How to: Create a Multipane User Interface with Windows Forms

By arranging controls on a form, you can create a multi-pane user interface that's similar to the one used in Microsoft Outlook, with a Folder list, a Messages pane, and a Preview pane. This arrangement is achieved chiefly through docking controls with the form.

When you dock a control, you determine which edge of the parent container a control is fastened to. If you set the Dock property to Right, the right edge of the control will be docked to the right edge of its parent control. Additionally, the docked edge of the control is resized to match that of its container control. For more information about how the Dock property works, see How to: Dock Controls on Windows Forms.

This procedure focuses on arranging the SplitContainer and the other controls on the form, not on adding functionality to make the application mimic Microsoft Outlook.

A form that's designed to look like an Outlook mail window.

To create this user interface, you place all the controls within a SplitContainer control. The SplitContainer contains a TreeView control in the left-hand panel and another SplitContainer on the right-hand panel. The second SplitContainer contains a ListView control on top and a RichTextBox control on the bottom.

These SplitContainer controls enable independent resizing of the other controls on the form. You can adapt the techniques in this procedure to craft custom user interfaces of your own.

Control layout

The following table describes how the controls are configured to mimic Microsoft Outlook:

Control Property Value
SplitContainer Name splitContainer1
Dock Fill
TabIndex 4
SplitterWidth 4
SplitterDistance 100
Panel1.Controls Add the treeView1 control to this panel.
Panel2.Controls Add the splitContainer2 control to this panel.
TreeView Name treeView1
Dock Fill
TabIndex 0
Nodes Add a new node named Node0
SplitContainer Name splitContainer2
Dock Fill
TabIndex 1
SplitterWidth 4
SplitterDistance 150
Orientation Horizontal
Panel1.Controls Add the listView1 control to this panel.
Panel2.Controls Add the richTextBox1 control to this panel.
ListView Name listView1
Dock Fill
TabIndex 2
Items Add a new item and set the text to item1.
RichTextBox Name richTextBox1
Dock Fill
TabIndex 3
Text richTextBox1

See also