Click here to Skip to main content
12,997,914 members (57,532 online)
Click here to Skip to main content
Add your own
alternative version


71 bookmarked
Posted 21 Mar 2004

Yet Another VS.NET-like ToolBox

, 3 Aug 2004
Rate this:
Please Sign up or sign in to vote.
This article proposes another VS.NET-like ToolBox control based on the work of Iulian Serban


Two weeks ago I was looking for a VS.NET-like Toolbox control. My search was fulfilled by an article found on Code Project and written by Iulian Serban ('A VS.NET-like ToolBox' posted on 20 Sep 2002). The proposed implementation was a good one, but I found an important limitation: it already included the behaviour and decorations of a dockable window. So I decided to put my hands on that piece of code in order to have a more general control. The new version differs from the original one in the following:

  • It does not implement any behaviour or decoration related to a dockable window. You can use any available free library to do this
  • It has been implemented in only one source file (and the associated 'resx' file). so you can easy include it in any C# project (no additional .dll)
  • I simplified the tab animation code (and the animation too!)
  • I added the support for items tooltips
  • I added some new public properties to customize the look and behaviour
  • The original implementation uses the ListBox control to display the toolbox items. I've replaced them with a Panel while items are implemented with other Panels for which I wrote a specific handler for the Paint event. This allows the toolbox to provide a more VS-like look.

Basically the toolbox contains a set of tabs (folders) that will contain a set of items that represents the objects you want to manage through the toolbox. The items can be dragged and dropped over any external control. Tabs are identified by a caption and their index inside the toolbox, while items are represented by a caption, an id and the index inside the tab they belongs to. Items can also reference a generic object through the Tag properties like in most of the controls you find in System.Windows.Forms.

Using the code

The control can be created like in the following piece of code:
Toolbox toolBox = new Toolbox();
toolBox.MovementTickInterval = 10;
toolBox.AllowSelection = false;
toolBox.ItemHoverBorder = Border3DStyle.Bump;
toolBox.ItemHooverColor = SystemColors.ControlLight;
toolBox.BackColor = SystemColors.ControlLightLight;
toolBox.ButtonColor = SystemColors.Control;
toolBox.ItemActivate += new Toolbox.ToolboxEventHandler(OnAddElement);

Each item in the Toolbox could have a small image attached to him. This image must come from an ImageList. The Toolbox provides two ways in which you can specify an ImageList to use:

  • using the ImageList property of the Toolbox itself. This is the default image list.
  • Through the two AddTab methods. The first without the ImageList parameter: it will use for the new tab the default imagelist. The other in which you can pass an ImageList reference, this ImageList will override the default. If you pass a 'null', no ImageList will be used for the tab at all, even if the default image list exists.
After the creation of the Toolbox you can add Tabs and Items as you like using the public methods AddTab and <code lang="cs">AddItem. The AddTab method requires the caption of the tab to be created, a ContextMenu (if any) to be used inside the tab and an optional ImageList, it returns the index assigned to the new tab. The AddItem method requires:
  • the item caption
  • the item id, this is the string used to identify the item when it is dropped, activated (see later) or selected. You can put here, for example, the name of the class to instantiate.
  • the item description used by the item tooltip
  • the index of the image to use from the tab's ImageList (if any).
  • an object to be associated to the new item (like the Tag property you can find in some System.Windows.Forms controls).
  • a ContextMenu that will be opened with the right click on the item and will override the tab's one.
  • the index of the tab the item has to be added to

The AddItem method returns the index of the new item in the tab. Here is a simple example of the usage of the <code lang="cs">AddTab and AddItem methods:

AddTab("Tab 1", null);
AddItem("Item 11", "Item 11 ID", "Item 11 Description", 0, null, null, 0);
AddItem("Item 12", "Item 12 ID", "Item 12 Description", 0, null, null, 0);
AddItem("Item 13", "Item 13 ID", "", 0, null, null, 0);
AddItem("Item 14", "Item 14 ID", "", 0, null, null, 0);
AddItem("Item 15", "Item 15 ID", "Item 15 Description", 0, null, null, 0);
AddItem("Item 16", "Item 16 ID", "", 0, null, null, 0);
AddTab("Tab 2", null);
AddItem("Item 21", "Item 21 ID", "", 0, null, null, 1);
AddItem("Item 22", "Item 22 ID", "", 0, null, null, 1);
AddItem("Item 23", "Item 23 ID", "", 0, null, null, 1);
AddItem("Item 24", "Item 24 ID", "", 0, null, null, 1);
AddItem("Item 25", "Item 25 ID", "", 0, null, null, 1);
AddItem("Item 26", "Item 26 ID", "", 0, null, null, 1);

Interacting with the Toolbox

The Toolbox will provide the following public events:

public event ToolboxEventHandler TabChanged;
public event ToolboxEventHandler ItemSelect;
public event ToolboxEventHandler ItemActivate;
  • TabChanged: raised when the user clicks on a tab button to open it. If the tab is already open, the event is not raised
  • ItemSelect: raised when the user clicks (selects) an item
  • ItemActivate: raised when the user double-clicks (activates) an item

The Toolbox.ToolboxEventHandler is the delegate used by the Toolbox for event handlers. The delegate and the event args used are:

public delegate void ToolboxEventHandler(object sender, 
                                          ToolBoxEventArgs e);
public class ToolBoxEventArgs {
    public string TabCaption = "";    // Caption of the Tab 
                                      // containing the selected Item
    public int TabIndex = -1;         // Index of the Tab
    public string ItemCaption = "";   // Caption of the item
    public string ItemId = "";        // ID of the item
    public int ItemIndex = -1;        // Index of the item
    public object Tag = null;         // Tag of the item
In addition to the above events the Toolbox can manage the Drag And Drop features of its items. The destination control will receive a <code lang="cs">ToolboxEventHandler object containing the data of the item to drop. Maybe the use of the same data for Drag & Drop and other event handlers is not correct, but I do not like to have two different classes to manage the same thing. Here is a simple event handler to manage items drop:
private void OnItemDrop(object sender, DragEventArgs e) {
    ToolBoxEventArgs tea = e.Data.GetData(
    typeof(ToolBoxEventArgs)) as ToolBoxEventArgs;
    string txt = tea.TabCaption;
    if (tea.ItemIndex >= 0) {
        txt += "." + tea.ItemId;
    eventPanel.Text = "Drop " + txt;
This event handler must be 'activated' using:
_receivingControl.DragDrop += new DragEventHandler(this.OnItemDrop);
or using the VS (or any other IDE) form designer. The Drag & Drop function can be disabled through the toolbox's
property (not the base AllowDrop one!). An additional useful feature is the save and load of the toolbox layout configuration in an XML document. See the following examples:
// Load toolbox layout from an XML File
XmlDocument doc = new XmlDocument();
// Save toolbox layout to an XML File
XmlDocument doc = new XmlDocument();
As you can see the XML node that will contain the toolbox configuration must be created before the call. In this way you can put the toolbox layout configuration at any point in any Xml file you like.

Public Methods and Properties

Here you can find a brief summary of all the public methods and properties provided by the toolbox.


  • BorderStyle BorderStyle: gets/sets the border of the toolbox control
  • public bool AllowSelection: enables/disables the click (selection) of an item
  • public bool AllowItemDrop: enables/disables the drag and drop of items
  • bool ShowToolTip: enables/disables the use of item tooltips
  • Border3DStyle ItemHoverBorder: gets/sets the border used to highlight items when the cursor hovers them
  • Border3DStyle ItemSelectionBorder: gets/sets the border drawn when the user select an item
  • Color SelectionColor: gets/sets the item's background color used for selected items
  • Color ItemHooverColor: gets/sets the item's background color used to highlight items when the cursor hovers them
  • Color ButtonColor: gets/sets the tab button's background color
  • int MovementTickInterval: gets/sets the animation tick interval
  • ImageList ImageList: gets/sets the default ImageList
  • int TabsCount: returns the number of tabs
  • int SelectedTabIndex: get/set the index of the selected (opened) tab
  • string SelectedTabCaption : returns the caption of the selected (opened) tab
  • string SelectedItemCaption : returns the caption of the selected item
  • string SelectedItemId: returns the Id of the selected item
  • string SelectedItemTag: returns the Tag of the selected item


  • public void Clear(): removes all tabs and items from the toolbox
  • public int AddTab(string caption, ContextMenu
    : creates a new tab using the default ImageList
  • public int AddTab(string caption, ImageList
    imagelist, ContextMenu menu)
    : creates a new tab using the passed ImageList
  • public int AddItem(string caption, string id,
    string descr, int imageIndex, object tab, ContextMenu menu, int
    : adds a new item
  • public void RemoveTab(int index): removes the tab at index
  • public void RemoveItem(int tabindex, int
    : removes the item at itemindex in tab at tabindex
  • public int GetTabIndex(string caption): returns the index of the tab with the specified caption
  • public void ClearTab(
    ): clears the items of the tab with the specified index
  • public void SaveTemplate(XmlElement xml): saves the toolbox layout to Xml using xml as parent node
  • public void LoadTemplate(XmlElement parentxml): clears the toolbox and loads the layout from the xml node. The new tabs will use the default ImageList
  • public void LoadTemplate(XmlElement parentxml,
    ImageList imagelist)
    : clears the toolbox and loads the layout from the xml node. All the new Tabs will use the passed ImageList.
  • public void AppendTemplate(XmlElement parentxml): append to the toolbox the layout from the xml node. The new tabs will use the default ImageList
  • public void AppendTemplate(XmlElement
    parentxml, ImageList imagelist)
    : append to the toolbox the layout from the xml node. All the new Tabs will use the passed ImageList.


2.1: Added support to get the caption of the selected or activated item

What I still miss

I still have to disable/enable the scroll buttons according the actual need of scrolling the items inside the tab. I didn't yet added the run-time customization of the toolbox layout. Again, I spent some time to fix the flickering during the scrolling, maybe something better could be done. If anyone has more cool ideas I will be very glad to write the code. I'm currently using this control in a commercial application and it seems to work smoothly, but I do not use all the features, so some bug can still be there, I apologize for this. I would also like to thank Iulian Serban that provided me with the foundation of this control.


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


About the Author

Giorgio Santini
Web Developer
Italy Italy
After several years of employment in the IT industry, I founded a software company together with three friends of mine. We develop Rating Engines for different markets (telco, finance, gaming, etc.). I'm in charge of the development of Graphical User Interfaces in C#.

You may also be interested in...

Comments and Discussions

Generaldid a little help ,thanks. Pin
blue.pan@163.com19-Jul-07 21:32
memberblue.pan@163.com19-Jul-07 21:32 
GeneralNot real user friendly.... Pin
chris17519-Apr-07 4:16
memberchris17519-Apr-07 4:16 
QuestionHow can it move tabpage at designtime? Pin
good_sir10-Jan-07 16:39
membergood_sir10-Jan-07 16:39 
Generalcongrats Pin
Cocha6-May-06 7:43
memberCocha6-May-06 7:43 
QuestionReclaim space if no image? Pin
jlloyd22-Aug-05 10:27
memberjlloyd22-Aug-05 10:27 
AnswerRe: Reclaim space if no image? Pin
jlloyd23-Aug-05 7:21
memberjlloyd23-Aug-05 7:21 
GeneralToolBox docking Pin
vrushaliD10-Jan-05 1:30
membervrushaliD10-Jan-05 1:30 
GeneralRe: ToolBox docking Pin
Tiago Costa17-Aug-05 23:55
memberTiago Costa17-Aug-05 23:55 
GeneralSomething missing Pin
Magallo30-Jul-04 0:19
memberMagallo30-Jul-04 0:19 
GeneralRe: Something missing Pin
Giorgio Santini30-Jul-04 0:36
memberGiorgio Santini30-Jul-04 0:36 
GeneralRe: Something missing Pin
vrushaliD10-Jan-05 18:11
membervrushaliD10-Jan-05 18:11 
GeneralOnItemSelect does not work Pin
ray2s30-May-04 0:57
memberray2s30-May-04 0:57 
GeneralRe: OnItemSelect does not work Pin
Giorgio Santini30-May-04 22:36
memberGiorgio Santini30-May-04 22:36 
GeneralTargetInvocationException on sample Pin
wojo26-Mar-04 11:18
memberwojo26-Mar-04 11:18 
GeneralRe: TargetInvocationException on sample Pin
gsantini27-Mar-04 5:38
membergsantini27-Mar-04 5:38 
GeneralRe: TargetInvocationException on sample Pin
gsantini27-Mar-04 6:45
membergsantini27-Mar-04 6:45 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Praise Praise    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.

Permalink | Advertise | Privacy | Terms of Use | Mobile
Web02 | 2.8.170622.1 | Last Updated 4 Aug 2004
Article Copyright 2004 by Giorgio Santini
Everything else Copyright © CodeProject, 1999-2017
Layout: fixed | fluid