Interface Elements


The new home for Visual Studio documentation is Visual Studio 2017 Documentation on

The latest version of this topic can be found at Interface Elements.

This document describes interface elements that were introduced in Visual Studio 2008 SP1, and also describes differences with the earlier version of the library.

The following illustration shows an application that was built by using the new interface elements.

MFC Feature Pack example application

Window docking functionality resembles the window docking that the Visual Studio graphical user interface uses.

Control bars are now known as panes and are derived from CBasePane Class. In earlier versions of MFC, the base class of control bars was CControlBar.

The application main frame window is usually represented by the CFrameWndEx Class or the CMDIFrameWndEx Class. The main frame is called the dock site. Panes can have one of three types of parents: a dock site, a dock bar, or a mini-frame window.

There are two types of panes: non-resizable and resizable. Resizable panes, such as status bars and toolbars, can be resized by using splitters or sliders. Resizable panes can form containers (one pane can be docked to another pane, creating a splitter between them). However, resizable panes cannot be attached (docked) to dock bars.

If your application uses non-resizable panes, derive them from CPane Class. If your application uses resizable panes, derive them from CDockablePane Class

The dock site (or main frame window) owns all panes and mini-frame windows in an application. The dock site contains a CDockingManager member. This member maintains a list of all panes that belong to the dock site. The list is ordered so that the panes created at the outer edges of the dock site are positioned at the start of the list. When the framework redraws the dock site, it loops over this list and adjusts the layout of each pane to include the current bounding rectangle of the dock site. You can call AdjustDockingLayout or RecalcLayout when you have to adjust the docking layout, and the framework redirects this call to the docking manager.

Each main frame window can position dock bars along its borders. A dock bar is a pane that belongs to a CDockSite Class. Dock bars can accept objects derived from CPane, such as toolbars. To create dock bars when the main frame window is initialized, call EnableDocking. To enable auto hide bars, call EnableAutoHideBars. EnableAutoHideBars creates CAutoHideDockSite objects, and positions them next to each dock bar.

Each dock bar is divided into dock rows. Dock rows are represented by the CDockingPanesRow Class. Each dock row contains a list of toolbars. If a user docks a toolbar or moves the toolbar from one row to another within the same dock bar, the framework either creates a new row and resizes the dock bar accordingly, or it positions the toolbar on an existing row.

A floating pane resides in a mini-frame window. Mini-frame windows are represented by two classes: CMDITabInfo Class (which can contain only one pane) and CMultiPaneFrameWnd Class (which can contain several panes). To float a pane in your code, call CBasePane::FloatPane. After a pane floats, the framework automatically creates a mini-frame window and that mini-frame window becomes the floating pane's parent. When the floating pane docks, the framework resets its parent, and the floating pane becomes a dock bar (for toolbars) or a dock site (for resizable panes).

Pane dividers (also named sliders or splitters) are represented by the CPaneDivider Class. When a user docks a pane, the framework creates pane dividers, regardless of whether the pane is docked at the dock site or at another pane. When a pane docks to the dock site, the pane divider is called the default pane divider. The default pane divider is responsible for the layout of all the docking panes in the dock site. The dock manager maintains a list of default pane dividers, and a list of panes. Dock managers are responsible for the layout of all the docking panes.

All resizable panes, when docked to each other, are maintained in containers. Containers are represented by the CPaneContainer Class. Each container has pointers to its left pane, right pane, left sub-container, right sub-container, and the splitter between the left and right parts. (Left and right do not refer to physical sides but rather identify the branches of a tree structure.) In this manner we can build a tree of panes and splitters and therefore achieve complex layouts of panes that can be resized together. The CPaneContainer class maintains the tree of containers; it also maintains two lists of panes and sliders that reside in this tree. Pane container managers are usually embedded into default sliders and mini-frame windows that carry multiple panes.

By default, each CDockablePane supports the auto-hide feature. When a user clicks the pin button on the caption of the CDockablePane, the framework switches the pane to auto-hide mode. To handle the click, the framework creates a CMFCAutoHideBar Class and a CMFCAutoHideButton Class associated with the CMFCAutoHideBar object. The framework puts the new CMFCAutoHideBar on the CAutoHideDockSite. The framework also attaches the CMFCAutoHideButton to the toolbar. The CDockingManager Class maintains the CDockablePane.

The CMFCBaseTabCtrl Class implements the base functionality of a tabbed window with detachable tabs. To use a CMFCBaseTabCtrl object, initialize a CBaseTabbedPane Class in your application. CBaseTabbedPane is derived from CDockablePane and maintains a pointer to a CMFCBaseTabCtrl object. The CBaseTabbedPane enables users to dock and resize tabbed control bars. Use CDockablePane::AttachToTabWnd to dynamically create control bars that are docked and tabbed.

The Outlook bar control is also based on tabbed bars. The CMFCOutlookBar Class is derived from CBaseTabbedPane. For more information about how to use Outlook bar, see CMFCOutlookBar Class.