I have written a number of applications and have always been a little disappointed at how drab they look using the standard VS controls. I had been looking for an easy way for brightening up these apps and in the end resorted to writing my own button control based on the "The Aqualizer Strikes Back!" work found on the CodeProject site.
Using this, control bitmaps are created "on the fly" according to the attributes of the control. Colour, Height, Width, Font Size and Text. The slow rendering speed of the graphics is negated by using cached bitmaps. For each button, two PNG files are produced. One is the colour of the button and the other which is clear and is used when the mouse hovers over the button and when the button is disabled. Using this control, you gain the advantages of both options - flexible image generation and - speed.
Using the Control in Your Own Applications
The control can be used as a normal button control "as is". Simply add the project to your solution and you can add the control to your forms. Remember the aquabutton control must be compiled before it can be added to the form in the form editor. Use the properties
TextColour to set the text and colours of the button.
Points of Interest
New Properties on the Button
Using VS 2003, I spent quite some time trying to make
ForeColor do my bidding. For one reason or another, I found these to be unreliable and decided in the end to use my own properties. Hence
TextColour are used.
Making the Button's Text Property Viewable on the Form Editor
To add my own properties to the Aqua Button Control, I found it useful to use the Description, Default Value and the Browsable attributes. The sample below shows how this is. Useful tips in setting the properties can be given in the description field.
[Description("The text visible on the control. Use \\n for line breaks")]
public string ButtonText
Deriving Your Own Button Classes
If in a moment of madness, if you feel inclined to base your own control on the Aqua Button control, it is perfectly possible to override the
CreateImage() method to produce alternative designs (e.g. diamonds, emeralds, etc). The helper classes for the graphics are provided for doing all of this. You may have to make some of them
To understand how to do this, just use the class provided to get yourself started. For more information about how the algorithms work, I suggest you take a look at the excellent "Aqualiser Strikes Back" article. In overriding
CreateImage(), be sure to cache the images in the same way as the base class or performance will suffer.
private void createBaseImages()
m_image=CreateImage( m_buttonColour );
m_nofocusImage=CreateImage( Color.White );
this.Image = m_image;
- The behaviour of the button is slightly limited in that it does not provide the dialog type behaviour. With minor tweaks (or with me being prompted) this may be remedied in future releases.
- The buttons still lack feedback on pressing. They need either a click or a visual action to complete the effect.
- The 2D graphics library used dictates that the code is compiled with the "allow unsafe code" option set. For this reason, it is best to hive the control into its own library as not to enforce this option on other assemblies.
- The bitmap is not rendered until the
Text property is changed from "Not Set". At this point every time the font, size, text or colour is changed, a new bitmap is rendered. This is OK for released applications, but can mean a lot of bitmaps can be created in your %temp% directory during development.
I use this control a lot in my own applications as it brightens up the UI dramatically. I realize that the control is not completely finished and has shortcomings (not serious ones hopefully). Feedback is gratefully accepted and where fitting will be incorporated in later versions of the control.