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Chapter 13

Interacting with Objects and ActiveX Controls

YesterChapter's lesson covered HTML forms and the intrinsic controls that give the form its usefulness. For some of you, the lesson may have been a refresher; for others, it may have served as an introduction. Whatever the case, you now have a foundation with which to explore more advanced objects and controls. In a continuing effort to design the killer app, I think you will find these advanced objects a perfect addition to your Web toolbox. The objects and controls that are discussed in this lesson enable you to build a more effective and interactive interface for the user. By using these objects in your application, you can design an application that truly accomplishes its purpose while providing a rich and rewarding experience for the user.

The first part of the lesson provides an overview of objects. The lesson explains the concept of objects and provides a basic definition to serve as a foundation for the rest of the Chapter. You then receive an introduction to Java applets. This introduction will focus mainly on the purpose of Java applets and how they can be incorporated into your Visual InterDev application.

Next, you are introduced to ActiveX controls. Because Visual InterDev includes many ActiveX controls, most of the lesson focuses on ActiveX controls and technology. The lesson first provides an ActiveX overview. Then you are given an in-depth tour of the HTML Layout Editor. You discovered this editor when you built an application on Chapter 4, "Creating Your First Visual InterDev Application." In toChapter's lesson, you learn how to use the HTML Layout Editor to construct an interface based on ActiveX controls. The final treatise for the Chapter unveils some of the more common ActiveX controls that can be used with Visual InterDev. This section introduces you to the controls that are included with Visual InterDev. On Chapter 15, "Integrating Objects into Your Applications," you learn how to use these objects and controls in your applications.

Object Overview

YesterChapter, you learned about HTML forms. You discovered that a form is comprised of intrinsic controls that are an inherent part of HTML. These controls provide basic functionality for your application. ToChapter's lesson extends the discourse to extrinsic controls and objects, which also were defined yesterChapter. Extrinsic controls are external to HTML and can be used to provide additional functionality to your application.

You will recognize some of the extrinsic objects and controls because they're similar in name and purpose to HTML intrinsic controls. You also will discover new and exciting controls that enable you to enhance the look and feel of your application. All the extrinsic controls usually provide more functionality than their intrinsic control brethren. ToChapter's lesson begins by declaring a definition of objects to provide a good starting point for this lesson.

Defining Objects

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word object in the following manner:

1. Something perceptible by the senses; a material thing.


2.
A focus of attention or action.


3
The purpose of a specific action.


4.
A noun that receives or is affected by the action of a verb or that follows and is governed by a preposition.

Objects definitely provide a sensory experience for the user. You may not be able to smell ob-jects, but you can definitely see and hear them. The second and third definitions of an object mention that objects are the "focus" and "purpose" of "attention or action." While the author of the dictionary might not have considered Java applets or ActiveX controls when scripting this definition, it can certainly be applied to these objects. The objects that you integrate into your application become the "object" of the user's attention and actions. Objects facilitate interaction between the user and your application. You can use objects and controls to complement, supplement, and complete your application interface.


NOTE: During toChapter's lesson as well as future lessons, I use the terms objects and controls almost synonymously to refer to items that are placed on a web page to enable the user to perform some function. Where necessary, I explicitly cite where an item is referred to solely as an object or a control.

Now that you understand the definition of an object, it's time to examine two of the most common types of objects--Java applets and ActiveX controls.

Introduction to Java Applets

Java applets are an integral component of the Internet both in name and in function. Java applets are derived from the Java programming language developed by Sun Microsystems, Inc. The biggest benefit of the Java language is its support for cross-platform development. You can develop an applet or application with Java to support different client platforms. The Java program will, in theory, execute in the same manner on both the Windows 95 platform and an Apple Macintosh, for example.

I mentioned that you can develop both applets and applications with Java. You received an explanation about the difference between a Java applet and application during the first week. As a reminder, applets are embedded in a web page and execute within the context of a browser. The browser must support Java to be able to execute the program. Java applications are executable programs that run independently of any browser or other program. Because the theme for toChapter centers on using objects in your web pages, this section focuses on Java applets.


NOTE: ToChapter's lesson as well as Chapter 15 focuses on the explanation, use, and integration of objects such as Java applets and ActiveX controls into your Visual InterDev application. It is beyond the scope of this guide to teach you how to build a Java applet. You will, however, learn how to build an ActiveX control during the lesson on Chapter 16, "Building Design-Time ActiveX Controls."

How Do Java Applets Work?

I mentioned that Java applets execute within the context of a browser. It's high time you knew a little more about the interaction between the browser and a Java applet. First, a user requests a certain web page. The HTML document is sent from the web server to the browser on the client machine. If the browser detects a Java applet embedded in the document, the browser requests the individual applet. The browser detects the applet by discovering the <APPLET> tag within the HTML document. The <APPLET> tag is covered in the next section. The applet is distributed to the client machine in the form of bytecodes. The browser interprets these bytecodes with the help of a Java runtime interpreter and executes the applet program. Figure 13.1 visually depicts this process.

Figure 13.1.

Executing a Java applet.

As you can see, the process of using a Java applet is highly interactive. Good communication between the client browser and the web server is paramount. The next section explains how to define an applet and explain its basic attributes.

Understanding Java Applets

The basic tag to define an applet is the <APPLET> tag. This tag is supported by the HTML 3.2 standard and enables you to insert an applet into an HTML document. The syntax for using the <APPLET> tag is as follows:

<APPLET [CODEBASE="URL"] CODE="applet" [ALT="alternate text"] 
[NAME="appletInstanceName"] WIDTH="nPixels" HEIGHT="nPixels" 

[ALIGN="alignment"] [VSPACE="nPixels"] [HSPACE="nPixels"]>

As you can tell from the syntax, the only parameters required for inserting an applet into a web page are the CODE, WIDTH, and HEIGHT attributes. The following sections explain each of these parameters.


NOTE: The <APPLET> tag is the HTML standard for referencing Java applets. Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, supports the use of the <OBJECT> tag for inserting Java applets into a web page. The <OBJECT> tag is covered in a later section entitled "ActiveX Overview." Keep in mind that you can use either tag to insert a Java applet into a web page.

CODEBASE

The CODEBASE attribute is an optional parameter that enables you to specify the URL location of the applet code. The browser uses the web page document's URL by default if this parameter isn't included. The browser uses this parameter to locate the code for the applet after it realizes that the web page document contains an applet.

CODE

The CODE attribute indicates the name of the compiled applet program to be used with the web page. The syntax for referencing the applet is as follows:

<APPLET CODE="Applet.class">

Notice that the applet has a suffix of .class. This suffix is the standard naming convention for Java applets. In this example, "Applet.class" represents the applet code that will be executed within the context of the browser. The file must be located either in the same directory as the HTML document or in the URL directory that you specify using the CODEBASE attribute.

ALT

The ALT attribute enables you to provide alternate text to display for browsers that cannot execute Java applets. This attribute is an optional parameter for the <APPLET> tag. In these cases, the browser understands the <APPLET> tag and recognizes its inability to process the applet code. Given this scenario, the browser uses the ALT attribute to present the alternate text to the user. The value of this attribute is a string of text enclosed within quotes, as shown in the following line of code:

<APPLET CODE="Applet.class" ALT="I'm sorry. I don't do JAVA!">

NAME

The NAME attribute is an optional parameter that enables you to specify an instance name for the applet. This attribute is useful for web pages that include multiple applets on the same page. These applets use the instance name to communicate with each other. Also, the instance name is used by scripting code to reference the web page applet and its attributes.

A brief discussion about instances is warranted here. As you probably can tell from some of the examples in this guide, I am a huge sports fan. I think sports can be applied to any subject, even object-oriented programming. Without going into great detail about Java and object-oriented concepts, I would like to give a sports analogy to help explain a class instance.

Basketball is one of my favorite sports. When I think of the word basketball, I form a mental picture of its color, shape, form, and function. In other words, I recognize its attributes, purpose, and capabilities. I cannot take advantage of the basketball or use it simply by contemplating its value. I must do something with it.

A basketball at the local sporting goods store could be used to describe a Java applet class. You and I both know the purpose of the basketball as it sits on the shelf. I can't do something with the basketball until I go down to the store and purchase it. Then, when I refer to my basketball, I can do something with it, like shoot a three-point shot or perform a slam dunk. Just like the basketball, a Java applet that has been developed has a defined purpose. It is not until I create an instance of the applet in my web page that I can truly enjoy the benefits of the program. The NAME attribute enables me to provide an instance name for referencing the applet within the context of my application. For example, I could use script code to extend the functionality of the applet. In my script code, I would use the instance name to reference the applet.

WIDTH and HEIGHT

The WIDTH attribute is used to specify the width of the display area for the applet measured in number of pixels. The HEIGHT attribute indicates the height of the applet display area and also is measured in number of pixels. These parameters are required. The following line of code provides an example of specifying the width and height for an applet:

<APPLET CODE="Applet.class" WIDTH=250 HEIGHT=200>

ALIGN

You can use the ALIGN attribute to indicate the alignment for the applet. This attribute is an optional parameter of the <APPLET> tag. The valid values for this attribute include left, right, middle, absmiddle, texttop, baseline, bottom, and absbottom. The ALIGN attribute and its alignment values are similar in nature to that of images. You can use the ALIGN attribute to specify the layout and alignment of the applet in relation to the rest of the content for the web page.

VSPACE and HSPACE

The VSPACE attribute defines spacing in terms of pixels above and below the applet. The HSPACE attribute defines spacing to the left and right of the applet. The HSPACE attribute also is measured in terms of pixels. These attributes are similar to their <IMG> tag brethren.

Using Parameters with Java Applets

Most applets use parameters to establish values for the applet's properties and attributes. You can supply these parameters when the applet is loaded into the web page. The syntax for supplying applet parameters is as follows:

<PARAM NAME="appletParamName" VALUE="appletParamValue">

appletParamName is the name of a parameter for the applet, and appletParamValue is the value to be supplied to the applet. The following code sample demonstrates an example of using parameters with an applet.

<APPLET CODE="NervousText.class WIDTH=400 HEIGHT=100>

<PARAM NAME="Text" VALUE="This text shakes!">

This example uses the Nervous Text applet and defines the width and height to 400 and 100 pixels respectively. The Nervous Text applet contains the Text parameter which is set to "This text shakes!" in the example. You should notice that the parameter name is specified, as well as the value for the parameter.

ActiveX Overview

The other Chapter I was recalling the first time I used a Visual Basic control, which was the Grid control included with Visual Basic 1.0. Controls have progressed tremendously since the old VBX Chapters. Microsoft now provides users with a new kind of control--the ActiveX control. In an effort to keep up with this fast-paced world, Microsoft has built all their products to be active--Active Server, Active Documents, Active Server Pages, and ActiveX controls, just to name a few. Just as OLE controls replaced the VBX controls, ActiveX controls are currently the new kid on the block.

You can use ActiveX controls to build a dynamic and interactive interface for your client-server or Web-based application. The ability to integrate ActiveX controls into a web page without a lot of overhead gives these controls their new and improved name. These controls are ideal for using over the Internet and the Web. ActiveX controls basically enable you to provide a dynamic interface for a user to interact with your application. ActiveX controls are similar in purpose to Java applets and HTML form controls. In fact, some ActiveX controls have the same name as the HTML form controls that you learned about yesterChapter. ActiveX controls are much more robust, as you will discover on Chapter 15.

Understanding ActiveX Controls

Many ActiveX controls exist on the market. These controls have been developed by Microsoft as well as third-party software vendors. Independent developers such as yourself also have developed their own custom ActiveX controls and made them available for use by Web and client-server developers. ActiveX controls can be inserted into a web page using the <OBJECT> tag. The attributes and parameters to include an ActiveX control into a web page differ slightly for each control, but Table 13.1 outlines the basic attributes that can be used to define all ActiveX controls.

Table 13.1. The <OBJECT> tag attributes for ActiveX controls.

Attribute Description
CLASSID Unique identifier for the ActiveX control
ID Instance name of the ActiveX control
HEIGHT Specifies the height of the control
WIDTH Specifies the width of the control
ALIGN Specifies the alignment and placement of the control
HSPACE Defines the left and right margin around the control
VSPACE Defines the top and bottom margin around the control

The following sections explain each of the attributes for the <OBJECT> tag.

CLASSID

The CLASSID attribute represents the key to unlock the power of an ActiveX control. The CLASSID, or class identifier, explains the implementation of the control to the browser. In other words, the CLASSID helps the browser identify the type of control contained within the web page. Once the ActiveX control has been identified, the browser realizes the characteristics and behavior of the control.

Every ActiveX control contains a unique class identifier. The CLASSID consists of characters and numbers. The following example displays the class identifier for a command button:

CLASSID="CLSID:D7053240-CE69-11CD-A777-00DD01143C57">

You may be wondering how the browser can interpret these characters. The CLASSID is linked to an entry in the Windows registration database. The entry in the Registry, in turn, points to the code for the ActiveX control.


TIP: You can locate the CLASSID by its filename in the Windows Registry under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT. You also can look in the CLSID section of HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT in the Registry.

You also could use the CODEBASE attribute that was discussed in the previous section concerning Java applets to specify the location of an ActiveX control. Remember, this attribute enables you to indicate a URL address location for the object. In the case of ActiveX controls, the browser downloads the ActiveX control to the web page. As the browser downloads the ActiveX control, the control automatically registers itself on the client machine.


NOTE: The more popular browsers enable you to designate what kind of controls and content can be executed on the client machine. These browser security options control the ability of an ActiveX control to register itself and run on the client machine.

ID

The ID attribute basically refers to the instance of the object. You use the ID attribute to refer to and access the properties and methods of the control within your code. The ID provides a name for you to use when communicating with the control. For example, man could be analogous to an object. When you hear the word man, you instantly think of the basic characteristics of a man. You wouldn't refer to a male friend of yours as man. You would communicate with him by using his first name. In my case, you would refer to me as Mike. I am an instance of the man object; therefore, my ID attribute is equal to Mike. Likewise, the ID helps you identify the instance of the ActiveX control within your code.

HEIGHT and WIDTH

These attributes are similar to the HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes that are used with the <APPLET> tag. The HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes for the <OBJECT> tag enable you to specify the size for the ActiveX control. The area that you specify basically defines the size of the placeholder for the control on the web page. You can designate the value of both the HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes in number of pixels as depicted in the following example:

WIDTH=240 HEIGHT=240

You also can specify the attributes as a percentage of the screen size, as denoted in the following example:

WIDTH=50% HEIGHT=50%

ALIGN

The ALIGN attribute enables you to design the alignment of the control in relation to the rest of the content on the page. You can use most of the same values that you used for the similar Java applet attribute.

HSPACE and VSPACE

The VSPACE attribute defines spacing in terms of pixels above and below the ActiveX control. The HSPACE attribute defines spacing to the left and right of the control. The HSPACE attribute also is measured in terms of pixels. These attributes are similar in nature to their applet counterparts. You can specify the values for these attributes in terms of a percentage of the screen.

Using Parameters with ActiveX Controls

Just like Java applets, you can use parameters to specify certain values for an ActiveX control. The format for the PARAM attribute is the same as the syntax for the <APPLET> tag. The syntax for setting the value of ActiveX control parameters is as follows:

<PARAM NAME="objectParamName" VALUE="objectParamValue">

objectParamName is the name of the parameter, and objectParamValue specifies the value for the parameter.

Using the Attributes to Define an ActiveX Control

Now that you have learned about the attributes for an ActiveX control, it's time to look at an example of a command button. The following example shows the definition for a command button:

<OBJECT ID="cmdSubmit" WIDTH=96 HEIGHT=32
CLASSID="CLSID:D7053240-CE69-11CD-A777-00DD01143C57">
<PARAM NAME="Size" VALUE="2540;846">
<PARAM NAME="FontCharSet" VALUE="0">
<PARAM NAME="FontPitchAndFamily" VALUE="2">
<PARAM NAME="ParagraphAlign" VALUE="3">
</OBJECT>

This example demonstrates an object declaration for a command button, or push button. You can see that the ID attribute is set to cmdSubmit. The cmd prefix adheres to the naming standard for command buttons. The WIDTH and HEIGHT also are specified for the control. The second line of the declaration depicts the CLASSID for the command button. I think you will agree that cmdSubmit is a lot more intuitive than CLSID:D7053240-CE69-11CD-A777-00DD01143C57. In this example, four parameters also are depicted for the command button. ActiveX controls can consist of a variety of parameters. You can assign values to these parameters, which supply attributes and characteristics that help define the appearance and behavior of a control.

Visualizing ActiveX Controls

So far, you have learned about the tags and attributes that enable you to define Java applets and ActiveX controls. The previous example demonstrated how to use the <OBJECT> tag to define an ActiveX control. You might be thinking, "Visual InterDev should provide an easier way to define a control rather than using tags and attributes. After all, the name of the tool is VISUAL InterDev." Don't worry, Visual InterDev lives up to its name regarding the integration of controls into your web pages. Visual InterDev provides two robust editors to accomplish this task. These editors provide very visual and intuitive methods for placing controls on your web page.

The following sections introduce and explain the HTML Layout Editor. Visual InterDev includes this tool to provide a better and easier way to integrate your controls into your web page. This editor removes you from the process of having to remember tags and attributes to define a control. The knowledge that you have gained concerning object tags and attributes is still very valuable. It is always better to know what is taking place behind the scenes. You also will be able to use your knowledge of tags and attributes to interpret the HTML file once you have used one of the visual editors to insert ActiveX controls into your web page.

The other editor is the Object Editor. You can use this editor to insert ActiveX controls directly into your web page. The Object Editor should be used for placing no more than a few controls on a web page. There are some limitations that will be explored concerning the use of this editor when designing an elaborate interface that uses many controls.

Both of these Visual InterDev editors provide an intuitive way to work with objects. Both editors support the use of client-side script to access and extend the power of ActiveX controls. The following sections teach you how to use the features of both the HTML Layout Editor and the Object Editor.

The HTML Layout Editor

You were introduced to the HTML Layout Editor during the first week, and you used it to create a layout consisting of ActiveX controls during the lesson on Chapter 4. YesterChapter, you learned that a form provides a house for your HTML controls. The lesson made the point that HTML controls derive their meaning and usefulness in the context of a form. In a similar manner, you can use an HTML layout to integrate multiple ActiveX controls into your web page. The layout provides purpose and order to the controls. The HTML Layout Editor also makes it easier for you to develop and work with the various controls on your web page. This section explains the basic features of the HTML Layout Editor.


NOTE: As you learn how to use ActiveX controls and the Layout Editor, reflect on yesterChapter's lesson and how HTML forms and controls compare to ActiveX controls. You also should consider the development process for each.

Exploring the Process

If you have used the Microsoft ActiveX Control Pad, you are already familiar with this editor. The HTML Layout Editor provides a tool to build form layouts that contain ActiveX controls. The editor is similar to other visual tools that you may have used in the past to build a graphical user interface. The method for building your interface uses the same process as tools such as Visual Basic. You select the controls that you want to use from a toolbox and place them onto a form. Once you accurately position these objects onto your form, you set their properties to define their behavior and characteristics. You can then use methods specific to a control to perform certain tasks. Every ActiveX control contains unique properties and methods. You can use the HTML Layout Editor to define the value of the control's properties. The methods for a control enable you to affect the behavior of a control.

New Term: Properties define the appearance and behavior of a control. Every control has a unique set of properties that pertains to the control.

New Term: Methods enable you to perform a specific function on the object. Every object has a defined set of methods that relate to the control. A method is a pre-defined procedure for the object that you can use in your code.

An ActiveX control also contains certain events that are specific to the control. You can associate script code with the events for the controls in your interface. When an event occurs for the control, the script executes.

Using the HTML Layout Editor

This section explores how to use the HTML Layout Editor to create a user interface for your web page. To create an HTML layout, select the File menu and choose New from the list of menu items. Select HTML Layout from the list of items in the File tab of the New dialog window. You also will need to enter a name for your HTML layout, as shown in Figure 13.2.

Figure 13.2.

Creating an HTML layout.

You can see that the Add to project checkbox is selected, and the project name defaults to the currently opened project. The location defaults to the directory for the default project.


NOTE: You can deselect the Add to project checkbox to create an independent HTML layout. You also can change the project name and directory for the HTML layout.

When you click the OK push button, an HTML layout file is created, and the HTML Layout Editor is activated and displayed as illustrated in Figure 13.3.

Figure 13.3.

The HTML Layout Editor.

As you can see from the example, the HTML Layout Editor provides a form to place your controls as well as a toolbox that contains basic ActiveX controls. You also can see the HTML Layout toolbar. This floating toolbar can be docked on the main Visual InterDev toolbar. You will notice that a file called Order.alx has been created in the project workspace. The .alx extension identifies the file as an HTML layout.

You can adjust the properties for the HTML layout by clicking the right mouse button anywhere on the layout to display the shortcut menu. Choose the Properties menu item to adjust the ID, height, width, and background color of the layout. Figure 13.4 shows the properties window for a sample HTML layout.

Notice that the BackColor property contains a cryptic code for its value as well as three small dots to the right of this code. The code defines the background color for the layout. The three dots save you from having to memorize all the codes for the possible colors. When you click the dots, the Color dialog window displays, as shown in Figure 13.5.

As you can see, you are presented with a color palette from which you can choose a defined color for the layout. You also can create a custom color for the layout background. The ID defines a name for the layout that you can use to reference the layout within your code.

Figure 13.4.

Setting the properties for an HTML layout.

Figure 13.5.

The Color dialog window.

Adding ActiveX Controls to Your Layout

Once you have created an HTML layout, you can add ActiveX controls to build the interface. Click a control in the toolbox and move your mouse to the desired position for the control on the form. Click the left mouse button on the form to create a control with a default size. You also can hold down the left mouse button and drag the mouse to define a custom size for the control. You were first introduced to this process on Chapter 4.

Once you have placed the control on the form, you can customize the properties for the control. For example, you could place a label onto a form and edit its properties, as shown in Figure 13.6.

Figure 13.6.

Setting the properties for a label.

As you can see, there are a lot more properties for a label than for a layout. You can set the height, width, top and left alignment, caption, font size, and so on. You also will want to define a descriptive name to reference the control. The ID property is used for defining this attribute. The naming convention for a label control contains the lbl prefix. For example, the ID for a label for the name text box should be called lblName.

You can easily move the controls on the layout to ensure their proper placement. You also can graphically drag the corners of a control to alter its size. If you need to move multiple controls, you can click the first control and then hold down the Shift key and click the other controls. This method enables you to select multiple controls at a time and move the controls as a group. You also can select multiple controls at a time and set the correlating properties for the controls. For instance, you could select three labels that were placed vertically on a form and set the Left property for the controls to be the same. To do this, you use the method presented previously to select the three controls. With the three controls selected, click the right mouse button and choose Properties from the shortcut menu. A Properties window is displayed for the controls. You can then set the value of the Left property for the controls. Figure 13.7 depicts this dialog window.

Figure 13.7.

Setting the properties for multiple controls.

Notice that the value that you enter applies to all three controls. The label controls are then displayed and aligned, as seen in Figure 13.8.

Figure 13.8.

Aligning the labels on a form.

Customizing the Toolbox

You were introduced to the HTML Layout Editor toolbox in Figure 13.3. This example displayed the default controls for the toolbox. You can add more controls to the toolbox by clicking the right mouse button on the toolbox. Choose Additional Controls from the shortcut menu to display a list of additional controls, as illustrated in Figure 13.9.

Figure 13.9.

Adding controls to your toolbox.

The Additional Controls dialog window displays all the ActiveX controls that have been registered on your client machine. You can choose the controls you want to add to the toolbox by clicking the checkbox to the right of the desired controls and clicking OK.

You can delete controls from the toolbox as well as customize the configuration of current controls on the toolbox. To delete a control from the toolbox, right-click the mouse on the control and choose the Delete option from the list of menu items. To alter the display of a control on the toolbox, right-click the mouse on the control and select the Customize menu item. Figure 13.10 demonstrates how you can alter the way a control is displayed on the toolbox.

Figure 13.10.

The Customize Control dialog window.

You can alter the Tool Tip text for the control and the picture that is displayed in the toolbox. You can edit the current image as well as load a new image for the control.

You also can create new tabs, or pages, for the toolbox. Click the right mouse button on the Controls tab to display the toolbox shortcut menu. Figure 13.11 displays the list of options for the toolbox

Figure 13.11.

Managing the tabs in the toolbox.

Each of these options has a different function. You can use these options to further organize your ActiveX controls. Table 13.2 defines each of the menu items for managing the tabs in your toolbox.

Table 13.2. Shortcut menu options for the HTML toolbox.

Menu Item Function
New Page Creates a new tab for the toolbox
Delete Page Deletes the current tab in the toolbox
Rename Enables you to rename the current tab
Move Moves the order of the tabs
Import Page Imports a pre-defined tab page from a file
Export Page Saves a tab page to a file

Once you create the HTML layout, you can save the layout by selecting Save from the File menu. After you have saved the layout, you are ready to insert it into your HTML page.

Inserting a Layout into a Web Page

You must insert the HTML layout file into the web page to use the layout in your application. The HTML web page document uses the ALX file to refer to the layout. The ALX file contains all the information concerning the placement and characteristics of the controls as well as any script that has been included for the layout. To insert a layout into a web page, right-click the mouse button at the location in your web page document where you want the layout and choose Insert HTML Layout from the shortcut menu. A dialog window that enables you to choose the HTML layout to insert is then displayed. Figure 13.12 demonstrates an example of the Select HTML Layout dialog window.

Figure 13.12.

Selecting an HTML layout.

You can choose an HTML layout from the list in the dialog window and click OK to insert the HTML layout. Figure 13.13 depicts an example of an HTML layout as it is displayed in a web page.

To edit this layout, right-click the mouse in between the object tags for the layout and choose Edit HTML Layout from the list of menu items. The HTML Layout Editor becomes activated and opens the layout. You can then visually manipulate the properties and characteristics of your layout. Save your changes to the layout. The updates are communicated to the web page that contains the HTML layout.

Figure 13.13.

A non-visual view of the HTML layout.

The Object Editor

The Object Editor provides the other visual editor for inserting ActiveX controls into your web page. The Object Editor is best used for individual controls that you want to include on your web page. Whereas the HTML Layout Editor enables you to manage multiple controls on a form, the object editor is used for managing one control at a time. You cannot place controls on top of controls with the Object Editor as you can with the HTML Layout Editor. For example, you might need to place a set of radio buttons on a frame for a form. Because the radio buttons are placed on top of the form, or layered, you must use the HTML Layout Editor to achieve this. The Object Editor doesn't support this kind of interface.

The Object Editor does, however, provide a robust visual editor for manipulating the properties of individual controls on a web page. The following sections outline how to insert an ActiveX control into a web page and use the Object Editor to set its properties.

Inserting an ActiveX Control into a Web Page

You can insert an ActiveX control into a web page by right-clicking the mouse at the location in the web page where you want to place the ActiveX control. Select Insert ActiveX Control from the shortcut menu. A dialog window will be displayed, enabling you to insert ActiveX and Design-time ActiveX controls. This window is displayed in Figure 13.14.

Figure 13.14.

Inserting an ActiveX control.

You then can choose a control from the Controls tab. You also can click the Design-time tab to insert a Design-time control. These controls are covered during Chapter 14, "Extending Web Pages Through Design-Time Controls." The controls that are listed in this dialog window are ones that have been registered for use on your client machine. Once you choose a control and click OK, the Object Editor is displayed along with the control that you have selected. Figure 13.15 displays a command button as it appears in the Object Editor.

Figure 13.15.

The Object Editor.

You can set the properties for this control by right-clicking the control and choosing Properties from the shortcut menu. Figure 13.16 depicts the Properties window for the command button.

Figure 13.16.

Setting the properties for the command button.

Once you have defined the properties for the control and saved the object, the ActiveX control is inserted into your web page. Figure 13.17 depicts the presence of the command button in a sample web page.

Figure 13.17.

An ActiveX control as it appears in a web page document.

Editing an ActiveX Control

To edit the ActiveX control, open the web page document and right-click the mouse within the object tags for the control that you want to edit. Select Edit ActiveX Control from the shortcut menu to display the Object Editor for the control. You can then change the properties for the control as described in the preceding section and save the updates. The changes that you make will be reflected in the web page.

ActiveX Controls at a Glance

Visual InterDev supports the use of ActiveX controls in your web pages. Many powerful and exciting ActiveX controls are included with Visual InterDev. The previous sections provided an overview of the visual editors that you can use to work with these controls. This final section for the Chapter briefly introduces you to some of the ActiveX controls that are available within the Visual InterDev environment.

A Preview of ActiveX Controls

Visual InterDev includes several controls for you to use when designing the interface for your application. These controls provide basic functionality similar to the forms controls that you discovered yesterChapter. ActiveX controls, however, offer more properties that you can set to customize the characteristics and behavior of the control. You also can use a robust set of methods and events for the controls to enliven your application. Table 13.3 outlines some of the basic controls that are available with Visual InterDev.

Table 13.3. Microsoft forms controls.

Control Description
Check Box Enables user to select one or more choices
Combo Box Enables user to enter text or select item from a list
Command Button Push button that user can press to initiate an event
Label Text typically used to describe other controls
List Box Enables user to choose one or more items from a list
Radio Button Enables user to select one choice from a group of items
Scroll Bar Enables the user to set the value of another control by scrolling in some direction
Spin Button Enables user to change a number by clicking one of the arrows
Tab Strip Presents a tabbed dialog window to the user that groups related controls
Text Box Enables the user to enter a single line of text
Toggle Button Displays whether a control is selected

There also are some very specific ActiveX controls that have been developed especially for the Internet. These controls are relatively new and enable you to build an interface for your application that is truly tailored to the Web. Table 13.4 depicts some ActiveX controls that are specifically geared to the Web.

Table 13.4. Web-based controls.

Control Description
Hot Spot Represents an area on a page that can trigger an event
Image Displays an image to the user
Marquee Enables you to place scrolling text onto a web page
New Item Enables you to denote new items on a page
Preloader Enables you to load a control's URL into the client computer's cache and download the control when necessary
Stock Ticker Provides a stock ticker for the web page that downloads dynamic data

ActiveX controls are displayed in the Visual InterDev environment if they have been downloaded and registered for use on your machine. You will get a chance to use these controls during the first part of next week.

Summary

ToChapter's lesson extends the knowledge that you gained yesterChapter concerning form controls to the wonderful world of ActiveX controls and Java applets. These advanced objects can be used to truly enrich the look and feel of your Web-based application. This lesson has served as a primer for the lesson on Chapter 15, when you will be able to apply this knowledge to building an interface for your application.

The first part of toChapter's lesson presented an overview of objects. The lesson provided a definition of an object to set the context for the Chapter. Then, you were introduced to Java applets. During this part of the lesson, you gained an understanding of the <APPLET> tag. The lesson taught you how to use this tag to insert a Java applet into your web page. You also discovered some of the attributes and parameters associated with the <APPLET> tag to define its basic characteristics. The lesson then moved on to a discussion of ActiveX controls. You received a basic overview of ActiveX controls. You also learned about the typical attributes for an ActiveX control.

The latter part of the Chapter focused on the visual editors for ActiveX controls included with Visual InterDev. The HTML Layout Editor enables you to relate, organize, and work with multiple ActiveX controls. You can create a robust form interface for your application through the use of this editor. The Object Editor is another visual editor that enables you to insert individual ActiveX controls into a web page. The final part of the lesson presented an introduction to some of the more common ActiveX controls.

Q&A

Q How can I use ActiveX controls?


A
ActiveX controls provide a robust solution for creating an interface for your application. You can use some of the more basic controls like text boxes, radio buttons, list boxes, and push buttons to create intuitive forms for your users. You also can use some of the newer controls that have been built specifically for the Web to create dynamic web pages.


Q Is ActiveX Microsoft's answer to Java


A
It is a common mistake to compare ActiveX and Java. They are complementary, not competing, standards. Java is a programming language that supports multi-platform development. ActiveX differs in that it provides objects written in a variety of languages that you can use to integrate into your application. ActiveX controls can be used with Java applets to provide rich functionality for your application.

Workshop

For toChapter's workshop, you need to visit two web sites on the Internet. These sites provide pertinent information on the use of Java applets and ActiveX controls. The first site is www.gamelan.com. This site provides one of the best web sites for discovering more information on Java programming and Java applets. The second web site is www.microsoft.com/activex/controls/. This site provides extensive information on ActiveX controls, including a gallery of many ActiveX controls from third-party providers.

Quiz

1. What is the tag that can be used to insert Java applets as well as ActiveX controls into a web page?


2
Name the two visual editors for objects provided by Visual InterDev.


3.
What is a property?

Quiz Answers

1. The <OBJECT> tag.

2.
The HTML Layout Editor and the Object Editor.

3.
A property defines the characteristics and behavior of a control. Every control has a unique set of properties that can be customized.

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