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Published Objects in Components (Views: 100)


Problem/Question/Abstract:

Some properties of a component can 'drop-down' to reveal other properties (such as a Font property reveals various properties within itself). These are objects within the component, and a simple demonstration of how to add you own new 'drop-down' properties is given here. (You can also get a Static Analogue Clock Component too!!!)

Answer:

Please Note: I will only include here pertinent aspects of what is being explained. I will not flesh out all the examples for the sake of clarity.

To include an object within a component is a fairly simple matter, simply declare a field, and make a property public.

interface

type
  TMyComp = class(TComponent)
  private
    fFont: TFont;
  public
    property Font: TFont read fFont write fFont;
    constructor create(AOwner: TComponent); override;
    destructor destroy; override;
  end;

implementation

constructor TMyComp.create(AOwner: TComponent);
begin
  inherited create(AOwner);
  fFont := TFont.Create; //create the Object into the field reference,
  //  so it will not raise an exception
end;

destructor TMyComp.destroy;
begin
  fFont.free; //free the field to avoid memory leaks, etc.
  inherited;
end;

NB: When creating Objects, ALWAYS remember to free them, unless a help file tells you overwise (happens very rarely, eg exception handlers). Notice that what is created in the constructor is explicitly freed in the destructor.

This creates a fairly useless component admittedly, but it is an example after all! When accessing the Font property, it can be referenced in code using:

begin
  with MyComp1.Font do
  begin
    Color := clBlue;
    Size := 10;
  end;
end;

This is all well and good, but what about the Object Inspector?
If we move the property from public to published, the Font property is now available, with the plus sign to 'drop-down' as required.

This is a step in the right direction.

However, this is not the whole story. What if we were devising a component which could logically take completely new objects as properties. For instance an analogue clock face - three similar objects would be obvious.. the hour, minute and second hands! Each is the same, save for customisable features, such as colour, thickness, etc.

So - let us construst our AnalogueHand object:

type
  TAnalogueHand = class
    Colour: TColor;
    Thickness: integer;
  end;

Here is an object, descended from TObject, which has the properties we require.

Let us put it into a Clock face component:

type
  TAnalogueClock = class(TGraphicControl)
  private
    fHourHand, fMinuteHand, FSecHand: TAnalogueHand;
  protected
    procedure SetHand(index: integer; value: TAnalogueHand);
  public
    constructor create(AOwner: TComponent); override;
    destructor destroy; override;
  published
    property HourHand: TAnalogueHand index 0 read fHourHand write SetHand;
    property MinuteHand: TAnalogueHand index 1 read fMinuteHand write SetHand;
    property SecHand: TAnalogueHand index 2 read fSecHand write SetHand;
  end;

In the constructor, each field must be created separately, and freed on destruction:

constructor TAnalogueClock.create(AOwner: TComponent);
begin
  inherited create(AOwner);
  //Set up the Hand Objects
  fHourHand := TAnalogueHand.create;
  with fHourHand do
  begin
    colour := clBlue;
    Thickness := 2;
  end;
  fMinuteHand := TAnalogueHand.create;
  with fMinuteHand do
  begin
    colour := clRed;
    Thickness := 2;
  end;
  fSecHand := TAnalogueHand.create;
  with fSecHand do
  begin
    colour := clRed;
    Thickness := 1;
  end;
end;

destructor TAnalogueClock.destroy;
begin
  fSecHand.free;
  fMinuteHand.free;
  fHourHand.free;
  inherited;
end;

procedure TAnalogueClock.SetHand(index: integer; value: TAnalogueHand);
begin
  case index of
    0: fHourHand := Value;
    1: fMinuteHand := Value;
    2: fSecHand := Value;
  end;
  invalidate;
end;

Notice that the Hands are written to all using the same procedure, SetHand, each with a different index to refer to it.

If we install this, we end up with our object, but the object inspector gives an Access Violation if we try to view the properties - not what we wanted!

The reason being that to descend our Hand Object from TObject is the wrong ancestor.. For objects which are of a temporary nature, this is fine, but to allow properties to exist abit longer, to have their properties stored in a persistent fashion (put very simply!) - we must descend from TPersistent.

So, our new hand declaration looks like:

type
  TAnalogueHand = class(TPersistent)
    Colour: TColor;
    Thickness: integer;
  end;

Rebuild, and the Access Violation has gone - hooray!! But, there are no subproperties!! An inspection of the Hand object could provide a clue.. With a standard component, for a property to appear in the object inspector, it must be published:

type
  TAnalogueHand = class(TPersistent)
  private
    fColour: TColor;
    fThickness: integer;
  published
    property Colour: TColor read fColour write fColour;
    property Thickness: integer read fThickness write fThickness;
  end;

Rebuild again - and we have subproperties within properties, droppong down without Access Violations, etc.

At runtime the new subproperties can be accessed by:

with AnalagueClock1.HourHand do
begin
  Colour := clOlive;
  Thickness := 4;
end;

AnalagueClock1.SecHand.Colour := clFuchsia;

This has been a quick and simple overview to providing subproperties in a component. More complicated user defined objects can be created, which may have further subproperties (try publishing a TCanvas Object, and see how many layers you get..).

In summary:

descend your new object from TPersistant (if it is COMPLETELY new - as in  the example);
ensure that any methods declared in the object are written (such as constructors, setting procedures, functions, etc). - I've forgotten this a few times!!
use the standard of fields and published properties (and any public as required). The published properties will appear as subproperties.
ensure that when the new object is contained within a component that it is explicitly created and freed at the appropriate times.

This worked example appears in an expanded form in the component attached to this article. I had a requirement for a Clock face, but I needed it to be static - for inputting. All the Clock faces I found were very nice, but the darn things moved!! So I created my own static analogue clock face.

I make no apology for using British English within the component! Light diffractions have a 'U' (coloUr), and the free floating state contrary to digital has a 'UE' suffix (analogUE). If you don't like it - you have the source!!


Component Download: AnalogueClock.zip

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