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Making Standard ComboBox appear flat

, 18 May 2005
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A simple and easy class that draws the standard ComboBox as flat control.

Sample Image - flatcombo.jpg

Introduction

Many flat combobox controls out there are not based on the standard ComboBox control that is supplied by .NET, instead they have their own interfaces and requires a customized type of ComboBoxItem when inserting into the Items container. If you already have code written based on the standard .NET ComboBox, changing to the flat look may also require you to modify your codes. I have personally experienced that as a problem, and someone else has brought that up as a problem as well in my recent article DateTimePicker appears Flat. Many of the information provided here may appear in the DateTimePicker appears Flat article already, or maybe explained better in there, so please check it out.

Using the Class

This class inherits from ComboBox, therefore you can use it in exactly the same way as the ComboBox control or even as a replacement.

So instead of doing this:

ComboBox  cmb = new ComboBox();

You will do:

ComboBox cmb = new FlatComboBox();
// OR
FlatComboBox cmb = new FlatComboBox();

That is how simple it is Smile | :)

Code Explanation

To achieve the flat look for the control, I have to override the WndProc method, which is the method that processes through all the window messages for this control. We are particularly interested with WM_NC_PAINT and WM_PAINT messages.

IntPtr hDC = GetWindowDC(this.Handle);

Graphics gdc = Graphics.FromHdc(hDC);

switch (m.Msg)

{
    case WM_NC_PAINT: 
        SendMessage(this.Handle, WM_ERASEBKGND, hDC, 0);
        SendPrintClientMsg(); // send to draw client area
        PaintFlatControlBorder(this, gdc);
        m.Result = (IntPtr) 1; // indicate msg has been processed 
        break;
    case WM_PAINT: 
        base.WndProc(ref m);
        // flatten the border area again
        Pen p = new Pen((this.Enabled? BackColor:SystemColors.Control), 2); 
        gdc.DrawRectangle(p, new Rectangle(2, 2, this.Width-3, this.Height-3));
        PaintFlatDropDown(this, gdc);
        PaintFlatControlBorder(this, gdc);
        break;
    default:
        base.WndProc(ref m);
        break;

}

ReleaseDC(m.HWnd, hDC);

gdc.Dispose(); 

}

WM_NC_PAINT message is received when the control needs to paint its border. Here I trapped the message and send WM_PRINTCLIENT message so that the ComboBox will draw its client area properly, then followed by drawing a flat border around it.

WM_PAINT message is received when the control needs to paint portion of its windows. ComboBox internally embeds a textbox and will draw the textbox with 3D border. A quick way to achieve the flat look is to paint a rectangle overlaying the 3D border of the textbox, therefore it will appear flat. We then paint the flat dropdown and border over it. Overriding the border is optional here, but I did it for the user experience where if the control is in focus, it will have a black line border or otherwise none.

Limitation

Currently, this FlatComboBox does not draw with ComboBox.Simple style. When this style is set for the ComboBox object, this class will let the base class perform the standard drawing.

History

  • 18 May 2005
    • DROPDOWNWIDTH value is dynamic now based on the system setting hence will work well in different screen resolutions.
    • Only acquires and creates window DC when necessary.

License

This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here

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About the Author

Fadrian Sudaman
Architect SMS Management and Technology
Australia Australia
Fadrian Sudaman is an experienced IT professional who has worked with .NET technology since the early beta. His background stems from a strong C/C++ development experience in building large commercial applications and great appreciation for best practice and modern approaches for building quality software. Currently, Fadrian works as a senior consultant specialises in .NET technology involved in variety of roles including project management, solution architecture, presales and application development. Fadrian is also completing his PhD part time at Monash University, Australia.
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Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionI am still confused PinmemberJonathan Weinraub27-May-14 6:52 
AnswerRe: I am still confused PinmemberJonathan Weinraub29-May-14 4:40 
GeneralFlickering PinmemberMotero16-Feb-11 23:31 
GeneralRe: Flickering Pinmembervalefior18-Jul-12 0:45 
Generalthanks Pinmembergavin.r4-Feb-09 6:01 
GeneralIn VS2008/Vista PinmvpJohn Simmons / outlaw programmer25-Nov-08 9:12 
GeneralRe: In VS2008/Vista PinmemberFadrian Sudaman3-Dec-08 2:53 
GeneralRe: In VS2008/Vista Pinmemberakerd1-Feb-13 23:37 
QuestionA call to PInvoke function Error PinmemberIs-sanga12-Jun-08 1:06 
AnswerRe: A call to PInvoke function Error PinmemberFadrian Sudaman3-Dec-08 2:17 
GeneralGet the DropDawnList handle (graphics) PinmemberElmaho11-Apr-08 9:28 
GeneralEnable = false Pinmemberjorge.ramos21-Nov-07 9:54 
GeneralRe: Enable = false PinmemberFadrian Sudaman22-Nov-07 3:16 
GeneralRe: Enable = false Pinmemberjorge.ramos22-Nov-07 4:53 
GeneralNeed Direction PinmemberSE-Mrun20-Sep-07 19:59 
GeneralRe: Need Direction PinmemberFadrian Sudaman20-Sep-07 22:46 
GeneralRe: Need Direction PinmemberSE-Mrun20-Sep-07 22:55 
GeneralQuestion Pinmemberdavidbeseke16-Aug-07 12:42 
GeneralRe: Question PinmemberFadrian Sudaman18-Aug-07 23:24 
GeneralRe: Question Pinmemberdavidbeseke19-Aug-07 5:16 
Questionwhy win32? Pinmemberjuras924-Jul-07 10:57 
AnswerRe: why win32? PinmemberFadrian Sudaman24-Jul-07 14:36 
Generalgood job! Pinmemberapache1o5-Jun-07 13:24 
GeneralC3 PinmemberThimani3-Apr-07 20:47 
Questionhow to make standard TextBox appear flat Pinmembersuperkaier13-Apr-06 18:01 

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