Walkthrough: Arranging Controls on Windows Forms Using a TableLayoutPanel
Some applications require a form with a layout that arranges itself appropriately as the form is resized or as the contents change in size. When you need a dynamic layout and you do not want to handle Layout events explicitly in your code, consider using a layout panel.
The FlowLayoutPanel control and the TableLayoutPanel control provide intuitive ways to arrange controls on your form. Both provide an automatic, configurable ability to control the relative positions of child controls contained within them, and both give you dynamic layout features at run time, so they can resize and reposition child controls as the dimensions of the parent form change. Layout panels can be nested within layout panels, to enable the realization of sophisticated user interfaces.
The FlowLayoutPanel arranges its contents in a specific flow direction: horizontal or vertical. Its contents can be wrapped from one row to the next, or from one column to the next. Alternately, its contents can be clipped instead of wrapped. For more information, see Walkthrough: Arranging Controls on Windows Forms Using a FlowLayoutPanel.
The TableLayoutPanel arranges its contents in a grid, providing functionality similar to the HTML <table> element. The TableLayoutPanel control allows you to place controls in a grid layout without requiring you to precisely specify the position of each individual control. Its cells are arranged in rows and columns, and these can have different sizes. Cells can be merged across rows and columns. Cells can contain anything a form can contain and behave in most other respects as containers.
The TableLayoutPanel control also provides a proportional resizing capability at run time, so your layout can change smoothly as your form is resized. This makes the TableLayoutPanel control well suited for purposes such as data-entry forms and localized applications. For more information, see e193b4fc-912a-4917-b036-b76c7a6f58ab and c5240b6e-aaca-4286-9bae-778a416edb9c.
Tasks illustrated in this walkthrough include:
Creating a Windows Forms project
Arranging Controls in Rows and Columns
Setting Row and Column Properties
Spanning Rows and Columns with a Control
Automatic Handling of Overflows
Inserting Controls by Double-clicking Them in the Toolbox
Inserting a Control by Drawing Its Outline
Reassigning Existing Controls to a Different Parent
When you are finished, you will have an understanding of the role played by these important layout features.
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 Customizing Development Settings in Visual Studio.
The first step is to create the project and set up the form.
To create the project
Create a Windows Application project called "TableLayoutPanelExample". For more information, see b2f93fed-c635-4705-8d0e-cf079a264efa .
Select the form in the Windows Forms Designer.
The TableLayoutPanel control allows you to easily arrange controls into rows and columns.
To arrange controls in rows and columns using a TableLayoutPanel
Move the horizontal sizing handle up and down to see the effect on the controls in the panel.
The anchoring behavior of child controls in a TableLayoutPanel differs from the behavior in other container controls. The docking behavior of child controls is the same as other container controls.
Positioning controls within cells
To set row and column properties
Select the TableLayoutPanel control in the Windows Forms Designer.
In the Properties windows, open the ColumnStyles collection by clicking the ellipsis () button next to the Columns entry.
In the Properties window, open the ColumnStyles collection and select the first column. Change the value of its SizeType property to Percent. Click OK to accept the change. Resize the TableLayoutPanel control to a larger width and note that the width of the first column expands. Resize the TableLayoutPanel control to a smaller width and note that the buttons in the first column are sized to fit the cell. Also note that the width of the column is resizable.
The TableLayoutPanel control adds several new properties to controls at design time. Two of these properties are RowSpan and ColumnSpan. You can use these properties to make a control span more than one row or column.
To span rows and columns with a control
Select the Button control in the first row and first column.
In the Properties windows, change the value of the ColumnSpan property to 2. Note that the Button control fills the first column and the second column. Also note than an extra row has been added to accommodate this change.
Repeat step 2 for the RowSpan property.
You can populate your TableLayoutPanel control by double-clicking controls in the Toolbox.
To insert controls by double-clicking in the Toolbox
Drag a TableLayoutPanel control from the Toolbox onto your form.
When you are inserting controls into the TableLayoutPanel control, you may run out of empty cells for your new controls. The TableLayoutPanel control handles this situation automatically by increasing the number of cells.
To observe automatic handling of overflows
Change the value of the TableLayoutPanel control's GrowStyle property to FixedSize. Double-click the Button icon in the Toolbox to insert Button controls until the TableLayoutPanel control is full. Double-click the Button icon in the Toolbox again. Note that you receive an error message from the Windows Forms Designer informing you that additional rows and columns cannot be created.
You can insert a control into a TableLayoutPanel control and specify its size by drawing its outline in a cell.
To insert a Control by drawing its outline
The TableLayoutPanel control can contain only one child control per cell.
You can achieve a complex layout using a combination of layout panels and controls. Suggestions for more exploration include:
Try resizing one of the Button controls to a larger size and note the effect on the layout.
Paste a selection of multiple controls into the TableLayoutPanel control and note how the controls are inserted.
Layout panels can contain other layout panels. Experiment with dropping a TableLayoutPanel control into the existing control.
Dock the TableLayoutPanel control to the parent form. Resize the form and note the effect on the layout.
Walkthrough: Arranging Controls on Windows Forms Using a FlowLayoutPanel
Walkthrough: Arranging Controls on Windows Forms Using Snaplines
Microsoft Windows User Experience, Official Guidelines for User Interface Developers and Designers. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 1999. (USBN: 0-7356-0566-1)
Best Practices for the TableLayoutPanel Control
AutoSize Property Overview
How to: Dock Controls on Windows Forms
How to: Anchor Controls on Windows Forms
Walkthrough: Laying Out Windows Forms Controls with Padding, Margins, and the AutoSize Property