VB comes with 20 built-in controls. In this section of the tutorial I provide
a few comments about each one, trying to give some useful pointers on the
use of each control.
I strongly suggest that you review my
control summary chart - available in
Excel 97 and
Excel 5.0 formats.
The chart gives the complete list of VB controls - along with their properties,
methods, and events. The spreadsheet will help you get a "big-picture"
overview of the VB controls. I also strongly suggest you read the
HELP file content for each of the properties/events/methods for these
controls. If you don't know the item exists, then you won't know when to
apply it in your applications!
All controls are not equally useful. Some you will use on every application
you write. Others you will use only when you have a special need for the
features the controls offer.
When you start VB, you'll always find the intrinsic controls displayed in the
toolbox. The controls are built-in to the VB files and do not exist in an
external file (with a .OCX extension) the way the ActiveX controls do.
In the toolbox, each of the controls has its own distinctive icon.
The Most Useful Intrinsic Controls
These nine intrinsic controls are pretty much used on every VB application
I've written. Start your learning with these and then branch out. Further
down on this page I have a brief comment on each of the controls.
The Rest of the Intrinsic Controls
The other eleven intrinsic controls are also valuable but I find myself
using these less often than the others. Also, you'll find that you use
fewer of these within an application than you do of the nine that I
listed as the most useful controls.
|ADO Data Contro||Vertical Scroll Bar
|Horizontal Scroll Bar
I've put the discussion of databases elsewhere in the tutorial, but you
should know right now that several of the intrinsic controls can display
or edit data directly out of a database. With VB, the ADO Data Control
is used to access the database information and to distribute it on to the
other intrinsic controls which can handle database information. VB uses
the terminology "databound" to describe controls which have built-in
features for handling database access.
Comments on Each Control
- Command Button
This one works just like you expect. Press the button and it executes a
block of code.
Typically this is used for turning on/off some particular feature of your
This is the standard way of letting a user edit information. To make it
convenient for the users, learn about the .SELLENGTH and .SELSTART properties
which highlight text in the the textbox.
Use this to display a picture. Use it over the PictureBox because it takes
less operating system resources.
While it can display pictures, it also acts as an area on which you can
print text and graphics. Use it for home-grown graphics or print previews.
As the name suggests, this is used to label other controls. It's pretty
passive and you'll seldom use its items other than the .CAPTION property.
- Option Button
If you use it, you'll use it in groups. VB handles the feature that only
1 option button can be selected at a time.
This is the first of the intrinsic controls to introduce methods common
to some of the more complex controls. The use of a ListIndex which starts
at 0 (not 1) is a confusing factor that you must watch in your code.
Whereas a listbox takes up space on the form, the combobox control
minimizes the use of valuable form real estate. It has 3 modes of operation
some of which allow you to keep your users from entering bad data.
- ADO Data Control
If you're not accessing a database, then you don't need this one. If you
are accessing a database you have to have this control to act as the interface
to any other databound control. The exception is that VB offers ways to
access databases directly from code, but for modest display/edit applications
the ADO Data Control is very effective.
- DirListBox / DriveListBox / FileListBox
You'll almost always use these in combination with each other. Read the
HELP file for how to synchronize them to work together. Often, however, you
will use the CommonDialog Control instead of these.
It can be used as a static display, or you can animate it with the .VISIBLE
property and the .MOVE method.
When the line is not enough, this one supports rectangles and
ellipses/circles. As with the line control, use its items to create
If you want to put objects on your VB application which come from other
applications already on your machine (such as Word, Excel, ...) then this
control is very useful. For my needs, I don't like making the assumption
that my users have the application (in a specific version) on their machine
to make distribution of my application go smoothly. I avoid this one
It's just a container - it can hold other controls. There are two very good
reasons to use it. If you want multiple groups of option buttons then place
each group in a frame and each group will operate independently. If you
want to manipulate controls as a group (i.e., positioning) then put them
in a frame and you can handle them all at one time.
- Horizontal/Vertical ScrollBar Controls
Basically you let use the slider value of a scroll bar as the input for
other code that you write. These are normally used in conjunction with other
This is the most unusual of the intrinsic controls. By setting the .INTERVAL
property this control will automatically create an event on a regular basis.
No other control does this! You can use it to create an action at a certain
time and then turn the control off to prevent repeats.