Walkthrough: Constructing a Dynamic Layout

[This documentation is for preview only, and is subject to change in later releases. Blank topics are included as placeholders.]

In dynamic positioning, you arrange child elements by specifying how they should be arranged and how they should wrap relative to their parent. You can also set windows and controls to expand automatically when their content expands. For more information, see Layout with Absolute and Dynamic Positioning.

The WPF Designer for Visual Studio provides many Panel controls that support dynamic positioning. Panel controls can be combined by adding one panel control as the child of another. You can use the following panel controls to position elements dynamically in your applications:

Important note Important

Whenever possible, it is preferable to use a dynamic layout. Dynamic layouts are the most flexible, adapt to content changes such as localization, and allow the end user the most control over their environment. To see an example of an absolute layout, see Walkthrough: Constructing a Layout Based on Absolute Positioning.

In this walkthrough, you perform the following tasks:

  • Create a WPF application.

  • Configure the default Grid panel control.

  • Add controls to the panel.

  • Test the layout.

The following illustration shows how your application will appear.

A dynamic layout
Note Note

The dialog boxes and menu commands you see might differ from those described in Help depending on your active settings or edition. To change your settings, choose Import and Export Settings on the Tools menu. For more information, see Visual Studio Settings.

You need the following components to complete this walkthrough:

  • Visual Studio 2012 RC

The first procedure is to create the project for the application.

To create the project

  1. Create a new WPF Application project in Visual Basic or Visual C# named DynamicLayout. For more information, see How to: Create a New WPF Application Project.

    Note Note

    You will not write any code in this walkthrough. The language that you choose for your project is the language that is used for the code-behind pages in your application.

    MainWindow.xaml opens in the WPF Designer.

  2. In Design view, select the window. For more information, see How to: Select and Move Elements on the Design Surface.

  3. In the Properties window, set the following properties for the Window:

    Property

    Value

    Width

    400

    Height

    200

    SizeToContent

    WidthAndHeight

    Tip Tip

    You can also use the resize handles to resize the window in Design view.

  4. On the File menu, click Save All.

By default, the new WPF application contains a Window with a Grid panel. In this procedure you add four rows and four columns to the grid. You set the width of each column to *, so that the available width is divided evenly among the four columns. You set the height of three of the rows to Auto, so that they are sized to fit their content. You set the height of one of the rows to *, so that it uses the remaining available height.

To add a panel control

  1. In Design view, select the grid.

  2. (Optional) In the Properties window, locate the ShowGridLines property and select the check box.

    When the application runs, the gridlines will appear on the window. This is useful for debugging, but you should clear the ShowGridLines property check box for production code.

  3. In the Properties window, locate the ColumnDefinitions property, and click the ellipsis button in the property value column.

    The Collection Editor dialog box appears.

    1. Click Add four times to add four columns.

    2. Set the Width property of the first row to Auto.

    3. Set the Width property of the second row to *.

    4. Set the Width property of the third row to Auto.

    5. Set the Width property of the fourth row to Auto.

    6. Click OK to close the Collection Editor and return to the WPF Designer.

      Now there are four columns in the grid, but only one column appears. The columns whose Width properties are set to Auto are temporarily hidden because they do not have any content. For this walkthrough, that is fine. To avoid this in the future, you can use star sizing while you work, and change to Auto when you are done.

  4. In the Properties window, locate the RowDefinitions property, and click the ellipsis button in the property value column.

    The Collection Editor dialog box appears.

    1. Click Add four times to add four rows.

    2. Set the Height property of the first row to Auto.

    3. Set the Height property of the second row to Auto.

    4. Set the Height property of the third row to *.

    5. Set the Height property of the fourth row to Auto.

    6. Click OK to close the Collection Editor and return to the WPF Designer.

      Now there are four rows in the grid, but only one row appears. The rows whose Height properties are set to Auto are temporarily hidden because they do not have any content. For this walkthrough, that is fine. To avoid this in the future, you can use star sizing while you work, and change to Auto when you are done.

  5. On the File menu, click Save All.

Next you add controls to the panel and use the Column and Row attached properties of the Grid to position them dynamically.

To add controls to the panel

  1. From the Toolbox, in the Common group, drag a Label control onto the Grid.

  2. In the Properties window, set the following properties for the Label:

    Property

    Value

    Content

    Name:

    Grid.Column

    0

    Grid.ColumnSpan

    1

    Grid.Row

    0

    Grid.RowSpan

    1

    Width

    Auto

    Height

    23

    HorizontalAlignment

    Stretch

    VerticalAlignment

    Top

    Margin

    20,20,10,10

  3. From the Toolbox, in the Common group, drag a Label control onto the Grid.

  4. In the Properties window, set the following properties for the Label:

    Property

    Value

    Content

    Password:

    Grid.Column

    0

    Grid.ColumnSpan

    1

    Grid.Row

    1

    Grid.RowSpan

    1

    Width

    Auto

    Height

    23

    HorizontalAlignment

    Stretch

    VerticalAlignment

    Top

    Margin

    20,10,10,10

  5. From the Toolbox, in the Common group, drag a TextBox control onto the Grid.

  6. In the Properties window, set the following properties for the TextBox:

    Property

    Value

    Grid.Column

    1

    Grid.ColumnSpan

    3

    Grid.Row

    0

    Grid.RowSpan

    1

    Width

    Auto

    Height

    Auto

    HorizontalAlignment

    Stretch

    VerticalAlignment

    Stretch

    Margin

    10,20,20,10

  7. From the Toolbox, in the Common group, drag a TextBox control onto the Grid.

  8. In the Properties window, set the following properties for the TextBox:

    Property

    Value

    Grid.Column

    1

    Grid.ColumnSpan

    3

    Grid.Row

    1

    Grid.RowSpan

    1

    Width

    Auto

    Height

    Auto

    HorizontalAlignment

    Stretch

    VerticalAlignment

    Stretch

    Margin

    10,10,20,10

  9. From the Toolbox, in the Common group, drag a Button control onto the Grid.

  10. In the Properties window, set the following properties for the Button:

    Property

    Value

    Content

    OK

    Grid.Column

    2

    Grid.ColumnSpan

    1

    Grid.Row

    3

    Grid.RowSpan

    1

    Width

    75

    Height

    23

    HorizontalAlignment

    Stretch

    VerticalAlignment

    Stretch

    Margin

    10,10,6,20

  11. From the Toolbox, in the Common group, drag a Button control onto the Grid.

  12. In the Properties window, set the following properties for the Button:

    Property

    Value

    Content

    Cancel

    Grid.Column

    3

    Grid.ColumnSpan

    1

    Grid.Row

    3

    Grid.RowSpan

    1

    Width

    75

    Height

    23

    HorizontalAlignment

    Stretch

    VerticalAlignment

    Stretch

    Margin

    6,10,20,20

  13. On the File menu, click Save All.

Finally you run the application and verify that the layout changes dynamically as the user resizes the window, and as the content of the controls expands beyond the size of the controls.

To test the layout

  1. On the Debug menu, click Start Debugging.

    The application starts and the window appears.

  2. In the Name text box, type randomly to fill the text box. When you reach the end of the text box, both the text box and the window expand to fit the text that you type.

  3. Close the window.

  4. On the Debug menu, click Start Debugging.

    The application starts and the window appears.

  5. Resize the window both vertically and horizontally.

    The columns expand evenly to use the available space. The text boxes stretch to fill the expanded columns. Three rows maintain their height, and the fourth row expands to use the available space.

  6. Close the window.

  7. In Design view, select the Name label.

  8. In the Properties window, change the Content property to Please enter your full name here:.

    In Design view, the label expands to fit the text.

  9. On the Debug menu, click Start Debugging.

    The application starts and the window appears. The label control displays the longer text.

  10. Close the window.

The following is the completed MainWindow.xaml file:

<Window x:Class="MainWindow"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
    Title="MainWindow" Height="200" Width="400" SizeToContent="WidthAndHeight">
    <Grid ShowGridLines="True">
        <Grid.RowDefinitions>
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto" />
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto" />
            <RowDefinition Height="*" />
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto" />
        </Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="Auto" />
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*" />
            <ColumnDefinition Width="Auto" />
            <ColumnDefinition Width="Auto" />
        </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
        <Label Grid.Column="0" Grid.Row="0" Margin="20,20,10,10" Width="Auto" Height="23" HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" VerticalAlignment="Top" Name="Label1">Name:</Label>
        <Label Grid.Column="0" Grid.Row="1" Margin="20,10,10,10" Width="Auto" Height="23" HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" VerticalAlignment="Top" Name="Label2">Password:</Label>
        <TextBox Grid.Column="1" Grid.Row="0" Margin="10,20,20,10" Grid.ColumnSpan="3" Height="Auto" VerticalAlignment="Stretch" Name="TextBox1" />
        <TextBox Grid.Column="1" Grid.Row="1" Margin="10,10,20,10" Grid.ColumnSpan="3" Name="TextBox2" />
        <Button Grid.Column="2" Grid.Row="3" Margin="10,10,6,20" Width="75" Height="23" HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" Name="Button1">OK</Button>
        <Button Grid.Column="3" Grid.Row="3" Margin="6,10,20,20" Width="75" Height="23" Name="Button2">Cancel</Button>
    </Grid>
</Window>

You can experiment to learn how to achieve different effects with dynamic layouts by replacing the Grid panel in this walkthrough with the following panels:

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