selected object, skip to Step 3.
2 In the Obj ect box , selec t an object, as shown in Figure 8.2.

Microsoft Visual Basic [design)

file .!;dit ~ ode Bun ~indow _tl_elp
ICt1N ame 1800. 2 760 J;G2535
1 X 375

lnve stment Calculator

· · : Starting Balance

· : : lnterest Rate in ~

. ' •
~ ----S ub Cal Endlext
: : : Duration in Years Form
End Sub Labell
~ ---- Label2
Rate Text
Startl e xt
· · : Ending Balance Yearslext


Open the Co de window by double -clicking Select an objec t in

a con trol ar a blank part of the form. the Object box.
Figure 8.2 Selecting an object in the Code window

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

70 Part 2 Vi sua l Basic Ess enti als

3 In the Procedure box, selec t an event, as shown in Figure 8.3 .

The procedure assoc iated with the selected eve nt is di splayed in the Code window. If
there is no procedure, the Code win dow di splays a templ ate to help you write one. The
templ ate includes the first and last lines of the procedure.

Select an event in the Procedure box.

Micro s oft Vi s ual Ba s ic [de s ign)

f il e f dil .Cod e Bun Y:!'.ind ow · tle lp
l c ttN ame 1800. 2760

lnve s lm e nt Ca lcul ato r

: : : lnte,est Ra te in %

~ - --I Sub CalcC md_ Clic k () D1agD1op

: . . D ur ation in Y ears
En d Su b GotFocus
' - - - --1 KeyDown
Compute Endin KeyUp

Ending Bala nce

. +

The se/ected procedure, ar a

template, is displayed here.
Figure 8.3 Selecting the CalcCmd_Cl ick proc edure

4 Enter the code yo u want in the te mplate, or edit th e existing code .

As you enter code in the Code window, you can use the standard Windows editing
commands: double-click a word or drag to selec t it, press BACKSPACE to delete th e selec ti on,
and so on. For more inform ation :

m Search Help for:

enter cod e

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 8 Attaching Code 71

In addition to helping you write an event procedure by providing a template, Visual Basic
also catches errors in the code you type. This feature is call ed syntax checking. You can turn
it on and off from the Code menu. When syntax checking is on, Visual Basic displays a
message when it detects an error in syntax in a line of code. The message tells you what kind
of error yo u' ve made. For Help on correcting the error, press Fl .

Note You' 11 also use the Code window to write general procedures, and code that' s stored
in a module. For information on using modules, see Chapter 15 , "Creating Multiple-Form
Applications." For information on general procedures, see Chapter 9, "Language Elements ,"

m Search Help for:

See Tutorial Lesson:
"Working with Visual Basic"

Attaching Code to a Command Button

To practice using the Code window, attach an event procedure to the command button in the
Investment Calculator you built in previous chapters. You' 11 follow the same general steps
whcnever you attach code to a forro or control. The name of the command button is
CalcCmd. The event that you want it to respond to is Click.

To write the CalcCmd_Click event procedure:

1 Double-click the command button .
The Code window opens and the Object box displays the name you set for the control ,
"CalcCmd." The Procedure box displays the events recognized by the CalcCmd
command button.
2 Select Click from the Procedure box if it is not already selected.
A template for the CalcCmd_Click procedure is displayed in the Code window .
3 Enter the following lines of code between the two lines of the CalcCmd_Click template.
The code will be explained in the next section. (This code assumes you used the control
names and variable names suggested in Chapter 7, "Setting Properties." If you used other
names, be sure to substitute them for the names shown below .)
StartBal = Val(StartText.Text)
Rate = Val(Rat eText.Text)
Years = Val(YearsText.Text)
EndBal = StartBa l * ( 1 + Rate .' 36500) " (Year s * 365)
EndText.Text = FormaU(EndBal. "ff,#INt.fNt0 .00")
4 To save your work, choose Save File from the File menu .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

72 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

lmportant Files saved with the Save File command store both the form and code attached to the form in
binary format. You cannot load this formal into a text editor. To save the code-but not the
form - in text (ASCTI) format , choose the Save Text command from the Code menu .

The completed event procedure should }ook like the code in Figure 8.4.

Objecl: ICalcCmd

Sub CalcCrod Click () •

StartBal = Ual( Start lext .Text )
Rate = Ual(RateText.Text)
Years = Ual(Year sText .Text)
EndBal = StartBal * (1 + Rate / 36500) A (Years * 365)
EndText.Text = ForroatS(EndBal, "11 , 111111,11110.00")
End Su b

+ +

Figure 8.4 Event procedure in the Code window

The statements between Sub andEnd Sub are indented to make the procedure easier to
read . You don ' t have to indent lines in your code.

Note The procedures you attach to forms and controls are part of the form file. Thus, to
permanently save your work on the procedure, you must save the form file to disk. To save
your work and continue , choose Save File from the File menu .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 8 Attaching Code 73

Running the lnvestment Calculator

If you've completed the tasks outlined in this and the previous two chapters , you sho uld
have a working investment calculator.

To run the lnvestment Calculator:

• From the Run menu , choose Start.
- Or -
• Press FS.

To use the lnvestmen t Ca lcu lator, first enter numbers in the first three text boxes. (Yo u can
enter decimal point s. but not dallar signs or commas.) Click the command button to find th e
ending balance of an investment that is compounded daily . Type new values and cli ck the
button again for each new calc ulation . When you ' re finished, choose End from the Run
menu .
If Vi sual Basic detec ts a run -tim e error in your code, it displays an error message. For Help
in resolving the eJTor, press FI.
When you run your app li ca tion , the Immediate window opens undemeath the application
window. (In Chapter 16. "Debugging," yo u' ll learn how to use the Immediate window
to execute individual lines of code and to modify or examine variable values) . It also is
useful during debugg ing- fixing errors in your code. For information on debuggin g, see
Chapter 16, or:

m Search Help for:


To learn how to run th e I nves trnent Calculator as a separate application, without Vi sual
Basic , see the secti on "C reating an Executable Fil e" later in thi s chapter.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

74 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

How the Code Works

Now let's examine th e code in tbe eve nt proced ure; you' ll use similar code in many of th e
applications you write.
Th e CalcCmd_Click eve nt procedure :
1. Retrieves the tex t that the user types in the text boxes .
2 . Converts that text to numbers th at can be used in calculations.
3. Calculates the endin g balance .
4. Formats the endin g balance and displays it in tb e E ndin g B alance text box .

Retrieving Data from the Text Box

The code fo r the Investment Calc ul ator is much easier to write if you work with intermediate
values. For thi purpose, the code inclu des va ri ables. A variable is a place to hold data that
can change as the app li ca ti on run s.
Th e contents of eac h tex t box are represented by the Text property. Yo u refer to a property
with thi s sy ntax:

Tberefore, the followin g statement copies the contents of the StartText tex t box into a
varia ble call ed My Stri n g $:
My Str ing$ - StartText.Text.

Converting Text to Numbers

Computers make a di stin ctio n betwee n data that is stored as text (string data) and d ata th at is
stored as num eri c data. Th e s ig nifi cance here is that tex t in the text box is stored as string
data, and Visual Bas ic cann ot add, s ubtract, or multipl y string data. Consequently , yo u mu st
co nvert th e tex t in a tex t box to a number before yo u can use it in calc ul ation s.
T o convert strin g data to nume ri c data , use the Val fun cti on.
StartBal = Val(StartText.Text)

The Val function con ve rts th e tex t th at fo ll ows it in parentheses into a number. In thi s
exampl e , the express io n in parentheses represents th e tex t in th e StartText tex t box , while
th e nam e on the le ft is the name of a variable th at will be used later in a calc ulation .
For more inform ation o n data types, see C hapter 9 , "L anguage E leme nts," or:

m Search Help for:

data type

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 8 Attaching Code 75

Doing Calculations
Mathematical fo rmulas in Visual Basic look m uch like they do on paper, except fo r sorne of
the sym bols called operators. The asterisk (*) means " multiply ," the fo rward slash (/) means
"di vide," and the caret (") means "rai se to the power of."
Pare ntheses are used to make the order of calcul ati on expli cit. For instance, in the followin g
example, the expression 1 + Ra t e / 365 0 0 is evaluated first and then raised to the power
of Ye a rs * 36 5 and fi nally, multiplied by Sta rtBa 1.
EndBal = StartBal * ( 1 + Rate / 36500) A (Years * 365)

T he fo mrnl a is the standard formul a for calcul atin g interest co mpounded dail y.

Formatting Output
T he numeric res ul t of the calculati o n abo ve was ass igned to the vari abl e En d Ba 1 . But befo re
the CalcCmd_Click procedure can di splay th e endin g balance in a tex t box , you mu st
convert the balance back to a string data type.
The easies t way to do thi s is to use the Str$ functi on. The Str$ fun cti on is the opposite of
the Val fu ncti on: lt con verts a number in to its tex t eq uivalent. To assign the result of the
End Bal calcul ation to the EndText tex t box, use th e code below. Note that instead of
ass igning the result to a variable, th e state me nt assigns it to the Tex t property of the E ndTex t
tex t box .
EndTe xt. Text = St r $(E ndBal)

T he Str$ fu nc ti on returns an unformatted string. If yo u use it, the ending balance will be
di splayed as a 15-digit number and you ' ll have many more decimal places than you need .
To format the string so that it di spl ays onl y two dec imal places, use the Format$ fun cti o n.
Like Str$, Format$ converts a number to a stri ng, bu t it also fo rmats it accordin g to the
pattern yo u spec ify, as shown in thi s code:
End Text.Tex t = Fo r mat $( EndBal. "#,###.##0 . 00 " )

T he # sig ns represent the digits greater than l O. T he ones and decimal places are represented
by zeros .
T he Format$ functi on can also spec ify many o th er formats. For compl ete info rmati on on
Format$, see th e Language Ref erence, or:

m Search Help for:


Now yo u' ve hada very brief introducti on to writin g event procedures. Chapter 9, " Lang uage
Elemen ts," teac hes yo u more about contro l properti es, vari ables, ass ignment statements, data
types. and oth er face ts of the Vi sual Basic lang uage. Chapter 9 also te ll s you how to t1 se a
Vi s ual Bas ic co ntrol stru cture to add more f un cti o nalit y to the In ves tment Calcul ator.

Microsoft Visual Basic Prog rammer 's Guide

76 Part 2 Visual Basic Essentials

Creating an Executable File

To run your application under Microsoft Windows or Presentation Manager outside Visual
Basic, you create an executable file . If you distribute the file to others, they will need a copy
of the Visual Basic run -time fi le (VBRUN l00.DLL) that is in the VB directory. No
additional license or payment to Microsoft is necessary to distribute copies of the run -time
file :

To create an executable file:

1 Open the project that contains the appl ication.
If the project is airead y open , save any changes.
2 From the File menu , choose Make EXE Fi le.
3 Type a filename in the text box.
Your filename automatica ll y replaces the default filename when you start typ in g. Visual
Basic automatically add s the extension .EXE, which you must retain in your filenam e.
4 Choose OK.

Once you've converted yo ur application toan executable file, you can run the exec utable file
from DOS by typing :
win filename

Note If you develop an app li ca ti on using Visual Basic for Windows, that app li ca ti on can
run only under Windows 3.0 or higher, in sta ndard or enhanced mode. Similarly , if you
develop an application using Visual Basic for Presentation Manager, that application can run
only under Presentation Manager.·

For more information on th e op ti ons that are possible when you create an exec utabl e file :

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

3 . ·,.,

rA.pplication-Building Techniques

Part 3 surveys basic techniques for writing code for a Visual Basic
application - how to create menus and commands, get input, display results,
draw pictures, and display multiple forms. After reading this part, you should
have a good grasp of how to get things done in Visual Basic. Part 4 shows
you how to add the extra touches included in a sophisticated application .
Language Elements

The Vi sual Basic programmin g lan guage is designed to be flexible and powerfu l, yet easy .
to use. This c hapter ex plain s sorne mechanics of the language so that yo u can use it in your
applications to make decisions, perform calc ul ation s, and subdivide tasks for easier
programm ,ng.
The Vi sual Bas ic language is close in most respects to Microsoft QuickB as ic and the Basic
Professiona l Development System. lf yo u' re fam iliar with these other two modern vers ions
of Basic. the first sect io n of thi s chapter was written espec ially for you.
Online He lp and the Language Refe rence each provide a complete refere nce to the Vi sual
Basic lang uage, includi ng functi ons, statemen ts, and methods. They also in cl ude re ferenc e
informati on o n objec ts, eve nt s, and controls. But this chapter introduces so rn e lang uage
informati on you · 11 need to know to fo ll ow th e rest of the manual.
The mai n sec ti ons in thi s chapter are :
• Mi crosoft QuickBasic and Vi sual Bas ic
• Sorne Mechani cs (Com me nts, um bers, Statements)
• Setting and Rctriev in g Properties and Sto rin g Data
·Vi ual Basic Va ,i ables

• Control S truc tures

• Sub and Fu nc ti on Procedures
80 Part 3 Application -Building Techniques

Microsoft QuickBasic and Visual Basic

l f you're new to Basic or have programmed on ly in BASICA or GW-BASIC, you should
read th is chapter (althou gh programmers experienced in Cor Pascal can skim it).
If yo u' ve alread y used M icrosoft Qu ickBasic , you can skip most of thi s chapter. Visual
Basic adopts the control structures, data types. and most of the sy ntax rules of other form s of
Mi crosoft Basic. H owever, there are a few key differe nces, so yo u may need toread spec ific
sec ti ons of thi s chapter:
• Scope of vari ables works different ly in Vi . ual Basic. Scope deals with how mu ch of the
application recogni zes the vari abl e . The V isual Basic scoping system is both simple and
flexi bl e. If use of local variables (the default) is adeq uate, yo u can skip thi s subj ect for
now. 0therwi se, consult th e sec ti o n "Scope of Vari ables" in thi s chapter.
• Vari ables of the Currency data ty pe con tai n frac ti o nal qu antities, but avoid the roundin g
errors of fl oatin g-point numbers. For more informati on, see the sec ti on " Data T ypes"
later in thi s ch apter.
• Call s to Function procedures mu st incl ude pare ntheses, eve n when there are no
argume nts. A n argument is a constan! ora va riab le passed to or fro m a procedure.

There are other di fferences between V isual Basic and QuickBas ic as well -especi all y
w hen it comes to which statements each support s. For a co mpl ete di scussion of ali the
differences, see Appendix A , "Adapting Bas ic Code."

Sorne Mechanics (Comments, Numbers, Statements)

As you read through the examples in thi s manu al, you ' ll often come across the comment
sy mbol (' ). This symbol tells Vi sual Bas ic no t to do anythin g with the words th at fo llow it.
S uch words are remarks placed in the code for the benefit of yo u, the developer, and oth er
programmers who mi ght examin e the code lat e r. For exampl e:
' This i s a co mment beginning at lef t edge of the sc reen.
Textl . Text = "H i ! " ' Plac e fri endly gree ti ng in text box.

Another thin g you ' ll see a lot of is nu mbe rs . Mos t nu mbers in thi s manu al are decimal (base
l O). But occasionally it's con ve ni ent to use hexadec imal numbe rs (base 16). Visual Bas ic
represents numbers in hexadecimal w ith th e prefix &H and octal (base 8) w ith &O. T he
fo ll ow ing table sho ws the same numbers in dec ima l, oc tal, and hexadec imal.
Decimal Octal Hexadecimal
9 &0 11 &H9
15 &01 7 &HF
16 &0 20 &HI 0
20 &024 &H l4
255 &0377 &HFF

Microsoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Lan guage Ele ments 81

Although sorne important constants are defi ned in hexadec imal, yo u generall y don ' t have to
leam the hexadecimal or oc tal number system yourself. A constan/ is a value th at cannot
change during program executi on.

Note If you want to use a hexadeci m al or octal constant in situati ons that involve large
numbers, append an ampersand (&) to the constant. Thi s causes the value to be stored
correctly as a lon g integer. T he " Data Types" section later in thi s chapter gives more
informati on on lon g integers.

Visual Basic statements are normally one to a line, and there is no statement terminator.
However, you can pl ace more th an one statement on a line by using a colon (: ) to separate
Textl. Text = "Hel lo " : Red = 255 : Textl. BackCol or = Red

Setting and Retrieving Properties and Storing Data

Probabl y the most comm on statement in Vi sual Bas ic is the assignment statement , which
ass igns a value to a vari ab le or to a property reference by copying data from one place to
another. T he sy ntax uses an equ al sign (=):
destination = source
The statement te ll s the applicati on "Copy informati on fro m source to destination." The
destination mu st be a variab le or reference to a property . The source can be any valid Vi sual
Basic expression and may in vo lve calc ul ati ons.
Assignment statements in Visual B asic generally do one of three things:
• Set the value of a property
• Retrieve th e value of a property
• Store data in a variab le

Setting the Value of a Property

In earlier chapters yo u learned how to set properties at design time with the Properti es bar.
T o set the value of a prope rty at run time, pl ace a refere nce to the property (object.prop erty)
on the left side of an ass ignment statement. For exampl e:
Textl . Text - " Your name here ."
Textl.Text = Str$(Amount)
Textl. Text = " Th e amount is " + Str$ ( Amount)

The Text property is a strin g of characters th at spec ifies the contents of a text box, li st box,
or co mbo box . You ca n ass ign onl y strings to thi s property. T he last two statements above
use the Str$ fun cti on to co nve rt a number to a strin g. V isual Basic requires th at both sides o f
the ass ignme nt stateme nt be strings or both be numeric.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

82 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Retrieving the Value of a Property

To retrieve the value of a property and store it in a variable, place a reference to the property
on the right side of an assignment statement. For example:
MyString$ - Textl.Text
Amount - Val (Textl.Text)

The second statement uses the Val function to convert a strin g into a number. This function
is the converse of the Str$ function .

Storing Data in a Variable

You also can use assignment statements to perform calcu lations and assign the result to a
Ergs = 10
Ergs = Mass * (Velocity A 2) ' Erg s = matter t imes velocity sq uared.
Ergs - Ergs + 1

Visual Basic Variables

A variable holds a specific piece of informa ti on needed by your application. Each variable
has severa! important attri butes, including :
• Name. This is the word you use to refer to the variable.
• Data type. The data type determines what kind of information the variable can store.

In addition, each variable has a scope th at determines how much of the application
recognizes the variable. For more information on scope, see the next section, "Scope of

Variable Names
A variable name can be up to 40 characters long, and ca n include letters, numbers, and
underscores ( _ ). There are two restrictions :
• The first character in the name must be a Jetter.
• You cannot use a reserved word as a variab le name, thou gh yo u can embed one inside a
larger variabl e name (for example, PrintThis) . Reserved words are words that have a
special meaning in Visual Basic. This inc ludes predefined statements, function s,
methods, operators (such as And or Mod) , and property narn es .

In addition to numbers and letters, a variab le narne also can include a si ngle type-declaration
character used as a suffix, as explained in the next section .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 83

Data Types
Visual Basic variables come in six standard types, as shown in Table 9. 1.
Table 9.1 Standard Variable Types
Type name Description character Range
lnteger Two-byte integer o/o - 32,768 to 32,767
Long Four-byte integer & - 2,147,483,648 to
Single Four-byte floatin g- - 3.37E+38 to
(the default) point number 3.37E+38
Double Eight-byte floating- # (or none) - 1.67D+308 to
point number l.67D+308
Currency Number with fix ed @ - 9.22E+l4 to
decimal point 9.22E+ l4
String String of characters $ (not applicable)

Befare using a variable, you should decl are its data type with the Dim statement (or one of
the keywords Global or Static). For example, the following statements declare an Integer ,
Double, String, and Currency type , res pec tively:
Dim I As Integer
Dim Amt As Double
Dim YourName As String
Dim Bill s Paid As Currency

The Dim statement can combine multiple dec larati ons, as in these statements:
Dim I As Integer, Amt As Doubl e
Dim YourName As String, Bill sPaid As Currency

The third column of Table 9 . 1 lists the Vi s ual Basic type-declaration characters. Instead of
declaring a type with As, you can identify the data type of a variable by appending a type -
declaration character to the end of the variable name . lf you do so, use the type-declaration
character consistently. For example, Co unt% has type Integer, X# has type Double, and
MyName$ has type String.
If you don ' t use either method to declare a type, Vi sual Basic assumes the variable has the
Single data type. However, you can chan ge thi s de fault for a form or module by using a
Deftype statemen t. For more information o n Deftype, see Chapter 17, " Advanced Lan g uage
Features" ; the Language Reference ; or:

m Search Help for:

define type

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

84 Part 3 App lication- Bu ildin g Tech niqu es

If yo u know th at a variable will never need to store a fractional amo unt (such as 3.57) ,
dec lare it as an integer ty pe (lnteger or Long). Operations are fas ter with integers. If the
vari able contains a frac tion , declare it as a flo atin g-point or Currency variable. The
Currency data type supports up to four digits to the right of the decimal point and 14 to the
left. F loating- point numbers have much larger ran ges than Currency, but have a ro unding
erro r produ ced by conversion between base two and base ten fraction s.

Note Floatin g- poi nt constants can be expressed as mmmEeee or mmmDeee, in whi ch mmm
is the mantissa and eee is the exponent (a power of ten). Thus, the hi ghest poss ible va lu e of a
Single data type is 3.37E+38, or 3.37 ti mes 10 to the 38th power. T he use of D causes a
value to be stored as a Double data type.

Values of numeri c vari abl es can be ass igned to each other. Visual Basic round s off th e
frac ti onal part of a fl oatin g-point nu mber before assigning it to an integer.

Scope of Variables
T he scope of a variable is its visibility wi thin an application - in other word s, how rnuc h of
the appli cati o n recogni zes the variable. For example, when different proced ures refer to a
variable coun t , do they all refer to the sam e piece of information, or do th ey eac h have their
own prívate versio n?
T he different levels -from local to global -are summari zed in Figure 9. l.

Global vari ables

(declared in the global module)

Form- level variables Module- leve! variable s

(dec lared in Declarations section) (declared in Declarat ions section )

local local local local local local

variables variables variables variables variab les va ri ab les

procedures procedures
Form Module


Figure 9.1 Vari able leve ls, from loca l to global

Scope is one of the principal areas in whi ch Vi sual Basic differs from o ther vers io ns of
Bas ic, inc ludin g M icrosoft QuickB as ic. With Vi sual Basic, the issue of scope is a litt le
sirnp le r beca use it is determin ed mainl y by the placement of a declarati on.

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 85

Local Variables
A local variable is recogni zed only within the procedure in which it appears. A local
variable is a good choice for any kind of temporary calculation. A dozen procedures can ali
have a variable called Temp , for instance, but as long as Temp is local, each procedure has its
ow n vari able. A procedure can alter its local Temp vari able without affecting Temp variables
in oth er procedures.
T o make a vari able local, place the data declarations (Dim state ments) inside the procedure:
Sub CmdButtonl _Click ()
Oim Centig r ade As Double
Oim Fa hren heit As Doub l e
Centigrade - Val(Readout.Tex t )
Fahren heit = (Centigrade * 1 .8) + 32
Readout.Text - Format$(Fa hrenh eit)
End Sub

A nother way to create a local variable is to just use it without any Dim statement ; Visual
Basic ass um es th e variabl e is local. However, thi s tec hnique is less rel iabl e, as you ' II see in
an upcoming secti on, "Confli cting Scope Declarations."

Form-Level and Module-Level Variables

To share inform ati on between procedures of a form , you create a fo rm -level variable. A
form-level variable is recogni zed by ali the procedures attac hed to a fo rm. You create form -
leve l variabl es by access ing the Declarations sec ti on of form code and e nte1i ng data
dec larati ons th ere. Fo r exampl e:
Oim Wa r pS peed As Si ngle, Ali enC ount As I nt eger

To edit th e Declarations secti on of a form, open the Code window and select "(general)"
from the O bj ec t box and "(declaration s)" from th e Proced ure box .
Mod ul e- leve ! vari abl es are similar to fo rm-level vari ab les. A module- leve/ va riable is
dec lared in the Dec larati ons section of a module and is shared by ali the procedures in that
modu le.
A noth er important reaso n fo r using form -leve l or modul e- level variabl es is th at th ey persist
after a procedure return s. Unl ess explicitl y declared as Static , a local vari able las ts as long
as the procedure does. Wh en the procedure is called again, th e variable starts at 0 - or an
empty string, if th e vari able is a strin g. The value of a form-level variable is more
perm ane nt, and las ts as long as the form does .

Global Variables
Global va riables have the broadest scope of ali. The entire appli ca ti on has access to a global
va ri able. T hey also are th e mos t persiste nt vari ables, re taining the ir va lues th roughout the
e nti re appli cati on.

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

86 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

You define global variabl es by decl arin g them in the global module and by using the Global
statement instead of the Dim stateme nt :
Global Warp Speed As Sin gle , Ali enCo unt As Integer

Conflicting Scope Declarations

Typicall y, you declare a vari abl e in o nly o ne place. But you can reuse a variable name at
different levels. For example, you can declare a variable named Ali enCount both inside a
procedure (creating a local vari able) and at the form level.
When you declare a variabl e at both the procedure and form level, a statement always refers
to the variable at the nearest leve! of scope. This means that references to Al i en Co un t
inside the procedure affect onl y th e local variable named Ali enCount . The form -leve l
version of Ali enCount is a se parate variable. You cannot refer to the form-level variabl e as
long as there is a local vari able by -the same name .
Jf a vari able appears in a procedure witho ut a declaration, it is local by default. But Vi sual
Bas ic won' t advi se you wheth er it is dec lared ata higher leve] or not. If you want to make
sure that a variable is local , it 's best to ex plicitly declare it.

Control Structures
The statements that control dec isions and loops in Visual Basic are called control structures.
Visual Basic control structures are identi caI to those in recent versions of Microsoft Basic ,
and are similar to the control stru c tures found in C and Pascal. This section introduces the
most commonly used contro l stru ct ures:
• If... Then blocks
• If... Then ... Else blocks
• Select Case statements
• Do loo ps
• For loops

Note The term "control struc tures'· has nothing to do with controls on a form .

The first three items above are dec ision structures. You use them to define groups of
statements that may or may not be executed, depending on run-time conditions. The las t tw o
ítem. are loop structures. Yo u use th em to defin e groups of statements that Vi sual Basic
cxec utes repeatedly.

Microsoft Visual Basic Pro grammer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 87

lf ... Then Blocks

Use an If... Then block to execute one or more statements conditionally. You can use one of
two different forms of sy ntax:
If condition Then statements

If condition Then
End If

If condition is true, Visual Basic executes al! of the statements. (The statements consist of
zero or more lines of code.) You can use an If... Then block to execute just one statement
If X > 0 Then Textl . Text - "X is greater than zero. "

If X> 0 Then
Textl.Text "X is greater than zero."
End If

Or, as shown in the next example, you can place more than one statement in an If... Then
block. The example builds on the Investment Calc ulator presented in Part 2. This variation
computes the starting balance necessary to reach an ending balance entered by the user:
If StartBal - 0 Then
StartBal = EndBal / (1 + Rate / 36500 ) A (Years * 365)
StartText.Text - Format$(Start8al l
End If

The condition is a Boolean expression. A Boolean expression is one that can be evaluated as
true or false. Often condition is a relationaJ test such as X > O or X = Y. Relational tests use
the following operators.
Operator Meaning
= Equal
<> Not eq ual
< Less than
<= Less than or equa l to
> Greater than
>= Greater than or equal to

The relational operators work with both strings and numbers. You can test string variables
and constants for equality :
If AdrVar$ = "123 Main Street" Then

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

88 Part 3 App lication -Build ing Te chniq ues

You also can perform greater-than and less-t han tests with string vari ables. Visual Basic
resolves these kinds of comparisons by using alphabetical arder, so that Aardvark < Zy pher
evaluates to tru e. However, you cann ot compare a strin g to a number.
The keywords And , Or, Xor, Eqv, Imp, and ot canjoin conditions together to create
comp lex conditions. For exampl e:
If . (X > Y) Or (X> = 10 And X <- 20) Then

Sorne properties are Boolean-they have on ly two settings: True or False. A reference to a
Boolean prope rty can, by itself, prov ide the co nditi onal part of an If statement.

lf ... Then ... Else Blocks

Use an If... Then ... Else block to define severa! blocks of state ments, of whi ch one bl ock
gets exec uted:
lf conditionl Then
statementblock- 1
[ Elself condition2 Then
statementblock-2 ]
statementblock-n ]
End If

Visual Basic firs t tests conditionl. If it's false, Visual Basic proceeds to test condition2 , and
so on , until it fi nds a tru e cond ition. The corresponding statement bl ock is then executed.
You can opti onall y include an Else state ment block, which Visual Bas ic exec utes if none of
th e condi ti ons is true.
lf... Then is reall y j ust a special case of If...Then .. . Else. Note th at you can have any
number of Elself clauses, or none at ali. You can include an Else clause wheth er or not you
have Elself clauses .

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 89

The following procedure uses an If... Then ... Else block to make the lnvestment Calculator
(shown in Part 2) more flexible. This version lets the user calculate any of four different
va lues: Starting Balance, Interest Rate, Duration in Years, or Ending Balance. The
If... Then ... Else block performs a series of tests to see which value was set to zero. The
procedure then recalculates that value, using the other three values as input:
Sub CalcCmd_Click ()
StartBa l = Val(StartTe xt .Text)
Rate = Val(RateText.Text)
Yea rs = Val ( Yea rsText. Text)
EndBal ~ Val(EndT ext.Text)

If StartBal = 0 Then
StartBal = EndBal / (1 + Rate / 36500) (Years * 365)

StartText.Text = Form at $(StartBal)

Elself Rate = 0 Then
Rate = ((EndBal / StartBal) (1 / (Years * 365)) - 1) * 36500

RateText.Text = Format$(Rate)
Elself Years = 0 Then
R = 1 + Rate / 36500
Years = (Log(EndBal / StartBal) / (Log(R)) / 365)
YearsText.Text = Str$(Years)
EndBal = StartBal * (1 + Rate / 36500) (Years * 365)

EndText.Text = Format$(EndBal)
End I f
End Sub

This procedure uses a local variable, R to si mplify the calculation of Ye ar sR is local anda
double-precision type by default, so the example works correctly as long as R is not declared
at some other leve! (form or global) .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

90 Part 3 Application -Bui lding Techniques

Select Case Statements

Use a Select Case statement to take different actions depending on the value of a particular
variable. A Select Case statement provides sorne of the same capability you get with an
If... Then ... Else statement, but it makes code more efficient and readable.
For exampl e, you can use an If... Then ... Else statement to repeatedly test a value until a
match is fo und . Yo u have a numeric variable X, for instan ce, and want to take one set of
ac tions if X is egu a] to 1, another set of actions if X is egual to 2, and so on. The fo ll owing
statements di splay a string in•a text box according to the value of X:
If X= 1 Then
Textl. Text = " One "
Elseif X= 2 Then
Textl.Text = "Two"
Elself X= 3 Then
Textl. Text "Thr ee "
El se
Textl.Text "Too big"
End I f

Thi s code stores "One" in the text box if X is 1, "Two" in the text box if Xis 2, and so on.
The following Select Case statement performs exactly the same operation :
Select Case X
Case 1
Textl. Text "One"
Case 2
Textl. Text "Two "
Case 3
Textl. Text "T hree "
Case Else
Textl . Text "Too bi g"
End Select

This vers ion of the code is easier to read, and Visual Basic exec utes it slightl y fas te r.
However, not al] If ... Then ... Else statements can be rewritten thi s way.
A Select Case state ment works with a single test value (w hich can be num eric or string) .
Visual Basic tes ts to see if any value in expressionlist is egu a] to the test value . lf so, it
exec utes th e corres ponding block of statements. Select Case uses thi s sy ntax:
Select Case rextexp ression
Case expressionlist 1
statementblock- 1
[ Case expressionlist2
starementblock -2]
[ Case Else
srorem enthlock- 11 ]
End Select

Microso ft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 91

Each expressionlist is a list of one or more numeric or string values. If there is more than one
value in a single list, the values are separated by commas. Each statementblock contains zero
or more statements. Visual Basic executes statements in the Case Else clause (which is
optional) if none of the values in the expression lists matched the test value.

Do Loops
Use a Do loop to execute a block of statements an indefinite number of times. There are
several variations of the Do ... Loop statement, but each of them checks a Boolean condition
to determine whether to continue execution .
The following Do ... Loop says, "as lon g as the condition is true, execute the statements":
Do While condition

When Visual Basic executes this Do loop, it first tests condition. If condition is false, it skips
past all the statements. If true, Vis ual Basic :
1. Executes the statements.
2. Goes back to the Do While statement and tests the condition again.

Consequently, the loop can be executed any number of times, as long as condition is true.
Note that the statements are never executed if the condition is initially false. (This version of
Do ... Loop is equivalent to While ... Wend, which Visual Basic also supports.)
For example, the follow ing Form_Click procedure prints numbers from I to 20. The Print
method (which prints to the form unl ess anot her object is specified) is given only once.
Visual Basic executes the stateme nt Pri nt I as long as I is less than or egua! to 20:
Sub Form_Clic k ()
Dim I As Integ er
I = 1
Do While I <= 20
Print I
I = I + 1
End Sub

Another variation of the Do ... Loop statement executes the statements first , then tests
condition after each execution. Thi s variation guarantees at least one execution of
Loop While condition

Two other variations are analogo us to the previous two, excep t that th ey test whether
condition is false rather than true :

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

92 Part 3 Application -Building Techniques

Do Until condition

Lo5>p Until condition

Note that Do Until condition is exactly equivalent to Do While Not condition.

For Loops
Use a For loop to execute a block of statements a set number of times. Unlike a Do loop, a
For loop inc ludes a spec ial variable called counter, which increases (or decreases) in value
during each repetiti on of the loop . The sy ntax is:
For counter = start To end [Step increment]
Next [counter]

The arguments counter, start, end, and incrementare al] numeric . They are not required to
be integers, but Vi sual Basic 's performance is better if they are.

Note The argument increment can be either positive or negative. If increment is positive,
start must be less than or eg ua! to end . lf increment is negati ve, start must be greater than or
equ a l to end.

In executing the For loop, Visual Basic:

1. Sets counter equa l to start.
2. Tests to see if counter is greater than end. If so, Visual Basic ex its the loop. (If increment
is negat ive, thi s ste p tests to see if counter is less than ene/. )
3. Executes th e statements .
4. Increments coun ter by 1- or by increment if it is spec ified . Then, Vi sual Basic goes
back to Step 2.

For example, the folJowing procedure performs the same action s as the Do loop in the last
sec tion , but with fewer statements:
Su b Form_Click ()
Dim I As Integer
Far I = 1 To 20
Next I
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 93

The For loop in this procedure prints all the numbers from 1 to 20. The difference between
this loop and the Do ... While loop of the last section is that the For statement performs the
initialization (1 = 1) and the incrementing (1 = 1 + 1) automatically.
To specify an increment other than 1, use Step. For example, the following code modifies
the procedure above by printing ali odd numbers from 1 to 20:
Sub Form_Click ()
Dim I As Integer
For I = 1 To 20 Step 2
Print I
Next I
End Sub

Sub and Function Procedures

Toe foundation of a Visual Basic application consists of its event procedures. (An event
procedure is the code that is invoked when a forro or control recognizes that a particular
event has occurred.) But you can also create general procedures. A general procedure is not
invoked until another part of the application explicitly calls it.
Why create general procedures? One reason is that severa! different event procedures may
need the same actions perforrned. A good programming strategy is to put common
statements in a separate procedure (a general procedure), and have event procedures call it.
This eliminates the need to duplicate code and also makes the application easier to maintain .
Figure 9.2 illustrates the use of a general procedure.

Change event • Textl _Change

• -------- - ----- --- - -- - ----,
'' ,,
Click event • Cmdl - Click
. Display BarChart


Click event • Cmd2_Click • --- -- -- -- -- ---- ---- -- ___ ____ ;

~------~- I retum

Event procedures General procedure

containing common code

Figure 9.2 How genera l procedures are called by event procedures

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

94 Part 3 App\i cation- Build ing Techniques

In essence, a ge neral procedure tells the application how to perform a specific task. Once the
procedure is defi ned , you can cal! it from anywhere in the application. For exa mpl e, a
complex procedure could di splay a bar chart. After writing the procedure, you can then
di splay a bar chart with a single statement:
Di sp l ayBarChar

T he use of ge neral procedures also helps divide complex application code into manageable
Procedures ca n e ither be Sub procedures or Function procedures. A call to a Sub proced ure
is a complete statement, whereas a cal] to a Function procedure is part of an express ion. For
example, the fo ll owing statement shows calls to two different Function procedures:
Sum = CrossProduct(A, B. C) + St andDe v(Arrl , N)

Cr oss P rod u et and Stand Dev each retum a single value, which Visual Basic the n uses to
calcu1ate the va lue of Sum .

Note Even t proced ures are alw ays Sub procedures, never Function procedures.

Scoping and Creating Procedures

Procedures ha ve scope, just as variables do. However, the scoping mechani sm for
procedures in vo l ves onl y two rul es :
• Visual Basic reso lves a ca l! to a procedure by first looking in the c un-ent fo rm or modul e.
• [f the proceJure name is no t found , Vis ual Bas ic sca ns a li modules fo r th e procedure .

Consequentl y. proced ures defined in a mod ul e are recognized by th e e ntire app li ca ti on. But
procedures att ached to a fo rm can be cal1ed only by other proced ures attached to th at forrn.
A proced ure name defi ned in a module mu st be unique across ali mod ules. A procedure
na me defined in a form can be defined in other forms . (Thu s, eac h fo rm ca n have its ow n
Form_Load proced ure.)
To create a new general procedure, make sure the Code window is open. Then choose New
Procedure from the Code menu . Another technique is to type a procedure headin g within the
Code window an d press ENTER. T he procedure heading can be as simple as Sub or Function
fo llowed by a name. For exa mpl e, you can enter either of the fo ll owi ng:
Sub Updat eForm
Function GetCoord

Vi sual Bas ic respond s by clea rin g the Code window and displaying a template for the new
procedure .
To ed it an ex istin g ge neral procedure, select "(general)" from th e Objec t box in th e Code
window, th e n se lec t the proced ure in th e Procedure box .

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 95

Sub Procedures
The syntax for a Sub procedure is :
Sub procedurename (arglist)
End Sub

The arglist is a list of argument names, separated by commas if there is more than one. Each
argument can optionally have a type-declaration character (%, &, !, #, @, or $)oran As
clause. The syntax of each argument is :
[ByVal] variablename [()] [As type]

The optional ByVal keyword is explained in the section "Passing Arguments by Value" later
in this chapter.
The type can be any of the standard data types: Integer, Long, Single, Double, Currency ,
or String. Parentheses after variablename indicate that the argument is an array. See
Chapter 17, "Advanced Language Features," for more information on arrays, as well as the
special Form and Control argument types.
Each time the procedure is called, the statements between Sub and End Sub are exec uted.
Visual Basic substitutes each reference to an item in the argument list with the correspond-
ing argument. For example, suppose you have defined the MultiBeep procedure as :
Sub MultiBeep (NBeeps As Integer)
Dim I As Integer
For I = 1 To NBeeps
Next I
End Sub

The following statement calls MultiBeep with the argument 3:

Mult i Beep 3

Visual Basic responds by calling the MultiBeep procedure and passing 3 as the argument.
The procedure substitutes 3 for NBeeps (the name that appears in the argument li st), thus
executing the following code:
Dim I As Integer
For I = 1 To 3
Next I

The procedure therefore beeps three times. In the next example, the procedure beeps 12
times because 12 is passed as the argument:
Mult iBeep 12

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

Part 3 App lication- Building Techniq ues

Calls to a Visual Basic Sub procedure do not use parentheses around the argum ent li st. For
example, the foll owing procedure uses the Log function (which always uses a base of
2. 71 8282) to calculate logarithms of any base. The logarithm is calculated from the seco nd
and thi rd arguments, and assigned to the first argument:
Sub LogB (Resu l t As Doubl e, Base As Doubl e, X As Double )
Result = Log(X) / Log(Base)
End Sub

Then the following calls to LogB store results in the vari ables Ex ponentl , Log l 0, and
Ye a rs:
LogB Exponentl, B, A
LogB Logl0, 10 , Amt
LogB Years, 1 + Rate / 365 00 , EndB al / Sta r tBa l

The LogB procedure also demonstrates how a procedure can return informati o n by changing
th e value of one or more of its arguments. If you call LogB and pass a vari abl e as the first
argum ent, thi s variable gets changed. Both Sub and Function procedures can change their
arguments thi s way.

Function Procedures
The syn tax for a Function procedure is:
Function p rocedurename (a rguments) [As type]
End Function

Every thing said in the previous section about argum ents applies equ all y to Function
proced ures. Aside fro m th e Function keyword , there are three di fferences betwee n Sub and
Function procedures:
• Yo u use parenth eses with each Function call .
• Function procedures have types, just as vari ables do. Thi s determin es the type of the
re turn value. (In the absence of an As clause, the type is determin ed from the
procedurename , whi ch can have a type-declaration character.)
• Yo u re turn a value by assigning it to the procedurename itself. Whe n the Function
procedure return s a value, thi s value is then used as part of a larger express ion.

T he example at the e nd of th e previous secti on can be rewritten as a Function procedure:

Function LogF ( Base As Double, X As Doub l e) As Doub l e
LogF = Log(X) / Log(Base)
End Function

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 97

The calls to the LogB procedure can then be rewritten as:

Exponentl = LogF(B. A)
Logl0 = LogF(l0 , Amt)
Years = LogF(l + Rate / 36500, EndBal / StartBal)

The last statement, slightly modified, could form part of the code far the CalcCmd_Click
procedure introduced earlier in this chapter:
Years = LogF(l + Rate / 36500, EndBal / StartBal) / 365

Passing Arguments by Value

To prevent an argument from getting changed, place the By Val keyword in front of the
declaration. Far example, the following procedure alters the first argument but never the
seco nd:
Sub Factorial (Result As Double, ByVal N As Integer)
Result = 1
Do While N > 0
Result = Result * N
N= N- 1
End Sub

As yo u can see, the procedure does change both arguments, Res u 1 t and N. However,
because of the By Val keyword, changes to the seco nd argumentare ignored once the
procedure retums. The following statement changes the value of Amt (placing the results of
the calculation there) and has no effect on X:
Factori a 1 Amt. X

The first argument gets passed by reference, the Visual Basic default. This gives the
procedure direct access to the argument itself- in this case, Amt. The second argument is
passed by value . This gives the procedure a copy of the value of the argument. The
procedure has no access to the second argument-in this case, X.
You can give a constant ora complex expression asan argument, even if it is passed by
reference (the default). Visual Basic responds by storing the value of the argument in a
temporary variable and then passing the four-byte address of this temporary variable . To
force a si mple variable to be passed this way, place it in parentheses, as in the function call
Log F ( (Base) • ( Amt)). This has the same effect as passing by value.

lmp ortant Property values (such as Textl .Text) cannot be passed directly unless you pass them by
value. Either use a ByVal argument or put parentheses around the property reference.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

98 Part 3 Application -Building Tec hni ques

Visual Basic Operators

Visual Basic supports a rich set of arithmetic, re!ational, and logical operators, shown in
Table 9.2 according to precedence, from highest to lowest.
Table 9.2 Visual Basic Operators
Type Name of operation Symbol
Arithmeti c Ex ponenti ati on
Negation (additi ve inverse)
Multiplication and division *,/
Integer division \
Modulo arithmetic Mod
Addi tion and subtracti on +, -
Re lati onal Equal, greater than, less than, =, > , < , <>, <=, >=
and so on
Logical (bit-wise) Logical negation Not
And And
Inclusive Or Or
Exc lusive Or (either or but not Xor
Logical eq ui valence Eqv
Implication (first opera nd fa lse lmp
or second operand true)

Precedence determines which operators to appl y fi rst in a complex expression. If you

understand precedence, you are freed fro m relying heav il y on parentheses . For exampl e,
co nsider the foll owing expression:
Var l = Va r 2 An d X+ Y* 2 > Z

Visual Basic evaluates th is expression as if the foll owing parentheses were present:
( Va r l = Var 2) And ((X+ (Y* 2)) > Z)

Sorne ex pressions involve operators at egua! levels of precedence. When thi s happens,
Vi sual Basic operators assoc iate left to right. Howe ver, if an expression contains multiple
cal Is to Function procedures, yo u cannot rely on the m being executed in a parti cul ar order.
T he fo llowing operati ons, whi ch may be new to you, are covered in the nex t few sections:
• Ex ponenti ati on
• lnteger di vision and mod ul o arithmeti c
• Logical operati ons
• String operations

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 9 Language Elements 99

Exponentiation is simply raising a number to a power-multiplying the first operand by
itself repeatedly. Far example:
Result Amt 2A ' Amt squared (Amt * Amt).
Result = Amt A 3 ' Amt cubed (Amt * Amt * Amt).
Result Quantity A -2 ' Quantity raised to power of - 2 .

lnteger Division and Modulo Arithmetic

Visual Basic supports two kinds of division. Regular division ( /) uses floating-point
calculations, and retums a floating-point result. Integer division ( \) rounds the operands to
integers, if necessary, and truncates the results .
Because integer division truncates the results, you lose the fractional portian. However, you
can use modulo arithmetic to get the remainder. Far example, the first statement below
obtains a single quotient in floating-point form. The last two statements obtain an integer
quotient and remainder:
Quot ~ 19 / 2
IntQuot = 19 \ 2
Remainder = 19 Mod 2

After these statements are executed, the values of Quot , I ntQuot , andRe ma i nder are 9.5 ,
9, and 1, respectively .

Note Truncation is not the same thing as rounding. Truncation discards the fractional
portian, no matter how large. Rounding adds l to the integer portian of a number if the
fractional portian is greater than or equal to 1/2.

Logical Operations
Logical operators serve a dual purpose. They combine Boolean conditions in a meaningful
way, and they also perform bit-wise operations on any integer values. A bit-wise comparison
is a comparison of corresponding bits in two numeric expressions. A bit is the smallest unit
of data a computer can store.
The use of these operators in Boolean expressions works as long as -1 is used to represent
True and O is used to represent False. Visual Basic relational operators and Boolean
properties always retum True or False according to this convention .
For more information on how each of these operators combines bits:

Search Help for:

111 operator

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

100 Part 3 Application -Building Techniques

String Operations
Visual Basic supports operations on strings only for the plus operator (+ ), which denotes
string concatenation, and the relational operators. The relational operators compare strings
according to alphabetical order.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

Responding to Commands

Visual Basic provides many ways to put commands in your application. Command buttons,
for example, enable a user to easily perform an action : The user clicks the button and your
code (a Click event procedure) responds.
But as you experiment with Vi sual Basic, yo u'll want to try different ways of providi ng
commands. Menus take up less screen space than command buttons, and are almost as easy
to use. Shortcut and access keys provide command capabilities from the keyboard ; they help
you support users who don ' t have a mouse, and they make it fas ter to execute a command
when the user's hands are at the keyboard .
Thi s chapter expl ains how to put commands in yo ur appli cati on, starting with the simplest
techniques and progressing to techniques that require more programming.
The main sec tions in this chapter are:
• Respondin g to Command Buttons
• Controll ing Command Buttons at Run Time
• Creating a Menu -Dri ven Applicati on
• Controlling Menus at Run Time
• Addin g and Deleting Menu Commands
• Shortcut and Access Keys
• Contro lling the Tab Order
102 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Responding to Command Buttons

A command button is a straightforward way to provide a command. You use the Caption
property to display text on the button that tells the user what the button does. For example,
Figure 10.1 shows a command button with the Caption property set to "Start firework s
display ."
11 Test Button aa

iStarl fi,eworks dispfay J

Figure 10.1 Command button with caption

When the user chooses the button, it not only carries out the appropriate action (in this case,
starting fireworks), it also looks as if it ' s being pushed in and released. The latter feature ,
which is built into command buttons, is a visual cue to users that they've successfully
chosen the button .
There are four ways the user can choose a command button:
• Use the mouse to click the button.
• Move the focus to the button by pressing the TAB key, then choose the button by pressing
the SPACEBAR. (Focus is the ability to receive user input typed at the keyboard.)
• If the command button is the default command button for the form , pressing ENTER
chooses the button , no matter which control on the form has the focus.
At design time, you specify a default command button by setting that button's Default
property to True (- 1) .
• If the command button is the default Cancel button for the form , then pressing ESC
chooses the button , no matter which control on the form has the focus.
At design time, you specify a default Cancel button by setting that button ' s Cancel
property to True (- 1).

All these actions cause Visual Basic to invoke the Click event procedure . lt makes no
difference to the application which method is used.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 103

Picture boxes also recognize the Click event, so you can use a picture box anywhere you'd
use a command button. For instance, instead of the command button shown in Figure 10.1
(which has the caption, "Start fireworks display"), you could use a picture box that displays
a picture of a firecracker. Figure 10.2 shows a picture box that uses one of the firecracker
icons from the Icon Library included with Visual Basic.

al Test Button aa

Figure 10.2 Picture box with icon from the lcon Library

Note Aside from Click, the other events recognized by both command buttons and picture
boxes include DragDrop, Dragüver, KeyDown, KeyPress, KeyUp, GotFocus, and

For more information on comrnand buttons, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

command button

For information on displaying an image in a picture box, see Chapter 13 , "Creating

Graphical Effects" ; the Language Reference; or:

m Search Help for:

picture box a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Creating Custom Applications"

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

104 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

An Example with Two Command Buttons

The application shown in Figure 10.3 responds to two commands: Clicking the left
command button ("Duplicate") copies text from the top text box to the lower text box.
Clicking the right command button ("Clear Out") clears the text boxes, which are labelled
"Source" and "Destination."

1m Two-Button Example aa

D estination

¡Ouplicate¡ ~

Figure 10.3 An application with two command buttons

There are six controls in ali , with the following properties.

Control CtlName property Caption property
Top text box Src
Bottom text box Dest
Top )abe! Source
Bottom !abe! Destination
Left command button Dup Duplicate
Ri ght command button Clearüut Clear Out

This is the Click event procedure for the left command button (named "Dup" in code):
Sub Dup_Click ()
Dest.Text = Src.Text
End Sub

Ali the work of thi s procedure is done in the seco nd line of code. The Text property specifies
the st1ing of tex t displayed in the text box . Thus, the statem en t copies the contents of the text
box named "Src" into the tex t box named "Dest'':
Dest . Text = Src . Text

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 105

Clicking the Clear Out command button (referred to as "Clearüut" in code) erases the
contents of the text boxes by placing an empty string in each one. The Clearüut_Click
procedure tells the button how to respond to the click:
Sub Clearüut_Click ()
Dest.Text = ""
Src .Te xt =
End Sub

Translating to Uppercase
By itself, copying text from one location to another isn't that interesting. We can make the
application just described more useful by adding text translation.
Visual Basic includes a number of string-handling function s, including LCase$ and
UCase$, which translate strings to lowercase and uppercase letters, respectively. To add
uppercase translation, you app ly the U Case$ function to the contents of the Source text box :
Sub Dup_Click ()
Dest.Text - UCase$(Src . Text)
End Sub

After making this change and running the appl ication again, you'll find that the Dup
command button not only copies text from Src to Dest, but also translates that text to ali
uppercase letters.
For more information on UCase$ and LCase$, see the Language Reference , or:

m Search Help for:


Performing System Commands

Command buttons can exec ute operating-system commands or run other programs. This
makes it easy for you to create a "shell " app lication that gives users quick access to the
programs and files they need in their daily work.
To run system commands or other executab le programs, use the Shell function :
Shell( commandstring$)

The argument commandstring$ is the name of the program or command to be exec uted.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

106 Part 3 Appl icati on-Building Tech niques

For exam ple, Figure 10.4 shows an application you might develop for a proj ect man ager
who wants qu ick access to di fferent types of information. By clicking a comm and button,
the manager can qui ckl y view a proj ect plan, schedule, ora list of people workin g on the
proj ect.

111 Project Planner • aa

Project Plan - U pdate monthly
[':'.lan ¡

La test Schedule- R evi sed 10/2/9 1


Names. phone numbers . addresses


Figure 10.4 A shell appl ication

The appli cati on has th e fo ll owi ng properties.

Control CtlName property Caption property
To p com mand button Plan Plan
Middle co mmand button Sched Schedul e
Bottom com mand button Cont Contacts
To p label Projec t Plan-- Update
monthl y
Middle label Latest Schedul e--Rev ised
10/2/9 ]
Bottom !abe! Names, ph one numbers,

The Click proced ure for the Plan com mand button starts Mi crosoft W ord fo r Windows and
ope ns the fi le con taining the project plan:
Sub Pl an _ Click ()
x - Shell( " \winword \ win word .exe plan.doc " , 1)
End Sub

The Click procedure fo r th e Sc hed ul e co mm and button starts Mi crosoft Proj ec t fo r Windo ws
and loads the schedul e fi le:
Sub Sched Click ()
y = Shell( " \ winpr oj\winproj.exe sc hedule. wpr " , 1)
End Sub

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Comm and s 107

To keep track of names and addresses, the manager uses the Cardfile appli cation th at comes
with Microsoft Windows. The Click procedure for the Contacts command button is:
Sub Cont _ Click ()
z = Shell("\windows\cardfile.e xe prjnames . crd", 1)
End Sub

Each of these procedures starts a Windows application in a normal window . You also can
start them in minimized or maximized windows.
Note that the three Shell functions above return values to variables x, y , and z. This return
value is not used in the project manager application, but you may find it useful in other
applications. The value identifies the program started by Shell and indi cates whether the
program started successfully .
For more information on the Shell function , see the Language Ref erence , or:
Search Help for:
111 Shell

Controlling Command Buttons at Run Time

Y ou can change the state of a control at run time by setting properties. In the case of
command buttons, there are several actions you may find useful , as shown in th e followin g
Action Technique Purpose
Di sabling Set Enabled property to Prevents user from choosing
False (O) the co mm and
Enabling Set Enabled property to Enables user to choose the
True (-1) command aga in
Making invisible Set Vi sible property to Disables th e co ntrol and
False (0) removes it fro m the visible

When you disable or enable a command button, you're controlling the user' s access to the
comrnand. Generally, you di sable a command because the comrnand is either impossible or
inappropriate at the time-for example, when a comrnand is supposed to del ete a specified
file , but the file is read -only .
The techniques di sc ussed here require setting certain Boolean properties to True or False.
The next section shows how to do this with the assignment statement.

Enabled-a Boolean Property

The Enabled property is an example of a Boolea n property: It takes th e va lue True or Fal se.
Vi sual Basic stores Boolean values as integers. Ali non-zero integers equ ate to True, and O
eq uates to False .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

108 Part 3 Application- Buil ding Techniq ues

T his means you can set a Boolean property to True- th at is, "turn it on" - by assignin g any
integer other than zero. Far example, any of these statements enable th e DoAction command
DoAction.Enabled - 3
DoActio n .Enab l ed = 1776
DoAct i on.Ena bled - - 1

To turn a Boolean property off, set it to O. For example, the fo llowing statement di sables the
DoAction command button :
DoAction.Enaoled - 0

However, although you can assign any non-zero value to turn a Boolean property on , Visual
Bas ic stores it as - l. The safes t course of acti on is to use - 1 exclu sive ly for True .
You can make your code more readable by placing the fo llowi ng Const (constant)
defi nitions in the Declaratio ns sec tion of the form or modul e:
Const TRUE= -1
Const FALSE= 0

Then use True and False i'rrstead of - 1 and O.

You can define True and False in the global module by using Global Const statements,
whi ch are available in the fil e CONSTANT.TXT. You can either copy the defi nitions you
need from that file or co py the entire file into the global module.
For more information on the Const statemen t, see Chapter 17 , " Adva nced Language
Features"; the Language Reference; or:

Search Help for:

111 Const
Finding Out if a Command Button Is Enabled
You also can use the E nabled property to find out whether a button is enabled or di sabled .
The following exampl e di splays a message in a text box named Reado ut that indicares
whether th e DoAction command button is enabl ed:
If DoAct ion.Enabled Then
Readout.Text "The button is enabled."
Readout.Text "Th e button is disabled."
End If

Ali co ntrol s except frame and label control s have the Enabled property ; you can use similar
code to disable a co ntrol orto find out if it is enabled.

M ic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 109

Creating a Menu-Driven Application

Visual Bas ic enables you to build menus in your applications - including hierarchical
menus with up to six levels. A hiera rchical menu includes one or more submenus th at open
off another menu to di splay their own cornmands.
Writing code far menus requires a Click event procedure far each command. Each command
is a contro l, and the Click event is invoked when th e user chooses the command.
This section illustrates how to create and use menus with an application called Try Menus.
The nex t secti on, "Controllin g Menus at Run Time," explains how to make menus more
fl exible by enabling or di sabling menu com mands, adding check marks, and makin g menus
grow or shrink - all at run time, in response to user actions.

How the Try Menus Application Works

The Try M enus appli cati on has a fo rm with two menus: Action and Infa. Figure 10.5 shows
how the form looks, firs t with the Action menu displayed and then with the Info menu .

N umber rea dout: N umbe, rea dout:

lnfo,m ati on bo,c: 1nform ation box:

Figure 10.5 Action and lnfo Menus

When the application is compl ete, its me nus work as fo llows:

• The Squ are and Square Root co mmands on the Action menu perfarm a calcul ati on on th e
number in the top tex t box.
• The Date, T ime, and Program Name commands on the Info menu display infarmation in
the bottom tex t box.

The properti es of the tex t boxes are listed in the fo ll ow ing tabl e.
Control CtlName property Caption property
Top tex t box Readout
Botto m tex t box InfoBo x
Top label Number readout :
Bottom label Jnfo rm ati on box:

Microsoft Visua l Basic Prog rammer's Guide

110 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Building the Menu Interface

Menus are special kinds of controls. You create them and specify properties by using the
Menu Design window rather th an the Toolbox or Properties bar. Figure 10.6 shows the
Menu Design window when information has been added for the Action and lnfo menus.

Menu Design Window

CaQtion: \~ 1 1 -º_one

CtlName: \ActionName 1 1 Cancel

lndel!.: C:=J Accelerato, : j[none) li]

O _!;_hecked 181 [nabled 181 Y.isible
1+- 1+ 1-. 1+ f I Next 11 !nsert ll D~lete
···· Square
···· Square Root
···· Date
···· Time
·· Program Name

Figure 10.6 Menu Design window far the Try Menus application

Each e ntry in the Menu Design window creates one menu control, and each menu control
co rres ponds to a men u item. Menu items include menu names, commands, separator bars,
and subme nu names. The items in the Menu Design window work like thi s:
• If a menu item is not inden ted. its caption appears on the menu bar as a menu name .
Menus whose names appear on the menu bar are top-l eve! menu s, as opposed to
submenu s, whose names appear on other menu s. Top-leve] menus usually are just call ed
menu s.
To qui ckly see which menu names will appear on the menu bar, sean down the left of the
Menu Design window; eac h item that isn't indented is a menu name.
• Each item that follows a menu name, and is indented only once (preceded by four dots),
appears as an item on that menu .
Menu ite ms can include commands, separator bars, and subme nu names. To qui ckl y see
which ite ms will appear on a menu, sean down the items th at follow a menu name; eac h
ite m indented only once is an item on that menu.
• An ite m th at is indented twice (and thu s is preceded by eight dots) is an item on a
submenu . As with items on a top-level menu, items on a submenu can include
commands, separator bars, and other submenu names.
To qui c kl y see which items wi ll appear on a submenu, sean down the ite ms that follow
th e subme nu name ; each item inde nted once more than the name is an item on th at
subm e nu .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 111

• To create additional levels of submenus, just indent items more to the right.
Visual Basic supports five levels of indentation. Therefore, each of your menus can have
up to four levels of submenus. The fifth level can include commands and separators, but
not submenu names .
• If a menu item has a Caption setting consisting of a hyphen (-), it appears as a menu
separator bar. A separator bar divides items into logical groups on a long menu .
• All menu items except separator bars recognize the Click event. The Click event
procedure for each item (remember that each item is a control) is invoked when the user
chooses it.
Generally you write event procedures only for items that are commands. You can
consider the Click event for a menu or submenu name to be a "drop-down" event: It
inforrns you that the menu or submenu is about to be opened.

To create the Try Menus application, set the following properties in the Menu Design
Caption CtlName lndented
Action ActionName No
Square SquareCom Once
Square Root SquareRtCom Once
Info InfoName No
Date DateCom Once
Time TimeCom Once
Program Name ProgCom Once

Note To start indenting items in the Menu Design window, click the right arrow halfway
down the window. Subsequent items will have the same indentation, but you can use the left
and right arrows to change an item 's position .

Attaching Code to the Action Menu

Each command in the Action menu needs code for its Click event procedure, so that it wi ll
respond when the user chooses it. You don't have to enter code for any of the menu names
in thi s application.
The SquareCom_Click procedure carries out the Square command by reading the contents of
the Readout text box, squaring that number, and displaying the result:
Sub SquareC om_Click ()
Amt = Val(Readout . Te xt)
Amt = Amt * Amt
Readout.Text = Str$(Amt)
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

112 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

The first statement (after the procedure heading) tran slates the text string in Readout into a
numeric value. The last line of code (before End Sub) tran slates the result back into a string
and stores thi s string in Readout.
T he SquareRtCom_Click procedure carries out the Square Root command approximately the
sa me way, but with a different calculation :
Su b Square RtCom_Click ()
Amt = Val(Readout.Text)
Amt = Sqr(Amt)
Readout.Text - Str$(Amt)
End Sub

Attaching Code to the lnfo Meilu

The In fo menu has three commands-Date, Time, and Program Name - whi ch are created
with controls named DateCom, TimeCom, and ProgCom. When the user chooses the Date
cornrnand, the DateCom_Click proced ure di splays the current date in the InfoBox text box :
Sub DateCom_Click ()
InfoBox.Text - Date$
End Sub

The TimeCom_Click procedure shows the current time in InfoBox:

Sub Ti meCom_Clic k ()
InfoBox.Text - Time$
End Sub

The two event procedures use the reserved words Date$ and Time$. These words look li ke
st rin g variables but are act uall y string function s. Visual Basic responds to these fun ction s by
suppl ying the current date or tim e to yo ur app licati on.
For more information on Date$ and Time$, see the Language Reference , or:

Search Help for:

111 now

The ProgCom_Click procedure disp lays the na me of the app lication :

Sub ProgCom_Click ()
InfoBox.Text - "Pr ogram name is Try Menu s. "
End Sub

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 113

Controlling Menus at Run Time

Your menus can respond dynamically to run-time conditions. For example, your application
might determine that sorne menu command should not be carried out, so it prevents the user
from selecting it. Or the application might use a check mark to indicate which of severa!
commands was last selected. Your application can also add or delete menu commands.

Enabling and Disabling Menu Commands

An application can disable a menu command or even an entire rnenu in the same way it can
disable a comrnand button. Ali menu names and menu commands have an Enabled property ;
set this property to False (O) to prevent the user from choosing the ítem. When this property
is set to False, the menu is disabled and does not respond to user actions.
These statements disable the Date and Time menu comrnands in the Info rnenu described in
the previous section:
DateCom.Enabled - 0
TimeCom .Ena bled = 0

Disabling a menu name has the effect of disabling the entire rnenu , since the user cannot
access any menu command without first clicking the menu name . This statement disables the
Info menu :
InfoName.Enabled = 0

An Application that Uses a Check Mark

To puta check mark next to a menu command, set its Checked property to True (-1). For
DateCom.Checked = -1

There are two main reasons for placing check marks on menus:
• To tell the user the status of an on/off condition. Choosing the menu command
alternately adds and removes the check mark.
• To indicate which of severa! modes is in effect. This use of check marks is similar to
option buttons, in which one of several options is in effect.

Thi s sec tion illustrates the second case described above with an application that operates in
oc tal, decimal , and hexadecimal mode. The Number System ap plication has three menu
commands: Octal, Decimal, and Hex . A check mark appears on the menu to show which of
the three number sys tems is in effect.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

114 Part 3 Application-Bui ld ing Techniques

The application shown in Figure 10.7 has a menu anda text box named "Readout."

197 1

Figure 10.7 A menu command with a check mark

When the user chooses one of the menu commands, the application converts the number in
the text box to the indicated number system. For exarnple, if decimal mode is in effect and
the user chooses the Hex command, the digit string "64" is redisplayed as its hexadecimal
eq uivalent, "40."
To create the menu, enter the following information in the Menu Design window. The check
mark next to the DecimalCom control indicates that the application initially uses decimal
Caption Name lndented Checked
System SystemName o No
Octal OctalCom Once No
Decimal DecimalCom Once Yes
Hex HexCom Once No

Note This application uses Visual Basic defaults fo r the se iterns in the Menu Design
window: Index , Accelerator, Enabled, and Visible.

Attaching Code to Control Check Marks

The code for the application has four procedures.
The first three procedures respond to ali the Systern menu comrnand s. Each menu command
responds by reading the number using the existing number system , moving the check mark,
and displaying the number in the new sys tem (using the Oct$, Str$, or Hex$ function):
Sub· OctalCom_Cl ick (J
Amt - ReadV alue(Readout.Text) ' Read in number.
OctalCom.Checked = - 1 ' Reset check mark.
DecimalCom.Checked = 0
HexCom.Ch ecked - 0
Readout.Text = Oct$(Amtl ' Display number .
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 115

Sub DecimalCom_Click ()
Amt - ReadValue(Readout . Text) ' Read in number .
OctalCom.Checked = 0 ' Reset check mark .
DecimalCom.Checked - -1
HexCom.Checked - 0
Readout.Text - Format$(Amt) ' Display number.
End Sub

Sub HexCom_Click ()
Amt - ReadValue(Readout.Text) ' Read in number .
OctalCom.Checked = 0 ' Reset check mark
DecimalCom.Checked - 0
HexCom.Checked = - 1
Readout.Text = Hex$(Amt) ' Display number.
End Sub

Each of the procedures reads the contents of Readout by calling a general procedure,
ReadValue. This same code could be placed in every procedure, but by placing it in a
Function procedure you save yourself from typing the same code several times:
Function ReadValue (ByVal Digit s$)
If OctalCom.Checked Then
ReadValue - Val("&O" + LTrim$ (Digits$) + "&")
Elself DecimalCom . Checked Then
ReadValue Val(Digits$ + "&" )
ReadValue = Val("&H" + LTrim$ (D igits$) + "&")
End I f
End Function

The ReadValue procedure tests to see which menu command is checked, because the
placement of the check mark indicates which number system to use. The procedure then uses
the Val function to get the numeric value. Note that adding a "&O" prefix causes Val toread
the digits asan octal string, anda "&H" prefix causes Val toread the digits as a hex strin g.
The LTrim$ function removes leading spaces from the number in the text box.
Appending an ampersand (&) enables the application to support conversion of larger
numbers. The ampersand suffix causes th e Val function to interpret the digit string as a long

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

116 Part 3 App lication -Building Techn iq ues

Adding and Deleting Menu Commands

Sorne menu s grow or shrink at run time. A good example is the Window m enu in the
W indows Program Man ager, show n in Figure 10.8. The bottom section of thi s menu has one
ítem for each of the program groups yo u' ve created. If you create another program group ,
the menu grows. If you delete a program group , the menu gets s maller.

f ile Qptions .!::!. 1

lil e
Arrange lcon s
✓ l Windows Application s
Z. Acce ss orie s
l Main
~ Mi cro s oft Vi sual Bas ic

Figure 10.8 The Window menu of th e Program Man ager

Yo ur Vis ual Bas ic applications can have rnenu s th at change size durin g run time. These
rnenu s have commands that are part of a control array.

What Is a Control Array?

A con1rol array is a set of simil ar co ntrols that share the sam e name and th e sa me event
procedures. To create a new co ntrol at run time, it rnu st be a member of a control array.
For cxample, suppose yo u tried to create a co ntrol at run time, and it was no t part o f a
control array. W hat code wou ld Visua l Bas ic assoc iate w ith it? Where wo uld th e eve nt
procecJures come from ? With a control array, each new e lement inherits the corn mo n event
proccclures of the array.
The elements of a co ntrol arra y are physicall y separate controls, each wi th th eir ow n
property se ttin gs. However, they share the same narne code, as shown in Fig u·re 10.9.

Code Comm on event procedures

(shared) for
Co mbos( )

1 1
Data property property property prop erty
(prívate) settings settings se ttings settings
lndex = O lndex = 1 lndex =2 lndex =3

Figure 10.9 A Contro l Array

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 117

Noti ce how each control is referred to with the syntax controlname (index ). You specify the
index of a control when you create it. In fact, specifying any index at design time makes the
control part of an array .
When the control Combos(2) recognizes the Click event, Visual Basic invokes the event
procedure Combos_Click, and passes the number 2 asan additional argument.

An Application that Adds and Deletes Menu Commands

The Application Manager application shows how you rnight use a control array to add and
delete menu commands at run time. The application has a menu with two commands anda
separator bar, as shown in Figure 10.1 O.

. . . .. . ,, .

Figure 10.10 Application Manager

When the user c hooses th e Add Application comrnand, a new item is added to the bottom of
the menu . When the user chooses Delete Application, a message asks for an index number of
an item to remove from the bottom part of the menu.
The menu co ntrols are created in the Menu Design window, with these property settings.
Caption CtlName lndented lndex
Applications App No
Add Application AddApp Once
Delete Application De!App Once
AppNafl)e Once o
The last co ntrol on the list, AppName, has its caption set to a hyphen (-), which causes
Visual Basic to display a separator bar.
Because AppName is assigned a value for the Index property, it automatically becomes an
eleme nt of a co ntrol array-even though no other elements ha ve been created yet. At run
time, the fo llowing stateme nt creates ano ther ele men t of the array :
Load AppName(l)

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

118 Part 3 Application-Building Technique s

At run time thi s statement adds another item to the menu , just below the separator bar. The
next statement deletes this same element:
Unload AppName(l)

You can use the Unload statement only with controls that were created with the Load
statement; you cannot remove controls created at design time. Therefore, you cannot delete
the separator bar, which is the first element of AppName.
The procedures in this application use a variable called LMen u to track how many items are
on the menu . The variable should be declared in the declarations section of the form:
Dim LMenu As Integer

Once so rne commands have been added to the bottom of the menu, it's a simple matter to
execute the m. AppName_Click is the common eve nt procedure for ali of these commands.
The procedure works by simply passing the control ' s caption to the Shell function . Note that
the control chosen is identified as AppName(lndex):
Sub AppName_Click (Indexas Integer)
x = Shell(AppName(Inde x).Caption. 1)
End Sub

When the user chooses the Add Application comrnand, Visual Basic calls the
AddApp_Click procedure. Thi s procedure asks the user to suppl y the name of an
Sub AddApp_Clic k ()
Msg$ = "En ter path:" ' Mes sage to di sp lay to user.
FileSpec$ = InputBox$(Msg$) ' Assign user input to FileSpec$.
LMenu = LMenu + 1 ' Increase menu length by one.
Load AppName(LMenu) ' Load new menu command.
AppName(LMenu).Caption FileSpec$ · Set caption far menu command.
End Sub

The second line of code uses the Visual Basic lnputBox$ function to display a box that
prompts the user for a filename (which can include a path). This filename becomes the
caption of the new menu command. The fifth line of code uses the Load statement to
actually add the new menu comrnand.
For more information on lnputBox$, see Chapter 11 , "Genin g Information from the User";
the Language Refe rence; or:

Search Help for:

111 input

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 119

When the user chooses Delete Application from the Applications menu, Visual Basic
invokes the DelApp_Click procedure. When deleting an application, the user specifies the
number of the application (the application just below the separator bar is numbered 1). The
De!App_Click procedure has to do severa! things:
1. Get the number of the menu item to delete.
2. Yerify that the number is in range.
3. If Nis the number of the item to delete, copy the caption of item N+ 1. This makes it
appear that item N has been replaced by item N+ 1. Repeat the process for all items up to
the end of the menu.
4. Delete the last item on the menu .
5. Subtract 1 from LMen u.

The following table shows how: _this process rnight work, given four menu items, if the user
requests that ítem 2 be deleted.
lndex of item Before deletion After deletion Action
l Excel Excel
2* Winword Mines Caption copied from
ítem #3
3 Mines Cardfile Caption copied from
ítem #4
4 Cardfile Removed

The asterisk (*) above identifies the item that the user wished to delete. Note that only the
caption of this ítem changes. However, this is the same as replacing the menu item, because
the functionality of the item depends entirely on its caption.
The code for the DelApp_Click procedure is:
Sub DelApp_Click ()
Dim N As Integer. I As Integer
Msg$ - "Enter number to delete:" · Mes s age to display to user .
N - Val(InputBox$(Msg$)) ' Assign user input to N.
If N > LMenu Or N < 1 Then ' Exit if out of range .
MsgBox "Out of range."
Exit Sub
End If
For I - N to LMenu - 1 ' Rea ss ign capt ion s.
AppName(I).Caption = AppName(I + l) . Caption
Ne xt I
Unload AppName(LMenu) ' Remove last item.
LMenu = LMenu - 1
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

120 Part 3 Application -Building Technjques

The De!App_Click procedure introduces use of the Exit statement, which exits immediatel y
from the procedure. The use of thi s statement prevents the deletion from taking place if the
number is out of range. For more information on Exit, see the Language Reference, or:

m Se_arch Help for:


Shortcut and Access Keys

You can provide keyboard comrnands in your application s in two ways:
• Shortcut keys. These execute a menu command immediately when pressed, and include
function keys and control-key combinations, such as CTRL+A.
• Access keys. These enable the user to choose a control or open a menu by typing a
designated letter while holding down the AL T key . Once a menu is open, the u ser can
choose a comrnand by pressing just the letter (the access key) assigned to it.

To assign a function -key or control-key shortcut to a menu command, select from the list in
the Accelerator drop-down list box in the Menu Design window. Choose "(non~)" from the
top of the list to cancelan assignment.
To use a letter asan access key, placean ampersand (&) in front of the letter in the Caption
property setting. Most often, the access key is the first letter of the caption . You can assign
access keys to any control that has a Caption property, and to any menu name or comrnand.
For exarnple, the following Caption propert y settings respond to the letters O, S, and A:
Save &As

The arnpersand itself is not displayed on the control or menu ; instead, an underscore appears
beneath the designated letter.

Note Avoid giving multiple objects the same access key. Ideally, each control should have
a unique access key so that the key doesn' t have to be pressed repeatedly to get to the
desired object.

Access Keys for Text Boxes and Pictures Boxes

When a control has an access key but canno t receive the focus (because, for example , it is a
label), the focus moves to the next control in th e tab order. (Tab arder is the order in which
the user moves from one control to another by pressing the TAB key.) This feature enables
you to ass ign an access key to a text box , even though it doesn't have a Caption property.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 10 Responding to Commands 121

To assign an access key to a text box:

1 Place the label just before the text box in the tab order.
Toe easiest way to do thi s is to create the label first, then create the text box. (See the
next section , "Controlling the Tab Order.")
2 Use an ampersand in the !abe!' s Caption property to indicate the desired access key.
The access key assigned to the label then becomes the access key for the text box . The
user can use the access key to move the insertion point to the text box.

Note You can use the same technique to assign an access key to a picture box.

Controlling the Tab Order

Visual Basic assigns tab order according to the order you create the controls on a form. For
example, assume you create two text boxes (Textl and Text2) anda command button
(Commandl)-in that order. At run time, Textl has the focus on startup. Pressing TAB
moves the focus between controls in this order:

When Command] is the act ive control , pressing TAB moves the focus back to Textl.

What' s in the Tab Order?

All controls except timers and menu controls are a part of the tab order. Sorne of these
controls-i ncluding frames , labels, and any control disabled or made invisible-cannot
receive the focus. As the user presses the TAB key, these control s are skipped.
Many types of contro ls have a TabStop property . Thi s property is set to True by default. If it
is set to False, the control is ski pped when the user cycles through.controls by pressing TAB .
The placement of frames and labels in the tab order is significant because this order
determines the affect of access keys associated with the control. Pressi ng the access key
moves the foc us to the next control in the tab order that can receive the focus . (See the
previou s section, "Shortcut and Access Keys," for more information .)

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

122 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Changing the Tab Order

To specify a different tab arder, change the value of the Tablndex property for one or more
controls. The Tablndex property specifies the position of a co ntrol in the tab arder,
begi nning with the number O. In the example given earlier, the controls Textl, Text2, and
Command l have Tablndex settings of O, 1, and 2, respectively.
When you change the Tablndex property for a co ntrol , other controls are renumbered as
appropriate. For example, suppose you set the Tablndex property for Commandl to O. You
can do this at design time by usi ng the Properties bar. You can also make thi s change at run
tim e with thi s statement:
Commandl.Tabindex = 0

Settin g Tablndex to O places Command 1 first in the tab arder. The Tablndex for the other
controls are au tomatically adj usted up ward, as li sted in the following table.
Tablndex before Command1 Tablndex after Command1
Control name becomes first in Tab order becomes first in Tab order
Textl o 1
Text2 l 2
Commandl 2 o
Whenever you change a Tablndex setting, Visual Basic adju sts the Tablndex property for
each control as necessary , so that the first control in the arder has a Tablndex settin g of O,
and the other cont,·ol s are numbered sequentiall y.
The highest Tablndex setting is always one less than the number of controls in th e tab arder.
You ca n set the Tabln dex property to a number large r than the numbe r of controls; this has
the effect of moving the control to the e nd of the tab arder. For exa mple, if there are ten
co ntrols in the tab arder, th e Tabindex settin gs run from O to 9. If you assign the value 15 to
a control's Tablndex property, Visual Basic converts this value to 9 and moves th e control to
the back of th e tab arder.
If you assig n a Tablndex value less than O, Visual Basic generates an error.

Micro soft Visual Basic Programmer 's Guide

_.•.••r• • ••~•,"-,'f.,,.~~;J!-,,• •4, ;... , P \ •~ ~ \ _;; •!-.., ,• •• ,v,~ ., • --¡•?, ..,,••,,,,:

.. · e h a p t e r 1 1 ·

Getting lnformation from the User

Microsoft Windows and OS/2 Presentation Manager provide a variety of input mechanisms,
which in Visual Basic are implemented as controls. By using each control for its intended
purpose, you add variety, make your applications easier to use, and maintain consistency
with other applications .
Text boxes are good input devices (because most types of information can be represented as
text) , but require the user to type. Option buttons, check boxes, list boxes, and combo boxes
enable the user to choose from a set of altematives. Scroll bars provide a graphical way to
indicate a number: The user changes a value by adjusting an indicator on a scale.
An altemative to data entry is the use of the lnputBox$ function, which prompts the user for
input by displaying a dialog box.
The main sections in this chapter are:
• Advanced Use of Text Boxes
• Providing Choices with Option Buttons
• Using Check Boxes
• Providing Choices with List and Combo Boxes
• Getting Input with Scroll Bars
Prompting for Input with InputBox$
124 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Advanced Use of Text Boxes

Text boxes are versatile controls that can be used in a variety of ways. T he next four sec tions
di sc uss these uses of text boxes :
• Multiline Text Boxes and Word Wrap
• Validating Data in a Text Box
• Changing and Restricting Keystrokes
• Replacing the Decimal Separator

Multiline Text Boxes and Word Wrap

The look and behavior of a text box is strongly inf!uenced by two properties, MultiLine and
Scroll Bars, which are set at design time only. The ScrollBars property should not be
confused with scroll bar controls, which are not attached to text boxes and have their own set
of properties.
Setting MultiLine to True (-1) enables a text box to accept or di splay multiple lines of text at
run time. You cannot use the Properties bar to enter multiple lines of text at design time,
even if Mu ltiLine is set to True. However, you can use a Form_Load procedure to put text
into a te xt box on startup.
Within a procedure, you create a line break by in sert ing a newline character - a carriage
re tum fo llowed by a linefeed (ASCII characters 13 and 10). For exampl e, the following
event proced ure puts two lines of text into a multiline text box (Textl) whe n the form is
Sub Form Load ()
NL$ = Chr$ ( 13) + Chr$(10) 'Define newline character.
Textl . Tex t = "H ere are t wo lines" + NL$ + "in a text box."
End Sub

When ent ering text, th e user can insert a line break by pressing ENTER- unless a command
button with the Default property set to True is present on the form. If thi s is the case,
press ing ENTER chooses the button, and CTRL+E TER inserts a line break in the text box.
A multiline tex t box automatically manages word wrap as long as there is no horizontal
sc ro ll bar. The ScrollBars prope rty is set to None (O) by default. Automatic word wrap saves
th e use r the trouble of inserting line breaks at the end of lines. When a line of text is longer
th an what can be di splayed on a line, the tex t box wraps the text to the next line.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting I nformation from the User 125

Validating Data in a Text Box

You can use a LostFocus event procedure to validate data as soon as the user commits the
change. If the new data (specified by the Text property) is not within the valid range for your
application, your code can simply restore the previous value. Your application can beep or
display a warning message explaining why the data is not accepted .
For example, the text box in Figure 11 . 1 accepts numbers from 1 to 10. If the data entered in
the text box is not valid, the applicati on is programmed to beep.

!ZI Validation Example aD

Entera number from 1 to 10: 1~

1- - ~

Enter your name:

Figure 11.1 Validation Example

The controls have the following property settin gs .

Control CtlName property Caption property Text property
Top text box Readout 1
Top label Enter a number
from 1 to 10:
Bottom text box Your name (blank)
Bottom label Enter your name:

The Declarati ons section of thi s form de fi nes a form -level vari abl e that holds the most recent
acceptable value entered in the tex t box :
Dim MyN um As In te ge r

Note Visual Basic recogni zes a seri es of events every ti me a form is opened. The Load
event is always the first event to occur, and the Form_Load event is the place to initi ali ze
any form -level variables. Any vari ables you don' t initi ali ze start out with the value O or, in
the case of strings, an empty stri ng.

Microso ft Visual Basic Prog ramm er's Guide

126 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

The LostFocus event procedure for the Readout text box performs the data validation as
shown here :
Sub Readout_ LostFocus ()
Amt = Val(Readou t.Text)
If Amt < 1 Or Amt > 10 Then
Readout.Text = Str$(MyNum)
MyNum = Amt
End I f
End Sub

When this procedure is invoked, the user has just changed the contents of the Readout text
box. The first step of this procedure is to convert the stri ng of digits in Readout to a numeri c
Amt = Val(Read out . Text )

The procedure then tests Amt to see if it is within the acceptable range. If not, the procedure
performs these statements:
Readout.Text = Str$ ( MyNum)

The Beep statement produces a warning beep to indicate an error. The assignment statement
on th e next line resets th e contents of Readout to the previous acceptable va lue, stored in
MyNum .
If Amt is within range. then the procedure sets MyNum to the new value:
MyNum = Amt

To summar ize, the proced ure tests to see if the number entered is valid. If so, it assigns the
value to the form-level variabl e, MyNum . lf not , the display is restored by reading back the
va lue of MyNum.

Changing and Restricting Keystrokes

Responding to the KeyPress event enables you to restrict characters or transform them as
they are typed. The KeyPress event is the easiest of the three keyboard events to write code
for. Unlike the KeyDown and KeyUp events, the KeyPress event is generated only when a
standard ASCII character is input. Thi s does not include most of the spec ial keys, such as
function keys, the arrow keys . or th e DEL key .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programme r 's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 127

Note The ASCII characters are a subset of the ANSI character set in Visual Basic. ASCII
characters include all the printable characters, the CTRL key combined with an A-Z
character, a few other standard characters such as ENTER (ASCII 13), and the BACKSPACE
key (ASCII 8). You can transform or cancel any of these keystrokes with the KeyPress
event. To have your code respond to a key that <loes not produce an ASCII character, use the
KeyUp or KeyDown event.

The KeyPress event uses one argument, KeyAscii. This argument represents the numeric
(ASCII) equivalent of a printable character. You must translate thi s argument if you want to
evaluate itas a character.
Here is a common sequence for doing things within a KeyPress event procedure:
1. Translate Key As e i i into a charac ter by using the Chr$ function, which returns a
one-character string.
2. Perform whatever operations or tests are appropriate with this string. Remember that the
relational operators (=, >, <, <=, and >=) ali work on strings and use alphabetical arder to
define "greater than" and "less than."
3. To change the character the control receives, translate the character back to numeric
format with the Ase function, then assign this result to Key As e i i .
To cancel the keystroke so that the control receives no character, assign O to Key As e i i.

Man y kind s of objects recognize the KeyPress event, but only text boxes and combo b0xes
di splay charac ters as typed. Therefore the third step above is relevant only to text boxes and
combo boxes.
The fo ll owing example translates characters to uppercase as the user types them; the
KeyPress procedure receives the key stroke, changes it to uppercase, and uses the Ase
function to change the character back to a number. This code assumes that Readout is a text
Sub Readout _KeyPress (KeyAscii As Integer)
C$ = Chr$(KeyAscii) ' Convert to character.
C$ = UCase$(C$) ' Change character to uppercase .
KeyAscii = Asc(C$) ' Convert back to numeric .
End Sub

The first indented line changes the data format to string, and the third changes it back to
numeric again. The middle line does the real work of the procedure. It uses the U Case$
function to change the character to uppercase . (UCase$ has no effect on the character unless
it is a lowercase letter.)

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

128 Part 3 Application -Building Techniques

The nex t exa mple demonstrates how to restrict keystrokes; if the character typed is not
within range , the procedure cancels it. The text box for thi s example is named EnterNums,
and the procedure prevents the text box from receiving any characters other than di gits:
Sub Enter Num s_KeyPress (KeyAscii As Inte ger)
C$ = Chr$ ( Key Asci i) ' Con ve rt to character.
If C$ < "0" Or C$ > "9" Then ' If out of range,
Key Ascii = 0 kill the character.
Beep ' Sou nd erro r s ignal .
End I f
End Sub

You can optimize exec ution speed sli ghtly by not translating Key As e i i to a string. Instead,
compare it directly to the numeric (Ase) values of various characters. For example, the
examp le above could be rewritten as:
Sub EnterNum s_KeyPress (KeyAscii As Integer)
If KeyAscii < Asc("0") Or KeyAsci i > Asc("9") Then
KeyAscii = 0 'Kill the character.
Beep ' Sound error signal.
End I f
End Sub

Replacing the Decimal Separator

In many co untri es, the comma (,) is used to indicate decim al place, rather than the point (.).
This difference ca uses a problem with th e Val function , which assumes the use of the
dec ima l po int. If you support use rs who use the comma instead of th e point, add th e
fo ll owing general procedure to your application:
Fun ction MyVal(ByVal A As String) As Double
X= In Str(A. "," )
If X> 0 Then Mid$(A, X. 1) =
My Val = Val (A)
End Funct i on

Then, cal! the MyVal Function procedure when you need to tran slate from string to number.
The procedure works by rep lacing the first comma with a point (.), and then passing the
res ulting string to the Val function. The intrinsic InStr function finds the position of the
comma, and th e Mid$ statem ent puts a point at that position . For more information on
strings, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 129

Providing Choices with Option Buttons

When the user has to choose from a limited set of alternatives, you can use option buttons to
display those choices and make selection easier. Instead of typing, the user simply clicks a
For example, when usi ng the form in Figure 11.2, the user selects one of three option buttons
to select a charge card .

IZI Option Button Example DD

S e lec t pay me nt method:

®f\.ii~~J O MasterCard O Amex

Figure 11 .2 Using option buttons to give the user a choice

An option button alw ays works as part of a group. Selecting an option button immediately
causes ali other buttons in the group to be cleared. Defining an option button group tell s
Visual Basic, " Here is a set of choices, from which the user picks one and only one."
Ali of the option buttons placed directly on a form (not in a frame or picture box) constitute
one group .

Note If you want to create more th an one group of option buttons , you must place sorne of
them inside frame s or picture boxes . Ali the option buttons inside any g iven frame constitute
a separate group. as do ali the option buttons inside a picture box. When crea tin g a separate
group thi s way, always draw the frame or picture box first , then draw the option buttons .

The Value property of an option button shows whether or not it is selected . This property is
True (-1) if the button is selec ted and False (0) if not. To selec t a button from within a
procedure. set its va lue to True:
Ame xButton.Value = - 1

The Click event occ urs when the user selects an option button at run time. Oncean option
button is selected, you can assume that it remains selec ted and that its Value property is set
to True (- 1) until the user selects a different option button.
The user se lec ts an option button either by c licking it or by tabbing to the button and
pressing the SPACEBAR. You also can cause a ~ li ck event by choos in g the button from within
code, as in thc previous code fragment.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

130 Part 3 App lication- Building Techniques

Example The fo rm shown in Figure l l.3 uses option buttons to determine which of three number
sys tems (octal , decimal , or hexadecimal) to use. When the user selects a button , the number
d isplayed in the Readout text box is converted to the new number system. Thi s application is
a variation of the one at the end of the section on menus in Chapter l O, " Responding to
Commands ."

1:1 Number System Da

@ Use octal
O Use decimal
O Use hexadecimal

Figure 11.3 Choosing a number system with option buttons

The properties are set as shown in the following table.

Control CtlName property Caption property
Text box Readout
First optio n button OctButton Use octal
Second option button DecButton Use decimal
Third option button HexButton Use hexadecimal

The code for this application is shorter than that for the rnenu-d1iven version for two
reasons: You don ' t have to write any code to move a check mark around, as you do with
menus, and the code in this version uses the Change event.
When you are designing an application , it 's often helpful to write down how the application
should respond to each event. Then it becornes clear how to write the eve nt procedures. This
application responds to events as follow s:
• Change event for the text box : read in the value (usin g the appropriate number sys tem)
and store it in a form- level numeric variable , CurrentNum.
• C li ck eve nt for the OctButton: output Current Num in octal.
• Click event for the DecButton : output CurrentNum in decimal.
• Click event for the HexButton : output CurrentNum in hexadecim al.

What 's key to this approach is the use of a form- level variable, Curren t Num . This variab le
represe nts the value of Readout in num eric form. The Change event keeps thi s value current,
so ali the Click event procedures have to do is output the number in the proper number
sys tem. Curre ntNummu st be declared in the Declarations section of the forrn code:
Dim Curre ntNum As Single

Microsoft Visual Ba sic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 131

By default, the variable is initialized to O. That's an acceptable default, so there 's no need for
initiali zat ion code.
The Chan ge eve nt procedure checks to see which number sys tem (octal , decimal, or
hexadecimal) is in effect, and then it reads in the number. The number syste m is easi ly
determined from the state of the option buttons. This procedure is similar to the ReadV alue
procedure in Chapter I O, but it looks at the optionbutton.Va]ue condition rather than
menucommand. Checked:
Sub Readout_Cha nge ()
If OctButto n.Value Then
CurrentNum = Val ( "&O " + LTri m$(Readout .Text) + "&" )
Elself DecButton.Value The n
Current Num Val (LT ri m$(Readout.Te xt) + "&")
CurrentNum Val("&H" + LTrim$(Re adout. Text) + "&" )
End I f
End Sub

The Val function is used to tran slate the string to a number, and can recogni ze octal,
decim al, and hexadec imal strin gs. The LTrim$ function strips the tex t of leading bl anks.
The "&O" prefix causes a di git string to be interpreted as octal; the "&D " prefix causes it to
be interpreted as dec imal; and the "&H" prefix causes it to be interpreted as hexadecim al.
The "&" suffi x spec ifies that the number is a long integer; thi s supports use of large r va lues.
The Cli ck event procedures for the option buttons are short. Ali they have to do is use th e
Oct$ , Str$. or Hex$ fun ction to display Cu rrentNum in the appropriate number sys tem:
Sub OctButton Click ()
Readout.Text = Oct$(CurrentNum)
End Sub

Sub DecButton Click ()

Read out.Text = Format$(Cur rentNum)
End Sub

Sub HexButto n Click ()

Read ou t . Text = Hex $(Curr entNum)
End Sub

For more information on opti on button events, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

option button

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

132 Part 3 Application-Bu ilding Techniques

Using Check Boxes

A check box control indicates whether a particular condition is on or off, as shown in Figure
11.4. Unlike option buttons, check boxes don't work in groups.

11 Check Box Example aa

Figure 11.4 Che ck Box Examp le

You can have any number of check boxes, but they ali work independently of each othe r.
The user ca n have any number of check boxes selected at the same time.
Cli cking a check box at run time alternately selects and clears it; in either case, each click
action generates the Click eve nt for the box.
The Value property of a check box can be set to one of the following three values .
Setting of Value property Description
O Cleared . The check box is empty .
Selected . An X appears.
2 Grayed .

The fo ll owi ng exa mpl e uses a check box to determine whether or not to tran slate c haracter-,
to uppercase as they are typed. This example builds on o ne of the exa mples in the sec tion
·'C han g in g and Res tricting Keys trokes" earli e r in thi s chapte r.
The application has a check box and a text box , as show n in Figure 11 .5.

11 Character Converter aa

O Conve rt to uppe rcase

Figure 11.5 Wh en th is check box is selected, letters are entered as uppercase.

Microsoft Visual Basic Pro grammer's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 133

The following names are assigned to the control s.

Control Setting of CtlName property
Text box Letters
Check box ConvToUpper

The appli cati on includes a KeyPress event procedure for the text box. The procedure tes ts to
see if the check box is selected. If so, it translates the keystroke to uppercase. Otherwi se, the
procedure makes no changes.
Sub Letters _KeyPress (KeyAscii As Intege r)
If ConvToUpper.Value = 1 Then
C$ = Chr $ ( KeyAsci i)
C$ = UCase$(C$)
KeyAscii = Asc(C$)
End I f
End Sub

When the user selects the check box, ali subsequent letters typed in the text box are
converted to uppercase. However, previously typed letters are unaffected. To make the
check box convert the case of all letters in the text box, you can program the Click event for
the check box.
When a Click event occurs, you cannot ass ume that the check box is selected as a result
(because the user also clicks a check box to clear it) . Therefore, the event proced ure has to
test for whether th e check box is selected:
Sub ConvToUpper_Click ()
If ConvToUpper.Value = 1 Then
Letter s.Text = UCa se $(Letters.Text)
End If
End Sub

For more inforrnation on check box eve nts, see the Language Reference , or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

134 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Providing Choices with List and Combo Boxes

A list box control gives the user a set of alternatives from which to choose. lf the number of
items exceeds what can be di splayed in the box , the user can scroll up and down through the
li s t.
A list box with five entries is shown in Figure 11.6.

mi List Box Example aa

New Orleans
New York
San Francisco

Figure 11.6 A list box

A combo box control combines the fea tures of a text box anda list box. You can use thi s
control to enable the user to make a selection by typing text into the combo box or by
selecting an item from its list.
With the default setting (Style property set to 0), a combo box is a drop-down combo box.
The user can either enter text direc tl y (as in a text box) , or click the detached arrow at the
right of the combo box to open a li st of choices. Selecting one of the choices puts it into th e
text portian at the top of the co mbo box. The user al so can open the list by pressing
A L T + DO W when the control has th e foc us.

The two illustrations at the le ft o f Fig ure I J.7 show a drop-down combo box in its normal
state, and with its li st dropped do,, n.

= 1Porsche 111]
Combo Box Example

1 ~ 11± 1Porsche li}

Eds el


Rolls Royce

Combo box Combo box Orop-down

w1th i,st lis t box
dis p la yed
Figure 11.7 A combo box with lis t close d and with list opened, anda drop-down list box

Setting th e Style property of a co mbo box to I specifies a simple combo box , in which th e
list is di splayed at ali times. The use r can still enter text directl y or selec t from the li st.

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 135

When you want to enable the user to choose onl y from a list, but you want to conserve
screen space, you can use a drop-down list box . A drop-down li st box looks like a tex t box
wi th an attached arrow, as show n at the right of Figure 11 .7. The currentl y-selected ite m is
di splayed in the tex t porti a n, and the user can change the selection by clicking the arro w and
choosing from a list that drops down.
To create a drop-dow n li st box, you draw a combo box and set its Style property to 2.
No te th at a co mbo box with its Style property set to O or 1 enables the user to enter choices
that are not on the li st. In contrast, a drop-down list box (a combo box with its Style pro perty
set to 2), does not permit the user choices beyond those on the li st.
Generall y, a combo box is appropriate when there is a list of suggested choices, and a list
box is appropriate when you want to limit input to what is on the list.
To pl ace ite ms in the li st or remove the m, use the Addltem and Removeltem meth ods
descri bed in the nex t sec ti on.
To access items in a list, yo u use the Text, List, Listlndex, and ListCount properties . Tex t is
usuall y the easiest to work with. Thi s property specifies the selected ítem in string fo rm at.
The List property provides access to all the items in the list, as explained in the secti on,
"Getting at the Contents of a List."
The important events for li st boxes are Click and DblClick; for combo boxes, Click and

Note Everythin g said in the nex t two sec ti ons, "Placi ng Items in a Li st" and "Gettin g at the
Contents of a List," applies to bo th li st boxes and co mbo boxes, except where oth erwise

Placing ltems in a List

To place ini tial entri es in a li st box or co mbo box, use the Addltem method, whi ch has thi s
sy ntax:
box.Addltem item [, index]

The item is a string ex pression, and box is a list or combo box. To place a number in the lis t,
first convert it to a string. (If the number is a literal con stant, enclose it in quotation marks; if
it is a variable, convert it with Str$ or Format$) . The brackets indicate that index is an
opti onal argument. If included, index specifies where the new item is to be inserted in the
li st. An index of O represe nts the first position. If index is omitted, the íte m is inserted at the
end .

Note If the Sorted property is set to True (- 1), then Visual Basic always keeps th e items
so rted alphabeticall y, regardl ess of the order you place them there.

Microsoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

136 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

The follow ing example places "Chin a," " India," "USSR," and "USA" into the li st box
named Populations - and in that order:
Sub Form_ Load C)
Populations.Addltem " Ch ina "
Populations.Addltem "Indi a"
Populations.Addltem "U SSR"
Populations.Addl tem "USA"
End Sub

Whenever the fo rm is loaded at run time, the li st appears as shown in Figure 11 .8.

= ~ml ªª

Figure 11.8 The Populations List Box

But the next line of code inserts "The UN" into the first position, adjusting th e position of
th e other items downward:
Populations.Add ltem " The UN", 0

You can use the Addltem method at any time . Addltem gives yo u the abili ty to add it ems
to th e li st dynamically (i n response to user ac ti o ns). Yo u can also use the Removeltem
method to delete part of the list. The argumen t index specifies w hi ch item to remo ve:
box. Removeltem index

Getting at the Contents of a List

To acces s the contents of combo boxes and list boxes at run time, use the propertie s be low .
Property Description
T exl The currentl y se lected item , stored as a strin g.
Li st A stri ng array co ntain ing all item s in the li st.
Li stlncl ex The index of the selected ite m, where O is the ind ex of th e
top item . Text is eq ui va len t to List (Listlndex).
Li stCount The number of items in the li st.

Usua lly. th e eas ies t way to get the val ue of the currentl y selected ítem is to use th e Text
property. This property has a string type. (If it contains a strin g of digits, use th e Va l
function to obtain the numbe r. ) With li st boxes, the Text property always co rresponds to
so rn e it e m in th e li st. With combo boxes , th e Tex t property conta ins whatev er is e nt ercd in
th e tex t-box portion of the co ntro l, so it can co ntain a string th at is not in th e li st.

Microsoft Visua l Basic Pro gra mmer's Guide

Chapter 11 Getti ng lnfo rmation from the User 137

Fo r example, the fo llowing code di spl ays information on th e United States if the " USA"
item from the last exampl e is selected:
If Po pulations.Text - "U SA" Then
PopDi sp lay . Te xt = "U SA ha s 250 milli on peopl e. "
End I f

lf yo u' re mainly interested in the relative p osition of the selected item, use the Li stlndex
property. The setting of thi s property is O if the top item is selec ted, 1 if the nex t item down
is selected, and so on. Thus, the code above can be rewritten to test fo r the value "USA,"
whi ch is in the fifth position:
If Populations . List ind ex - 4 Th en
PopDispl ay.Text = "USA has 250 mi llion peo pl e. "
End I f

Note In a combo box, if the user enters tex t directly rather th an selectin g from the list, the
value of the Listlndex property is - 1. This applies only to combo boxes with the Style
property set to O or 1.

The Li st property provides access to all items in the list. T hi s property co ntain s an array in
whi ch each element of the array is an item in the li st. Each ite m is represe nted in string form .
To refer to an item in the list, use this syntax:
box .List (index)

T he argument box is a reference to a list box or combo box , and index is th e position of the
item . The top item has an index of O, the nex t has an index of 1, and so on. For exa mpl e, the
fo llow ing state ment di spl ays the thi rd item (index = 2) in a text box:
Di s pla yBox .Tex t = Pop ul at i ons.List(2)

List Box Events

T he C li ck eve nt is generated every time the user selects an item in a lis t box. The use r can
selec t (highli ght) an ítem by clicking it, by using the arrow keys, or by pressing the first
Jetter of an item. Us uall y there is little need to write code for thi s eve nt. However, if yo u do,
re member that cl ic king an item always causes the Click event.
The Db! Click event is generated only when the user double-c li cks an item in the list. There
is no key board equi valent for causing this event.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

138 Part 3 Appl icati on-Building Tec hniq ues

A recommended practice for list box events (especi all y when th e list box appears as part of a
di alog box) is to:
• Add a command button to use w ith the list box . The C li ck event procedure fo r thi s button
should m ake use of the list-box selec tion, carrying o ut whatever ac ti o n is appro pri ate fo r
yo ur application. ·
• Doubl e-clicking an item in th e li st should have the same effec t as selec tin g the ite m and
then clicking the command button. Thi s prov ides m ouse use rs with a ho rtc ut , ye t it
doesn' t depri ve keyboard users of esse nti al fun ction ality . T o implement thi s shortcut,
have th e Db!C li ck procedure for the lis t box call the C lick proced ure fo r the command

For exampl e , suppose you have an appl icatio n w ith three co ntrols: a li st box (Popu lati o ns), a
command button (Di splayCmd) , and a tex t box (Po pDi spl ay) , as sho wn in Fi gure 11.9. Th e
lis t box is initia li zed as exp lai ned in the sectio n "P lac in g ltems in the Li st" earlier in thi s

al Forml aa

S how Pop ula tion

Figure 11.9 A list bo x, com mand button, and text bo x that work tog eth er

Microso ft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 139

The Click event procedure for the com mand button di splays a different message depending
on the setting of Popul ation s.Tex t. The tex t box , PopDispl ay, is used to hold the message.
Sub Di splay Cmd_Cl ick ()
Se l ect Case Popul ati ons . lext
Case "Chi na"
PopDi splay .T ext = "Chi na ha s a bi ll i on peopl e ."
Case "I ndi a"
PopDis play .Text - " I ndia ha s over 800 mil li on peo pl e ."
Case "U SS R"
PopD is pl ay.Text - "USSR ha s 280 mi lli on peo pl e ."
Ca se "USA "
PopDisp la y.Text "USA ha s 25 0 millio n peop l e . "
End Se l ect
End Sub

You can also enable the user to displ ay the message by double-clicking one of the items in
the list; just have the Populati ons_Db! Click event procedure call the DisplayCmd_Click
Sub Popul at i ons_DblC lick ( )
Di s pl ayC md_Click
End Sub

For more information on list bo x eve nts, see the Language Ref erence , or:

m Search Help for:

list box

Combo Box Events

A combo box recogni zes a Click eve nt when the user selects an item from its li st. It
recogni zes a Change event when any edit is made to the tex t-box portion of the combo box.
A drop-dow n li st box (a combo box wi th its Style property set to 2) doesn' t recogni ze th e
Change eve nt.
A simpl e co mbo box (Style set to 1) recog ni zes a DblCli ck eve nt just as described in the
previous section . However, a drop -dow n li st box doesn' t recogni ze Db!Click.
If the Style property of a combo box is set to either O or 2, the control recogni zes a
DropDown event whenever the user opens the li st. The user can do thi s by clickin g th e
arrow at the ri ght of the contro l, or by pressing ALT+oow when the control has the fo c us.
Responding to thi s event is useful if you wa nt to upd ate the li st j ust befare it is di spl ayed.
For more info rm ati on on combo box events, see the Languag e Refere nce, or:

m Search Help for:

combo box

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

140 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Getting Input with Scroll Bars

Although scro ll bars are often tied to text boxes or windows, sometimes yo u see them used
as input dev ices. For exam ple, severa! item s in the Windows Control Panel use scroll bars,
inc lu ding the Mouse dialog box shown in Figure 11.1 O.


M_ouse Tracking S pee d OK

Slow Fasl

13 ,<<. -·• • LJ <> G 1 Cancel

Qouble Click Speed -

Slow Fasl
l.!J {( < D <<13
O liwap Lefl/Right Buttons

Figure 11 .10 Scroll bars in the Windows Control Panel

Visual Basic enab les you to use scroll bars the sam e way. With the Toolbox, yo u can create
your own hori zontal and verti cal scroll bar controls, as shown in Figure 11 .1 1.

1m Scroll Bars DD
... ..-

· · · · i- Sera// box here
··· ~ ..
indicates mínimum
value .

.•.••. J~•~
· ~~-,t-- Scroll box here
>...•...•... in die ates maximum

Sera/! box here indicates Scroll box here indicates

111111imum value. maximum value.
Figure 11.11 Horizontal and vertical scroll bar controls in Visual Basi c

A scroll bar rcpresents an integer va lue; the scro ll box shows w here the value lies relative to
the end poi nts of the range.
When th e integer is at the minimum value, the scro ll box moves to the leftmos t position (for
horizontal scro ll bars) or the top position (fo r vertica l scroll bars) .
Wh cn th c integer is al the maximum va lu e, the scroll box moves to the rightmo st o r bottom
position . S imil arl y, a value halfway between th e bottom ancl top of th e range pl aces th e
scroll box in thc midd le of th e scroll bar.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 141

The bas ic operati on of a scroll bar is controlled by the followin g properties.

Property Description
Min Value corresponding to the left or top of
scroll bar
Max Value corresponding to the ri ght or bottom
of scroll bar
Value Current value indicated by scroll bar
LargeChange Amount the value changes when the user
clicks the bar above or below the scroll box
SmallChange Amount the value changes when the user
clicks the arrow s at either end of the scroll

Y ou can set ali of these properties at design time. At run time, the Yalue property changes as
the user adjusts the scroll bar (unless you di sable the control), but the other properti es stay
the same unless you change them from within code.
In addition to using mouse clicks to change the scroll bar value, th e use r also can drag the
scroll box to any point a}ong the bar. The resulting value depends on the position, but is
always within the range from Min to Max.

Using the Scroll Bar Value

With scroll bars, the Yalue property is an integer corresponding to positi on o f th e scale.
Suppose you have a sc roll bar named Acceleration. You calc ul ate speed by addin g th e sc roll
bar's Yalue settin g to the Speed vari able:
Speed = Speed + Ac cel e ration.Valu e

Scroll bar control s show the relative qu antity visually , but do not report the ex act qu antity to
the use r. Therefore, the user doesn ' t know exactly what value he or she is entering. One way
to pro vide thi s information is to place a text box next to the scroll bar and print out the value
whenever the scroll bar changes. The code that updates the text box should be placed in the
Change e vent procedure for the scroll bar.
For example, suppose you have a scroll bar narned Fue! and a tex t box named Fue!Readout.
The Change e vent procedure for the scroll bar displays the preci se value in Fue!Readout:
Sub Fuel _Chang e ( )
Fue l Readout. Tex t - FormaU(F uel .Valu e)
End Sub

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

142 Part 3 App lication-Building Techniques

Controlling Colors with Scroll Bars

Colors provide an interesting demonstration of scroll bar controls.
With Visual Basi c forms and controls, the BackColor and ForeColor properties determin e
the background and foreground colors, respectively. The exampl e in Figure 11 . 12 enables
the user to interactively adju st the color of a text box by gettin g in stant feedback on how th e
color looks. The user adj usts three horizontal scroll bars to manipul ate the color.

11m Scroll Bar Demo ªª




Figure 11 .12 Using scroll bars to contro l color

The scroll bars are a 11 set to the val ucs 4 and 32 for the Smal lChange and LargeChangc
properties. Othcr properties are set as fo llows.
Control CtlName property Min property Max property
Top scrol l bar RcdBar o 255
Second scro ll bar Green Bar o 255
Third scro ll bar BlueBar o 255
Textbox Readout

The Change proccclure for each of the scroll bars responds by calling a general procedure,
DoColor, th at rccalculates the color.
Sub RedBar_Change ( l
End Sub

Sub GreenBa r Change ( l

End Sub

Sub BlueBar _Change ( l

End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

Chapter 11 Getting lnformation from the User 143

The DoCol or procedure uses the values of the three scroll bars, combines th em with the
RGB function , and assigns the res ult to the background color of th e tex t bo x. As explained
in Chapter 13, "Creating Graphical Effects," the RGB function takes red, green, and blue
input values, each runnin g from O to 255.
Sub Do Co l or ()
Readout . BackColor - RGB (Re dBar . Value, GreenBar . Valu e. BlueBar. Valu e)
End Sub

For more information on scroll bar events, see the Language R ef erence, or:

Search Help for:

111 scroll bar
Prompting for Input with lnputBox$
You can use the InputBox$ function asan alternative technique for gettin g data . Thi s
function di splays a dialog box that contains a simple prompt m essage.
The InputBox$ function displays a standard dialog box that asks the user to enter a strin g.
When you use this function , you have little control over the com ponents of the dialog box.
For thi s reason , when you create a polished application you should generall y avo id
InputBox$ and create a dialog form instead, as described in Chapter 15 , "Creating Mu ltiple-
Form Applications."
Th~ InputBox$ function has thi s syntax:
InputBox$(prompt$ [, title$ [, default$ [, xposo/o , ypos o/o ]]])

The brackets indicate th at ali arguments but the first are optional. The comm as are argume nt
separators: You use them only to separate arguments orto show that an arg um ent i skipped.
Thus, the mínimum syntax of InputBox$ just takes one string, whi ch is inte rpreted as the
prompt$ argument.
The first three arguments are ali strings: prompt$ is the prompting tex t th at appea rs in the
text box, tille$ is the text that appears in the title bar, and defa1tlt$ is th e clefa ult res ponse
di splayed in the text box. The last two arguments, xpos and ypos, give the cli sta nce in twips
from the left edge and top edge of the screen, respectively. (A twip is 1/20 o f a point. )

Microsoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

144 Part 3 Appl icati on -Buildi ng Techniqu es

The fo ll owing state ment creates the res ult shown in Figure 11. 13.
User$ InputBox$ ( " Enter your name. " , " Input Box " )

Ente r your na me . OK

Figure 11.13 A dia log box create d with lnputBox$

The resultin g dialo g box is modal. (A modal dial og box must be closed before the user can
switch to another forrn or di alog box.) However, the user can switch to a completely
differe nt applicati on in W indows.
When the user clicks the OK button or presses ENTER, the lnputBox$ function return s
whatever is in th e tex t box . If the user clicks Cancel, the n lnputBox$ returns an empty
string ('"' ).
For more info rmati on on how screen coordin ates work (includin g the twips measurement
system), see Chapter 12, '•Displ ay ing and Printing ln for mati on," and Chapter 13, "Creatin g
Graphical Effects." For mo re in formation on InputBox$. see the Language Ref erence, or:

m Search Help for:

inpu t

Microsoft Vis ual Basic Programmer's Guide

Displaying and Printing lnformation

It's easy to use Visual Basic to present simple messages or unformatted numbers . Many of
the applications and code fragments of previous chapters display this kind of data.
But as your applications become more sophisticated and polished, you' ll want to take
advantage of the tools Visual Basic offers for selecting fonts, formatting tables, and
changing number formats. You can even include code in your applications that automatically
adopts the number, date, and time format for the user's country (using the Format$
function) . You also can send text and graphics to the printer using the Printer object.
This chapter presents the variety of ways you have to display information . Toe main sections
· is chapter are:
emporary lnformation with MsgBox
146 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Displaying Temporary lnformation with MsgBox

The Visual Basic MsgBox statement is a simple and direct way to send a message to the
user. The statement causes a dialog box to be displayed with a message you specify . After
readin g the message, the user clicks an OK button to close the dialog box. Because the
dialog box is temporary , it should say something needed only briefly - perhaps an error
message, warning, or alert.
The syntax for the MsgBox statement is :
MsgBox msg$ [, type o/o [, type o/o [, tille$]]

The argument msg$ is a string that contains your message. The other arguments govern
features such as dialog box title and number of command buttons. You also can use the
MsgBox function to return a va lue indicating which button the user selected.
The following event procedure uses the MsgBox$ statement to di splay the message shown
in Figure 12. l when the user clicks a blank portion of the form .
Sub Form_Click ()
MsgBox "What we have here i s a fail ure to communicate."
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

1 [óKj 1
Figure 12.1 MsgBox Example

This dialog box remains on the screen until the user clicks the OK button or presses ENTER.
Then Visual Basic continues execution of the next statement in the code.
The dialog box is modal. This means that users can not swi tch to another forrn in your
app lication until they first close the dialog box .
For more information on the MsgBox statement and function , see the Language Reference,

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 147

Using Labels to Display Output

A !abe! control displays text that the user cannot directly change. Labels are frequently used
to identify controls such as text boxes and scroll bars that do not have their own Caption
property . Labels also are useful for displaying information that you don't want the user to
The Caption property specifies what text to display. By default, the caption is the only
visible part of the label control. However, by setting the BorderStyle property to 1 (whi ch
you can do only at design time), the ]abe! appears with a border- giving ita look similar to
that of a text box. A !abe! with that setting is put to good use in the application described in
the next section .

A Temperature Converter
The application shown in Figure 12.2 converts temperatures between Celsius and Fahrenheit
temperatures. It features three labels, a text box, and two command buttons. The user enters
a temperature in the text box at the top, and it is converted to Fahrenheit or Celsius,
depending on which of the two command buttons is clicked. The converted temperaiure is
displayed in what looks like a text box labeled Output; it's actually a label that has a blank
Caption and BorderStyle set to 1.

Input: 1 Conve,I lo F. 1
Oulpul: 1 Converl lo C. 1

La beis La bel with border

Figure 12.2 Temperature Converter

The application could use a text box instead of a label to display the converted temperature.
However, information displayed in a text box can be changed by the user, which isn' t
desirable in this case. A !abe! with a border looks like a text box , but the information it
displays can't be directly changed by the user.
There is a way to prevent the user from changing text displayed in a text box: set its Enabled
propen y to False. However, once that 's done, text in it would be grayed.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

148 Pa rt 3 Applicatio n-Bu ilding Techn iques

The pro perties of the application are set as follows.

Control CtlName property Caption property property
First label (not used in code) In put: O (the default)
Textbox Inpu tTe mp 2 (the default)
Second label (not used in code) Outpu t: o
T hi rd !abe! OutputTemp (b lank)
Top command ToDegreesF Convert to F.
Bottom co mmand ToDegreesC Convert to C.
bu tton

T he Click procedure fo r ToDegreesF converts a Celsi us temperatu re in the InputTemp text

box to a Fahrenheit temperature:
Sub ToDegreesF_Cli ck ()
Oeg r eesC - Val(InputTem p.Text)
DegreesF - (Deg r eesC * 9/5) + 32
Out putTe mp. Ca pt i on = Format$(DegreesF)
End Sub

As wi th many of the other exarnples in this manual, the proced ure above fo ll ows a standard
approac h: Convert the characte rs in a text box to a numeric value. pe rform ca lc ulat ions on
the value, the n convert the val ue to a tex t string and display it. The Click procedure fo r
ToDegreesC takes the sam e approach , but performs the reverse calc ulation :
Sub To DegreesC_Click ()
Deg reesF = Val(InputTemp.Text )
DegreesC - (DegreesF - 32) * 5/9
OutputTemp.Caption - Format$(DegreesC)
End Sub

Note that in both procedures DegreesC and DegreesF are two local vari ab les represe ntin g
Ce lsius anct Fahrenhe it quantities, respectively. Because th ey are not ex plicitl y declared ,
they have the default data type, Single.
For more info rm ati on on the label control, see th e Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

la be l

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 149

Setting Characteristics of Text (Fonts)

All of the objects that can display text support the font properties, which determine the
visual characteristics of the text itself, including:
• Letter style (font)
• Size
• Special characteristics such as: bold, italics, underline, or strikethrough

Most types of objects can display sorne kind of text, including forms, text boxes, labels, list
and combo boxes, and any control with a Caption property. (This includes command
buttons, labels, check boxes, and option buttons.) In addition, all of the font properties apply
to the special Printer object introduced later in this chapter.
The exact effect of the font properties depends on the technique used to display text:
• If the text is specified by a property (such as Text or Caption), then a change to a font
property applies to the entire contents .
Labels, text boxes, frames, buttons, check boxes, and all the file-system controls use a
property to specify text. None of them supports the Print method.
• If the text is displayed by the Print method, a change to a font property affects
subsequent uses of Print, but has no effect on previously printed text.
Only forros and picture boxes support the Print method.

Consequently, text boxes and labels cannot display text that mixes fonts. If you need to mix
fonts (for example, you want to make sorne words bold but leave others in normal style),
then create a picture box and use the Print method to display text. The next section ,
"Printing to Forms and Picture Boxes," explain s how to use Print.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

150 Part 3 Applicatioíl-Buildiílg TechíliQues

The six font prope11ies are:

Property Type Description
FontName String Specifies name of font (for
example, "Modem ,"
"Courier," "Script").
FontSize Integer Specifies font size in points
(6 toan inch when printed) .
FontBold lnteger (Boolean) If True, the text is bol d.
Fontltalic Integer (Boolean) lf True, the text is italic .
FontStrikethru Integer (Boolean) If True, Visual Basic strikes
throu gh the text (for
example, t{}X-l) .
FontUnderline Integer (Boolean) lf True, the text is

An additional font property, FontTransparent, is supported for form s and picture boxes only .
The settings available for each of the properties are listed in the Settings box at the middle of
the Properties bar. lf you use a setting from the list, you don ' t have to worry about picking
an unavailable size or typing a font name incorrectly .
You can set any of the font properties at design time (by using the Properties bar) or at run
time. For example, th e followin g statements set various font properti es for a control named
Labell :
Labell . Foílt Name = "M odern" Chaílge foílt to Moderíl.
Lab ell . Fo ntBold = - 1 Tur íl Oíl bold.
Labell.Foíltitalic = - 1 Turn Oíl italics.
Lab ell . Foílt Uíld er liíl e = 0 ' Remove underliíl e.

The order of selection is import an!. becau se not all fonts support ali font variations (bold,
itali c, and so on). Set th e Font Na me property first. The Boolean font properties are not
mutu ally exclusive. They ali can be se t to True, all set to False, or set in any combination of
True and False.
For more information on fo nt properties, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 151

Printing to Forms and Picture Boxes

In addition to placing strin gs in tex t boxes, yo u also can make text appear directly on a form .
When you print to a form , the tex t appears behind any controls that have been placed on the
form. Therefore, printing to a form usually works best with a blank form specifically created
to hold the text.
You also can print text to a picture box control. A picture box is a simple rectangular area
into which you can load or copy a bitmap picture, draw graphics, or print tex t. One
advantage to using a picture box is that it gives you a well-defined area to display text and
graphics; the area is separate from other controls on the same form .
To print on a form or picture box, use the Print method, preceded by the name of a form, a
picture box , or the Printer object. The sy ntax is:
[obj ecl .JPrint [expressionlist ][ { ; 1 , }]

The object is optional; if omitted, the Print method applies to the form to which the code is
attached (the curren t forrn). Por example, the following statements print different messages
to MyForm, Picture 1, and the current form:
MyForm. Pr i nt "Thi s is a form."
Picturel.Print "This is a picture box."
Print "This i s the current form."

Multiple items in the expressionlist must be separated by commas or semicolons or both , as

explained in the next section.
If the form or picture box is too small to display all the text, the text is cut off at the ri ght and
bottom edges of the object. The form or picture box does not scroll .

Combining ltems on a Line

The items you print can incl ude property values, constants, and variables (ei ther string or
numeric). The Print method translates any numeric items into their text equivalent and
inserts a trailing and leadi ng space.
Use a semicolon (;) ora comrna (,) to separate one item from the next. If you use a
se micol on, Visual Basic prints one item after another, without intervening spaces. If you use
a comrna, Visual Basic skips to the next tab colurnn.
For example, the fo llowing statement prints to the current form:
Print "Th e value of X is"; X; "and t he valu e of Y is" Y

If X contains the value 2 and Y contains the value 7, the statement produces this output:
The value of X is 2 and the value of Y is 7

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

152 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

By default, each Print method prints the text and moves to the next line. If there are no
items, Print simply skips a line. A series of Print statements (for a picture box named
Picturel ) automatically uses separate lines:
Picturel.Print "Thi s is line l."
Picturel.Print "Thi s is line 2. "

Yet by placing a semicolon at the end of the first statement, you cause the output of the next
Print statement to appear on the same line:
Pi cturel. Pri nt "Th i s all appears ";
Picturel.Print "on the sa me line."

Printing at Specific Locations

Yo u can control where Print output is placed by using the Cls (clear) method and by setting
the drawing coordinates of the given form or picture box. The drawing coordinates
determine where the next Print or graphics operation will start sending output.
The Cls method erases all text placed in the object with previous Print methods (as well as
graphics) and resets the drawing coordinates to the (0,0) coordinates, which by default are at
the upper-left comer. For example, these statements clear Picturel and the current forrn:
Picturel. Cls

You also can set drawing coordinates directly by setting the CurrentX and CurrentY
properties for any given forrn or picture box. For example, these statements reset the
drawing coordinates to the upper-left comer for Picture 1 and for the current fonn:
Picturel.CurrentX = 0
Picturel.CurrentY = 0
CurrentX = 0
CurrentY = 0

Any new text you print is overlaid on top of whatever text and graphics are already there . To
erase text selectively , draw a filled-in box using the background color, as explained in
Chapter 13, "Creating Graphical Effects."
By default, forms and picture boxes use a coordinate system in which each unit corresponds
to a twip (1,440 twips equ al an inch, and approximately 567 twips equal a centimeter). Thi s
is a logical twip - the length of an object that is one twip long when output on the printer.
For more information on coordinate systems, see Chapter 13; the Language Reference; or:

m Search Help for:

coordinate system

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 153

Using the TextHeight and TextWidth Methods

You can use the TextHeight and TextWidth methods to determine coordinate settings.
TextHeight retums the height of a line of text. The syntax is:
[object.] TextHeight(stringexpression$)

If the string contains embedded carriage-return characters (Ch r $ ( 13 ) ) , then the text
corresponds to multiple lines, and TextHeight returns the height of the number of Iines of
text contained in the string. If there are no embedded carriage returns, TextHeight always
returns the height of one line of text.
One way to use this method is to set the CurrentX property to a particular line. For example,
the following statements set the drawing coordinates to the beginning of the fifth line:
Current X TextHeight("sampl e " ) * 4
CurrentY = 0

Assurning there are no carriage returns in the sample text, you would use this syntax to set
CurrentX to the Nth line:
CurrentX = [object .] TextHeight(sampletext) * (N - 1)

The brackets indicate that object is optional; if object is omitted, the method applies to the
current form . The object can be either a form or a picture box.
The TextWidth method returns the width of a string, taking into account the object' s font
size and style. This method is useful for deterrnining right alignment; if a line of text is about
to run off the right edge of the form, you skip to the next line by using the Print method
with no arguments. The TextWidth method helps you determine if the width of the string is
larger than the width of the form (or picture box) .
For example, the following Sub procedure takes a word , contained in the string S, and
determin es whether to print the word on the current line or to advance to the next line first :
Sub PutAWord (S As String)
If Te xtWidth(S) + CurrentX >= Sc aleWidth Then
End I f
Print S; " " . .
End Sub

The ScaleWidth property gives the interna! dimensions of the form - the width of the area
within the borders of the frame . (As you ' ll see in Chapter 13, "Creating Graphical Effects,"
ScaleWidth also can be used to set the coordinate system .) Forms , picture boxes, and most
other types of objects have both a ScaleWidth anda ScaleHeight property.
For more information on the TextHeight and TextWidth methods, see the Language
Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

154 Part 3 Appli cation-Building Technique s

Printing Tabular Data

The Print method offers two ways to print tables of information : You can use preset tabs or
you can set up your ow n tabs. The preset tabs provided by the Print method are especially
easy to use. If the data yo u' re printing is longer than about 13 characters, however, you
should set your ow n tabs.

Using Built-ln Tabs

The eas ies t way to print tab les is to use the print zones built into Visual Basic. Each print
zone is 14 columns wide, where a column is the average size of a character in the font and
font size you spec ify.
When you insert a co mm a between two items in a Print method , the second ítem is printed
starting at the next print zone. The fo ll ow ing statements produce the outpu t shown in F ig ure
Pi cture l .Fo ntName = "System"
Picturel.FontSize = 10
Pi cturel. Pri nt " Fi rst name", "Last Name", "Ph one number"
Picturel.Print "Jonathan", "Vanderbilt ", "555 - 4444"
Pi cturel. Pri nt "Arl ene " , " Li 11 egard " . "555 -7891"
Pi cturel .Print "Joanne " , "Buchanan " , "99-11-12345 "

First n ame Last Name
Phone numb er
Jon athan Vand erbilt 555- 4444
Arle ne Lill ega rd 555-7891
J oa nn e Buchanan 99 -11 -12345

Column O Column 14 Column 28

Figure 12.3 Using built-in print zones

Figure 12.3 sho ws a l 0-point System fon t. Like most Windows fonts, System is a
proporti o nal fon t and includes characters of vary ing widths. In this example, each print zone
has th e same width as 14 average System 10-point charac ters . When settin g up tables,
remember that letters such as "W" take upa little more than one column, and letters like " i"
take upa little less than one column.

Setting Up Vour Own Tabs

For more control over the appearance of tables, yo u can set your own tab position s. To
specify a tab positi o n, call the Tab fu nction and include the position as one of the items in a
Print state ment. The sy ntax is:
Tab (co lu mn) ;

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 155

For example, the following statements print a message in the System font starting at column
5. Each column is the size of an average character in the font you choose:
Picturel.FontName = " System "
Pictur el.Print Tab(5); " This me ssage starts in column 5."

Figure 12.4 shows a table printed to a form. The first tab, at column 2, indents the Iines
slightly from the left edge of the picture box. The tab at column 22 sets the position for the
"Description" heading and the text printed below it.

!ZD Forml aa
Fi lename De scription

SUMMARY.TXT Overview of project

TESTING.TXT Testing plan
USERDOC.TXT Us er manual

Column(2) Column(22)
Figure 12.4 Using tabs in a table

The code that prints thi s table on the form is:

Picturel . FontName " System "
Picturel . FontSi ze = 10
Picturel.Print Tab(2); " Filename "; Tab(22); "Description"
Pi ct ur e l.Print
Picturel.Print Tab(2); " SU MMARY.TXT"; Tab(22); "Overview of project"
Picturel.Print Tab(2); " TESTING.TXT"; Tab(22); "Testing plan"
Picturel.Prin t Tab(2); "USERDOC.TXT"; Tab(22); " User manual"

For more information on the Tab function and using it with the Print method , see the
Language Reference, or:

Search Help for:

111 tab

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

156 Part 3 Appli cation -Buil ding Techniques

Formatting Numbers, Dates, and Times

Vi sual Bas ic g ives you great flexibility in displaying number form ats as well as date and
time fo rmats. Yo u can easily di splay international formats for numbers, dates , and ti mes.

Number Formats
The Format$ function , like the Str$ function , converts numeric values to strings . But with
Format$, you have more control over the appearance of the string . For example, you can
speci fy th e numbe r of decimal places, leading or trailing zeros, and currency formats.
The syntax of the the Format$ fun cti o n is:
Format $( 1111meric-expression l,frnt$ ]) ;

T he argumcn t 11umeric-expressio11 spec ifi es a number to con ve rt, andfmt$ is a string made
up of sy mbo ls th at show how to format the number. The most commonly used symbol s are
listed in th e fo ll owin g table.
Symbol Description
o Digit placeholder; prints a trailing or leadin g
zero in thi s positi o n if appropriate .
# Digit placeholder; never prints trailing or
leading zeros.
Decimal place holder.
Thousands se parato r.
- + $ ( J :--pact' Literal character; di spl ays each o r th ese
charac ters exac tl y as typed into th e form al
string .

Severa! examples are li s tecl be lo w. Th ese number con vers io ns ass um e th at the country in thc
Wind ows Con tro l Pane l is se t to "U nit ed States.'·
Format$ example Result
Format$(83 J 5.4, "00000.00") 083 15.40
Format$(83 l 5.4 ... #####.##") 83 15 .4

Form at5í(8] 15.4 ... ##.##0.00") 8.3 15.40

Format$(3 l 5.4 ;'$##0.00") S3 15 .-+0

Format$ s uppo n s man y other spec ial characters. For more inform ation , see the Lang11age
Ref erencl:'. or:

m Search Help for:

Form al$

Microso ft Visual Ba sic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 157

The sy mbol for the decim al separator is a period (.) and the sy mbol for the thou sands
separator is a comma (,). But the character that' s actually di splayed as a decimal separator or
a thousands separator depends on the country set in the Windows Control Panel.
Country Format$ syntax Result
Sweden Format$(7300, "0,000.00") 7.3 00,00
United Kingdom Format$(7300, "0,000.00") 7,300.00
Germany Format$(7300, "0,000.00") 7.300,00

Date and Time Formats

To print date and time formats , use the Format$ function with sy mbol s representing date
and time. The examples shown print the current date and/or time usi ng the Now function .
Thesc cxamp lcs assume that the co untry se l in the Wind ows Co ntrol Panel i~ ··u nit ecl
Format Result
Format$(N ow, " m/d/yy") 7/28/91
Format$(Now, "dddd , mmmm dd, yyyy") Sunday, July 28, J 991
Format$(Now, "d-rnmm") 28-July
Format$(Now, "mmmm-yy") July-91
Format$(Now, "hh:rnm AM/PM") 07: 18 AM
Format$(Now , "h:mm :ss a/p") 7: 18:00 a
Fo rm at$(Now, "d-mmmm h:mm") 28-Jul y 7 : 18

By usi ng the Now function with the format "ddddd" and "ttttt," yo u can print th e current
date and time in a format appropriate for the country set in the Windows Control Panel.
Country Format$ syntax Output
Sweden Format$(Now, "ddddd ttttt") 90- 12-3 1 18.22 .38
United Kingdom Format$(Now, "ddddd ttttt") 12/3 1/90 18:22.38
Canada Format$(Now , "ddddd ttttt") 90- 12-3 1 18 :22:38
United States Format$(Now, "ddddd ttttt") 12-31-90 6:22:38 PM

For more information on date and time funct ions, see the Language Referen ce, or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

158 Part 3 Appli cation-Building Techniques

Sending Output to the Printer

Visual Basic provides two ways to print your output to the printer (this is the default system
printer that the user spe~ifies in the Control Panel) :
• Send text directly to the printer.
• Produce the output you want on a form and then print the form .

Sending Text Directly to the Printer

To send text directly to the printer, use the Print method and specify Printer as the drawing
object. The syntax is :
Printer.Print 1ext [;]

The Prinler object supports ali of the graphics methods presented in Chapter 13, "Creating
Graphical Effects," and can be used to display lines, circles, and points .
The Printer is the name of an object in Visual Basic that has all the font properties described
earlier. For example, the following statements send bold Modem type to the printer:
Printer .Fo ntName = "Modern"
Printer.FontBold = -1
Printer .P rint "Bold Modern type appears on printer."

Because these statements set FontBold to True (-1), subsequent statements also print bold
text on the printer unless you turn off the bold font :
Printer.FontBold = 0

You can set CurrentX and Current Y properties for the Printer object, justas you can with
forms and picture boxes. With Printer, these properties determine where to position output
on the curren t page. Thus, the following sta tements set drawing coordinates to the upper left
of the current page :
Printer.CurrentX 0
Printer.CurrentY = 0

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 12 Displaying and Printing lnformation 159

When -printing longer documents, you can specify where you want a new page to begin
using the NewPage method. When you are fini shed creating a print document, specify the
EndDoc method. This advances the page and causes all pending output to be sent to the
spooler. (If you return to design time, Visual Basic issues an EndDoc call automatically.)
For example:
Printer.Print "Thi s is pag e l. "
Printer.Print "Thi s is page 2 ."
Printer . EndDoc

After you use the EndDoc method, you can start printing another document. The first page
of the new document is assigned page number 1. This page number isn't automatically
printed, but Visual Basic tracks the page .number internally. You can access this number by
using the Page property . For examp lc, if yo u wa nt to print a header at thc top of cve ry pagc
of a budget report:
Header$ = "Monthly Budget Summary"
Printer.Print Header$ + Printer.P age
Printer.Print Header$ + Printer . Page
PageNo = Printer.Page
MsgBox "Y ou r document contains " + PageNo + " pages. "

Printing Forms
Yo u also can send output to the printer by produci ng the output you want on a form , and
then printing the entire form using the PrintForm meth od . This method is very simple. You
can precede PrintForm by the name of a form. lf you omit the form name, Visual Basic
prints the current form. The sy ntax is:

PrintForm prints the entire form, even if part of the form is not visi ble on the screen. If a
form contains graphics, however, the graphics print only if the form's AutoRedraw property
is set to True (-1).
The PrintForm method always sends pixels on the form directly to the printer. As a
consequence, you may not get the hi ghest resolution when you use PrintForm . For
example, you could send text to a printer by first printing it on a form , then calling
PrintForm :
Print "Here is so rne text . "

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

160 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

However, if the printer has higher resolution than the monitor, then thi s statement prints the
same text with better clarity:
Printer.Print "Here is sorne text."

For more information on the PrintForm method, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Creating Graphical Effects

Animated, graphical applications are among the most appealing and exciting to the user.
But with traditional programrning environments, they are difficult to create.
Not so with Visual Basic, which provides severa! ways to produce graphical effects in your
applications. You can move objects around on the screen , make them appear and di sappear,
even change their size - all with simple and easy-to-leam statements. The Visual Basic
language also provides statements that enable yo ur applications to draw circles, lines, boxes ,
and other shapes.
With th e~c fca tures yo u' ll be ab lc to writc game::,, animatcd cffcct -, co lorful ::, imulatiom,, or
any app lication where graphical effects could enhance the user's presentation .
This main sections in this chapter are:
• Adding Pictures to Your Forms
• Moving Controls Dynarnically
• Resizing Controls Dynarnically
• Showing and Hiding Controls
• Adding and Removing Controls
• Settin g an Object's Coordinate System
• The Fundamentals of Drawin g
• Drawi ng Lines and Shapes

• •• • •
•• ••••
•• ••• •

.. -:· .-?~
• • •
. .o:--.,.
.{'.....·, ·•.•- J
~:::•:. ->·
162 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Adding Pictures to Vour Forms

Pictures can be displayed in two places in Visual Basic applications, on a form orina
picture box. Previous chapters have described how to use picture boxes to group option
buttons and to contain output from the Print method, but you' 11 probably use picture boxes
most often to hold a picture.
Visual Basic can read picture files in any of the following standard formats :
• Bitmap. A bitmap has the file extension .BMP.
• !con. An icon has the file ex ten sion .ICO.
• Metafile. A Windows merafile has the file extension .WMF. Only files compatible with
Microsoft Windows 3.0 can be loaded.

These files can come from Microsoft Windows Paintbrush (incl uded with Windows 3.0),
other graphics programs, or clip-art libraries.
You use different techniques for adding a picture to a form or picture box, depending on
whether you do it at design time or run time .

Adding a Picture at Design Time

There are two ways to add a picture at design time :
• Load a picture into a form or picture box from a picture file:
In the Properties bar, select Picture from the Properties li st box and click the three dots at
th e right of the Settings box. Visual Basic di splays a dialog box, from which yo u selecta
picture fil e.
If you set the Picture property for a form , the picture you select is di splayed on the form ,
behind any controls you ' ve placed on it. Likewise, if you set th e Picture property for a
picture box, the picture is displayed in the box, behind any con trol s you place on it.
• Paste a picture onto a form or into a picture box:
Copy a picture from another app li cation (such as Windows Paintbrush) onto the
Clipboard. Return to Visual Basic, se lec t the form or picture box, and choose Paste from
the Edit menu .

Once you've set the Picture property for a form or picture box (either by loading a picture
or pasting one), the word displayed in th e Settings box is "(Bitmap)," "(Icon) ," or
" (Metafile) ." To change the setting, loador paste anot her pi cture. To set the Picture property
to "(None)" again, double-click the word displayed in the Settings box and press the DEL

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 163

Adding a Picture at Run Time

There are two ways to add a picture at run time:
• Use the LoadPicture function to specify a filename and assign the picture to the Picture
The following statement loads the file CARS.BMP into a picture box named DisplayBox
(you name a control by setting its CtlName property) :
DisplayBox.Picture - LoadPicture (''c:\picts\cars.bmp")

Y ou can load a new picture file onto a form or into a picture box whenever you want.
Loading a new picture completely replaces the existing picture, although the source fil es
of the pictures are never affected.
• Copy a picture from one object to another.
Once a picture is loaded or pasted onto a form or into a picture box, you can assign it to
other forms or picture boxes at run time . For example, this statement copies a picture
from DisplayBox to another picture box named DisplayBox2:
DisplayBox2.Picture = 0isplayBox . Picture

You can both load a picture and assign it to another object by using both the previous
statements within one procedure:
DisplayBox.Picture = LoadPicture ( " c : \p i cts\ca rs.bmp")
DisplayBox2.Picture = DisplayBox.Picture

Note If you loador paste pictures from fil es at design time, the pictures are saved and
loaded with the form. When you create an .EXE file , you don't need to give your users
copies of the picture files; the .EXE file itself co ntains the images. In contrast, to load
pictures at run time with the LoadPicture function, you mu st supply the picture fil es to your
users along with your application. For this reason it's often better to loador paste pictures at
design time. Your application can then copy pictures from one object to another, as
described above.

Another way to set the Picture property is to use the Clipboard object. For more information,
see Chapter 18, "Interacting with the Environment"; the Language Reference; or:

m Search Help far:

Clipboard object

Moving and Sizing Pictures

If a form or picture box is moved (at design time or run time), its picture automatically
moves with it. If a form or picture box is resized so it 's too sma ll to display a picture, the
picture gets clipped at the right and bottom . A picture is al so clipped if you loador copy it
onto a form or into a picture box that is too small to display ali of it.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

164 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

If you want a picture box to automatically expand to accommodate a new picture , se t the
AutoSize property for the picture box to True (-1 ). Then when a picture is loaded or copied
into the picture box at run time, Vi sual Basic automatically expands it down and to the right
enough to display ali of the picture. (The picture box is visible only up to the edges of the
form where it resides, however; if the image you load is larger than that, it appears clipped
because the form size doesn ' t change.)
Y ou also can use the AutoSize property to automatically shrink a picture box to retl ect the
size of a new picture .
Forms do not have an AutoSize property, and do not automatically enlarge to display ali of a

Selecting Art for the Picture Control

\\.heredo you gel pictuie l°ik:,.' 11 ) O U wa.nt ico11:,, you can use the lcon Library incluJed
with Visual Basic, or create them yo urself with a program such as Microsoft Windows SDK
Paint. You can create .BMP file s with Microsoft Windows Paintbrush. Or, yo u can bu y a
clip-art collectio n that includes bitmap or icon files , or metafiles.
The Visual Basic Icon Library includes a set of icons organized into these groups:
• Arrows and pointers
• Communication (networking. phones, printers, servers)
• Computer (computers, disk drives, diskettes, keyboards, mice, Windows fo lders)
• Flags
• Mail (mailboxes, envelopes)
• Office (card fil es. charts. file cabi nets, folders, graphs, paper clips)
• Traffic sign s
• Writing (books, notepads, pens. pencils)
• Miscellaneous (c locks. first aid signs, locks and keys , phases of the moon , and so on)

Figure 13 .1 shows so rn e sa mpl es of the Icon Library. To see all of the pictures in the Icon
Library, refer to Appendix B, '·Jcon Library," or use the IconWorks sample applicati on
incl uded with Visual Bas ic.

11 forml . Da

[Q m 1

~ ~
m ~ ii .
Figure 13.1 Samples from the Visual Basic lean Library

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer 's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 165

Toggling Between Two lcons

Sorne of the icons in the Icon Library can be used in pairs. For instance, there are two
mailbox icons in the lcon Library, one with its flag down, and one its flag up, as shown in
Figure 13.2. By switching between the two (also called "toggling"), you can create a little
animation at run time and also enable your user to easily see the status of mail.

mi Forml aa

Figure 13.2 lcons MAIL16A.IC0 and MAIL16B.IC0 from the lean Library

To create a toggling effect, first draw three picture boxes on a forro at design time. Set th e
BorderS tyle property to O for the first one, and name it Mailbox. Name the other two
NoMail and Mai!Here. Set the Picture property for NoMail to the mailbox icon with its flag
down (the icon file is named MAILI6A.ICO) . For MailHere, set the Picture property to th e
icon with its flag raised (MAIL16B.ICO). Set the Visible property to False (0) for both
Mai!Here and NoMail ; you want to use the images stored in those controls, but you don ' t
want them to be visible on the form.
lf you are using mailbox icons in a mail application, you probably want a Form_Load
procedure that checks to see whether there are messages awaiting the user, and sets the icon
accordingly. In this case, use a Form_Load procedure that sets the Picture property for th e
Mailbox control to the ico n with the flag down :
Sub Form_ Load ()
Mailbo x.Pict ur e = NoMail.Picture
End Sub

Use thi s code for the Mailbox_Click event procedure:

Su b Mailbo x_ Click ()
If Mailbox . Picture = NoMail.Picture Then
Mailbox.Picture = MailHere.Picture
Mailbo x.Pict ure = NoMail.Picture
Encl I f
End Sub

Now when you run the application and click the Mailbox picture box, it switches betwee n
the icon with its flag down and the one with its flag up.
For more information on the picture box control and using graphics in your app li cations:

111 Search Help for:

picture box a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Creating Custom Applications"

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

166 Part 3 Appli catio n-Buildin g Technique s

Moving Controls Dynamically

With Visual Basic, one of the easiest effects to achieve is moving a control at run time. You
simpl y change th e settings for the Left and Top properties with the Move method.
Figure 13.3 shows the relationship between the Left and Top properties and the actual
locati on of a cont ro l.

' Top
... .... ·· · ····-·· 1- - -¡A
- Bu-tt-on- !- - - - - - -- - - - +-

Figure 13.3 Left and Top properties

The Left property is the distance between the upper-left corner of the control and th e left
side of the for m. The Top property is the distance between the upper-left corner of the
control and the top of the form.
You can move a contro l by changing the settings of its Left and Top properties with
assignme nt statements such as these:
Textl.L ef t = Text l.Left + 200
Textl.T op = Textl.Top - 300

Howeve r. tha t woul d produce a jerky effect, as the control first moves hori zo ntall y and th en
vert ically. In contras t, using the Move meth od produces smooth di agonal movement. The
syntax for the Move method is:
fobjec1 .]Move left [, top[, width [, height]]]

The ohject is th e form or control to be moved. lf object is omitted, the method appli es to th e
current fo rm ; th at is, th e current form gets moved. The arguments left and top are th e new
settings fo r th e Left and Top properti es of object, while width and height are new settin gs fo r
its Wi dth and Height properties. Onl y left is required, but to specify any oth er argum ents,
yo u mu st spec ify ali arguments that appear in the syntax before the argument yo u wa nt to
<; rc ci f\ ·
The fol lowing state ments move th e contro l named Tex tl :
Textl.Move 100. 200
Textl.Move Textl.Left + 100 , Textl.Top + 100

The first statement moves it to the coordin ates ( l 00, 200). The second statement moves it
relati ve to its current position .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 167

By default , ali Visual Basic movement, sizing, and graphical-drawing statements use a unit
of one twip. A twip is 1/20 of a printer's point (1,440 twips egua] an inch, and 567 twips
egua! a centimeter). These measurements apply to how large an object will be when printed .
Actual physical distances on the screen vary according to the monitor size.
In the section "Setting an Object' s Coordinate System" later in this chapter, yo u' 11 learn how
to select units other than twips. For now, just use the default scale.

Example of Control Movement

Movement of controls is useful in many applications, including games and business
applications. This section shows a simple use of control movement: Click the command
button , and the control moves diagonally to the right and to the top .
The interface consists of a form with one command button , as show n in Fi gure 13.4.

ID Forml DD

\Click H ere j

Figure 13.4 A button that moves when clicked

The name of the control is MyButton . The Caption property is set to "Click Here."
There is one event procedure, for the command button 's Click event:
Su b MyButt on_Click ()
MyButt on. Move MyButton.Left + 500 , MyButton.Top - 500
·End Sub

You ca n ex periment with different amounts by building this application and then ed itin g the
line of code . lnstead of 500 twi ps , try 50, 700, or 1,000.
For more information on the Move method, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

168 Part 3 Applic ation -Building Techn iques

Resizing Controls Dynamically

In a Visual Basic application, you can change the size and shape of a control or form at run
time, justas you can change its position .
The following three properties affect size.
Property Description
Hei ght Height of the object expressed in twips.
Width Width of the object expressed in twips.
AutoSize If True, causes Visual Basic to always adjust
th e control dimensions to the size of the
contents .

Hei ght and Width apply to all forms and all controls except timers and menus, while
AutoSize applies only to labels and picture boxes.
In thi s example, a _command button named Command1 grows larger each time the user · -
clicks it:
Sub Co mmandl _Click ()
Co mmandl . Height = Commandl.Height + 300
Co mmandl . Width = Commandl. Wi dth + 300
End Sub

Showing and Hiding Controls

Objects th at appear and disappear can add interesting visual effects to your Vi sual Basic
ap plicati on. This capability is especiall y useful in games or simul ati ons, in which you might
need a new object to enter onto th e scree n.
This section explains how to show and hide existing controls, and the next sec tion explains
how to add new controls. For informatio n on how to show or hide forms at run time (using
the Show and Hide methods), see Chapter 15, "Creating Multiple-Fo1m Applications"; the
Language Reference; or:

m Search Help for:


Al i co ntrol s exce pt tim e rs have a Vi sihl e property . Setting th e Vi sible propert y to Fa lse (0)
makes the co ntrol "disappear,.. eve n thou gh it is still loaded in memory . For exampl e, thi s
statement makes a co ntro l named Text I disa ppear:
Textl. Vi sible = 0

Microso ft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 169

The next statement makes the control reappear by setting the Visible property to True (- 1).
Because Textl was not actually deleted from memory , it automatically reappears with ali its
old settings (unless you've changed sorne of the property settings in the meantime).
Textl.Visible - - 1

You also can use a single statement to hide a control if it's visible and show it if it's hidden .
The statement takes advantage of the fact that the Visible property is Boolean-it' s either
"on" or "off' - and toggles it between the two settings:
Sub Commandl_Cli ck ()
Textl.Visible - Not Textl.Vi s ible
End Sub

You can use similar code to toggle othcr Boolean properti es.

Adding and Removing Controls

The previous section explained how to hide and show existing controls. You also can add
and remove controls at run time using the Load and Unload statements. However, the
control to be added must be an element of an existing control array. Control arrays were first
introduced in Chapter 1O, "Respondin g to Commands."
A control array is a group of controls that share the same name and type. They also share the
same event procedures, but they are physically separate, ~nd each control has its own
property settings. Figure 13.5 shows a contro l array of three command buttons.

i:=I (/ Forml aa

8 Cmd(O)
•• Cmd(l ) Cmd(2)
Figure 13.5 A control array ofthree command buttons

The Index property distinguishes one element of the control array from another. When one
of the co nt ro ls in th e arra y recogni zc1., an e, cnt, Vi sual Basic ca lIs a com mon event
procedure and passes an additional argument (the Index property) to identify wh ich of the
controls actuall y recognizes the event.
For example, the first line of the Cmd_Click procedure is :
Sub Cmd _Click (Index As Integer)

If Cmd(O) recognizes the event, Visual Basic passes O as th e Index argument. If Cmd( l)
recognizes the e vent, Visual Basic passes l as the Index arg umen t.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

170 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

A control array has at least one element , but can grow to as many as 255. (There is a limit to
255 controls to a form .) Elements of the same control array have their own property settings,
but share the same code. Think of an elemen t asan "instance" of the array. When yo u load a
new element of the control array , the new e lement inherits any pre-existing event
procedures .
Without the control array mechanism, dynamically creating new controls is not possible. A
completely new control does not have any event procedures. Control arrays solve thi s
problem, because each new control uses the cornmon event procedures already written for
the array.
You can create a co ntrol array in one of two ways at design time:
• Set the Index property. usin g the Properties bar.
• Give two control s th e same name. (They mu st have the sa me type .) Vi sual Bas ic
automatically creates a control array and gives these controls the indexe O and 1.

The procedure in the next sec tion uses a control array to create any number of new controls.

Creating a Control Array

To create a control array, draw a text box, and set its CtlName property to TextBoxes and its
Index property to O. The following For loop adds ten new instanc"es of the text box ,
assigning them indexes ran gin g from I to 1O:
Dim I As Integer
Far I = 1 To 10
Load TextBoxes(I )
TextBoxes(I). Visible = -1
Next I

When yo u load a new clemcnt of a co ntrol array. ali the property settings exce pt for Vi sibl e,
lndex , and Tabindex are copied from th e lowest ex isting element in the array. As a re sult ,
the previous code makes al I th e control s the same size, and stacks them ali in one place.
A lso, because new control s are crea ted with the Visible property set to False (zero), none of
th e m is visib le (even thou gh th e text box you've drawn is).
The following code ass um es you · ve created a text box named Textl and set its Index
property to O. U pon loading of the form, the procedure loads new text boxes, places them
apart vertically , and turn s on the Visib le property of each.
Sub Form Load()
Far I = 1 to 10
Lo ad Textl ( I )
Textl(I).Top = Textl(I - l).To p + 500
Textl(I).Vi s ibl e = - 1
Textl(I).Text = "Textl( " + Format(I) + " ) "
Next I
End Sub

Microsoñ Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphic al Effects 171

Note Visual B asic generates an error if you attempt to use the Load statement with an
index number already in use within th e array.

You can use the Unload statement to remove any control created with Load . Howeve r,
Unload cannot be used to remove controls created at des ign time, whether they are part of a
control array or not.

Setting an Object's Coordinate System

If yo u' re sati sfi ed wi th the twip coordinate system used so far, you don ' t need to rese t any of
the coordinate system s used in Vi sual Basic graphics, and you can skip thi s sec ti o n for now .
But if yo u wa nt to use a d ifferent coo rdi nate sys te m , read o n.
Every graphical operation described in this chapter (including resizing, mov in g, a nd draw in g
lines and ci rcles) uses the coordinate system of the drawing area or container:
• Ali graphi cs and Print method s use the coordinate system of the object being w ritten to. ·
For example, statements th at draw inside a picture box control use th e coo rdin ate sys tem
of that picture box.
• When you move or resize a co ntrol , the relev ant coordinate system is that of the
container. If you draw the object directly on the form, the form is the conta in er. If you
draw the control o n top of a frame or picture box , the frame or picture box is the
co ntainer.
• Stateme nts th at res ize or move a form always use twips. The upper-left comer or the
screen is always (0 , 0) .
When you resize or move form s, you may want to chec k the Height and Width properti es
of the Screen obj ect to see how mu ch room there is on the monitor.

The terms "coordinate sys tem" and "scale" are interchan gea ble. You set the coordin ate
sys tem for a particul ar object (form or picture box control) by using the objec t's scale
properti es and by usin g the Scale method. You can set a scale in one of three d ifferent ways:
• Create a c usto m scale
• Select one of severa! standard scales
• Reset to the default scale

The nex t four sec ti om, cxpléiin l 1u v.. to se t c ustom, stand ard, and defa ult ~cale~ .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

172 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Creating a Custom Scale

Every for m and picture box has severa! scale properties (ScaleLeft, ScaleTop, ScaleWidth ,
ScaleHeight, and ScaleMode) and one method , Scale, that yo u can use to set a scale
(coordinate sys tem). This section show s how lo use mo st of the scale properties. Unlike the
Scale method , you can use these properties ei th er to se t th e scale or lo get information .
You can use an obj ec t's ScaleLeft, ScaleTop, Scale Width , and ScaleHeigh t properties to
create a custom scale. The ScaleMode prope rt y spec ifi es one of severa! standard scales, and
is di sc ussed la ter in thi s chapter.
The ScaleLeft and ScaleTop properties spec ify w hat numeric value is ass igned to the upper-
left comer. For example, these statements set lh e va lu e of th e upper- left comer for the
current form:
Sca l eLeft = 100
ScaleTop = 100

These stateme nts se t the value of the upper-lefl comer for a pi cture box named
Graph icsArena . ScaleLeft = 100
GraphicsArena.ScaleTop = 100

These stateme nts define the upper-left co rn eras (100, 100). A ltho ug h the stateme nts don ' t
direc tl y ca use any physical change, they alter the effec t of s ubseq uen t statements. For
exampl e, a s ubsequ en t statement th at sets a contro l" s Top property to 100 places th e object
at the ve ry top of its contain er.
The Sca leW idth and ScaleHeight properties define units in terms of the c urrent w idth and
height of the drawing area. For examp le:
ScaleWidth = 1000
ScaleHeight = 500

These statements define a hori zontal unit as 1/1 ,000 of th e curren t inte rn a] wid th of th e form
and a vert ical unit as l /500 of the current interna! he ig ht of th e form . 1f th e fo rm is la ter
res ized, th e units remain the same .

Note ScaleWidth and ScaleHeight define units in terms of th e inte rna] d imensio ns of the
object - th ese dime ns ions do not inc lu de the bordcr thickness . Thus , ScaleW idth and
ScaleHeight always refer to the amou nt of room uva il ab le inside th e object. The di st in cti on
between interna] and extern a! dimension s (specified by Wid lh and Heigh t) is particul arl y
important wi th fo rm s, w hi ch can have a thi ck bordcr. T he un its can a lso differ: Widlh and
He ight are always expressed in tem1s of the cu11wi11er 's coordin ate sys tem ; ScaleWidth and
ScaleHeight determ in e lhe coordin ate system or the objec t itse lf.

A li four of th ese scale properties can in c lud c rractions , and th ey a lso ca n be ncga ti ve
numbers. Nega ti ve sc ttings for the ScaleW id th and Sca le He ig ht propert ies change th c
orie ntation of th e coord in ate sys tem.

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 173

The scale shown in Figure 13.6 has ScaleLeft, ScaleTop, ScaleWidth, and ScaleHeight ali
set to 100.

As X increases, position moves right.

As Y ScaleLeft = 100
increases, Sea/e Top = 100
position ScaleWidth = 100
moves ScaleHeight = 100


Figure 13.6 Scale running from (100,100) to (200,200)

Note that coordinates increase in value as yo u run from top to bottom, and from left to right.
If you want to change thi s scale so th at coordinates increase as you go from bottom to top,
then you set ScaleTop to 200 and ScaleHeight to - 100, as shown in Figure 13.7 .
As X increases, position moves right.

11' •
100, 200 200,200
As Y ScaleLeft = 100
in creases, Sea/e Top = 200
position ScaleWidth = 100
moves up. ScaleHeight = -100


Figure 13.7 Scale with negative ScaleHeight setting

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

174 Part 3 App lication-Building Techniques

The Scale Method: A Shortcut

You also can spec ify a custom scale by using thi s version of the Scale method. The
sy ntax is:
[object. ]Scale (xl, y ]) - (x2 , y2)

The values of xl and yl determine the settings of the ScaleLeft and ScaleTop properti es. Th e
differences be twee n the two x coordinates and the two y coordinates determine the setting
of ScaleWidth and ScaleHeight, respectively. For example, suppose you set the coordinate
system fo r a form by settin g end points (100,100) and (200,200):
Scale (100, 100) - (200, 200)

Thi s sta1emen1 defines th e fonn as 100 unit <; wicle and 100 units hi gh . With thi s scale in
place, the follow in g statement moves a control exactly o ne-fifth of the way across the form :
Mov er.Left = Mover.Lef t + 20

Specifying a valu e of x2 >xl , or y2 >yl , has the same effect as settin g ScaleWidth or
ScaleHeight to a negati ve va lu e.

Selecting a Standard Scale

Instead of defin ing units directly , yo u can define them in terms of a standard scale by settin g
the ScaleMode property to one of the values shown below.
ScaleMode setting Description
o User-defined . If you se t ScaleWi dth or ScaleHeight direct ly.
the ScaleMode property is set to O.
Tw ips. There are 1,440 twips to one inch. (This is th e
defa ult scale.)
2 Points. There are 72 points to one inch.
3 Pixels. A pi xel is the smallest unit of resolution on the
4 Characters. A character is 1/6 of an inch high and 1/ 12 of an
inch wide.
s lnches.
6 Millime ter:-,.
7 Centimeters.

All of th e mode s above , except for O and 3, refer to printed le ngths. For example, an item
th at is two unils lo ng in the ce ntimeter system is two centimeters w hen printed.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Ettects 175

These statements set the ScaleMode property :

Sca leMod e = 5 ' Set sca le to inches for this form .
Picturel.ScaleMode = 3 ' Set scale to pixels far Picturel .

Setting a value for ScaleMode causes Visual Basic to redefine ScaleWidth and ScaleHeioht b
so that they are consistent with the new scale. Setting ScaleWidth or ScaleHeight directly
causes ScaleMode to be set to O.

Resetting to the Default Scale

If you want to reset the scale to the default -so that the upper-left comer has the coordinate
(0,0) and units are egua] to twips - use the Scale method with no arguments:
For example, the following statement resets the scale for the form to which the code is
attached :
Sca le

For more information on setting coordinate systems:

m Search Help for:

coordinate systems

The Fundamentals of Drawing

The graphics methods in Visual Basic enable your application to draw points, lines, boxes,
circles, and other shapes. Certain fundamental concepts appl y to ali graphics methods.

Where Can Vou Draw?

Every graphics method draws output on a specified form or picture box . To indicate what
area you want to draw in, precede a graphics method by the name of sorne object (form or
picture box control) . If you omit the object, Visual Basic assumes the form to which the
code is attached. For example, the following statements draw a point on the form MyForm,
picture box Picture 1, and the current form :
MyForm.P Set (500, 50 0)
Pi ct urel . PSet (500. 50 0 )
PSe t ( 500, 500 l

As we ' ve seen in the previous section, "Setting an Object's Coordinate System," each
drawing area has its own coordinate system that determines what units mean. In addition ,
every drawing area has its own complete set of graphics properties.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

176 Part 3 Application-Building Te chniques

Persistent Graphics
When a window is moved overa form, temporarily hiding it, and then is moved away again,
sorne of the contents may need to be redisplayed. If there are lines, circles, or text on the
form, you usually want them to reappear exactly as you placed them there. Thi s is what is
meant by persistent graphics.
You can make Visual Basic handle this detail automatically, but there is a cos t in memory.
Eac h form and picture box has an AutoRedraw property . AutoRedraw is a Boolean (i nteger)
property that when set to True (-1) causes graphics output to be saved in memory .
Yo u can use computer memory more efficiently by setting thi s property for forms and
picture box controls:
• When the AutoRedraw property of a resizable form is set to True, Visual Basic creates a
memory im age equal in size to the entire screen. Sav ing an image thi s large enables th e
application to retain graphics output even if it is drawn outside the current form size;
when the form is maximized, all the graphics output appears .
• When the AutoRedraw property of a picture box is set to True, Visual Basic creates a
memory image exactly the same size as the picture box. Graphics output drawn outside
the picture box never appears later, even if the size of the picture box changes.

If you want to conserve memory, create a picture box for all drawing effects and leave
AutoRedraw set to False (0) for the form .
Altematively, you can leave AutoRedraw set to False for the form and all its picture boxes,
and then manage graphics redrawing directly . You can include code that redraws ali lines,
cire les, and points as appropriate when the form or picture box recogni zes a Paint event
Thi s approach usually works best when you have a limited amount of graphi cs th at you can
reco nstruct easily.
A Pa int event procedure is called whenever part of a form or picture box needs to be
redrawn - fo r example, when a window temporarily covers the object and moves away , or
when resizi ng causes graphics to come back into view. If AutoRedraw is set to True, the
objec t' s Paint procedure is never called.
You can change the setting of AutoRedraw at run time. If AutoRedraw is False (0), graphics
and output from the Print method are written to the screen only, not to memory . If you clear
the object with the Cls method, any output written when AutoRedraw was set to True does
not get cleared. This output is retained in memory , and you must set AutoR edraw to True
aga in to clear it.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Ettects 177

Graphics Methods and Properties

T hi s chapter describes four graphics methods, summ ari zed below, which apply to form s and
picture boxes.
Method Description
Cls Clears all graphics and Print output.
Pset Sets an indi vidual pixel on.
Point Return s the color value of a specified point.
Line D raws a line, rectangle, or fill ed-in box.
Circle D raws a circle, ellipse, or are.

Each of these methods is described in thi s chapter.

The Print method also can be considered a graphi cs meth od, becau se its output is written to
the obj ect and is saved in the memory image (if AutoRedraw is on) just like the PSet, Line,
and Circle methods.
Forms and picture boxes have the fo llowing graphics properti es.
Category Properties
Current drawing location CurrentX, CurrentY
Drawing techniques DrawMode, D rawS tyle, DrawWidth
Filling tec hniques Fil!Color, Fill Style
Colors BackCo lor, ForeCo lor

In addition, each form and picture box has ali of the scale pro perti es described earli er, in the
section "Setting an Object' s Coordinate System ," and the fo nt properti es desc ribed in
Chapter 12, "Displaying and Printing Informati on."
You' ll see how to use most of these properties later in thi s chapter. But there are two
properti es yo u' ll probably want to use ri ght away: BackCo lor and ForeColor. BackC olor
paints the background of the drawin g area. If BackColor is li ght blue, then the en tire area is
light blue when you clear it. ForeColor (foreground) determines the color of tex t and
graphi cs drawn on an object, alth ough sorne graphics meth ods give yo u the option of
specify ing a different foreground color.
The nex t secti on shows you how to select a color at run ti me. For info rmati on on addin g
color to your application s at design time:

Search Help for:
Color palette a See Tutorial Lesson:
" Creating Custom Applications "

Microso ft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

178 Part 3 Ap pl ication -Building Techn iques

The World of Color

Vi sual B as ic uses a consistent sys tem fo r all color properti es and graphi cs methods. A color
is represented by a long integer, and this value has the sam e meaning in all contexts that
specify a color.
There are four ways to spec ify a color value at run time:
• Use a prev iously defined constant, suc h as one of the values in CONSTANT.T XT.
• Use the RGB fun ction .
• Choose a QuickBasic color with th e QB Color fun cti on.
• Enter a color value direc tl y.

Using a Previously Defin ed Constant

You don' t need to understand how color values are generated if you use the constants fro m
the fil e C ONSTANT.TXT. Just copy these defi nitions into the global module. For exampl e,
the foll owin g statement defines the sy mbo lic constant RED :
Gl obal Co nst RED= &HFF&

With this definition in your global modu le, yo u can use the symbolic name RED wh enever
you want to specify red as a color arg um e nt or co lor property setting. For example:
BackCo l or - RED

T he CONSTANT.TXT fil e also pro vides co nstants for Windows default system co lors.
T hese va lues do not set specific co lors. but te ll Vi sual Basic to use one of the colors that th e
user c hooses in the Control Panel. sing such numbers ca uses your application to appear
di fferently on eac h user' s system, but the advan tage is th at the applicati on can be made to
look more consistent with other Windows app licati ons fo r any given user.
For more informati on on the CO STA T.TXT file:

Search Help for:


Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 179

Using the RGB Function

You can use the RGB function to specify any color.

To use the RGB function to specify a color:

1 Assign each of the three primary colors (red, green, and blue) a number from O to 255, O
denotin g the least intensity and 255 the most.
2 Give these three numbers as input to the RGB function, using the order Red-Green-Blue.
3 Assign the result to the color property or color argument.

Every visible color can be produced by combining one or more of the three primary colors.
For example:
Forml.BackColor = RGB(0 , 128. 0) Use medium green.
Form2.BackColor = RGB(255, 255, 0) ' Use yellow (red+ green).
PSet (100, 100), RGB(0, 0, 64) ' Set point to dark blue.

For more information on the RGB function, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

RGB a See Tutorial Lesson:
"Creating Custom Applications"

Choosing a OuickBasic Color with the OBColor function

If you ' re portin g code from QuickBasic, or if you're accustomed to QuickBasic color values,
you can use them by calling the QBColor function. This function takes a single number that
specifi es a QuickBasic color number from O to 15 , and returns a long integer that can be
used in any Visual Basic color argument or color property setting. For example:
Forml .BackCo lor = QBColor (5)

For more information on the QBColor function, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

180 Part 3 App li cati on-Buli di ng Techn1 ques

Entera Color Setting Directly

You can ass ign numbers to color properties (and arguments) directly, if you understand how
colors arMepresented in Visual Basic. In most cases, it 's much easier to enter these numbers
in hexadecimal.
Each color setting (property or argument) is a four-byte integer using the three least-
significant bytes to represen! red, green, and blue, as shown in Figure 13.8.

Blue Green Red

0-255 0-255 0-255

(ar &HBO far system

default color)

Most-significant byte Least-significant byte

Figure 13.8 Byte layout of co lor values

Consequently, you can specify a color as a hexadecimal number using this syntax :

The BB specifies amount of blue, GG amount of gree n, and RR amo unt of red. Each of these
fragme nts is a two-dig it hexadecimal number fro m 00 to FF. The median value is 80. Thu s.
the fo ll owing nurnber spec ifies gray, which has the median amount of all three colors:

Settin g the rnost signifi cant bit to 1 changes the meaning of the color value: It no longer
represents an RGB color, but an environrnent-wide color specified through the Control
Panel. The values that correspond to these system-wi de colors range from &H80000000 to
&H 8000001 2 and are included in the CONSTANT.TXT file .

Clearing the Drawing Area

Any time you wa nt to clear a drawin g area and start over, use the Cls method . The specil'iecl
drawin g area is repainted in the background color (BackColor). The Cls method has the
simpl est sy ntax or any of the graphics methods:
f o/Jje('f JCls

Using the Cls methocl witho ut a specified object clears the form to whi ch the code is
at tac hed.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 181

Plotting Points
Another simple graphics operation is controlling an individual pixel. The PSet method sets
the color of a pixel at a specified point :
[object .] PSet (x , y)[, color]

The arguments x and y are single precision, so they can take either integer or fractional
input. The input can be any numeric expression, including variables.
If you don ' t include the color argument, PSet sets a pixel to the foreground color
(ForeColor). For example, the following statements set various points on the current form
(the form to which the code is attached), MyForm, and Picturel:
PSet (300. 100)
PSet (10.75, 50.33)
MyForm.PSet (230. 1000)
Picturel.PSet (1.5, 3.2)

Adding a color argument gives you more control :

PSet (50, 75). RGB (0, 0, 255) · Se t 50,75 to bright blue .

To "erase" a point, set it to the background color:

PSet (50, 75). BackColor

As desc ribed in the section "The Step Keyword" later in thi s chapter, you can precede the
(x, y) coordinates by Step, which makes the point relative to the last location drawn .
Closely related to the PSet method is the Point method, which return s the color value ata
particular location :
PointColor = Point (500, 500 )

For more information on the PSet method, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Micro so ft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

182 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Drawing Lines and Shapes

Although clearing the drawing area and plotting individual points can be useful, the most
interesting graphi cs methods draw complete lines and shapes.

Drawing Lines
To draw a line between two coordinates, use the simple form of the Line method, which has
this sy ntax :
[object .]Line [(xl , y l)] - [x2, y2 ) [, color]

The brackets indicate that objecr is optional ; if omitted, the method draws to the form to
which the code is attac hed (the current forrn) . The first pair of coordinates also is optional.
As with all values given for coordinares, the arguments x and y can be either integer or
fractional numbers. Visual Basic draws a line that ~_n cludes both end points.
For example, this statement draw s a slanted line on a form. The results are shown in Figure
Line (500, 500) - (2 000 , 2000 )

1m lineDemo aa

Figure 13.9 A line drawn with the Line method

The first pair of coordinares (xl , _v l) is optional. If you omit this end point, Visual Basic uses
the object's c urrent x, y location (drawing coordinates) as the end point. The current location
can be specified with the CurrentX and CurrentY properties, but otherwise is equal to the
last point drawn by a previous graphics or Print method. If you haven' t previously used a
graphics or Print rnethod or se t CurrentX and CurrentY, the current location is the object 's
upper-left comer by default.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Ettects 183

For example, the following statements draw a polygon by connecting five points :
CurrentX - 600
CurrentY - 600
Line - (10 00, 500)
Line - (1200, 800)
Line - (800, 1100)
Line - (500, 1000)
Line (600, 600)

You can start experimenting with graphics by opening a blank form and placing statements
in a Form_Load or Form_Click procedure. For example:
Sub Form_Click ()
Line (500, 500) - (2000, 1200)
End Sub

By adding variables and loops , you can create interesting pattems. For example, the
following procedure quickly creates a spoked pattem on the screen. The results are shown in
Figure 13.1 O.
Sub Form_Click ()
Dim I As Integer
For I = 1000 To 2000 Step 50
Line (500, 500) - (2000. 1)
End Sub

al lineDemo aa

Figure 13.10 A spoked pattern

This variatio n creates a relatively so lid pattem , and the drawing is slower:
Sub Form_Click ()
Dim l As Integer
For I - 1000 to 2000
Line (5 00, 500) - (2000, 1)
Next I
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

184 Part 3 Application-Bui ldin g Techniqu es

Varying Lines with DrawWidth and DrawStyle

So far , yo u' ve drawn relati vely standard lines, usin g a sma ll wi dth , so lid patte rn , and
fo regro und co lor. This secti on shows how to vary those qualiti es .
To vary the co lor of the line , use the optional color argument. For exampl e, thi s statement
draws a clark blue line:
Line (500 , 500) - ( 2000 , 200 0 ) , RGB (0, 0, 255)

Y ou also can change the color of th e line by first setting the ForeColor property fo r th e
obj ect where the line is being drawn.
T he three pro perti es th at affec t how lines are drawn are DrawWidth , DrawS ty le , and
DrawMocle. T he DrawWidth property specifies the width of the line in pi xels, and affects
the PSet ancl Circle methods as well as th e Line method . For exam ple . th e fo ll ow in g
procedurc uses Dra wWid th to cl raw lines of se vera! d iffe rent wid th s. T he res ulb are show n
in F ig ure 13.11.
Sub Fo r m_Clic k ()
Dr awW idth = 1
Li ne (10 0 , 1000 ) - (3 000, 1000)
Dr awWid th = 5
Li ne (1 00, 1500) - (3 000 , 1500)
Dr awWi dt h = 8
Li ne ( 100, 2000) - (3 000 , 2000 )
End Sub

mi DrawWidth Demo aa

Figure 13.11 Lines of varying width

Microsoft Visual Basic Prog rammer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Ettects 185

T he DrawStyle property specifies whether the line is salid or has a broken pattern . This
pro perty is an integer whose settings represent the fo llowing.
Setting Description
O Salid (the default)
1 Series of dashes
2 Series of dots
3 Repeated dash-dot pattern
4 Repeated dash-dot-dot pattern
s Transparent (drawing has no effect)
6 Inside salid (see below)

T he inside salid style (DrawStyle = 6) is the same as salid, except when you are using a
wide line to draw a box. In thi s case, the solid style draws th e line half inside, ha lf outside
the box. The inside solid style draws the line entirely inside the box . See the section
"Drawing Boxes" later in this chapter to see how to draw a box.
The following procedure demonstrates a11 of the supported settin gs of the DrawSty le
property by creating a loop in which the setting goes from O to 6, one step at a time. The
results are shown in Figure 13. 12.
Sub Form_Click ()
Dim I As Intege r , Y As Long
For I = 0 To 6
DrawSty l e = I
Y= (2 00 * !) + 1000
Li ne (2 00, Y) - (2400, Y)
Ne xt I
End Sub

11 DrawStyle Demo DII

Figure 13.12 Lines drawn with different settings of the DrawStyle property

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

186 Part 3 Application-Building Technique s

Using the DrawMode Property

The DrawMode property determines what happens when yo u draw one pattem on top of
another. Although changing the DrawMode property usually has sorne effect (especially
with color systems), it is often not necessary to use this property when you are drawing on a
blank or pure white background, or on a background of undifferenti ated color.
Ym, can set DrawMode to a value from I to 16. Commonly used settings are listed below .
Setting Name of setting Description
4 Not Copy Pen Draws the inverse of the line
pattem, regardless of what is
already there.
7 Xor Pen Displays difference between
line pattern and th e ex istin g
di splay, as explained later in
this section. Drawing an
object twice with this mode
restores the background
precisely as it was .
11 Nop No operation. In effect, this
tums drawing off.
13 Copy Pen (defa ult) Applies the line 's pattem ,
regardless of what is already

Other se tti ngs are used only rarely. For mo re informatio n on th e DrawMode property , see
the Language Reference, or:

Search Help for:

111 DrawMode

A DrawMode setting of 7 is useful fo r anim ation . Draw ing a line twice restares the exis ting
display precisely as it was befare the line was drawn. This makes it possible to create one
object that " moves over" a background without corru pting it, beca use you can restare the
background as you go. Most modes are not guaran teed to preserve the old background .
For exampl e, the following code moves a circle every time th e mouse is clicked. No matter
what pattern was underneath the ci rcle, it gets restored.
Sub Form_Click ()
ForeColor = 255: DrawMode = 7
Ci rcl e ( CurrentX. CurrentY). 1000
CurrentX = CurrentX + 220
CurrentY = CurrentY + 220
Circle (CurrentX. CurrentY). 1000
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 187

The Xor Pen draw mode, and most of the other DrawMode settings, work by comparing
each individual pixel in the draw pattem (called the "Pen") and the corresponding pixel in
the existing area (called the "Destination"). On monochrome systems, the pixel is either
tumed on or off, and Visual Basic performs a simple logical comparison: It tums a pixel on
if either the Pen or Destination pixel is on, but not both.
In color systems, each pixel is assigned a color value. For DrawMode settings such as Xor
Pen, Visual Basic compares each corresponding pair of pixels in the Pen and Destination ,
and perforrns a binary (bit-wise) comparison. The result determines the color value of the
resulting pixel , as shown in Figure 13 .13 .

"Pen"- " Destination"-

A pixel in the A pixel in the
draw pattern ex i~ting display

1111 0011

Xor operation



Figure 13.13 Comparing the color value

The Step Keyword

Several graphics methods (PSet, Line, and Circle) specify one or more points using this
syntax :
(x , y)

Each of these points can be preceded by the Step keyword , which specifies that the point is
relative to the last point drawn. Visual Basic adds the values x and y to the values of the last
point drawn. and the sums determine the new point. For exa mple, the statement
Line (100, 200) - (150, 250)

is equivalent to
Line (100, 200) -S tep (50, 50)

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

188 Part 3 Applic atio n-Building Techniques

In many situations, the Step keyword saves you from having to constantly keep track of the
last point drawn . Often you are more interested in the relative position of two points rather
than their absolute position .

Drawing Boxes
You can draw a box by using features of the Line method presented so far in thi s chapter.
The following example draws a box with upper-left comer at (500, 500) and measurin g
1.000 twips on each side:
Line (500, 500) -Step (1 000, 0)
Line Step (0, 1000)
Line - Step (-1000. 0)
Line - Step (0, - 1000 )

However. Visual Basic provides a much simpler way to draw a box . When you use the B
option wi th the Line method (B comes after the argument color), Visual Basic draw s a
rec tang le, treatin g the specified points as opposite corners of the rectangle . Thus , yo u could
replace the four stateme nts of the previous example with:
Line (500 , 500) -S tep (1000, 1000), . B

Note that two commas are required before B, to indicate that the color argument was
s kipped. (Oth erw ise, B could be interpreted as a variable giving the color value) .
As long as you do not cha nge the settin g of the FillStyle property, the box appears empty .
Actual ly. the box does get filled usi ng the current FillStyle and FillColor settings. But
Fill Sty le defaults to l (Transparent), which specifies an invisible pattern. You ca n chan ge
th e FillStyle property to any of the settin gs li sted below.
Setting Description
o Solid. Fills in box with the color set for the Fil!Color
Transparent (the default). Graphical object appears e mpt y.
no matter what color is used.
2 Horizontal lines.
.) Vertical lines .
'-+ Upward diagonal lines.
s Downward di agonal lines.
6 Crosshatch .
7 Diagonal crosshatch.

Thu s, se ttin g Fil!Style to O fills th e box so lidly with the color set for the Fil!Color propert y.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Ettects 189

Another way to fill the box is to append an F to the B. (Note that F cannot be used without
B.) The following statement fills the box with a solid pattern, using the same co lor used to
draw the line (specified by the DrawColor property) . The result is shown in Figure 13.14.
Line (50 0, 500) -S tep (1000, 1000) , , BF

11 FillDemo ªª

Figure 13.14 Filling a box with a sal id pattern

Drawing Circles
The Circle method draws a variety of circu lar and elliptical (oval) shapes. In add ition ,
Circle draws ares (segments of circles) and pie-s haped wedges. You can produce many
kinds of curved lines by using variations of Circle.
To draw a perfect circle (as opposed toan ellipse), Visual Basic needs only th e location of a
c ircle' s center and the length of its radiu s. The syntax for a perfect circle is:
[object .]Circle [Step] (x, y), radius [, color]

The bracke ts indicate that both object and the Step keyword are optional. lf object is
om itted, the c urrent form is assumed. The arguments x and y are the coordinates of the
ce nte r, and radius is the radius of the circle. For example, this state ment draws a circle with
a ce nter at ( 1200, 1000) and radius of 750:
Circle (1200, 1000), 750

The exact effec t of thi s statement depends on the coordinate sys tem in use and the size of the
form. Because the size of the form is unknown , yo u don ' t even know if the circle wil l be
visible. Using the drawing area's ScaleWidth and ScaleHeight properties solves thi s
problem. For example, this statement ensures that the center of the circle is at the cen ter of
the form:
Circ le (Scale Width/2, Sca leHeigh t/2), ScaleWidth/4

By usin g the Step keyword , you can make the location of the circ le relative to the center of
the form , in stead of relative to the upper-left comer:
CurrentX = Sc aleWidth/2
CurrentY = ScaleHeight/2
Circle Step (200, -3 00), 1000

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

190 Part 3 Application- Building Techniques

Note The radius of the circle is always specified in term s of hori zontal units . If your
coordinate system uses the same hori zontal and vertical units (which it does by default), you
can ignore thi s fact. However, if you use a custom scale, hori zontal and vertical units may
corres pond to different di stances. In the exa mples above, the radiu s is specified in hori zontal
units, and the actual height of the circle is guaranteed to be equal to its actual width .

Drawing Ellipses
The aspect ratio of a circle controls whether or not it appears perfectly round (a perfect
circ le) or elongated asan ellipse. The compl ete sy ntax for the Circle method is:
[objec1. ]Circle [Step] (x, y ), radius , [color] , [start], [ene/] , aspect

Here. mpecl is a positi , ·e fl oati ng-point number. Thi s mean s yo u can specify in teger or
fractional ex pressions, but not negati ve values.
The arg ume nts start and end are used in displaying ares, as described in the next sec tion .
These arguments are optional , but the commas are necessary if you want to skip arg um ents.
For example, if you include the radius and aspect arguments, but no color, start, or end
argument, yo u must add four successive commas to indicate that you ' re skipping the three
arg uments:
Cir cle (1 000, 1000) , 500,.,. 2

T he argument aspect specifies the ratio of the verti cal to hori zo ntal dimensions. Large
vaJu es fo r aspect produce ellipses stretched o ut alo ng th e ve rti cal axis , while small valu es
for aspect produce ellipses stretched out along the hori zo ntal axis. Since an ellipse has tw o
rad ii - one hori zontal x-radius and one ve rti cal y- radius - Yi suaJ Basic uses th e s in g le
arg um e nt radius in a Circle statern ent as follows : If aspee! is less th an one, radius is the x-
radiu s; if aspect is greater than or equ al to one, radius is the y-radiu s.

Note The arg ume nt aspecr always specifies the ratio between the vertical and hori zontal
dim e nsions in term s of true ph ys ical di sta nce. To ensure th at this happens (even when yo u
use a c usto m scale), th e radiu s is specified in terms of hori zontal units. See the end of th e
previous sec ti on for more information .

Microsoft Visual Basic Pro gra mmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Ettects 191

Exa mple The following procedure illustrates how different aspect values determine whether Circle
uses the argument radius as the x-radius or the y-radius of an ellipse. The output is shown in
Figure 13.15.
Sub Form_Click ()
FillStyle = 0 ' Draw solid ellipse .
Circle (600, 1000), 800, ... 3
FillStyle = 1 ' Oraw empty ellipse.
Circle (1800, 1000), 800 .... 1/3
End Sub

ID Ellipses Demo aa

Figure 13.15 Ellipses drawn with the Circle method

Drawing Ares
An are is a segment of an ell ipse ora circle; think of an are as a curved line. To understand
how the Circle method draws ares , you need to know how Vis ual Basic measures ang les .
Visual Basic uses the radian as its unit of angle measure, not only in the Circle method , but
also in the trigonometric functions such as Cos, Sin, or Tan.
The radian is closely related to the radius of a circle. In fact , the word " radian" is deri ved
from the word "radius." The circumference of a circle equals 2 * Pi * radius , w here Pi is
equ al to approximately 3. I 41 S926S. Similarly, the number of radians in one com plete angle
of revolution (or 360 degrees) eq ual s 2 * Pi, ora littl e more than 6.28 .
T hi s statement calcul ates Pi to double precision :
Oim Pi As Oouble
Pi = 4 * Atn(l)

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

192 Part 3 Application -Building Technique s

lf you think of angles in term s of degrees, here are sorne common equivalents.
Angle in degrees Angle in radians
360 2*Pi (approximately 6.283)
180 Pi (approximately 3. 142)
90 Pi/2 (approximately 1.571)
60 Pi/3 (approximately 1.047)
45 Pi/4 (approximately 0.786)

If you picture a clock face on the sc ree n, Circle measures angles by starting at the three
o' clock position and rotating counterc lockw ise , as shown in Figure 13. 16.

90 degrees
(TI/2 radians)

- - - - - 3rr./2 radia ns
_ __,,__ _ _ TI radians
- - - -- - - - - rr./2 radians
·..-_ __,_ _ _,___ _,____ 7 radian
180 degrees Odegrees
(TI radians) (O radians)

270 degrees
(Jrr./2 radians)

Figure 13.16 How ang les are measured far a circ le

The general formu la for convertin g from degrees to radians is to multiply degrees by Pi/180 .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 13 Creating Graphical Effects 193

To draw an are, give angle arguments defi ning the are 's limits. The sy ntax is:
area .Circle Step(x, y ), radius, color, start, end, aspect

In th e fo llowing example, the Circle method is used to draw seven ares. The innermost are
starts at the three o'eloek position (O radians) and the outermost are starts at the six o'eloek
position (3/2 * Pi). The results are shown in Figure 13.17.
Sub Form_Click ()
Height = 550 0
Const PI= 3.14159265
StartAngle = 0
For Radius% = 1000 To 2200 Step 200
EndAngle = (EndA ngle + (PI / 2)) Mod (2 * PI)
Circle (25 00, 2500) , Radius%, Start Angle, EndAngl e
StartAngle = StartAngle + (PI / 4)
Next Radiu s%
End Sub

11 Ares Demo aa

Figure 13.17 Using the Circle method to draw ares

If th e arg um ent start or end is negati ve, Visual Basie draws a line eonneeting the eenter of
th e eire le to the negative end point. For exampl e, the following procedure draw s a pie with a
sli ce re moved , as shown in Figure 13.8 on the nex t page.
Su b Form_Click ()
Const PI= 3.14159265
Circle (35 00, 1500), 1000 , . -PI/ 2,- PI / 3
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

194 Part 3 Ap plication-Building Techn iques

Both the srarr and end arguments are negative, so lines are drawn co nn ecting both end points
of the are to the center of th e c ircle.

IZI Pie-Shape Demo aa

Figure 13.18 Using negative arguments to con nect an are to its center

Note that the are is drawn the long way between the two angles rather than the short way.
T hi s is because Visual Basic alw ays draws ares in a counterclockwise (positive) direction. lf
the angles are given in the reverse order (Pi/3, Pi/2), Visual Basic draws the are usin g the
short di stance between the two angles, as shown in Figure 13 .19.

IZI Pie-Shape Demo aa

Figure 13.19 Ettect of reversing arguments

This example on the prev ious page also illustrates that - Pi/2 and - Pi/3 indicate th e same
angles (po ints on the c ircle) th at Pi/2 and Pi/3 do. The onl y signifi cance of the nega ti ve sig n
is that it ca uses Vi sual Basic to draw a line between the point and the center of the ci rc le.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Responding to Mouse Events

As you ' ve seen in earlier chapters, Click is a simple mou se event. It ' s adequate for situat ions
where you respond the same way to any mouse click on an object.
Your applications also can respond to other mou se events - such as MouseDown and
MouseUp . Forms and picture boxes can detect the exact position of the mouse pointer,
whether or nota button is being pressed. In addition , your code can respond differently to
left and ri ght mouse buttons and to combinations of buttons with the SHIFr, CTRL, or ALT
keys .
Close ly related to the mou se events are the drag-and-drop features in Visual Basic. These
include properties and events, and a Drag method that you can use to enable dragging
ope ration s at run time. The drag-and-drop feature s are especiall y versati le; yo u can support
dragging between forms , and you can support drag operati n or users without a mouse.
The main section s in this chapter are:
• Mouse Events
• Positioning a Control with the Mouse
• Graphi cal Mo s-:e,..~ - - - -~ ......~-~.....,;-'"'""""-....,-'""

• Dragg ing and

196 Part 3 Application -Build ing Techniques

Mouse Events
Forros and several types of controls recognize three mouse events (aside from drag events,
which are introduced later). You can use the following to respond to the exact location and
state of the mouse .
Event Description
MouseDown Recognized when the user presses any mouse button.
MouseUp Recognized when the user releases any mou se button .
MouseMove Recogni zed each time the mou se pointer is moved to a new
point on the screen.

The obj ec ts th at ca n recog nize th ese eve nt s inc lude form s, pi cture boxes. labels. and any
type of control that involves a list: list boxes, combo boxes, file list boxes, drive list boxes,
and directory list boxes .
A forro can recogni ze a mouse event when the pointer is overa blank portian of the forro . A
control can recogni ze a mouse event when the pointer is over the control.
When the use r presses and hold s down a mou se button , the same form or con trol continues
to recognize ali mouse events until the user releases the button . This is true even when the
pointer is moved off the obj ec t.
Ali three mou se eve nts use the same arguments.
Argument Oescription
Button A bit-fi eld argum ent in which the three leas t-significant bits
give the statu s of the mou se buttons.
Shift A bit-fi eld argument in which the three leas t- significant bits
give the statu s of the SHI FT, CTRL, and ALT keys .
X, y Location of th e mouse pointer, using the coordin ate sys tem
of th e object that rece ives the mou se event.

A bit-field argwn ent retums informati on in indi vidual bits, so that each bit indicates whether
a certain condition is on or off. Techniques for programming with these arg um ents are
desc ribed later. in th e sec tion "The Button and Shift Arguments ."

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 197

Positioning a Control with the Mouse

Yo u' ll find that you use the MouseDown event most often and that X and Y are the most
useful arguments. This section introduces MouseDown and the arguments X and Y.
The application shown in Figure 14.1 uses only a form and a picture box control. When the
user clicks a blank portion of the form, the picture box moves to that location .

1m Forml ªª

Figure 14.1 Moving a control to the location of the moJ,Jse pointer

The picture box has the default name Picturel. If you want to load an image into the picture
box , set its Picture property by using the Properties bar, as described in Chapter 13,
"Creating Graphical Effects."
A single procedure, Forrn_MouseDown, does all the work of this application :
Sub Form_MouseDown (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer, X As Single,
• Y As Single)
Picturel.Move X, Y
End Sub

That 's al i there is to it! The procedure uses the Move method to move the picture box
co ntrol to the location of the mouse (indicated by the arguments X and Y). This procedure
places the top left comer of the picture at the mouse location.
A revised version places the center of the picture at the mouse location :
Sub Form_MouseDown (Button As Integ e r, Shift As Integer, X As Single,
• Y As Si ngle)
Picturel.Move CX - Picturel . Wid th / 2), (Y - Picturel . Height / 2)
End Sub

For more information on the Move method, see the Language Reference, or:

Search Help for:

111 Move

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

198 Part 3 Ap plicatio n-Building Techn iques

Graphical Mouse Applications

This secti on shows how to use all th ree events - MouseMove, MouseU p, MouseDown -
and how to combine them with the graphi cs methods introduced in C hapter 13 , "Creating
G raphical Effects. " By combining mouse eve nts with these methods, you can create any
number of custorni zed drawing or paint applicati ons.

The Click-A-Line Application

The Cli ck-A-Line applicati on works in response to a mouse click by drawing a line from the
last draw ing locati on to the new position of the mouse. Thi s application uses the Line
method discus ed in Chapter 13. You ' 11 recall th at the fo ll owing sy ntax of the Line rnethod
draws fro m the last poin t drawn to the poi nt (x2 , y2):
Line - (r.?. , .? )

Click-A-Line uses a blank for m with one procedure, Form_MouseDow n:

Sub Form_ Mou seDo wn ( Button As Integer, Sh i f t As In tege r , X As Single,
• Y As Sing le)
Lin e - (X, Y)
End Sub

T he first line draw n starts at the ori gin (upper-left com er), whi ch is the default draw ing
locati on . T herea fter, the applica tion draw s a straight line frorn the last location drawn each
time the use r presses the mouse button dow n. The result is a seri es of co nnected lines, as
show n in Figure 14. 2.

Figure 14.2 Th e Cli ck- A-Lin e application draws line s w it h th e Line method .

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer 's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mous e Events 199

The Scribble Application

Graphi cs methods can have very different effects when used in a MouseMove procedure
instead of a Mo use Down proced ure. For example, when placed in Form_MouseMove, the
simple Line method in the previous section produces a Scribble application that traces
move ment on a bl ank fo rm.
The Mou seMove event is recognized whenever the location of the pointer changes . The
followin g code draws a line between the current location and the previous location . As a
res ult, the app li ca ti on draws a co ntinuous, curved line corresponding to mouse movement.
as shown in Figure 14.3. Like the MouseDown procedure, the line created by the
MouseMo ve procedure starts at the default drawing location (the upper-left co m er).
Sub Form_MouseMove (Butto n As In te ger, Shift As Integer , X As Si ngle,
• Y As Single)
Li ne - ( X. Y)
End Sub

Scribble ªª

Figure 14.3 The Scribble Appl ic ation

How MouseMove Works

How man y times doe s the Mou seMove event get caJ!ed as the user moves the pointer across
the screen? Or, to put it anoth er way, if you move the pointer from the top of the sc ree n to
the bottom , how man y locations are involved?

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

200 Part 3 Appl ica t ion -Building Techniques

Visual Basic does no t necessaril y generate a MouseMove event for every pi xel the mou se
moves ove r. The operating environment generates a limited number of mou se messages per
second. To see how often MouseMove events are actually recogni zed, you can enhanc e the
Scribble application with the following codeso that it draw s a small circle at each locatio n
wh ere a MouseMove event is recognized. The results are shown in Figure 14.4.
Sub Form_ Mou se Move (B utto n As Integer, Shift As Integer. X As Single,
• Y As Single)
Li ne - (X, Y)
Circle (X, Yl. 50
End Sub

Figure 14.4 A dem onstration of where MouseMove events occur

No te that the fa ster the user moves the pointer, the fewe r M o useMove events are recog ni zed
be twee n any two points. Man y c ircles clase together indicate th at th e user moved th e mou se
slow ly.
W hat's important to understand about MouseMove events is th at your appli cation can
recognize man y of them in quic k successio n. Therefo re , a MouseMov e eve nt procedure
sho uld no t do anything that req uires large amount s of computing time.

Using AII the Events Together

The Scribble ap plication is more useful if it enables the user to draw only while the mo use
button is he ld down , and then to stop drawin g when the button is re leased . This more
sop hi st icated version has to respond to three kind s of ac ti o ns:
• The use r presses the mou se button.
• T he user releases the mou se button .
• The user moves the poi nter.

Microsoft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 201

These acti ons correspo nd to the MouseDown, MouseUp, and MouseMove events. Each of
the three event procedures has a specifi c role. MouseDown and MouseUp in effect say,
"Tum draw ing on," or "Turn drawing off." In Visual Basic , yo u communicate such
information by creating a forrn-level variable to represent the drawing state. Type thi s
statement in the Declarations sec tion of form code:
Dim DrawN ow As Integer

We'II use DrawNow to represent two values: A value of False (0) will mean "Do not draw ,"
and a val ue of True (- 1) wi ll mean "Draw a line."
Variables are initiali zed to zero by default, so the application starts wi th drawing off.
Drawing is then turned on and off again by the MouseDown and MouseUp procedures:
Sub Form_MouseDown (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer. X As Single,
- Y As Sing l e)
DrawNow = - 1
Curr entX X
CurrentY - Y
End Sub

Sub Form_MouseUp (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer. X As Single.

• Y As Singl e)
DrawN ow = 0
End Sub

The first indented line in each procedure turn s drawin g on or off by se ttin g th e va lue of th e
form-level variab le DrawNow. ( DrawNow does not by itse lf have special meanin g, but it is
used by the MouseMove procedure.)
The MouseMove procedure draws a line only if DrawNow is T ru e (- J). O th erwise, it takes no
ac tion:
Sub Form_MouseMove (Button As Integer. Shift As lnteger. X As Single .
• Y As Single)
If DrawNow Then Line - CX. Y)
End Sub

This version of the Scribble application demon strates th e relati onship of events: When th e
user presses a mouse button, the MouseDown proced ure is ca lled just once. The
MouseDown event procedure signals to tum drawing on. Thereafter, MouseMove is invoked
many times as the pointer is dragged across the sc ree n.
No te th at the use of the Line me th od above omits the first endpoint, causing Vi sual Basic to
start drawing at the current drawing coordinates. By default , th e drawing coordinates
correspond to the last point drawn , but you can reset them by ass ignin g values to CurrentX
and CurrentY. In thi s appli cation, the MouseDown procedure sets CurrentX and Curren tY to
start drawing from a new location - the place w here the use r presses th e mouse button:
CurrentX X
CurrentY - Y

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

202 Part 3 Applicati on -Build ing Tec hniqu es

The Button and Shift Arguments

As your applications become more powerful , you may want to give users additional options
when using the mouse. You can wri te code th at responds differently to mouse events
depending on which button is used, or whether the SHIFf, CTRL, or ALT key is pressed. You
can provide these options by using the arguments Button and Shift with MouseDown,
MouseUp, anél M ouseMove procedures.

The Button Argument

The Button argument is an integer th at represents the state of the mouse. As mentioned
earli er in this chapter, it is a bit-fi eld argument - a value in which each bit represents a state
or condi ti on. The three least-significant (lowes t) bits represent the left, right, and middle
mouse buttons , as shown in Figure 14.5 .

left button
righ t button
middle button



Most-significant bits Least-significant bits

Figure 14.5 How bits represent the state of the mouse

The exac t meaning of these bits changes depe ndin g on the event, whi ch is why the
informat ion returned for the MouseMove event differs from that for the MouseDow n and
MouseUp events .
Yo u do n' t need to understand everythin g about how bits are set in order to use Button, but it
can help yo u dev ise more powerfu l uses for the argument, as you' ll see in the nex t sec ti ons.

Using Button with MouseDown and MouseUp

You use Button with MouseDown to determine whi ch button is pressed, and with MouseUp
to determine which button is released. For both events, you can test only whi ch button was
used; you cann ot test fo r whether two or more bu ttons are used at the same time.

Note In contrast, you can use the Mo useMove event to tes t not onl y for whi ch button is
pressed during the move, but also whether two or more buttons are pressed simultaneously.
You also can use MouseMove to test fo r whether only one button is pressed, which you
cann ot do with Mo useDown or MouseUp. See the next section, "Using Button with
MouseMove," fo r more informati on.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 203

T he reason you can test only which button is used with-MouseDown and MouseUp is that
only one bit is set in Button for each event. Possible binary values of Button are listed below.
Value Meaning
001 (decimal 1) The left button caused the event.
010 (decimal 2) Toe right button caused the event.
100 (decimal 4) The middle button caused the event.

If a button is not present on the user' s mouse, the corresponding bit is always O. On a two-
button mouse, there is a left and right button, but no rniddle button. On a one- button mouse,
there is only a left button.
You can determi ne which button causes a MouseDown or MouseUp eve nt wi th relati vely
simple code. The fo ll owing procedure tests whether Button equ als 1, 2, or 4:
Sub Form_MouseDo wn ( Bu tto n As Integer, Shi ft As Int eger, X As Si ngle,
• Y As Sing l e)
I f Button - 1 The n Prin t "Y ou pressed t he l ef t bu t ton . "
If Bu tton 2 Then Print "Y ou presse d th e right button . "
I f Button 4 Then Pr i nt "Y ou pressed the middl e bu tt on. "
End Sub

If the user presses more than one button, Visual Basic interprets th at action as two or more
separate MouseDown events. It sets the bit for the first button pressed, prints the "You
pressed ... " message for that button , and then does the same for the next button. Simil arl y,
Visual Basic interprets the release of two or more buttons as separate MouseU p eve nts.

Using Button with MouseMove

For the MouseMove event, Button indi cates the complete state of the mouse buttons - not
just whi ch button caused the event, as with MouseDown and MouseUp. It prov ides more
complete informati on because so rne, ali , or none of the bits can be set - notjust one bit per
event, as wi th Mo useDown and MouseUp.
Other binary values are listed below.
Value Meaning
111 (deci mal 7) All three buttons are pressed.
011 (decimal 3) Left and ri ght buttons pressed, not middle.
000 (decimal O) No buttons are pressed.

Thus, for MouseMove, if you test for eq uality to 001 (decimal 1), you're test ing to see if
only the left mouse button is held down while the mouse is moved. If another button is held
down along with the left button, this code doesn' t print anything:
Sub Form_Mouse Move ( Butto n As I nteger . Shi ft As Integer. X As Si ngl e .
• Y As Single)
If Button - 1 Then Pr i nt "Y ou pres s ed only the left button . "
End Sub

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

204 Part 3 Appli cation- Building Techniques

If you want to test for whether a particular button is down, but you want to ignore whether or
not the other buttons are pressed, use the And operator. This code prints the message for
each button pressed, regardless of whether another button is pressed:
Sub Form_MouseMove (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer , X As Single,
• Y As Si ngle)
If Button And 1 Then Print "You're pressing the left button."
If Button And 2 Then Print "You're pressing the right button."
End Sub

Y ou can test for two buttons being pressed simultaneously by adding another line of code:
Sub Form_MouseMove (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer, X As Single,
• Y As Single)
If Button And 1 Then Print "You're pressing the left button. "
If Button And 2 Then Print "You're pressing the right button."
If (Button And 3) = 3 Then Print "You're pressing both buttons."
End Sub

The value of 3 is obtained by adding 1 and 2 together. This produces the binary pattem O11 ,
in which both of the two least-significant bits are set. Using the And operator with 3 masks
out ali bits except the last two and then tests to see if these two bits are set. Testing for
multiple bits is tricky . Note that the following lines produce erroneous results:
If (Button And 1) And (Button And 2) Then
lf Button And 3 Then

There are severa! ways to test for multiple bits . One reliable way is to add the button
con stant s ( 1, 2, or 4) together to produce a single number. Then use the combined And
operator and equality test shown earlier. For example, the following statement tests to see if
ali three buttons are pressed (note that 7 is the sum of 1, 2, and 4) :
I f ( Butt on And 7) = 7 Then Pri nt "Al l three buttons pres sed."

You may find that yo ur code is more readable and easy to maintain if you define constants
for th e buttons you ' re detecting:

Using Both Buttons in the Scribble Application

You can en hance the Scribble application described earlier by usi ng the Button argument.
This version also draws a continuous line when mouse button is pressed and stops drawing
when the button is released. In addition, when the user presses the right button , it draw s a
straight line from the last point drawn .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 205

Often, it's helpful to note each relevant event and what the application should do in
response. The three relevant events here are mouse events:
• Form_MouseDown- Take a different action depending on state of mouse buttons:
If the left button is down, set DrawNow to True (-1) and reset drawing coordinates.
If the right button is down, draw a line.
• Form_MouseUp - If the left button is up, set DrawNow to False (0) .
• Form_MouseMove - If DrawNow is True (-1), draw a line.

The variable Dr a wNow and the button constants are declared in the Declarations part of the
Dim DrawNow As Integer
Const LEFT_BUTTO N - 1

The MouseDown procedure has to take a different action, depending on whether the left or
right mouse button caused the event:
Sub Form_MouseDown (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer, X As Single,
• Y As Single)
If Button = LEFT_BUTTON Then
DrawNow = -1
Currentx = X
CurrentY = Y
Elself Button = RIGHT_BUTTON Then
Line-(X, Y)
End I f
End Sub

The MouseUp procedure tums off drawing, but only when the left button is released:
Sub Form_MouseUp (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer, X As Single,
• Y As Single)
If Button LEFT BUTTON Then DrawNow = 0
End Sub

Note that within the MouseUp procedure, a bit set to 1 indicates that the corresponding
mouse button is released.
The MouseMove procedure is ídentical to the one in the previous version:
Sub Form_MouseMove (Button As Integer , Shift As Integer, X As Single,
• Y As Single)
If DrawNow Then Line -(X, Y)
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

21)6 Part 3 Application -Building Techniques

Detecting SHIFT, CTRL, and ALT States

You use the argument Shift in roughly the same way you use Button. lf the SHIFT key is
pressed, Shift is 1; if the CTRL key is pressed, Shift is 2; and if the ALT key is pressed, Shift 1s
4. To determine combinations of these keys , use the total of these values. For example, if
SHIFT and ALT are pressed, Shift equals 1 +4, or 5.

The three least-significant bits in Shift correspond to the state of the SHIFT, CTRL, and AL T
key s, as shown in Figure 14.6.

CTRL key

ALT key 1

1 º º º º


Most-significant bits Least-significant bits

Figure 14.6 How bits representthe state ofthe SHIFT, CTRL, and ALT keys

Any or all of the bits in Shift are set, depending on the state of the SHIFT, CTRL, and ALT
keys. lf only one key is pressed, the· binary patterns are 001 (decimal 1) for SHIFT, 010
(decimal 2) for CTRL, and 100 (decimal 4) for ALT. If all are pressed, Shift has the binary
pattern 111 (decimal 7) . If only SHIFT and ALT are pressed, Shift has the binary pattern 101
(decimal 5).
As with the argument Button , you can use the And operator to mask out ali bits except the
ones you are interested in testing for:
Sub Form_Mou se Down (Button As Integer. Shift As Int eger, X As Si ngle,
• Y As Single)
If Shift And 1 Then Print "You pressed the SHIFT key ."
If Shift And 2 Then Pr int "You pr ess ed the CTRL key . "
If Shift And 4 Then Print "You pressed the ALT key ."
If (S hift And 3) 3 Then Print "You pres se d both SHIFT and CTRL . "
If (S hift And 5) 5 Then Print "Yo u pre ssed both SHIFT and ALT."
If ( Shift And 6) 6 Then Print "Y ou pres sed both CTRL and AL T."
If (Shif t And 7) 7 Then Print "Y ou pressed SHIFT, CTRL . and ALT . "
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 207

Dragging and Dropping

When you design Visual Basic applications, you often drag controls around on the forro. The
drag-and-drop features in Visual Basic enable you to extend this ability to the user at run
time. The action of holding a mouse button down and moving a control is called "dragging,"
and the action of releasing the button is called "dropping."
The drag-and-drop capability extends to multiple-form operations. The user can drag the
control anywhere on the screen, including other forros. You can respond to any drag
operation as long as the destination is somewhere within your application.
As the user drags a control, Visual Basic provides a gray outline that moves with the mouse
pointer, as shown in Figure 14.7.

1m forml aa

Figure 14.7 Dragging a control at run time

Note Run-time dragging of a control does not automatically change the location of the
control. You can cause this to happen, but you must program the relocation yourself, as
described in the section "Causing Control Movement" later in this chapter. Often, dragging
is used only to indicate that sorne action should be performed , and the control retains its
original position after the user releases the mouse button.

The following drag-and-drop properties, events, and methods enable you to determine the
meaning of a drag operation as well as how dragging can be initiated (if at all) for any given
Category ltem Description
Properties DragMode Enables automatic or manual dragging of a control.
Draglcon Specifies what icon is displayed when the control is
Events DragDrop Recognizes when a control is dropped onto the object.
Dragüver Recognizes when a control is dragged over the object.
Method Drag Starts or stops manual dragging.

All controls except menus and timers can be dragged at run time and share all the properties
li sted above. Forros recognize the DragDrop and Dragüver events, but they don't have the
DragMode and Draglcon properties.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

208 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Enabling Automatic Drag Mode

To enable the user to draga control, set its DragMode property to l. This enables automatic
dragging of the control :
Thing . OragMode = 1

You set the DragMode property to 1 at design time by clicking the arrow at the right of
Settings box and choosing "1 - Automatic."
When you set dragging to Automatic, dragging is always "on." Later, you'll see how to use
the "O- Manual" setting to control dragging.

Note While an automatic drag operation is taking place, the control being dragged does not
recogni ze other mouse events.

Selecting the Drag lcon

As mentioned previously, Visual Basic normally uses a gray outline of the control being
dragged rather than the control itself. You can substitute other images for the outline by
setting the Draglcon property . This property contains an integer that corresponds to a
graphic image. Yo u can ' t set this integer value directly, but yo u can select a graphic image.
The easiest way to set the Draglcon property is to use the Properties bar. After selecting the
Draglcon property, the arrow at the right of the Settings box changes to three dots. Click the
three dots to select a file containing a graphic image from the Load Icon dialog box.
You can assign icons to the Draglcon property from the Icon Library included with Visual
Basic. (The icons are pictured in Appendix B, "Icon Library.") You also can create your
own drag icons with a graphics program. A typical drag icon might be a picture of the
control with its colors inverted .
At run time, you can selecta Draglcon image by assigning the Draglcon property of one
control to the same property of another:
Pic ture l. Oragi con = Pi cture 2 .Dra gi con

You also can set the Draglcon property at run time by assigning the Picture property of one
control to the Draglcon property of another:
Pi ctur e l . Dragi co n = Pi cture 3. Pi ct ur e

Or, you can use the LoadPicture function :

Pict ur el. Dragi co n - LoadPi ctur e( "C: \ic on s \c omput e r \ di s k04.i co")

For more information on the Picture property and the LoadPicture function , see Chapter 13,
"Creating Graphical Effects ," or:

m Search Help for:


Microso ft Visu al Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 209

Responding When the User Drops the Object

When the user releases the mouse button after dragging a control, Visual Basic generales a
DragDrop event. You can respond to this event in many ways. Dropping may relocate the
control at the new location (indicated by the last position of the gray outline). Remember
that the control doesn't automatically move to the new location .
Two terms are important when discussing drag-and-drop operations-source and target.
They are listed below.
Term Meaning
Source The control being dragged. This control can be any type
except a menu or timer.
Target The object that the user drops the control onto. Thi s object,
which can be a form or control, recognizes the DragDrop

A control becomes the target if the mouse position is within its borders when the button is
released. A form is the target if the pointer is in a blank portion of the form.
The DragDrop event provides three arguments: Source, X, and Y. The argument Source is a
reference to the control that was dropped onto the target. For example, if the user drops a
control onto a blank portion of the form, the Form_DragDrop procedure is invoked:
Sub Form_DragDrop (Source As Control. X As Single, Y As Single)

End Sub

Because So urce is declared As Control, yo u use i t j ust as yo u would a control-you can

refer to its properties or call one of its methods. A useful property in this regard is Tag, a
property to which you can assign any string without causing side effects. Unlike other
properties, Tag is used solely for identification and data storage.
This example assumes that you've set each control's Tag property to the name of the
Su b Form_ DragDrop (Source As Control . X As Sing le, Y As Sing le)
Print Source.Tag; "dropped on background portian of form . "
End Sub

You should show sorne care with the argument Source, because although you know that it
always refers to a control, you don't necessarily know which type of control it is. For
example, if the control is a text box and yo u attem pt to re fer to So u re e . Val u e, the result is
a run-time error because text boxes have no Value property.
You can use the If... Then ...Else Statement with the TypeOf keyword to determine what
kind of control was dropped. For more inforrnation, see Chapter 17, "Advanced Language
Features," or:

Search Help for:

111 TypeOf

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

210 Part 3 Application - Build ing Techniques

All the possible types for Source (ali control types except menus and timers) have a Visible
property. Therefore, you can make a control invisi ble when it's dropped on a certain part of
a form or on another control. The following procedure causes a control to disappear when
it's dropped on a picture box named Yanish:
Sub Vanish _ DragDrop (Sou r ce As Control. X As Single. Y As Single)
Source.Visible = 0
End Sub

Highlighting Objects While Dragging

You may want to highli ght an object as the user drags a control over it. Highlighting informs
the user that if the mouse button is released, the object is dropped in the highlighted area.
This is useful particularly if the drop causes a move or copy operation, or (as in the previous
example) makes something di sappear.
Another way to indicate that a control is over a target is to change the drag icon . You can do
this by changing the Draglcon property of the control being dragged (source control).
To respond to the fact that a dragged control is entering, passing over, or leaving an object,
add statements to the DragOver event. The DragOver event procedure for a form looks like
Sub Form_ Dragüv er (Source As Co ntrol. X As Sing le , Y As Single,
• State As Integer)

End Sub

The DragOver event has the same arguments that DragDrop does. In addition, it has a State
argument which indicates one of the following actions.
Value of State Description
o Enter (the mouse position just entered the object' s borders) .
l Leave (the mouse position just left the object's borders) .
2 Over (the mouse position moved from one part of the object
to another).

Typically, you'll use the Enter and Leave states to create and remove highlighting and
ignore the Over state. Over is useful if you want to know when the mouse position is overa
particular subdivision of an object (such as a region within a picture box) . To respond that
way, you ' d need to evaluate the arguments X and Y, which give the mouse position within
the object.

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 211

To create or remove highlighting ·Nith Visual Basic, assign values to BackColor and
possibly ForeColor as well. For example, the following procedure inverts colors when the
user drags a control over Textl (Enter) and inverts colors back to their original state when
the control is dragged off the text box (Leave).
Sub Textl _Dragüver (Source As Control, X As Single, Y As Single,
• State As Integer)
Const ENTER - 0
Const LEAVE - 1
Dim TempColor As Long

If State = ENTER Or State = LEAVE Then

TempColor - Textl.BackColor
Textl.BackColor Textl.ForeColor
Textl.ForeColor = TempColor
End If
End Sub

The constants ENTER, LEA VE, and OVER are defined in the CONSTANT.TXT file.

Controlling When Dragging Starts or Stops

Visual Basic has a Manual setting for the DragMode property that gives you more control
than the Automatic setting. The Manual setting enables you to determine when a control can
be dragged and when it can't. (When DragMode is set to Automatic, the control can always
be dragged as long as the setting isn' t changed.)
For instance, you may want to enable dragging in response to MouseDown and MouseUp
events, or in response to a keyboard or menu command. The Manual setting also enables you
to recognize a MouseDown event befare dragging starts, so that you can record the mouse
To enable dragging from code, leave DragMode in the default setting of Manual (O). Then
use the Drag method whenever you want to begin or stop dragging an object:
[control.]Drag action

If action is 1, the Drag method initiates dragging of the control. If action is 2, the control is
dropped, thus causing a DragDrop event. Giving the value O for action cancels the drag: The
effect is similar to giving the value 2, except that no DragDrop event is recognized.
For example, this statement enables (tums on) dragging of a control named ThisBox:
ThisBox.Drag 1

This statement drops the control and has the same effect as releasing a mouse button:
ThisBox . Drag 2

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

212 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Causing Control Movement

You may want the source control to change position after the user releases the mouse button.
This is fairly easy to do when dragging operations do not extend across multiple forms. It is
more complicated when multiple forms are involved. A control created on one form cannot
necessarily appear on another form unless both forms have been designed to have that
control. You may need to use control arrays with these forms, unless you can ensure that the
coñtrol will appear on only one form at a time.
This section describes only control movement on a single form.
To make a control move to the new mouse location, just use the Move method (similar to
the code in the first example in this chap·ter):
Sub Form_OragOrop (Source As Control. X As Single, Y As Single)
Source . Move X, Y
End Sub

This code may not produce precisely the effects you want, because the top left comer of the
control is positioned at the mouse location. This co9e po~ition the cen~~r of the control at
the mouse location: ·
Sub Form_OragOrop (Source As Control. X As Single, Y As Single)
Source.Move (X - Source.Width / 2), (Y - Source.Height / 2)
End Sub

The code works best when the Draglcon property is set to a value other than the default (the
gray rectangle). When the gray rectangle is being used, the user normally wants the control
to move precisely into the final position of the gray rectangle. To cause this action , record
the initial mouse position within the source control. Then use thi s position asan offset when
the control is moved .

To get the initial mouse coordinates:

1 Specify manual dragging of the control.
2 Declare two form-level variables, DragX and DragY .
3 Tum on dragging when a MouseDown event occurs. Also, store the value of X and Y in
the form-level variables in this event
4 Tum off dragging on MouseUp.

The following example illustrates how to cause drag movement for a picture box named
Pictl. The control' s DragMode property should be set to Manual (O) at design time. The
declarations section contains the form-level variables Ora g X and Ora g Y, which record the
initial mouse position within the picture box :
Dim DragX As Single, OragY As Single

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 14 Responding to Mouse Events 213

The MouseDown and MouseUp procedures for the control turn dragging on and drop the
control , respectively. In addition, the MouseDown procedure records the mouse position
inside the control at the time dragging begins:
Sub Pictl_MouseDown (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer, X As Single.
• Y As Single)
Pictl.Drag 1
DragX X
DragY = Y
End Sub

Sub Pictl _MouseUp (Button As Integer, Shift As Integer, X As Single,

• Y As Single)
Pictl . Drag 2
End Sub

The Form_DragDrop procedure actually moves the control. To simplify this example,
assume that Pict 1 is the only control on the form. The target can therefore only be the form
itself. The Form_DragDrop procedure repositions the control, using DragX and DragY as
Sub Form_DragDrop (Source As Control. X As Single, Y As Single)
Source.Move (X - DragX), (Y - DragY)
End Sub

Note that this example assumes that Pictl and the form use the same units in their respective
coordinate systems. If they don ' t, then it's necessary to convert between units.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

~}.'. .. . . . .~-- -. '' , ... ,·•. . ' ' .~ ' ' - """ .' .' ,. . ; ', . . . ,. . .~ ' . . .. '
:· · e h a p t e r 1 5 •

Creating Multiple-Form Applications

Once you know how to write an application with a single forrn, you know almost everything
you need to know to write a multiple-form application. Any Visual Basic application can be
easily extended to have multiple forms. ·
Multiple forms can give your application increased functionality. Each forrn can have its
own unique look and purpose.
Having more than one form in your application is particularly useful if you want to create
custornized dialog boxes. You designa custom dialog box as a forrn. These dialog boxes can
be more complex than the ones you create with InputBox$ or MsgBox. In fact, custornized
dialog boxes can have all the controls and graphics you'd put on other forms.
This chapter shows you how to load, display, and hide different lcinds of forms. The main
sections are:
• Methods and Statements that Handle Forms
• Setting Form Properties
• Designating a Startup Form or Module
• Choosing an Icon
• Loading and Displaying Forms
• Hiding Forms
• Unloading Forrns
• Exiting a Multiple-Form Application

.. •
• •
• •
• •
• •
" •
• •
• •
• • •
• •
• •
• •
• •
• •
• •
216 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Methods and Statements that Handle Forms

This section provides a brief overview of the methods and statements that manipulate forms.
The rest of the chapter discusses sorne important form properties (especially as they relate to
dialog boxes), but this section may be all you need if you just want a quick reference.
The following Visual Basic keywords handle forms .
Keyword Syntax Description
Load statement Loadform Loads a form into memory ,
so yo u can refer to its
controls and properties;
does not display the form .
Show method [fon11.]Show Displays a form ; if the
[m odalsta/eo/o J form is not yet lo aded,
Show loads it first. If
modalstate is 1, the user
cannot work with other
forms while form is
Hide method [fonn.] Hide Hides a form. You still can
refer to the form's control s
and properties.
Unload statement Unloadform Remo ves (el oses) a form
from memory and the
screen .

When you create a multiple-form app li ca ti on, you may want the code attached to one form
to refer to something on another form. Or you may want to place a general procedure in a
module, so that more than one form can use it. In both cases, it 's necessary to qualify
references to form s. (In single-form appli ca ti ons with no modules, the form is implicit.)
To refer to a property of another form , use thi s syntax :
form.prop erty

To refer to a property of a control , use thi s syntax :

form. control.prop erty

Theform and control can be any valid refe re nce to a form or control. The property is always
a name of a property supported for th at obj ec t.

M ic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer 's Guide

Chapter 15 Creating Multiple-Form Applications 217

Setting Form Properties

Customized dialog boxes are a good reason to add forros to your application You can create
a dialog box in much the same way you create any other kind of form: You choose the New
Form command from the File menu, then design the formas you normally would. You' ll
also want to set the form properties, as explained in the section "Setting Properties for
Dialog Boxes."
Dialog boxes are characterized by the fact that they temporarily display or get information
from the user; then they are closed. These forms should be modal (the user has to close them
before working with other forms) and not resizable by the user. Other kinds of forms can be
thought of as general-purpose forms.

Setting Properties for General-Purpose Forms

The form shown in Figure 15.1 is from the Rock 'n' Roll application that's used asan
example throughout this chapter. The form displays a picture of the Beatles and provides
buttons that enable you to get more information.

Forms with captions

can be moved.

·r . . ·· ; . ~ _;; . :

. ·J/iU .;;ii/1fiJ l!/ 1ii 11 l
: : . : ; ,-•, ; ; One of the most inlluential rock groups ever.
: : : : : : : : :r Members include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr,
. ~ :f ¡_: ~ ;• John Lennon .. George Hanison
! .
: : : ·:· ::' : • • : 1 ~ ••• : : ; • : : • : : : .. : :

Lab el 1 Form 's size can be changed.

Figure 15.1 The Beatles Form

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

218 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Note Not all of the material you need for the Rock ' n' Roll application is included in this
chapter, but it may be helpful to create and run its forms.

If users are running several Windows applications, it's likely they ' ll want a lot of control
over how much room the Beatles form takes up on their screen . They may want to shrink the
fo rm to an icon while they run another Windows application. Or they may want to move the
form or make it smaller or larger.
The properties listed below for the Beatles form are typical of many windows in Windows
applications. Except for the last two properties listed (Caption and FormName), the settings
are the defaults for the property . That means th e properties start off with the followin g
Form property Setting Reason for setting
BorderStyle 2 - Sizeable Because BorderStyle is set to "2," users can change
the size of this window.
MinButton True Users can shrink the window to an icon so they can
view another application on their screen - and then
enlarge the Beatles window later.
MaxButton True Enables users to enlarge this window to a ful] screen.
ControlBox True Adds a Control menu, which provides Restore, Move,
Size, Minirnize, and Maximize commands . Helpful to
ali users, this menu is essential for users who don ' t
have a mouse.
Caption The Beatles Iden tifies the window and appears on the title bar.
Any window with a caption can be moved.
FormName Beatles Sets the name that will be referred to in code.

For more details on form properties, see the Language Refe rence, or:

m Search Help for:


Setting Properties for Dialog Boxes

The dialog box in Figure 15.2 from the Rock ' n' Roll application enables the user to choose
a rock group. This lets the application know which form to display next.
Generally, a user responds to a di alog box immediately and the dialog box is closed.
Because a dialog box is temporary, users normally have no need to change its size, shrink it
to an icon, or expand it. However, yo u may want to make di alog boxes movable -
es pec iall y if there's a chance that your di alog box may hide important information on the
sc reen.

Mic rosoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 15 Crea ting Multip le -Form Appli cations 219

No Minimize ar
Maximize buttons

Choose a rock group: _ _---tt-- Labe/

o ·o ors
Fleetwood Mac
J ackson Five
Jeflerson Airplane
Pink Floyd
---1-- List box
Rolling Stones

Double -/ine border shows that

form 's size can 't be changed.
Figure 15.2 The GroupChoice form is a dialog box.

The properties for the GroupChoice dialog box are set as follows:
Form property Setting Reason for setting
BorderStyle 3 - Fixed Users don ' t need to change the size of the form.
MinButton False Users don't need to shrink the dialog box toan icon.
MaxButton False Users don ' t need to enlarge the dialog box to a full
ControlBox True Adds a Control menu, which makes the Move
command accessible from the keyboard . (The
Restare, Size, Minimize, and Maximize commands
will appear on the Control menu, but these
commands will be disabled.)
Caption Rock Groups Identifies the dialog box .
FormName GroupChoice Sets the name that will be referred to in code.

Note The settings you specify for MaxButton, MinButton, BorderStyle, and ControlBox
are not reflected in the form's appearance until you run the application.

Simple Dialog Boxes

In sorne cases, all you need is a very simple dialog box. To avoid designing dialog box
forms and setting properties, you can create dialog boxes with the InputBox$ function , or
the MsgBox statement or function.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

220 Part 3 Applícatíon-Buíldíng Techníques

Far more information on lnputBox$, see Chapter 11, "Getting lnformation from the U ser."
Far information on MsgBox, see Chapter 12, "Displaying and Printing lnformation"; the
Language Reference; or:

m Search Help for:


Designating a Startup Form or Module

Every application must begin with a startup form ora startup module. With a multiple-form
application, it's important to decide which form should load first.
By default, Visual Basic selects the first form placed in the project as the startup form. To
select another form, choose Set Startup Form from the Run menu . Only one form can be
loaded automatically this way. Ali other forms must be loaded explicitly using the Load
statement or Show method.
You also can create a startup module by writing a general procedure called Main. When a
module-leve! procedure called Main is present, Visual Basic invokes this procedure when
the application is run; it does not load any form automatically.
The Rock 'n' Roll application starts with the Welcome form shown in Figure 15.3, a
window that introduces users to the application .

Figure 15.3 The Welcome form is the startup form .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 15 Creating Multiple-Form Applications 221

This form uses the default property settings, with the fo1lowing exceptions.
Form property Setting
FormName Welcome
Caption Rock 'n' Roll App

Note that by default, BorderStyle is set to Sizeable, and ControlBox, MaxButton, and
MinButton all are set to True.
You use the Settings box on the Properties bar to set the Picture property, which identifies
the file containing the background picture. (Toe \ROCK\WELCOME.BMP path given for
Picture in the table is fictitious.) When you select the Pícture property in the Properties list
box , the arrow at the right of the Settings box becomes three dots; click them to open a
dialog box from which you can selecta picture file.
You also can paste a picture onto a form via the Clip board. For more information, see
Chapter 13, "Creating Graphical Effects."

Choosing an lcon
When the user minimizes a form, an icon is displayed that represents it. You can use the
Visual Basic standard icon, or you can customize your applícatíon by selecting your own
icon for each form. The icon is specified by the Icon property of a form.
To specify an icon, select the !con property in the Properties list box, then click the three
dots at the right of the Settings box. Choose the .ICO file that contaíns the ícon you want.
Figure 15 .4 shows the Visual Basic standard icon and the custom icon used for the Welcome
form. The !con property for the Welcome form is set to the filename MISC31.ICO (a
musical scale) in the !con Library included with Visual Basic. (The full path depends on
where you installed Visual Basic.)

Visual Basic Rock 'n' Roll .6.pp
Figure 15.4 Visual Basic standard icon and the icon for the Welcome form

Note The graphics file you choose for your icon must have the .ICO format. The Visual
Basic !con Library is a good source of icons for your forms.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

m Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Loading and Displaying Forms

Although the startup form loads automatically when you start a Visual Basic application,
you'll use Visual Basic statements and methods to load and display other forms .
The Show method provides a convenient way to load and display any form in your
application. If a form is already loaded but not displayed, Show displays it. If a form is not
loaded, Show both loads it and displays it. The Show method uses this syntax:
[form.]Show [modalstate o/o]

The argument modalstate is an integer value that specifies whether or not the form is modal.
If modalstate is 1, the form is modal. If modalstate is O or is omitted, the form is modeless.
Once a modal form is displayed, the user cannot switch focus to another window until the
form is closed. Furthermore, no Visual Basic code is executed until that form is hidden or
unloaded. Dialog boxes are usually modal.
When loading a form, Visual Basic sets the form 's properties to their initial values (specified
at design time) and executes the Form_Load procedure attached to that form. The
Form_Load procedure may do additional initialization beyond what could be set in the
Properties bar.

Note Any reference to a form's controls or properties causes Visual Basic to automatically
load a form into memory, if it is not loaded already.

For more information on the Show method, see the Language Reference, or:

Search Help for:

111 show

'11icrosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 15 Creating Multiple-Form Applications 223

Displaying the GroupChoice Form

From the Welcome form, the user can choose the Rock Groups command button. Choosing
this command button displays a dialog box, which is another form named GroupChoice, as
shown in Figure 15.5.

Fleetwood Mac
Jackson Five
Jeflerson Airplane
Pink Floyd
Aolling Stones

Figure 15.5 The GroupChoice Form

Clicking the Rock Groups command button invokes its Click event procedure, which
displays and loads the GroupChoice form :
Sub RockGroups _Click ()
End Sub

To add controls to the GroupChoice form shown in Figure 15.5, create a label and set its
caption to "Choose a rock group:". Then create a list box (named GroupChoice) large
enough to hold six or more items.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

224 Part 3 Applic ation-Building Techniques

As soon as the GroupChoice fonn loads, its Load procedure is invoked, which places the
names of the rock groups into the li st box named GroupLi st:
Sub Form_Load
Grouplist.Addltem "Beatles"
Grouplist.Addltem "Door s "
Grouplist.Addltem "Fleetwood Mac"
-Groupl i st.Addltem "Jackson Fi ve"
Grouplist.Addltem "Jefferson Airplane"
Grouplist.Addltem "Pink Floyd"
Grouplist.Addltem "Rolling Ston es "
Grouplist.Addltem "Supreme s "
Groupli st.Addltem "The Who"
End Sub

Hiding Forms
With multiple-form applications, you often may want to hide the form that's currently on the
screen and display a new one. If there's a chance you want to use the form later, you ' ll
improve execution speed by temporarily hiding a form rather tban unloading it.
Another advantage to temporarily hiding a form (ratber than unloading it) is that you don ' t
lose any data attached to the form , such as property values and data stored in form-level
To hide a form that 's already been loaded, use the Hide method . The syntax is:

For example, thi s proced ure hides the Welcome form after the user chooses any item in the
GroupList list box :
Sub Grouplist_DblClick ()
Welcome .Hide
End Sub

If Welcome is a form that you may use again soon, then it makes sense to hide the form
rather th an unload it. You can display the form again by using the Show method :

For more information on the Hide method , see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Hiding the Welcome and GroupChoice Forms

Wh en the use r chooses "Beatles" from th e li st box on th e GroupChoice fonn , the app1icat ion
hid es the Welcome and GroupC hoice for ms and di splays th e Beatles fo rm .

Micros oft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 15 Creating Multiple-Form Applications 225

The user can choose a rock group from the GroupChoice form by double-clicking a list item.
The code for the GroupList_DblClick event procedure is:
Sub Grouplist_DblClick ()
Select Case Grouplist.Listindex
Case 0
Case 1
Case 2
Case 3
Case 4
Case 5
Case 6
Case 7
Case 8
End Select
End Sub

Checking to See if a Form Is Hidden

Your application can check to see if a form is visible or hidden by checking the setting of the
Visible property, which retums True (-1) if the form is visible and False (0) if it is hidden.
The Visible property applies not only to forms but also to ali controls other than timers.
For example, these statements hide the Beatles form if it is not already hidden:
If Beatles.Visible Then
End If

Loading a Form Without Displaying lt

Sometimes you may want to refer to properties and controls of a form without actually
displaying it. Or you may want to load severa] forms upon startup but make them hidden;
later you can display them when appropriate. This technique is an altemative to loading
forms while you are running the application, and it speeds up response time to the user.
However, keeping many forms loaded requires more memory.
In these cases, the Load statement is useful because it loads a form into memory without
putting it on the screen.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

226 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

For example, to load the Beatles form without displaying it, use this statement:
Load Beatles

The Load statement sets a form ' s properties to their initial values and executes its
Form_Load procedure. For more information on the Load statement, see the Language
Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Unloading Forms
You can unload form s when you no longer need them. When you unload a forrn , the form is
removed frorn the screen and from memory; you can no longer refer to any of its properties
or controls. Any data stored in the form is lost unless you have saved it to a file (as
explained in Chapter 21, "Processing Files"). For exarnple, this statement unloads the
Welcome form:
Unload Welcome

If there' s a chance you may want to use the form later, you may want to use the Hide
method instead. Hiding a form stores it in memory; this makes greater demands on memory
but can improve response time later on. Conversely, unloading a form frees up memory but
requires that you load the form again when you want to reuse it.
For more information on the Unload statement, see the Language Reference , or:

m Search Help for:


Exiting a Multiple-Form Application

A Visual Basic application stops running when ali forms are closed and no code is being
executed .
To close the application from within Vi sual Basic code, you can either unload every form
one by one, or use the End statement. This statement stops execution of all code in your
a¡,¡-l i~· ati ,lll <11HI l· lo,n .iil) 1ik,) o u llld'. lid._. ,,¡x· 11:.:.: . :\ u: .._ thal tlic End c. la lt.:lli é lll vv u rkc.
only in executable files .
For example, the Rock ' n' Roll application includes a Quit command button . The following
Click procedure is attached .to this command button :
Sub Quit_Click ()
End Sub

Note that when you close an application thi s way, no Form_Unload procedures get called. A
Form_ Unload procedure is called only if you explic itl y unload a form.

Micro soft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide


Visual Basic provides tools to analyze how your application behaves. These are called
debugging tools because they are particularly useful in locating the source of bugs (errors) .
Debugging support includes breakpoints, single stepping, and the ability to display the
values of variables and properties. These are fairly standard debugging techniques. Visual
Basic also includes special capabilities, sorne of which are inherited from Microsoft
QuickBasic: edit-and-continue capability, setting the next statement to be executed, and
testing procedures while halted. Plus, Visual Basic enables you to examine what happens to
property settings.
This chapter shows how to use the debugging tools included in Visual Basic. The main
sections are:
• Approaches to Debugging
• Design T~e, Run Time, and Break Mode
Halting Execution at a Problem Statem~nt
• Running Selected Portions of Your Application
• Testing Data and Procedures with the lmmediate Window
• Special Considerations in Debugging Events
• Testing and Using Command-Line Arguments
228 Part 3 Application -Building Techniques

Approaches to Debugging
The debugg ing techniques presented in thi s chapter are actually a set of analysis tool s.
Vi sual Basic cannot diagnose and fix all of your errors far you , but it does provide tools to
analyze how execution flows from one part of the application to another, and how variables
and property settings change as statements are executed. Debugging tool s are a way of
looking inside your application; they can help you determine what happens and why.
To understand how this is useful, consider the three kinds of errors you can encounter:
• Syntax errors . These errors are the result of a statement that is incorrectly constructed.
You may have mistyped a keyword,- omitted sorne necessary punctuation, or forgotten to
balance pairs of If and End If statements. Visual Basic detects these errors as soon as
they are entered in the Code window.
• Run -rime errors. These erro rs occur (and are detected by Vi sual Bas ic) whe n a statement
attempts an operation that is impossible to carry out. A good example is division by zero.
Suppose you have this statement;
Speed = Mi les / Hour s

If Ho u r s contains zero, the division is an invalid operation, even though the stateinent
itself is syntactically correct. The application must run befare it can detect thi s error. Not
all run-time errors are easily fixed . For example, a "Disk ful! " error is a problem you
can ' t foresee when writing the application. For information on dealing with this kind of
error, see Chapter 19, "Handling Run-Time Errors."
• Program logic errors. An application is not really correct unless it performs the way it
was intended to. An application can have syntactically valid code, run without
pe1fo rmin g any invalid operations, and yet produce incorrect results. Onl y by tes tin g the
application and analyzing results can you verify that the application is performin g
correc tly .

Debugging tool s are designed to help you with the last category - program logic errors,
which can be far more elusive tlían syntax errors or run-time errors. For instance, an
incoITect result may be produced at the end of a long series of calculation s. In debugging,
the task is to determine where something went wrong. Perhaps you forgot to initialize a
vari able, chose the wrong operator, or used the wrong formula somewhere.
There are no magic tricks to debugging, and there is no fixed sequence of steps that works
every time. Bas icall y. debu gg ing in volves understanding what's go ing on durin g runn ing of
the appltcaLion . rhe be LLer yo u understand how your appli cation works, the fas ter yo u can
find a bug. Debugging is easier if you :
• Design your applications carefully by writing down the relevant events and how your
code will respond to each one. Give each event procedure and each general procedure a
specific, well-defined purpose.
• Include numerous comments. As you go back and analyze your code, you ' 11 understand it
much better if the purpose of each procedure is stated in comments.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 16 0ebugging 229

• Develop a consistent naming scheme for the variables in your application. One of the
most common sources of errors is mistyping a variable narne. Visual Basic creates an
implicitly defined local variable if it can't find a matching declaration.
1111 When your application doesn't produce correct results, browse through the code and try
to find statements that may have caused the problem. Set breakpoints at these statements
and restart the application. Breakpoints are described in the section "Halting Execution at
a Problem Statement" later in this chapter.
• When the program halts, test the values of important values and properties. With Visual
Basic, you use the Immediate window to examine variables and expressions.

esign Time, Run Time, and Break Mode

To test and debug an application, you need to understand which of three modes you are in at
any given time. You have already used Visual Basic in design time while creating an
application and in run time while running it. This chapter introduces break mode, in which
you can examine and alter data while running of the prograrn is suspended.

Note The Visual Basic title bar (iust above the Properties bar) always shows you which
mode you are in, by displaying "[design]," "[run]," or " [break]."

The characteristics of the three modes are listed below.

Mode Description
Design Most of the work of creating an application is done here. Y ou can
design forms, draw controls, write code, and use the Properties bar
to set or view property settings. You cannot execute code or use
debugging tools, except for setting breakpoints .
Choose Start from the Run menu to switch to run time. (Y ou cannot
switch directly to break mode.)
Run The application code (procedure) takes control. You interact with
the application the way the user would. You can view code but
cannot change it.
Choose End from the Run menu to switch back to design time.
r · D. 1
"' th r R11n 111 c nu 0 1• '.",. , , , , ''TI." ~ 1"·'' \ h · '" ,. ·h tn
break rnode.
Break Execution is suspended while running the application. You can view
and edit code (by choosing View Code from the View menu) ,
examine data, restart the application, end exec ution, or continue
from the same point.
Breakpoints can be set at design time and run time, but other
debugg ing tools work on ly in break mode .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

230 Part 3 Application -Building Techniques

Break mode enables you to both edit code and run it. Before you entera new statement, you
can first test its effects by entering it in the Immediate window. The Immediate window has
a number of uses, the most common of which is to evaluate variables and property settings .
Whenever you enter break mode, execution has stopped at a particular statement. The
variable and property settings are retained, so you can use the Immediate window to analyze
the exact state of the application at that point.
Once in break mode, you can start running your application again by choosing Continue
from the Run menu . This command resumes execution from the last point at which it
stopped. Y ou can retum to design time by choosing End from the Run menu .
The nex t section describes theways of entering break mode when your application is

Halting Execution ata Problem Statement

To use debugging tools, you'll first need to enter break mode. But you don't want to enter
break mode at a random location; instead, you want the application to halt at a place in the
code that' s likely to have caused the problem. This is why Visual Basic provides breakpoints
and Stop statements. A breakpoint is a statement at which Visual Basic automatically stops
execution, putting the application in break mode.
Visual Basic stops execution ata line of code when any of the following things happen :
• A statement on that line generales a run-time error.
• You se t a breakpoint at that line.
• You placed a Stop statement on that line.

The applicati on also switches into break mode if, during running of the application, you
press CTRL+BREAK or choose Break from the Run menu. It's possible to break execution
when th e applica tion is idle (when· it is between processing of events); when this happens,
execution does not stop ata specific line, but Visual Basic switches to break mode anyway .

Fixing a Run-Time Error and Continuing

Sorne run-time errors result from simple oversights when entering code, and are easily fixed .
Type mi smatches that involve properties are run-time errors-for example, you refer to
MyControl.Text, but MyControl <loes not have a Text property.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 16 Debugging 231

Figure 16.1 shows a run-time error message.

Object: IForm li] Proc: 1Click w
Sub Form Click () •
A~%-= Ual(AgeText.Text)
liZ!litiffi - RestRateText. Textl
TrainRate% = ((220 - Age% - RestRate%) * .65) + RestR
Readout.Text.Text = Str$(TrainRate%) + "beats per min
End Sub
Microsoft Visual Basic

(1) Type mismatch

+ +

Figure 16.1 Run-time errors such as "Type mismatch" halt execution.

In the case of the type mismatch, the solution is to fix the problem statement so that it places
the correct type of data (numeric) into the variable Res t Ra te%:
RestRate% = Val (RestRateT ext .Te xt)

Then you can continue program execution from the same place it halted, even though you've
changed sorne of the code; just choose Continue from the Run menu. As you continue
running the application, you can see if the problem is fixed. Sorne changes (most commonly,
changes in variable declarations) do require the application to start over again; but when this
happens, Visual Basic notifies you that you must restart the application.

Using a Breakpoint to Selectively Stop Execution

A breakpoint tells Visual Basic to halt just before a specific line of code. When Visual Basic
is executing a procedure and it encounters a line of code with a breakpoint, it switches into
break mode.
You can set or remove a breakpoint in break mode or at design time.

To set a breakpoint:
Tn th c Code window. movc thc i11<..crt ;1rn point to a lin c of codc that does not airead y ha,·c
a breakpoint.
2 From the Run menu, choose Toggle Breakpoint.
Press F9.
Visual Basic displays the selected line in bold.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

232 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

To clear a breakpoint:
1 In the Code window, move the insertion point to a line of code that has a breakpoint (the
line is di spl ayed in bold).
2 From the Run menu , choose Toggle Breakpoint.
- or-
Press F9 .
Visual B asic displays the selected line in a plain font.

For exampl e, Figure 16.2 show s a procedure halted at the third line, which has a breakpoint.
Note the rectangular outline around the statem ent at which the procedure halted. This o utline
indicates the next statement to be execu ted ; thi s is called the current statement.

Sub Form Click () •

A e%-= Ual(A eTExt.Text)
RestRate~ = Ual(RestRateTExt_Text) Breakpoint is in bold.
TrainRate% = ((220 - Age% - RestRate%) * .65) + RestR
Readout.Text = Str$(TrainRate%) + " beats per minute" Rectangular outline
End Sub indicates it is the
current statement.

Figure 16.2 A procedure halted by a brea kpoint

Once a breakpoint is reached and the appli cation is halted, you can examine what 's
happened up to tha t point. Examining results of the application is easy, because yo u can
move the focus back and forth be tween th e form of your application and the Code window.
lf 1he rrohlem yn11 ~re lnokin !:! for 1-w; alrcacly nccu rrecl . th en you know a rrc\ io u, !:,-
execu ted line of code caused the problem . lf not, then sorne line of code not yet exec uted is
ca usin g the problem .
R eme mber that when a breakpoint occ urs, th e application stops just before th at I in e is
exec uted. Therefore, if the line of code wi th th e breakpoi nt is responsible for th e probl e m,
you won ' t see the problem until yo u exec ute at least one more statement. Single stepping ,
di sc ussed later in thi s chapter, may be h elpful to yo u in thi s regare! .

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 16 Debugging 233

A word of caution: Although no line of code has directly caused the problem, a statement
may indirectly be at fault, because it assigns an incorrect value to a variable. You may want
to examine the value of variables and properties whüe in break mode. The section "Testing
Data and Procedures in the Immediate Window" later in this chapter explains how to do that.

Creating Breakpoints with Stop Statements

Placing the Stop statement in a procedure is an alternative to setting a breakpoint: Visual
Basic halts execution and switches to break mode whenever it encounters a Stop statement.
In effect, a Stop statement is a breakpoint, but it is not set or cleared the same way.

Note There is one important difference between a Stop statement and a breakpoint. If you
leave the current project (or leave Visual Basic) and then load it again, all breakpoints are
cleared. Stop statements are more permanent; they stay in the code until you remove th em.

Remember that (unlike tbe End statement, which terrninates all execution) a Stop statement
does nothing more than temporarily halt execution. You can always choose Continue from
the Run menu to resume running the application.
For more information on the Stop statement, see the Language Reference, or:

Search Help for:

111 Stop

Running Selected Portions of Vour A_

lf you know exactly which statement caused an error, the use of a single breakpoint may be
sufficieot. More often, however, you can only guess the general vicinity of the statement that
caused the error. A breakpoint helps you get to that general area. Once there, you can use
single stepping and procedure stepping to see the effect of each statement. You also can skip
over statements or back up by starting execution at a new line. (Stepping throu gh statements
is sometimes referred to as "tracing.")

Single Stepping Through Statements

Single stepping is the process of executing one statement ata time. After steppin g throu gh
each stíl tement , yo u can see its effect by looking at yo ur application's forms .

To step through codea statement ata time:

• From the Run menu, choose Single Step. ,
- Or -
• Press F8 .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

234 Part 3 Application-Builsing Techniques

During a single-step command, Visual Basic temporarily switches into run time and
executes the current statement. Then it switches back to break mode and advances to the
next statement.

Note A line of code can contain two or more statements, separated by a colon(:). Visual
Basic uses a rectangular outline to indicate which of the statements to execute next. Unli ke
the Microsoft CodeView debugger and most other debugging tools , Visual Basic enables
you to single step between individual statements, even if they are on the same line.
However, breakpoints are always set on the first statement of a line.

Procedure Stepping
Procedure stepping is identical to single stepping, except when the current statement
contains a call to a procedure. The Single Step command steps through each line of the
procedure that was called, but the Procedure Step command executes the called procedure as
a unit and then steps to the next- statement in the current procedure. For example, suppose
the statement calls the procedure SetAlarmTime:
SetAlarmTime 11, 30, 0

If you choose the Single Step command, the Code window displays the SetAlarmTime
procedure and sets the current statement to the beginning of that procedure. This is the best
choice if you want to analyze the code within SetAlarmTime.
If you use the Procedure Step command, the Code window continues to di splay the current
procedure. Execution advances to the statement immediately after the call to SetAlam1Time.
Thi s is th e best choice if you want to stay at the same level of code and don ' t need to
analyze how SetAlarmTime works.
Y ou can freely altemate between the Single Step and Procedure Step commands . The
command you use depends on which portions of code you want to anal yze at any given time.

To use procedure stepping:

• Choose Procedure Step from the Run menu.
- Or -
• Press SHIFT+F8 .

Setting the Next Statement to Be Executed

When you know a certain section of code is causing trouble, you may want to skip over it.
Doing so doesn' t salve the problem, of course - eventually, you' ll have to come back and
debug that section. However, skipping lines of code enables you to move on and examine
other parts of the application.
At other times, you may want to start execution ata previous line. Perhaps you have
chan ged th e value of a variable or property and want to see if the code will produce different
res ults with thi s data.

Microsoft Visual Ba sic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 16 Debugging 235

Visual Basic enables you to start execution at a different line of code as long as it is within
the same procedure.

To set the next statement to be executed:

1 Move the insertion point to the line of code where you want execution to start next.
2 From the Run menu, choose Set Next Statement.
Then, if you want to resume execution, choose Continue from the Run menu.

Note You must be in break mode to set the next statement to be executed. The Set Next
Statement command is not available at design time or run time.

Testi ng Data and Procedures in the lmmediate Window

Sometimes you can find the cause of á problem by executing portions of code. But more
often you'll have to analyze what's happening to the data as well. For example, suppose the
background of your form tums purple when it should tum white. You rnight isolate the
problem to a single statement:
BackColor - MyFormColor

Y ou are clearly not done, however. First, you must determine what the val ue of
My Fo rmC o 1 o r was just befare the statement was executed. Second, yo u must determine
where My Fo rmC o l o r was assigned the incorrect value.
Examining the values of variables and properties is a common use for the Immediate
window. In addition, you also can use the Immediate window to assign values, evaluare
expressions, and test procedures .
There are two ways to print to the Immediate window: by placing statements in the code for
your application, or by entering a statement in the Immediate window itself.

Printing from Application Code

The Print method sends output to the Immediate window whenever you prefix it with the
special Debug object:
Debug.Print [items] [;]

For example, the following statement prints the value of Sal a ry to the Immediate window
every time it is executed:
Debug.Print "Salary - " ; Salary

This technique works best when there is a key place in your application code at which the
variable (in this case, S a 1 ar y) is known to change. For example, yo u mjght put the previous
statement in a loop that repeatedly alters Sal ary .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

236 Part 3 Application -Bu ild ing Techni ques

This technique has a couple of adv antages. First, yo u don ' t have to break execution to get
feedback on performance. You can see data or other messages displayed as yo u run the
appli cation. Another advantage is that th e feedback is di spl ayed in a separate area (the
Immediate window) , so that it does not interfere with output intended for users to see.
For more information on the Debug object, see the Language Ref erence, or:

Search Help for:

111 Debug object

Printing from Within the lmmediate Window

Once you' re in break mode, move the foc us to the Immediate window to examine data. To
do so, either click the Immedi ate window (if visible) or choose lmmediate Window fro m the
Window menu. You then can use the Print rneth od witho ut the Debug prefi x. Type or paste
in a statement, press ENTER. and the Immediate window responds by carrying out the
statement, as shown in Figure 16.3.

Responses from Visual Basic

Figure 16.3 The lmmed iate Window

A ques ti on mark (?) is useful shorthand fo r the Print keyword. The question mark means
precisely the same thing as Print and can be used in any co ntext Print is used. For example,
the examples above coul d be entered as shown in Fig ure 16.4.

Responses from Visua l Bas,c

Figure 16.4 Using a qu estion ma rk to print to the lmmed iate window

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

Chapter 16 Oebugging 237

Note that you can di splay variables only if they have the appropriate scope relative to the
current statement. Whenever Visual Basic enters break mode, the Code window comes to
the foreground , identifying:
• The currently executing form or module (indicated in the Code window' s title bar) .
• The currently executing procedure (displayed in the window).
• The next statement to be executed (identified by a rectangular outline) .

In addition, the title bar of the Immediate window indicates what the current form or module
is. This way you always know which form or module is current, even if you move the focus
between different Code windows.
The current procedure, form, and module determine what variables can be displayed
according to the scoping rules presented in Chapter 9, "Language Elements." For example,
suppose the Immediate window indicates th at Form 1 is the current form . In thi s case, you
can display any of the form-level variables of Forrnl. You also can display local variables of
the procedure displayed in the Code window. But you can' t display variables of other forms
and modules.

Note You can always display the value of a global variable.

Printing Values of Properties

You can evaluate any valid expression in the Imrnediate window, including ex pressions
involving properties. The currently executing form or module determines scope. If execution
halts within code attached to a form, you can refer to properties of that form (or one of its
controls) and rnake the reference to the form implicit (you don't have to type it):
? BackColor
? Textl. Hei ght

Ass ume that Textl is a control on the currently executing forrn. The first statement prints to
the Immediate window the numeric value of the current forrn's background color. The
second statement prints the height of Text 1.
If execution is suspended in a module, you must explicitly specify a form:
? Forml.BackColor
? Forml.Textl.Height

Assigning Values to Variables and Properties

As you develop hypotheses about the cause of an error, you may want to test the effects of
particular data values. When in break mode, you can use assignment statements to set
BackColor = 255
VScrolll . Valu e 100
MaxRows = 50

Microsoft Visua l Basic Programmer's Guide

238 Part 3 Applicatio n- Bu ildin g Techniques

The first two statements above alter properties of the currently executing form. The third
statement assigns a value to a variable. If execution was stopped in a module (or if you want
to refer to properties or controls of a different form) , it's necessary to refer to a form
explicitly, as described in the previous section.
After you set the values of one or more properties and variables, you can continue execution
to see th e res ults. Or, you can test the effect on procedures, as described in the next section.

Testing Procedures.
The Imrnediate window evaluates any valid Visual Basic executable statement. This window
won ' t accept data declarations, but you can enter calls to Sub and Function procedures.
Therefore, you can test the possible effect of a procedure with any given set of arguments by
entering a statement in the lmrnediate window just as you would enter it into the Code
window . For exa mple:
X - Ouadratic (2. 8. 8)
DisplayGraph 50, Arrl
Form_ MouseDown 1, 0. 100. 100

Visual Basic responds by switching to run time long enough to execute the statement, then
retums to break mode. At that point, you can see results and test any possible effects on
variables or property values.
Scope appli es to procedure calls just as it does to variables. You can call any procedure
within the curren tl y executing form . You can always calla procedure in a module.

Note Although al! executable statements are supported in the Irnmediate window , a control
structure is val id only if it can be completely expressed on one line. Thus, the following For
loop is va lid in the Immediate window :
For I = 1 To 20 : Print 2 * I : Next I

Tips on Using the lmmediate Window

Here are so rne shortcuts you can use in the Irnmediate window:
• Once yo u entera statement in the Immediate window, you can execute it again by
movin g the in sertion point back to that statement, then pressing ENTER anywhere on th e
• Befare pressing ENTER you can edit the statement you're on to alter its effects .
• Use the mouse or the arrow key s to move around in the Immediate window. Don ' t press
ENTER unless yo u are at a statement you want to execute.
• You also ca n use the PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN keys to move a page ata time. CTRL+PAGE
DOWN alw ays takes you to the end of the Immediate window, which is past ali of the old
staterne nt s.
• The HOME ancl EN D keys move to the beginning and e nd of the current line.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 16 Debugging 239

When you move the insertion point back to a Print staternent (or staternent with a question
mark), bear in rnind that Visual Basic overwrites old staternents in the Irnrnediate window as
it prints each line of output. This rneans that unless you append a sernicolon (;) to the end of
the Print statement, it overwrites two staternents. For exarnple, suppose you rnove the
insertion point to the first of the three lines below:
? X
? Y* 20

Pressing ENTER prints the current value of X on the second line and then places the insertion
point at the beginning of the third line. The third line also is cleared. To avoid erasing the
third line, append a sernicolon to the first line:
? X
? Y* 20

For more information on the Irnrnediate window:

m Search Help for:


Special Considerations in Debugging Events

When prograrnrning for a graphical user interface environrnent, bear in rnind the status and
possible effects of events. It's important to be aware of what can happen while debugging.

Breaking Execution During MouseDown

If you break execution during a MouseDown event procedure, you rnight release the mouse
button or use the mouse to do any number of tasks. The problem is that when you continue
execution, the application ass umes that the mouse button is still pressed down. You don't get
a MouseUp event until you press the mouse button down again and then release it.
However, when you press the rnouse button down during run rnode, you ' ll once again break
execution in the MouseDown event procedure, assurning you have a breakpoint there.
Consequently, you ' ll never get to the MouseUp event. The solution is usually to rernove the
breakpoint in th e l\llouseDown procedure.

Breaking Execution During KeyDown

If you break execution during a KeyDown procedure, similar considerations apply : If you
retain a breakpoint in a KeyDown procedure, you rnay never get a KeyUp event. (KeyDown
and KeyUp are _described in Chapter 18, "Interacting with the Environment.")
If you remain aware of how break mode can put events at odds with what your application
expects, you can usually find solutions. As suggested above, you may have to remove
breakpoints. You also may need to change the values of variables that depend on the
sequence of events.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

240 Part 3 Application-Building Techniques

Testing and Using Command-Line Arguments

Once you complete your application and produce an executable file, your users will be able
to specify command-line arguments. These arguments provide data to your application at
startup. The user can enter them by choosing the operating environment's Run command
and then typing arguments after the application name.
Command-line arguments also can be specified when starting an application with the Shell
For exan1ple, suppose you created an alarm clock application. One of the techniques for
setting the alarm time is to Jet the user type in the desired time directly . The user might en ter
the following string in the Run command dialog box:
Alarm 11:00:00

The Command$ function (intrinsic to Visual Basic) retums all arguments entered after the
application name (in this case, Alarrn). The Alarm application has just one argument, so in
the application code, you can assign this argument directly to the string that stores the time
to watch for:
AlarmTime - Command$

If Command$ retums an empty string, there are no command-line arguments. The

application must prompt for the information directly or select sorne default action.
To test code that uses Command$, you can specify sample command-line arguments from
within the Visual Basic environment. The application evaluates this sampl e command-line
input the same way it would if the user had typed these on the command line.

To set sample command-line arguments:

1 From the Run menu , choose Modify Command$.
2 Enter the sample arguments. (Do not type the name of the application itself.)
3 Click OK or press ENTER .

3 Run the application .

For more information on the Command$ function, see the Language Reference , or:

íf:íll Search Help far :

- Command$

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

So far, you ' ve seen only the beginning of what a Visual Basic application
can do. A substantial application involves many forms, modules, and
procedures. Furthermore, sorne applications d_o advanced system-level work,
such as storing information in di sk fil es, calling dynamic-link libraries , or
communicating with other applications.
Although sorne of the advanced work is not difficult, you need a good grasp
of the techniques presented in the first three parts of this book befare forging
ahead. Once you understand those techniques, the next few chapters can
show you how to do even more with the advanced features in Visual Basic .

Advanced Language Features

Chapter 9, "Language Elements," presented enough information to help you understand the
application-building techniques discussed in Part 3 and to write sorne useful applications.
But Visual Basic has a number of refined features designed to meet special needs. As you
write larger applications, you'll find that sorne of these features are very helpful.
If you have experience in Microsoft QuickBasic or the Basic Professional Development

+ System, most of the features presented here are already familiar to you. Note, however, that
they are not precisely the same in every case. You should read carefully before you assume
that Visual Basic works justas other Basic products do.
The main sections in this chapter are:

Controlling Execution
Data Declaration
• The Global Module
• Type and Constant Definitions
244 Part 4 Advanced Appl ications

Controlling Execution
The next three sections describe how to place control structures inside other control
structures and how to use different versions of the Exit statement. A control structure inside
another control structure is said to be nested.

Nested Control Structures

As is the case with Microsoft QuickBasic and a number of other languages, the control
structures in Visual Basic can be nested to any leve!. Nesting is a way of representing
complex logic or decisions in a readable form in decision structures and loop structures.
For example, the following code uses nested If statements to combine different conditions
when deciding on an action :
If BabyCheckBox.Value = 1 Then
If Dog.Value Then
Display.Text - "puppy"
Elself Cat.Value Then
Display.Text - " kitty"
End If
El se
If Dog.Value Then
Display.Te xt - "d og"
Elself Cat.V alue Then
Display.Text - "cat"
End I f
End I f

Nested control structures work in a similar fashion. Especially comrnon are nested For
loops, which handle arrays of strings and multidimensional arrays. For example, the
following code prints tables of multiples for numbers from 1 to 20:
Dim I As Integer, J As Integer
Far I - 1 To 20
Print "Multip les of "; I·
Far J - 1 To 10
Print Chr$(9) ; l*J;
Next J
Next I

The I loop is the outer loop ; for each increment of I , J run s an entire cycle from 1 to 1O.
Note that each Next statement applies to the nearest For statement. Thus, the first Next
terminates the I loop, and the second terminates the J loop.
The previous two examples show nested If statements and nested For loops. But you are not
limited to nesting a control structure inside another of the sa me type. You can nest contro l
structures to any level and in any combination .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Features 245

Exiting a Control Structure

The Exit statement enables you to exit directly from a For loop, Do loop, Sub procedure, or
Function procedure. Syntactically, the Exit statement is simple: Exit For can appear as
many times as needed inside a For loop, and Exit Do can appear as many times as needed
inside a Do loop:
For counter = start To end [Step increment]
[Exit For]
Next [counter [, counter]]

Do [{While IUntil } condition]

[Exit Do]

The Exit Do statement works with ali versions of the Do loop syntax. An important
difference between Do While ... Loop and the While ... Wend statement is there is no way to
exit directly from While ... Wend.
Exit For and Exit Do are useful because sometimes it's appropriate to quita loop
immediately, without performing any further iterations or statements within the loop. For
example, suppose you want to test a number to see if it is a prime number. (A prime number
is an integer that is only divisible by itself and the number 1.) The pseudocode for a prime-
number test on a number N might be:
Ass ume Ni s prime
Determine square root of number N
For each number from 2 to square root of N
If number evenly divides N
Ni s not prime
Stop te s ting numbers

A first attempt to write a prime-number Function procedure might look like this:
Function Prime (N As Integer) As Integer
Const TRUE - - 1. FALSE= 0
Dim R As Integer, I As Integer

Prime= TRUE
R - Sqr(N)
For I = 2 To R
If N Mod I = 0 Then
Prime= FALSE
End If
Nex t I
End Fun cti on

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

246 Part 4 Advanced Applications

This procedure produces correct results, but it's inefficient; it doesn' t stop testing numbers
when a divisor of N is found. Once it's determined that Ni s nota prime number, it's no
longer necessary to continue the For loop. Therefore, a more efficient version uses Exit For
to termínate the loop once it is deterrnined that N is not prime. The statements are the same
except for the For loop:
Far I - 2 To R
If N Mod I = 0 Th en
Prime - FALSE
Exit For
End I f
Next I

Note that the Exit statement almost always appears inside an lf state ment or Select Case
statement nested inside the loop.

Exiting a Sub or Function Procedure

The syntax of Exit Sub and Exit Function is similar to that of Exit For and Exit Do in the
previous section. Exit Sub can appear as many times as needed, anywhere within the body
of a Sub procedure. Exit Function can appear as many times as needed, anywhere within
the body of a Function procedure.
Exit Sub and Exit Function are useful when the procedure clearly has done everything it
needs to do and can retum immediately. For example, the prime-number example of the last
section can be written with an Exit Function statement rath er th an Exit For. In this case,
the effect is the same:
Function Prime (N As Integer) As Integer
Co nst TRUE = - 1. FALSE - 0
Di m R As Integer, I As In teger

Prime= TRUE
R = Sqr(N)
For I = 2 To R
If N Mod I 0 Then
Prime - FAL SE
Ex i t Function
End I f
Next I
End Fun ction

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Features 247

Data Declaration
You can declare Static variables when you want procedures to have persistent data, and you
also can declare data using the following special types: Form, Control , and fixed-length
strings. The next several sections describe these advanced techniques.

Static Variables
Normally, when a procedure is finished, the values of its local variables are lost. The next
time the procedure is executed, all local variables start at zero oran empty string.
You can make Visual Basic preserve the value of a local variable by making it static. Use
the Static keyword to declare one or more variables inside a procedure, exactly as you
would with the Dim statement:
Static X As Oouble, Y As Double
Static Counter As Integer

For example, the following Click procedure changes the background color back and forth
between two values. The procedure must remember the previous state it was in, and uses a
static variable, Fl a g, for this purpose:
Sub Form_Click ()
Static Flag As Integer
If Flag - 0 Then
BackColor - RGB (255, 0, 0)
Flag - 1
El se
BackColor = RGB (0, 128, 128)
Flag= 0
End If
End Sub

Yo u also can produce the same result by declaring Fl a g in the Declara ti o ns section of the
form, making it into a form-level variable. However, once you change the scope of a
variable this way , the procedure no longer has exclusive access to it.

Declaring Ali Local Variables As Static

To make all local variables in a procedure static by default, place the Static keyword at the
beginning of a procedure heading. For example:
Static Sub Ouad (A%, 8%, C%) As Double

This causes all the local arguments in the procedure to be considered static, regardless of
whether they are declared with Static, Dim , or declared implicitly. Each time the procedure
is called, it remembers the values of the local variables from the last time the procedure ran.
You can place Static in front of any Sub or Function procedure headin g; this includes both
event proced ures and general procedures.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

248 Part 4 Advanced Appl ications

Arguments Declared As Form

The spec ial Form data type can be used to declare an ítem in an argument list. Using a
Form argument enables you to write generalized procedures that operate on any number of
different forms. Only arguments can be declared As Form; variables of this type are not
val id .
The Control data type is similar and is described in the next section.
Suppose you want to perform the same color initializations for all the forms you work with.
Without the Form type , yo u mu st repeat a similar gro up of statements for each form:
Forml.BackColor RGB(0, 0, 128)
Forml.ForeColor RGB(l92, 0, 0)
Forml.Dra wColor = RGB(255, 255, 255)

Fo rm 2.BackColor RGB(0, 0, 128)

Form2.ForeCo l or - RGB(l92, 0, 0)
Form2.Dra wCo l or = RGB(255, 255, 255)

Form3.BackColor = RGB(0, 0, 128)

Form3.ForeColor RGB(l92, 0, 0)
Form3.Dra wColor = RGB(255, 255, 255)

By includin g an argument of type Form, you can write a procedure that assigns these colors
for any form:
Sub SetColor s (ThisForm As Form)
This Form.BackColor RGB(0 , 0, 128)
ThisFo rm.F or eColo r RGB(l92, 0, 0)
ThisF orm.Draw Colo r RGB(255, 255, 255)
End Sub

You then ca n call the procedure and pass the name of any form yo u wish as an argument:
Se t Colors Forml
SetC olors Form2
Se t Colors Form3

Form and Control variables have two important res trictions that do not apply to other types:
• You ca n use them onl y in arg ument lists, not in other kinds of variable declarations.
• You ca nnot assign va lues directly to Form or Control arg uments at any time. Yo u can ,
however, assign values to their properties.

Arguments Declared As Control

The Control keyword is used in much the same way as Form . A procedure that has an
arg ument declared As Control can operate on any number of different contro ls passed as
arg umen ts.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Feature s 249

Chapter 14, "Responding to Mouse Events," introduced As Control in the context of

DragDrop and Dragüver events. These events pass Source (the source control being
dragged) asan argument. You can use that argument by referring to its properties.
You also can use As Control declarations in general procedures. For example, the following
procedure altemately hides and reveals any control passed to it by reversing the setting of
th e Vi sible property:
Sub Cl oak (T hi sCo ntrol As Control)
ThisControl.Visible = Not ThisControl.Visible
End Sub

You can use this procedure with any number of different controls (except timers, which have
no Visible property):
Cloak Te xtl
Cloak Text2
Cloak Pi cture l

Using a Control argument requires extra care, since different types of controls support
different sets of properties. Visual Basic generates a run-time error if you access a
nonexistent property of a Control argument.
For example, the followin g fragment works correctly for text boxes, because text boxes have
a Text property:
Sub InitBox (TextBoxCont r ol As Control)

Tex tB oxC ontrol . Text = "H el lo, ther e . "

Therefore, you can pass a text box to thi s proced ure without getting an error:
InitBo x Tex tl

But the following statement causes a run-time error, assumi ng Commandl is a command
button . This statement passes the command button as an argument to InitBox, whi ch then
refers to the Text property. Because command buttons don ' t have a Text property, Vi sual
Basic generates an error:
InitB ox Commandl

To ensure that this error does not happen, you may want to test the type of the co ntrol by
using the Typeüf keyword , as described in the next section .

Determining Type of a Control Argument

To determine the exact type of a Control argument, you can use an If... Typeüf or
Elself ... Typeüf state ment, which has thi s sy ntax:
{ If I Elself } Typeüf control Is controltype Then

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

250 Part 4 Advanced Applications

The TypeOf and Is keywords appear only in exactly that form of syntax. You can test for
only one control type ata time, and you cannot combine that syntax with other conditions on
the same line. However, an lf Typeüf or Elself TypeOf statement can be part of a larger If
block that tests for other conditions . For example:
If X= 3 Then
Print X
Elseif Typeüf ThisControl Is Timer Then
Thi sControl. Interval ~ 1000
End I f

The control is an argument declared As Control. The controltype is one of the following
CheckBox Frame PictureBox
ComboBox HScrollBar TextBox
CommandButton Label Timer
DirListBox ListBox VScrollBar
DriveListBox Menu
FileListBox OptionButton

For example, the following fragment places a string in a control if the control is a text box :
Sub InitMyControl (Sou rce As Control)

lf TypeOf Source Is TextBox Then

Source.Text = "Welcome"
End I f

Sometimes you may want to take an action if a control is not a particular type. Although you
can' t combine the Not keyword with Typeüf, you can produce the same effect by including
an empty statement block combined with an Else clause. For example, the following code
sets the Visible property to O if ThisControl is not a timer:
lf TypeOf ThisControl Is Timer Then
ThisControl.Visible = 0
End If

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Features 251

Altematively, you can simply exit the procedure if a timer is detected:

If Typeüf ThisControl Is Timer Then Exit Sub
ThisContról . Visible = 0

Fixed-Length Strings
By default, a string variable or argument is a variable-length string; the string grows or
shrinks as you assign new data to it. Y ou also can declare strings that always have a set
length. Y ou specify a fixed-length type wi th this syntax:
String * size

Fixed-length strings are use ful in random-access file operations (as explained in Chapter 21,
"Processing Files"). Or, suppose you want to print a report and you want a string to always
take up the same amount of space. For example, this statement declares EmpName as a fixed-
length string of 30 characters:
Dim EmpName As String * 30

If you assign a string of fewer then 30 characters, EmpN ame is left-justified and padded with
trailing spaces.
You can freely altemate between fixed-length and variable-length strings. If you assign a
string that is too long for the fixed- length string, it simply truncates the characters. For
Dim String5 As String * 5, Mammal As String

Mammal = "El ephant"

Print Mammal

String5 = Mammal
Print String5

The code produces this output on the form :

Elep hant

Because fixed-length strings are often padded with trailing spaces, you may find the intrinsic
RTrim$ function useful when working with them. For more information on RTrim$ , see
the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

252 Part 4 Advanced Applicati ons

If you have programmed in other languages, you ' re probably familiar with the concept of
arrays. Arrays enable you to refer to a series of variables by the same name, and use a
number (an index) to tell them apart. This helps you create smaller and simpler code in many
situati ons, because you can set up loops that deal efficiently with any number of cases by
using the index number.
In additi on, Visual Basic introduces a new kind of array - the control array. A control array
has special features and does not follow all the rules of standard arrays. The differences are
explained below.

lmportant Although co ntrol arrays are similar to other kinds of arrays, they differ in a number of
details . What Visual Basic documentation says about arrays generall y does not apply to
control arrays, unless specifically stated.

Control Arrays
Visual Basic requires the use of control arrays in two situations:
• Writing code far menus that grow or shrink
• Creating new co ntrols at run time

Chapter 1O, "Responding to Commands," and Chapter 13, "Creating Graphical Effects,"
introduced co ntro l arrays and explained their use far these purposes.
However, you ca n use control arrays at other times. Even thou gh it may have man y
elements. the entire control array has only one event procedure far eac h type of even t (Click,
KeyPress, and so on). Creating a control array makes sense when a number of controls can
benefi t from sharing most of their code.
Control arrays do preserve sorne flexibility. Whenever any control in the array recogni zes an
event, Visual Basic passes the indexas an extra argument. This argume nt always comes
befare any other arguments that may be passed. For example:
Sub MyCtlArray_ KeyPress (Index As Integer, KeyAscii As Integer)

Once inside the event procedure, yo u can use lndex to determine which control actually
received the event. An element of a control array can be referred to as:
arrayname (/ndex)

Thus, MyCtlArray(0) and MyCtrlArray(l) refer to specific elements in a contro l arra y, and
can be used anywhere ordinary control names are used.

Microsoft Visual Basic Progra mmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Features 253

Control arrays differ from ordinary arrays in the following ways:

• They are not declared in code.
• They are limited to one dimension.
• They do not have definite upper bounds, and you don't have to use sequential index

Y ou create a control array at design time, either by assigning two controls the same name
(CtlName property), or by assigning a value to a control's Index property. The latter
technique produces a control array of just one element. This is useful when you want to
create controls at run time, but don't want to start with a lot of controls.
Control arrays are limited to one dimension. Visually, you can create a grid of controls, but
within the code, each control is identified by a single number.
The lower bound of any control array is zero, and index numbers can run as high as the
system resources allow. Unlike ordinary arrays, you can skip index numbers. MyCtlArray(l)
and MyCtrlArray(9) may both correspond to controls, even though there are no controls with
index numbers from 2 to 8. When you first create a control array, Visual Basic assigns
default index numbers, starting at O and increasing by increments of 1 as each new control is
added to the array. You then can change indexes by resetting each control's Index property .
Note that indexes can be reassigned only at design time.

Note Another lirnitation on control arrays is that, unlike a standard array, a control array
cannot be passed as a single argument. Each element of the control array must be passed as a
separate argument.

Arrays of Variables
Like other languages, Visual Basic enables you to define arrays of standard data types. An
array is a series of memory locations that share the same name and are identified by an index
number. Unlike control arrays, standard arrays have both upper and lower bounds, and there
are no empty elements. Visual Basic allocates space for each index number, so don't declare
an array larger than you need it to be.
Visual Basic has three important rules regarding ordinary (fixed) arrays:
• In the global module, use the Global statement to declare array_s.
• At the form or module leve!, use the Dim statement to declare arrays.
• Within a procedure, use the Static statement (although you can use Dim if the whole
procedure is declared Static). For more inf~rmation, see "Static Variables" earlier in this

The rules change when you create a dynamic (variable-length) array. The section "Dynamic
Arrays" later in this chapter discusses these rules.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

254 Part 4 Advanced Applications

When declaring an array, follow the array name by parentheses and the upper bound. The
upper bound must be an integer. For example, these array declarations can appear in the
Declarations section of a form or module:
Oim Cou nter s (14) As Integer
Dim Sums (20) As Oouble

In the global module, you simply use Global in place of Dim . The same declarations within
a procedure use Static :
Static Cou nter s (14) As Integer
Stat i c Sums (20) As String

The first declaration creates an array with 15 members, with index numbers running from O
to 14. The second creates an array with 21 members, with index numbers running from O to
20. The default lower bound is O. However, you can change the default lower bound to l by
placing an Option Base statement in the Declarations section of a form or module:
Option Base 1

For more information on the Option Base statement, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

Option Base

Another way to specify lower bounds is to use the To keyword (a lower bound also must be
an integer):
Dim Counters (1 To 15) As Integer
Oim Sums (1 00 To 120) As String

ln the declarations above, the index numbers of Counters run from 1 to 15 , and the index
numbers of Sums run from 100 to 120.

Note Other versions of Basic permit implicit declaration of arrays; Visual Basic <loes not.
You must declare an arra y before using it.

Arrays are an efficient way to handle many array elements in a loop. Each element is
accessed through a combination of the array name and index. For example, if the lower
bound of array Counters is 1, then the third element of the element is :

The follow ing loop initializes all elements in the array to 5:

Static Counters (1 To 15) As Integer
Oim I As Integer
Far I = 1 To 15
Co unter s (!) = 5

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Features 255

Two-Dimensional Arrays
Sometimes information is naturally represented in a grid, or matrix - a data structure that
has both rows and columns. You can declare two-dimensional arrays that reflect the
structure of a grid. For example, the following statement declares a 10-by-10 array within a
Static MatrixA (9 , 9) As Double

Either or both dimensions can be declared with explicit lower bounds:

Sta tic MatrixA (1 To 10, 1 To 10) As Double

Once you declare a two-dimensional array, you can efficiently process it by using nested
For loops. For example, these statements initialize every element in Má tri xA to 1:
Dim I As Integer, J As Integer
Sta tic MatrixA (1 To 10, 1 To 10) As Double
For I = 1 to 10
For J - 1 To 10
MatrixA(I, J) = 1
Next J
Next I

Multidimensional Arrays
With Visual Basic, you can declare arrays of up to 60 dimensions. Each dimension is
declared by giving an upper bound and optionally a lower bound . For example:
Dim MultiD (3, 1 To 10, 1 To 15)

This declaration creates an array that has the dimensions 4 by 10 by 15. The total number of
elements is the product of these three dimensions, or 600.

Note When you start adding dimensions toan array, the total storage needed by the array
increases dramatically, so be careful in the use of multidimensional arrays.

Generally, multidimensional arrays are useful for highly specialized mathematics and
science applications (although three-dimensional arrays are useful in projected graphics) .
Most applications rarely require arrays of more than two dimensions.

Dynamic Arrays
Sometimes, you may not know exactly how to make an array. You may want to have
the capability of changing the size of the array at run time.
A dynamic array can be resized at any time. Dynamic arrays are among the most flexible
and convenient features in Visual Basic, and they help you to manage memory efficiently.
For example, you can use a large array for a short time, then free up memory to the system
when yo u' re no longer using the array.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

256 Part 4 Advanced Applications

The alternative is to declare an arra y with the largest size possible, and then just ignore arra y
eleme nt s you don 't need. However, this approach wastes storage and, if used often, might
even cause your application to run low on memory .

To create a dynamic array:

1 Declare the array with a Dim statement (or Global, if the declaration is in the global
module) andan empty dimension list. Far example:
Oim OynArray ()

2 Allocate the actual number of elements with a ReDim statement.

The ReDim statement can appear only in a procedure. Unlike the Dim and Static statement,
ReDim is an exec utable statement - it makes the application carry out an action ar run time.
The ReDim statement supports the same syntax described in the Jast few sec tions far fixed
arrays. Each use of ReDim can change the number of elements, and lower and upper bounds
far each dimension. However, the number of dimensions must not change.

important Each tim e you execute the ReDim statement, all the values currently stored in the array are
lost. Visual Basic resets the values to zero-or, in the case of strings, to the empty string.

Far examp le . the dynamic arra y Ma tri x 1 is created by first declaring it at the farm leve!:
Dim Matrixl () As Integer

A procedure then allocates space far the array:

Sub Ca l cValuesNow ()

ReDim Matrixl (19. 29)

The ReDim statement allocates a matrix of 20 by 30 integers (at a total size of 600
elements) . Alternatively, the bounds of a dynamic array can be se t using variables:
ReDim Matrixl (X. Y)

When you create a dynamic array that is local to a procedure, th e first step above
(declaration with Dim at the beginning of the procedure) is recommended but not req uired.
Declaring a dynamic array first with Dim limits the number of dimension s to 8. lf" you need
more dimensions, avoid using Dim and create the array directly with ReDim :
ReDim BigArr (A. B. C. D, E. F. G. H. I) As Integer

Note Thi s techn ique supports the normal limit on the number of dimensions (60) .

11/ficrosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Languag e Feature s 257

The Global Module

The global module contains vari able declarations, constant definitions, and type information
that is recognized by the entire application. Thi s section lists:
• What to include in the global module
• What statements are supported only in the global module
• What syntax changes are necessary when you transfer a statement to the global module

Each project has exactly one global modul e, although you may find that you don ' t use it for
simple applications with a single form. Yet even for small projects, the global module is
con venient if you include any constant defi nitions from the CONSTANT.TXT fil e. These
definiti ons are written using the Global keyword, so they must be placed in the global
module or else rewritten.
Unlike other modules, the global module cannot include any procedures. The global module
is like one large Declarations secti on; it has no definite subdivisions.
The global module can include:
• Global variable declarations.
• Deftype statements. These statements, introduced later in this chapter, determine the
default type of variables. When placed in the global module, Deftype statements affect
only the data type of global variables.
• Global constant definitions.
• User-defined type statements. These are similar to structures or records in other
languages .

Type . .. End Type , whi ch crea tes a user-defi ned type, can be pl aced onl y in the global
module. Once created, a user-defi ned type can declare a vari able at any leve!. The section
"User-Defin ed Types" at the end of this chapter describes how to create and use these types .
In contras t, variable declarati ons and constant definition s can be placed in form s, modul es,
and procedures, but are not global in scope when placed at those levels.
Variabl e declarati ons and constant definiti ons use a different syntax at the global leve]:
• In variable declarati ons, the Dim keyword is repl aced by Global.
• In constant dec larati ons, Global must precede Const.

The fo ll owing examples show a variab le and constant decl arati on at the modul e leve], and
the sa me statements rewri tten so they ca n be 1:1 sed in the global modul e.
Form-level statements Rewritten for the Global module
Dim Salary As Currency Global Sal a ry As Curre ncy
Di m X Gl obal X
Co ns t FAL SE 0 Glo bal Co nst FAL SE 0

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

258 Part 4 Advanced Applications

Type and Constant Definitions

The statements described in this section - symbolic constants, the default data type, and
user-defined types -are nonexecutable statements that can make your code more readable,
structured, and easier to maintain .

Symbolic Constants
Often, you ' ll find your code is sprinkled with constant values that appear over and over. Or
you may find that your code depends on certain numbers that are difficult to remember, and
(in and of themselves) , have no obvious-meaning unless you look up their significance.
Man y such numbers are recorded in CONST ANT.TXT.
In these cases you can greatly improve the readability of your code and make it easier to
maintain by using the Const statement. This statement enables you to use a meaningful
name, called a symbolic constant, in place of a number. In sorne respects, a constant
definition is like a variable. But unlike a variable, the value of a constant cannot change
during program execution .
A Const statement has scope just as a variable declaration does, and the same rules apply. If
you want to make sure a constant definition is recognized throughout the application, place it
in the global module and put the keyword Global before Const.
The syntax for a Const statement is:
[Global] Const constantname =expression [, constantname = expression ] ...

The argument constantname is a valid sy mbolic name (the rules are the same as the rules for
creating variabl e names), and expression is made of numeri c or string constants.
A Const state ment can represe nt a mathematical qu antity:
Co nst PI = 3 .1 4159265
Co nst SQROOT2 = 1.41421356
Co nst E= 2.71828 183

TRUE and FALS E constants are useful wherever you need to set a Boolean ·property :
Co nst TR UE = - 1 , FAL SE = 0

Once you define co nstants, you can place them in your code to make it much more readable.
For exa mpl e:
Che c kBox . Va lu e = TRUE
Angle = PI
Angl e2 = PI / 2

The ex pression on the ri ght side of the equal sign (=) is ofte n a number, but also can be an
ex press ion that produces a num e ric or string result (although it cannot contain call s to
fun cti ons) . You ca n even defin e constants in term s of previously defined constants:
Con s t PI 2 = PI * 2

Mic roso ft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Features 259

The Const statement also can be used to defi ne string constants:

Const VERSION = "0 7 .10. A"
Const RELEASE _ DATE = "Apri l 17, 1992"

The Default Type

If you declare a variable without usi ng either a type-declaration character oran As clause,
Visual Basic assigns that variable the default data type. The default type is normally single-
precision floating point. However, you can use a Deftype statement to specify a different
default type far any given farm or module.
Deftype statements specify the default type far variables according to the first letter of the
name. The Deftype statement affects all variable declarations that fallow it. Note that in
variable names, Vi sual Basic makes no real di stinction between uppercase and lowercase
letters, so Defl nt A- E has the same effect as Defl nt a - e .
For example, the fallowing statements declare a series of variables as integers. First, the
Deflnt statement declares all variabl es that start with the letter X or Y to be integers. Then,
the Dim statement actually declares the variables:
Defln t X, Y
Dim XGr i d, YGrid, Xl , Yl , X2, Y2

Deflnt is a Deftyp e statement; without this statement in the example above, you'd have to
add an As Integer clause to each of the variables in the list.
A Deftype statement can be placed in the global module, or in the Declarations section of a
farm or module. The statement affec ts the default type of all variables in that farm or
module. Thus, Deftype statements in the global module determine the default type far global
variables, but have no effect on other variab les. Deftyp e statements in a farm affect farm-
level variables as well as local vari ab les in procedures attached to that farm . It' s the same far
modules .
Vi sual Basic supports six different kinds of Deftype statements, one far each data type.
Statement Associated data type
Deflnt letterrange Integer
DefLng lette rrange Long
DefSng letterrange Single
DefDbl letterrange Double
DefCur letterrange Currency
DefStr lette rrange String

With each statement, lette rrange is either a single letter ora range of letters described by this
syntax :
letterl [-letter2 ]

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

260 Part 4 Advan ced Appli catio ns

You also can specify a combination of ranges, separated by commas. Thus, the followin g are
all valid state ments:
' Declarations
Deflnt A- E, I - M, T
Deflng F
DefDbl X- Z

The range A-Z is a special case. Thi s range, and only thi s range, causes the default-type
range to include ali international characters as well as the letters in the English alphabet.

User-Defined Types (Structures)

With the Type statement in Visual Basic, you can build new data types made up of the
standard rypes. Once a type is defined, yo u can declare variables to be of this type. For
example, once the type ComplexNum is defined, you can declare a variable or argument to
be As ComplexNum in any Dim, Static, or Global statement, or in an argument list.
User-defined types are si mil ar to C structures and Pascal records; they maintain related
information (such as an employee record) in a single data structure.

lmportant You can place Type definitions only in th e global module. The Type statement is not valid
anywhere else .

The Type statement uses th is sy ntax:

Type usertype
elementname As rypename
e/ementname As typename

End Type

In thi s syntax displ ay, usertype is the name yo u c hoose for the new type. Each elementname
specifies a field of data within the user-defi ned type. The elementname fo llows the same
rules of Visual Basic vari ab le names, and eac h elementname has a corresponding typename .
The typename indicates what kind of data is stored in that field. This type can include any of
the standard data types, including variable-length strings. The type also can be another user-
defi ned type that has been previously defined.

Note Other versions of Basic require that strin gs in user-defined types be fixed-length
strings . Vis ual Bas ic supports vari able-length strings (the standard condition of strings) in
user-defined types . However, Visual Basic doesn' t support arrays inside user-defi ned types .

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 17 Advanced Language Fe atures 261

The following user-defined type includes a double-precision floating-point number and two
variable-length strings. Note that fixed-length strings should be used if the type is intended
for random-access file operations:
Type StateData
Gov As String * 30
StateBird As String * 20
PerCapincome As Double
End Type

Once a user-defined type is declared in the global module, you can use the name of the type
as part of a variable declaration, just as you would with any of the standard types:
Dim I As Integer
Oim California As StateData
Dim USA (1 To 50) As St ateData

In the statements, Cal i fo r ni a is an instance of StateData, just as I is an instance of

Integer. StateData names a general type, and has no direct purpose in a program except to
declare variables. Cal i fo r ni a is an actual variable and can hold data.
To access individual fields of Cal i fo r ni a, use the point (.) notation:
variable .elementname

Far example, the following statement places the name "Cary Grant" in the Gov field:
California.Gov = "Cary Grant"

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

lnteracting with the Environment

Microsoft Windows and Presentation Manager provide access to a number of special system
resources, including the Clipboard, system time, idle-loop processing, and low-level
keyboard handling. By taking advantage of these features, you can give your applications the
extra flexibility that polished, professional applications often require.

For example, although the techniques in Chapter 1O, "Responding to Commands," cover the
most typical use of the keyboard, only the low-level keyboard handling in this chapter gives
,n, you complete access to the keyboard - including the arrow keys and the numeric keypad.
Visual Basic supports simple, direct hooks into a number of operating environment
resources. As this chapter demonstrates, it' s possible to create a useful digital clock
application with only one line of code. Small enhancements can then tum the application
into an alarm clock or give it other custom features .
The main sections in this chapter are:
• Working with Selected Text
• U sing the Clip board Object
• Using Timer Controls
• Writing Idle Loops with DoEvents
• Writing Low-Leve.l Keyboard Handlers

264 Part 4 Adv anc ed Appl ic ations

Working with Selected Text

Text boxes a nd co mbo boxes have a seri es of p roperti es fo r selected tex t that are espec iall y
handy w he n working w ith the C li pboard, as you ' 11 see in the nex t section. These properti es
re fer to the bl ock of text selec ted (h igh li ghted) inside the co nt rol. T hey e na ble you to create
cut-and-pas te functions fo r the user. T he fo ll ow in g properties can ali be ch anged at run tim e .
Pro-perty Description
Se!Start A long integer that spec ifies the starting pos iti on of the selected
bl ock of text. If no text is selec ted , thi s property spec ifi es the
positi on of the inserti on poi nt. A se tting of O indi cates the p os iti on
just before the first c harac ter in the tex t box or combo box . A setting
egu a! to the le ngth of the text in the tex t box or combo box indi cates
the posi tio n ju sl after the last character in th e co ntro l.
Se lLength A long integer that specifies the nu mber of c harac ters selected.
Se!Text The string con taining the selected c harac ters (oran e mpty string, if
no c haracters are selected).

Yo u can actually control w hat tex t is se lected by setting the Se!Star t and SelLe ngth
properties. Far example, these statements hi ghli ght ali the tex t in a text box :
Textl.SelSta r t = 0 Start hig hlight befare f i rst c haracter.
Textl.Se ll ength = Len ( Textl .Text ) ' Highlight to end of text.

If yo u assign a new stri ng to Se lTex t. the new stri ng repl aces whatever text is se lected. T he
hi ghli ght is the n removed and th e in sertio n point is placed j ust after the e nd of the newly
in se rted text. Far example, the following statemenl replaces the se lected text with the string
'Tve just bee n inserted !":
Tex tl.SelText = " I've just been inserted !"

lf no tex t was selected , the string is simply pas ted in at the in se rt ion point.
Fa r more informati on on the Se!Start , Se!Length , and Se!Text properties, see the Language
Reference , o r:

m Search Help for:

te xt

Mic rosoft Visual Ba sic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 265

Using the Clipboard Object

The Clipboard object is one of four special objects predefined in Visual Basic. (The other
three are Screen, Printer, and Debug). The Clipboard object has no properties or events, but
it has a series of methods that enable you to transfer data to and from the environment's
Two of the most useful Clip board methods are SetText and GetText. These two methods
transfer string data to and from the Clipboard, as shown in Figure 18.1.

SetText - - - - - - - . ~

~ - - - - - - ~ , . ----GetText
Abe! _...--
- -w
Textboxes Environment

Figure 18.1 Moving data to and from the Cl ipboard with SetText and GetText

SetText copies text onto the Clipboard, replacing whatever text wa·s stored there before. You
use SetText like a statement, and its syntax is:
Clipboard.SetText data$[, format o/o ]

GetText returns text stored on the Clipboard. You use it like a function :
destination = Clipboard.GetText ( )

By combining the SetText and GetText methods with the selection properties introduced in
the previous section, you can easi ly write Copy, Cut, and Paste commands for a text box .
The following procedures implement these commands for controls named CopyCmd,
CutCmd, and PasteCmd:
Sub CopyCmd_Click ()
Clipboard.SetText Textl . SelText
End Sub

Sub CutCmd_Click ()
Clipboard.SetText Textl . SelTe xt
Textl. SelText -
End Sub

Sub PasteCmd_Click ()
Textl.SelText - Clipboard.GetText()
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

266 Part 4 Advanced Appl ications

Note The example works best if these controls are menu commands, because you can use
menus while Tex tl has the focus .

Let' s examine two of these statements. In the Copy command, the statement consists of two
components: the SetText method andan argument (Textl .SelText) passed to that method.
The statement tells Visual Basic to copy the tex t selected in Textl to the Clipboard:
Cl ipboard.SetTe xt Textl.SelText

In the Paste comrnand, the GetText method retums the string of text currently on the
Clipboard. An assignment statement then copies this string into the selected portian of the
text box (Text l. SelText). lf no text is currently selected, Visual Basic places this text at the
insertion point in the tex t box:
Textl.SelText - Clipboard .GetText( ,

This code assumes that ali text is transferred to and from the text box Textl. This may sound
li mited at first , but the user actually can copy, cut, and paste between Textl and controls on
other forrns. Because the Clipboard is shared by the entire environment, the user can transfer
text between Text 1 and any application that uses the Clipboard.
If you want the Copy, Cut, and Paste commands to work with any text box that has the
foc us, use the ActiveControl property of the Screen object. The following code provides a
reference to whichever co ntrol has the foc us:
Screen.Acti veC ontrol

You can use this fragment just like any other reference to a control. If you know that the
co ntrol is a text box , you can refer to any of the properties supported for tex t boxes,
including Text, Se!Text, and Se!Length. This code assumes that the active co ntrol is a text
box , and it refers to SetText:
Sub CopyCmd_Click ()
Clipb oard.SetText Sc reen.ActiveControl .SelText
End Sub

Sub CutCmd Click ()

Clipboa rd .SetText Screen.Acti veControl .Se l Text
Screen . Acti veControl. Sel Text
End Sub

Sub PasteCmd Cl i ck ()
Sc reen.ActiveControl .SelText Clipboard .Get Text()
End Sub

Another useful Clipboard method is Clear, which clears ali contents of the Cli pboard. The
syn tax is :

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 267

The other Clipboard methods-GetData, SetData, and GetFormat-enable you to deal

with data formats other than text. The Clip board can actually han<lle a variety of data
formats, each represented by a number recognized by GetFormat and the other methods.
These forrnats are described below, along with the corresponding number and symbolic
name defined in CONSTANT.TXT.
Name in CONSTANT.TXT Value Description
CF_LINK &HBF00 Dynarnic-data-exchange
link. U se this data forrnat to
give the user dynarnic paste-
link capability. For more
information, see Chapter 22,
"Communicating with Other
CF_TEXT 1 Text. Examples earlier in
this section all use this
CF_BITMAP 2 Bitmap.
CF_MET AFILE 3 Metafile.
CF_DIB 8 Device-independent bitmap.

The last three forrnats (bitmap, metafile, and device-independent bitmap) are all used for
transferring graphic images. For example, the following code copies a picture using bitmap
forrnat (assuming that the constant CF_BITMAP is defined as equal to 2):
Sub Copy ()
Clipboard.SetData Picturel.Picture, CF_BITMAP
End Sub

This code pastes the bitmap picture on the Clipboard into Picturel:
Sub Paste ()
Picturel.Pi ct ure - Clipboard.GetOata(CF_BITMAP)
End Sub

You can use the GetFormat method to determine whether a given data forrnat matches the
data on the Clipboard.
For more inforrnation on the Clipboard object, see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:

Clipboard object

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Part 4 Advanced Applications

Using Timer Controls

Timer controls respond to the passage of time. They are independent of the user, and you
can program them to take actions at regular intervals. A typical response is checking the
system clock to see if it is time to do sorne task. Timers also are useful for other kinds of
background processing.
Eaéh timer has an Interval property, whi ch specifies the number of milliseconds th at pass
between one timer event and the next. Unless disabled, a timer continues to receive an event
(appropriately named the Timer event) at roughly equal interval s of time.
The Interval property has a few limitations to consider when you ' re programming a timer:
• The interva1 can be between Oand 64,767 , inclusive, which means that even the longest
interva1 ca n' t be much longer th an one minute (about 64 .8 seco nds) .
• The interva l is not guaranteed to elapse exactl y on time. To ensure acc uracy, the tim er
should check the system clock when it needs to, rather than try to keep track of
accumulated time intern ally .
• The system generates 18 clock ticks per second, so even though the Interv al property is
measured in milliseconds, the true precision of an interval is no more than one-ei ghtee nth
of a second .

Every timer control must be associated with a forro . Therefore, to create a timer applicati on.
you must create at 1east one form . As explained in Chapter 15, "Creating Multiple-Form
Applicati ons," you can load a forro without maki ng it visible.

Note The word "tim er" is used in severa] ways in Visual Bas ic, eac h closely related to th e
workings of the timer co ntro l. In addition to the control name and control type, "timer" is
used in th e Timer event and the Timer fun ction . (The latter return s the number of seco nds
e lapsed since midni ght. )

Placing a Timer Control on a Form

Pl ac ing a timer co ntrol on a fo rm is like drawing any other co ntro l: Click the timer too! in
the Toolbox, and drago n a form. Or, double-click the timer too! to create a default-size
timer on the current form , as shown in Figure 18.2. The latter technique often works best,
because the size and position of the timer control don ' t matter at run time.

1m Forml Da

-~ -
. .- ~V ..

Figure 18.2 A timer control

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 269

The timer appears on the form at design time only so you can select it, view its properties,
and write an event procedure for it. At run time, a timer is invisible and its position and size
are irrelevant. In fact, it has no size or location properties.
For more information on drawing controls, see Chapter 6, "Drawing the Interface," or:

Search Help for: . . See Tutorial Lesson:

111 draw controls M uWorking with Visual Basic"

lnitializing a Timer Control

A timer control has only four properties. At design time, you should set them as follows .
Property Setting
CtlName A descriptive name for the timer.
Enabled If you want the timer to start working as soon as the form
loads, set to True (-1). Otherwise, leave this property set to
False (O) . You may choose to have an outside event (such as
a click óf a command button) start operation of the timer.
Interval Number of milliseconds between timer events.
Index Not used, unless the timer is an element of a control array.

Note that the Enabled property for the timer is different from the same property for other
objects. With most objects, the Enabled property determines whether the object can respond
to an event caused by the user. With the timer control, setting Enabled to False suspends
timer operation.
Remember that the Timer event is periodic. The Interval property doesn't determine "how
long" as much as it determines "how often." The length of the interval should depend on
how much precision you want. Because there is sorne built-in potential for error, make the
interval one-half the desired amount of precision.

Note The more often a timer event is generated, the more processor time is eaten up in
responding to the event, and this can slow down overall performance. Don't set a
particularly small interval unless you need it.

Responding to the Timer Event

When a timer control's interval elapses, Visual Basic generates the Timer event. Typically,
you respond to this event by checking sorne general condition, such as the system clock.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

270 Part 4 Advanc ed Application s

A di gital clock is a very simple but hi ghly useful application involving a timer control. Once
you understand how the application works, you can enhance it to work as an alarm clock,
stopwatch, or other timing device.
The Digital Clock application includes a label with a border, and a timer. The application
looks like Figure 18.3 at design time.

al Forml DII
llabel- 1 -~I ~ :
Figure 18.3 The Dig ital Clock Application

At run time, the picture of the timer does not ap pear.

The label' s BorderStyle property is set to " 1 -Thin," and the caption is blank. The timer's
Interval property is set to 1000, and the Enabled property is set to True (-1).
The sole procedure in the application is an event procedure for the timer:
Sub Timerl _Timer ()
Labell.Caption = Time$
End Sub

The procedure displays the system time by calling the intrinsic Time$ function. This
function retums a string showin g the current time in a convenient hh :mm:ss formal.
You can customi ze the look of the Digital Clock without having to write any addition al
statements. For exa mple, you mi ght want to select a different font for the label, or change
the BorderStyle property of the form.
The Time$ fun ction shows the time in 24-hour format , so that 11 P.M. is represented as:
23 :00:0 0

To display time in A.M .IP.M. formal, the procedure must alter the time string before copying
it to the la bel :
Sub Timerl _Timer ()
Di m MyTi me As String
Dim Hours As Integer

MyTime = Time$
Hour s = Val(MyTime)
If Hours > 12 Then Mid$(MyTime, 1, 2) Str$(Hours - 12)
Labell.Caption - MyTime
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 271

This procedure starts by storing the system time in a temporary string variable, MyTi me .
Then it extracts the first two digits :
Hours - Val(MyTime)

The Val function reads digits until it encounters a character that is not numeric: in this case,
it stops reading digits when it encounters the first colon (:), which immediately follows the
two hours digits. The function retums the numeric value of these digits. This gives you the
number of hours .
For more information on the Val function , see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


To extract minutes or seconds from a string variable, use the Mid$ function.
This statement tests to see if the number of hours is greater than 12. If so, it uses the Mid$
function to replace the first two digits with the number of hours minus 12:
If Hours > 12 Then Mid$(MyTime. 1, 2) - Str$(Hours - 12)

The Mid$ function retums a substring. The arguments to Mid$ give the string to dissect, the
starting position (in which 1 is the first character), and length of the substring on which to
operate. Therefore, Mi d$ ( MyTi me, 1, 2) refers to a substring of MyTi me that begins in
the first position and is two characters long.
For more information on the Mid$ function , see the Language Reference, or:

m Search Help for:


Building an Alarm Clock

Building an alarm clock involves only a little more programming than the Digital Clock:
The Alarm Clock application is given an alarm time, and on each clock tick, the clock
checks to see if the time has been reached. If so, it informs the user.
The alarm time is stored in a string declared in the Declarations section of the form:
Dim AlarmTime As String

To set the alarm time, the user clicks the blank portion of the forrn. (Altematively, this can
be irnplemented as a menu command oras a command button.) The procedure prompts the
user for a time by usi ng the InputBox$ statement. If the user presses the Cancel button on
the input dialog box, the lnputBox$ function r:etums an empty string. Therefore, the
procedure assigns a new value to the alarm time only if the string returned is not empty.
Sub Form_Click ()
Temp$ = InputBox$("Enter alarm time in 24-hour hh : mm: ss format:")
If Temp$ <> "" Then AlarmTime - Temp$
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

272 Part 4 Advanced Applications

The Time r event now compares the current time to the string stored in Al a rmTi me . After
updating the time di splay , the Timer event checks to see if the alarm time has been reac hed
yet. If so, it alerts the user:
Sub Timerl _Timer ()
Labell .C aption - Time$
If Time$= AlarmTime Then
Be ep: Beep: Beep
MsgBox "Alarm has sounded ."
End I f
End Sub

Thi s code works fine as long as the clock is not interrupted at th e wrong time. The
application can run in the background, and will beep and di spl ay the message box eve n
though it does n' t have the focu s. However, exec ution is suspended any time the user i~
moving the form.
If the application is not active on the same second that the alarm time is reached, the alarm is
never sounded. The following variation to the Timer event enables the Alarm Clock to report
the alarm time as soon as it can, even if execution was suspended when the time was
Sub Timerl _Timer ()
Const TRUE = - 1, FALSE = 0
Static AlarmSounded As Integer

Labell.Ca ption = Time$

If AlarmT ime = '"' Then Exit Sub
If Time$ >= AlarmTime and Not AlarmSounded Then
Beep : Beep: Beep
MsgBox "Alarm has sounded. "
AlarmSoun ded - TRUE
Elself Time$ < AlarmTime Then
AlarmSo und ed = FALSE
End I f
End Sub

In thi s ve rsion , the procedure tests to see if the current time is greater than or egu a! to alarm
time. Thi s way the application can detect whether the alarm should go off, even if it is
returnin g from a suspended state and was not ac tive at the alarm time. The stati c variable
Al a rmSounded ensures that the alarm goes off only once in each 24- hour cyc le.

Note The examples in this secti on ass ume 24- hour formal for the time. However, yo u can
rewrite them to adopt A.M./P.M . format usi ng th e techniques shown at the e nd of the
previous section . When using a different formal, store the alarm time intern ally in th e
standard 24-hour format (for ease of co mparison to Time$). Then convert for A.M./P.M .
on ly when ge ttin g input or di splaying output.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programm er's Guide

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 273

Writing ldle Loops with DoEvents

Normally, Visual Basic executes statements only in response to events. The time between
events is referred to as "idle time."
You can write a loop that executes statements only when nothing else in the environment
requires immediate attention. Such a loop is sometimes called an idle loop. In most cases,
you should design your applications around events rather than writing idle loops.
But if you do need certain statements or calculations to be performed continually, you
definitely should use an idle loop. Unless restricted to idle time, an indefinite loop takes over
the processor and doesn't permit other parts of the environment to respond to events. This
makes the whole environment unresponsive.

.,.;ortant Multitasking in Microsoft Windows is not preemptive. Thi s means that Windows depends
on each individual application to yield time voluntarily before it can service another

To write an idle loop, add a module to the project and place a procedure called Main there.
This has the effect of making this module the startup module. (As a result, no form is
automatically loaded on startup, so you may need to use Load statements.) Write a Do
While loop that uses the DoEvents function :
Sub Main ()
Forml.Show • Optionally, you can lo ad and di s play a form.
Do While DoEvents()
' Place idle-loop code here.
' These statements are processed whenev e r t he sys tem has free time.
End Sub

An idle loop might be useful in a communications program (for example, a stock market
ticker) that continually monitors data. Another use of a DoEvents loop is creating an alarm
clock, though a timer control is more appropriate for doing that.
The DoEvents function switches control over to the operating environment kernel. It retums
as so,on as ali other applications in the environment have had a chance to respond to pending
events . This doesn't cause the current application to give up the focus , but it does enable
background events to be processed. For example, if the Alarm Clock application from the
previous section is running in the background, calling DoEvents gives the clock a chance to
update its display .
DoEvents retums the number of forms in the application that are currently loaded. In the
code example above, the DoEvents loop terminates when no forms are loaded. Also note
that if any procedure anywhere in your application executes the End statement, all code in
your application terminates unconditionally.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

zn Part 4 Advanced Applications

To call DoEvents, you must store the retum value somewhere. lf you don't want to use the
value, store the return value in a dummy variable:
Dummy - DoEvents() ' Relinquish time to other applications.

DoEvents is useful if you have a long mathematical calculation, and you don ' t want to slow
down the responsiveness of the environment. However, be careful when using DoEvents
thróughout your application. A procedure that has given up control with DoEvents must not
be executed again before DoEvents retums. Otherwise, the procedure may end up being
called endlessly, until system resources are exhausted.
For example, this procedure tests for prime numbers, and uses DoEvents to periodically
enable other applications to process events:
Function PrimeStatus (TestVal As Long) As In t eger
Co nst TRUE = - 1 . FAL SE - 0
Dim Lim As Integer

PrimeStatus - TRUE
Lim = Sqr (TestVal)
For I = 2 To Lim
If TestVal Mod I - 0 Then
PrimeStatus - FALSE
Exit Far
End I f
If I Mod 200 = 0 Then Dummy = DoE vents()
Next I
End Function

The second-to-last line calls DoEvents once evcry 200 iterations. This statement allows the
PrimeStatus Function procedure to continue calculations as long as needed while the rest of
the environment responds to events.
With this example, you must ensure that PrimeStatu s is not called again before DoEvents
returns . Consider what happens during a DoEvents call . Execution of application code is
suspended while other forms and application s process events . One of these events rnight be a
button click that launches the PrimeStatus procedure again. This would cause PrimeStatus to
be re-entered before DoEvents could return .

Mic rosoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 275

The solution is to prevent this from happening. For example, if the PrimeStatus Function
procedure is launched by a click on a command button, then don't make it possible for
PrimeStatus to be called again until it retums. The code for this command button might be:
Sub StartPrimeTest_Click ()
Const TRUE - - 1, - FALSE - 0
Static AmCalculatingNow As Integer

If AmCalculatingNow Then Exit Sub

N - Val (Readout)
AmCalculatingNow - TRUE
TestResult - PrimeStatus (N)
AmCalculatingNow - FALSE
End Sub

One of the effects of DoEvents is to give forms and windows a chance to respond to Paint
events, so DoEvents can be used to update the display. However, because of the
complications just described, DoEvents is not the safest way to cause screen updates. Use
the Refresh method instead. For more information on the Refresh method, see the
Language Reference, or:

Search Help for:

111 Refresh

Writing Low-Level Keyboard Handlers

The KeyDown and KeyUp events provide the lowest level of keyboard response. Use these
events to detecta condition that the KeyPress event is unable to detect, including:
• Special combinations of SHIFT, CTRL, and ALT keys.
• Arrow keys. Note that sorne controls (command buttons, option buttons, check boxes) do
not get arrow key events. Instead, arrow keys cause movement to another control.
• Distinguishing the numeric keypad from numbers on the typewriter keys.
• Responding to a key being released as well as pressed (KeyPress responds only to a key
being pressed).
• Function keys not attached to menu commands.

Before writing a low-level keyboard handler, make sure that the KeyPress event isn't
sufficient. This event detects keys that correspond to all the standard ASCII characters,
including all alphanumeric keys anda number of others, including BACKSPACE, ENTER, and
TAB. It's generally easier to write code for the KeyPress event.
You also should consider using shortcut and access keys, described at the end of Chapter 10,
"Responding to Commands." Shortcut keys must be attached to menu commands, but they
can include function keys (including sorne function-key- shift-key combinations). These
keys have the virtue of requiring no additional code.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

276 Part 4 Advanced Applications

KeyDown and KeyUp Compared with KeyPress

The KeyDown and KeyUp events provide inforrnation in a different forro from the KeyPress
event. This is because KeyDown and KeyUp report the exact physical state of the keyboard
itself. These events do not interpret the keyboard state; you have to do that yourself.
The KeyPress event, in contrast, does not report the state of the keyboard directly. Instead, it
supplies a generated character.
An example helps to illustrate the difference. When the user types uppercase "A," the
KeyPress event gets the ANS I code for "A." The same thing happens when the user types
lowercase "a." In contrast, the KeyPress event sees these two keys as two separate
The KeyDown event returns information on the character typed by providing the following
two arguments.
Argument Description
KeyCode Indicates the physical key pressed. In this case, "A" and "a"
are retumed as the same key. They have the identical
KeyCode value. But note that "1" on the typewriter keys and
" 1" on the numeric keypad are returned as different keys,
even though they generate the same character.
Shift Indicates the shift-key state. Only by examining this
argument can you determine whether an uppercase or
lowercase letter was typed.

The keyboard even ts are not mutuall y exclusive. When the user presses a key, both the
Key Down and KeyPress events are ge nerated .

The KeyDown and KeyUp Events

Only the obj ect th at has the foc us can get a keyboard event. This includes KeyPress,
KeyDown , and KeyUp. For the purpose of keyboard events, a form has the foc us only if the
form is active and no control on that forro has the focus. This happens only on blank forros
and form s on which ali control s have been disabled.
For a text box with the default name Textl , the code templates for KeyDown and KeyUp
are :
Sub Text l _KeyD own (KeyCode As In t eger . Shift As Integer)

End Sub

Sub Tex tl _KeyUp (K eyCode As Int ege r. Shi ft As Integ er)

End Sub

The argument KeyCode is an integer that indicates the physical key that is pressed or
released. The key is represen ted by a numeric code found in the CONST ANT.TXT fil e.

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Chapter 18 lnteracting with the Environment 277

The argument Shift is a bit-field argument (similar to the ones introduced in Chapter 14,
"Responding to Mouse Events") that retums the state of the SHIFf, CTRL, and ALT keys at the
time of the keyboard event.

The KeyCode Argument

The argument KeyCode identifies a key by a numeric code. You can load the definitions
from CONSTANT.TXT into the global module, or you can place selected key-code
definitions in a procedure or Declarations section of a form or module. If you don't place the
definitions in the global module, remove the keyword Global from the statement.
For example, sorne of the function-key codes are defined as:
Const KEY _Fl - &H70
Const KEY _F2 = &H71
Const KEY - F3 = &H72
Const KEY_ F4 - &H73
Const KEY - F5 - &H74

Key codes for letter keys are the same as the ANSI codes of the uppercase character of the
letter. So the KeyCode for both "A" and "a" is the value returned by Asc("A"). Key codes
for the number and punctuation keys are the same as the ANSI code of the number on the
key. So the KeyCode for both "l" and "!" is the value retumed by Asc("l"). Again, numeric
keypad keys are separate. They have their own special codes, as indicated in the file
For example, this procedure quits the application when the user presses F2:

Sub Te xtl _Key Oown (KeyCode As Integer, Shift As Integer)

Const KEY _F2 = &H71
If KeyCode - KEY_ F2 Then End
End Sub

For more information on ANSI codes, see the Language Reference.

The Shift Argument

The argument Shift is nearly the same as the Shift introduced in Chapter 14. This argument
returns the state of three keys-SHIFf, CTRL, and ALT-in the three least-significant bits.
The three keys correspond to the bit pattems 001, 010, and 100 respectively. To test for a
specific shift-key state, declare the following constants:
Const SHIFTKEY = 1
Const CTRL - 2
Const ALT = 4

You then can test for each shift-key state that you're interested in:
ShiftOown% = (Shift And SHIFTKEY) > 0
CtrlOown% = (S hift And CTRL) > 0
AltOown% - (S hi ft And ALT) > 0

Microsoft Visual Basíc Programmer's Guíde

278 Part 4 Advanced Applications

This procedure responds to the combination SHIFr+ALT+F2 by quitting the application:

Sub Textl _KeyDown (KeyCode As Integer, Shift As Integer)
Const SHIFTKEY - 1
Const CTRL - 2
Const ALT - 4
Const KEY _ F2 - &H71

ShiftDown% - (Shift And SHIFTKEY) > 0

AltDown% - (Shift And ALT) > 0
F2Down% - (KeyCode - KEY_ F2)

If Shift Down% And AltDown% And F2Down% Then End

End Sub

Note To improve readability and maintenance of your code, place ali the Shift and KeyCode
arguments in the global module.

Writing a General Keyboard Handler

Each KeyDown and KeyUp event is attached to a specific object. To write a keyboard
handler that applies to all objects on the form, write a general procedure that serves as the
form-wide keyboard handler, and then have each KeyDown procedure (or KeyUp procedure,
if appropriate) call the comrnon handler.
For example, for a form with two controls, you might have each object call a general
procedure named KeyDownHandler. Each KeyDown procedure passes along the arguments
KeyCode and Shift:
Sub Textl _KeyDown (KeyCode As Integer, Shift As Integer)
KeyDownHandler KeyCode, Shift
End Sub

Sub Picturel_KeyDown (KeyCode As Integer, Shift As Integer)

KeyDownHandler KeyCode, Shift
End Sub

Su b Form_KeyDown (KeyCode As Integer, Shift As Integer )

KeyDownHandler KeyCode, Shift
End Sub

The KeyDownHandler procedure itself actually responds to the keyboard conditions:

Sub KeyDownHandler (KeyCode As Integer, Shift As Integer)
Const Key_ F2 - &H71
If KeyCode - Key _F2 Then End
End Sub

Microsoft Visual Basic Programmer's Guide

Handling Run-Time Errors

You ' ve probably noticed that Visual Basic does a good job of catching errors that creep into
your code as you write. Visual Basic often warns you immediately if you have entered a line
of code that contains a syntax error. Similarly, Visual Basic provides tools for analyzing
code and isolating prograrn logic errors.
There are other errors that only appear when your code is running. These are called run-time


• •
•• ••
• ••

280 Part 4 Advanced Applications

Why Use Error Handling?

Ideally, applications don ' t need any error-handling code. Unfortunately, we live in a world