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FilmStrip Control

November 11, 2007 Comments off

One of the current projects I am working on is Image Management software for one of our legacy government applications. Basically, JPG images are stored on a Windows server and our iSeries machine issues local PC calls (using STRPCCMD) to initiate the image manager. The manager then finds and displays all the images associated with the particular database record. The details are irrelevant to this post, but each database record can have up to 99 images associated with it, all organized and retrieved by naming conventions, so managing these images is not a trivial matter.

The original version of this software was written in VB a decade ago (probably VB4 or VB5). It was sufficient but unpleasant so about 5 years ago the company contracted with a local developer to rewrite the application, which he did … in FoxPro. It is also functionally but unpleasant to use, and so I find myself looking at a good target for a .NET rewrite!

One of the problems with the current version of the software is you can only see one image at a time. Unfortunately, this means you have to view each one to find the correct image, a real annoyance when dealing with large numbers of images. So my solution is to incorporate a FilmStrip control to view and scroll through a list of thumbnail images. I also, naively, thought this would be a fairly standard control, but alas it does not exist in the MS toolbox. This means creating one of my own, not a task I relish. I haven’t had lots of luck with User Controls or drawing my own. I find it tedious and frustrating: in other words, it just isn’t my cup of tea.

Fortunately, we have Google. A quick search for “C# FilmStrip” turned up this gem on CodeProject (one of my favorite sites). Most of the nitty gritty and the solution for my project came directly from that version, so I want to give full credit. The example was an excellent starting point, but I have, naturally, added some goodies of my own.

First of all, the original version required the user to pass the path string to the AddPicture method. Instead, I wanted to make this Control a little more portable: since it deals primarily with a collection of Images, I decided to have the FilmStrip work with Image objects and let the consuming code worry about pathing. The original also provides a way to print labels for the images, but they are based solely on a parsing of the image name. Instead, my version allows the user to assign a label to associate with the image. These are both done through a custom Struct named PictureInfo. Currently the Struct is pretty limited with just these two properties, but it could be easily expanded to contain any associated data. Also, I wanted to add some way of selecting and identifying one of the Images (PictureBoxes), so I added code to track which PictureBox is currently active and I change the BorderStyle of the active PictureBox to identify it as such.

Finally, I need the FilmStrip to report to the consuming software when the selected PictureBox changes, so I added an ActivePictureBoxChangedEvent, complete with its own ActivePictureBoxChangedEventArgs class that exposes the PictureInfo object of the newly selected PictureBox. By exposing the PictureInfo object, the consumer has direct access to the original image and whatever other information gets added to the PictureInfo struct.

The FilmStrip dynamically sets the size of its child PictureBox controls based on the size of the FilmStrip control and even calculates and applies the correct aspect ratio to the thumbnail based on the aspect ratio of the actual image. The full image is stored in the PictureInfo Struct so it can be reclaimed at anytime. I used a Generic Dictionary<PictureBox, PictureInfo> list to keep the PictureBox controls associated with the correct PictureInfo instance.

The public DisplayImages method can be used: just monitor the Resize event and call it accordingly.

Possible improvements:

  • Replace the scroll bar with navigation buttons.
  • Display the images as an automatically wrapping collection, always center the active image in the display.
  • Make the active image a larger size than the other images.
  • Add the ability to set the active picture box border color and/or style.

I hope you like this Control. Download it and try it today. Let me know what you think!

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