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Extending the VFP 9 IDE with MENUHIT and MENUCONTEXT

Doug Hennig

One of the key themes in VFP 9 is extensibility. You can extend the Report Designer through report events and the reporting engine through the new ReportListener base class. And now, you can even extend the IDE by trapping system and shortcut menu hits. This month, Doug Hennig shows you how to customize the VFP 9 IDE in ways you never thought possible.

VFP has long provided ways to hook into various aspects of the interactive development environment (IDE), and it gets better with each version. FoxPro 2.x allowed us to replace the functionality of certain Xbase components by changing the names of the applications pointed to by system variables, such as _GENSCRN and _GENMENU. VFP 3 gave us builders, which allow us to automate or simplify working on classes and forms.

	VFP 6 added project hooks, allowing us to receive events when the user takes certain actions in the Project Manager, such as adding or removing a file. IntelliSense was one of the major new features in VFP 7, with a data-driven approach that we can extend easily. VFP 8 added the customizable Toolbox and other useful IDE enhancements.

	In VFP 9, however, Microsoft has blown the lid off the IDE. Because the Report Designer raises report events, we can completely change the appearance and behavior of its dialogs. The new ReportListener base class allows us to receive events as a report runs, providing features such as label rotation, dynamic formatting, and custom rendered objects such as graphs. We'll also soon be able to react to Windows events through enhancements to BINDEVENT(); this feature isn't available as of this writing, but will give us better access to Windows OS events, including those that relate to the VFP IDE where windows with hWnds are involved.

	The focus of this article, however, is hooking into system menu hits (that is, when the user selects an item from the VFP system menu bar) and system shortcut menus (those displayed by right-clicking in various places, such as the Properties window or Database Designer). I'll start by examining how to do this, followed by some practical examples.

To trap a system menu hit, create a script record in the IntelliSense table with TYPE = "S" (for "script"), ABBREV = "MENUHIT", and the code to execute in the DATA memo field. (The IntelliSense table is indicated by the _FOXCODE system variable; by default, it's FOXCODE.DBF in the HOME(7) directory.) The code should accept an object as a parameter. This object has several properties, but the important ones as far as MENUHIT is concerned are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. The properties of the parameter object passed to the MENUHIT script provide information about the menu hit.

Property Description
UserTyped The prompt of the pad the menu hit is from.
MenuItem The prompt of the bar the user selected.
ValueType A return value to VFP–blank means continue with the default behavior and "V" or "L" means prevent the default behavior (similar to using NODEFAULT in class code).

	Here's a simple example (taken from SimpleMenuHit.PRG, included in this month's Download file):

  text to lcCode noshow
lparameters toParameter
wait window 'Pad: ' + toParameter.UserTyped + ;
  chr(13) + 'Bar: ' + toParameter.MenuItem
delete from (_foxcode) where TYPE = 'S' and ;
insert into (_foxcode) ;
  values ;
    ('S', 'MENUHIT', lcCode)

	This simply displays the pad and bar prompts for the selected menu item and then carries on with the default behavior for that item. This is fine for testing, but in "real" code, you'll probably want to disable the default behavior and replace it with your own. In that case, set the ValueType property of the parameter object to "V" or "L". (In case you're wondering why there are two possible values, it's because these values are used for other purposes by the IntelliSense manager, and the VFP team decided to use the same mechanism for MENUHIT. It really doesn't matter which one you use.)

	Here's an example, taken from DisableExit.PRG, that disables the Exit function in the File menu (perhaps you could use this as an April Fools' joke on a co-worker):

  text to lcCode noshow
lparameters toParameter
if toParameter.UserTyped = 'File' and ;
  toParameter.MenuItem = 'Exit'
  toParameter.ValueType = 'V'
endif toParameter.UserTyped = 'File' ...
delete from (_foxcode) where TYPE = 'S' and ;
insert into (_foxcode) ;
  values ;
    ('S', 'MENUHIT', lcCode)

	While this looks correct, when you choose Exit from the File menu, VFP exits anyway. It turns out that in addition to setting ValueType to "V" or "L", some functions require that the MENUHIT code returns .T. to prevent the default behavior. Add RETURN .T. just before the ENDIF statement to prevent Exit from closing VFP.

	Another MENUHIT issue: What if you're using a localized version of VFP, such as the German version? In that case, checking for "File" and "Exit" won't work because those aren't the prompts that appear in the menu. This is something you'll have to be aware of, or will have to make your target audience aware of, if you distribute a MENUHIT script to other VFP developers.

The MENUHITs just keep coming

While we're on the topic of distributing a MENUHIT script to others, what if you have a script that does something cool and so does someone else, and you want to use both of them? The problem is that there can be only one MENUHIT record (if more than one is present, VFP will use the first one in the IntelliSense table). For this reason, I think it's better to have the MENUHIT record delegate to something else rather than perform the desired IDE customization directly.

	The simplest way to do this is to add additional records to the IntelliSense table and have the MENUHIT record use them to perform the actual tasks. Although this is arbitrary, it seems to me that a record with TYPE = "M" would be suited to this, because "M" stands for "menu" and isn't a record type currently used in the table. For example, to handle the Exit function, you could add a record with TYPE = "M", ABBREV = "Exit", and the code to execute in DATA.

	To make this work, we need a "standard" MENUHIT record. The code for this record looks in the table for a record with TYPE = "M" and ABBREV set to the prompt for the bar the user chose, and if it exists, it executes the code in the DATA memo. Here's the code that handles this:

  lparameters toParameter
local lnSelect, ;
  lcCode, ;
  lnSelect = select()
  select 0
  use (_foxcode) again shared order 1
  if seek('M' + padr(upper(toParameter.MenuItem), ;
    lcCode = DATA
  endif seek('M' ...
  select (lnSelect)
  if not empty(lcCode)
    llReturn = execscript(lcCode, toParameter)
    if llReturn
      toParameter.ValueType = 'V'
    endif llReturn
  endif not empty(lcCode)
return llReturn

&#9;Run StandardMenuHit.PRG to install this code into the IntelliSense table. There are a few interesting things about this code. First, I normally use ORDER <tag name> rather than ORDER <n> to set the order for a table. However, the IntelliSense table is unusual: If you open the table and use ATAGINFO() to retrieve information about the indexes for this table, you'll see that there are two tags, both marked as primary and both without tag names. So, you have to use ORDER 1 or ORDER 2 to set the order for this table.

&#9;The second thing is that the code is wrapped in a TRY structure to prevent any errors, such as problems opening the table or errors that may exist in the code in the other record.

&#9;The third issue is that this code doesn't check for the prompt of the pad the user's menu selection is from, only the bar prompt. That's because I decided to do a SEEK for performance reasons and the tag used is UPPER(TYPE + ABBREV). Since this is a small table, you could probably get away with putting the pad prompt into the EXPANDED column and using LOCATE FOR TYPE = "M" AND ABBREV = toParameter.MenuItem AND EXPANDED = toParameter.UserTyped to ensure the exact record is found.

&#9;As of this issue's deadline, Microsoft hadn't decided whether such a "standard" MENUHIT record will exist in the IntelliSense table by default. If not, they'll likely provide a simple way to add such a record, such as through a Solution Sample. (Solution Samples are samples that show off various VFP features, and are easily accessed through the Task Pane Manager.)

&#9;One last MENUHIT issue: If the code in the DATA memo field has any compile errors, you won't get an error message–VFP will simply ignore the code and use the default behavior. This can be annoying, of course, since you may not be exactly sure why your code fails to do what you're expecting.

What's it good for?

Okay, so we can hook into a VFP menu item. What can we use that for?

&#9;The first thing that came to my mind was a replacement for the New Property and New Method dialogs. Since we now have the ability to preserve for display the case of custom properties and methods (see my June 2004 FoxTalk 2.0 column, "MemberData and Custom Property Editors"), I'd rather have VFP use the case I enter into the New Property or New Method dialog, avoiding the extra steps of bringing up the MemberData Editor and changing the case there. Also, it always annoys me that I have to click on the Add button to add a new property or method and then click on the Close button to close the dialog. Since I often add just one property or method at a time, I'd like to see a button that both adds the member and closes the dialog.

&#9;Since the MENUHIT approach now allows us to trap the New Property and New Method items in the Form and Class menus, we should be able to create a replacement dialog that behaves exactly as we wish. Figure 1 shows such a dialog with the following features:

  • It automatically updates the _MemberData property (adding that property if necessary) so the case entered for the new member will be used (even for access and assign methods if they're also being created) and the member will be displayed on the Favorites tab if that option is turned on in the dialog.
  • It's non-modal. That means you can keep it open, add some properties or methods, switch to other things, come back, and add some more members.
  • It's dockable: Try tab-docking it with the Properties window. This is very cool!
  • It's resizable and persists its size and position to your resource (FOXUSER) file.
  • It has an Add & Close button to perform both tasks with one click.
  • The default value for a property is automatically set to a value based on the data type of the property (if you use Hungarian notation). For example, lTest would be logical, so .F. is the default value. For nTest, the default is 0.
  • It hides rather than disables non-applicable controls. Since this one dialog is used for both New Property and New Method in both the Class and Form Designers, some options may not be applicable for a given instance.
  • It disallows invalid names when you enter them rather than when you click on Add or Add & Close.
  • The Add buttons are enabled only if you enter a name.

&#9;We won't look at the code that makes up NewPropertyDialog.APP. It's not complicated; at its heart, it calls the AddProperty and WriteMethod methods of the object being edited in the Class or Form Designer to add a new property or method. Both of these methods accept two new parameters in VFP 9: the visibility (1 for public, 2 for protected, or 3 for hidden) and the description for the new property or method.

&#9;To use the replacement dialogs, simply DO NewPropertyDialog.APP to register it in the IntelliSense table. It adds the MENUHIT record discussed earlier and two records (one for "New Property" and one for "New Method") that have the same code in DATA to use the NewPropertyDialog class. In this code, "<path>" represents the path to NewPropertyDialog.APP on your system (the APP automatically inserts the correct path when you run it).

  lparameters toParameter
local llReturn, ;
  llMethod, ;
  llMethod = toParameter.MenuItem  = 'New Method'
  llClass  = toParameter.UserTyped = 'Class'
  release _oNewProperty
  public _oNewProperty
  _oNewProperty = newobject('NewPropertyDialog', ;
    'NewProperty.vcx', ;
    '<path>', llMethod, llClass)
  llReturn = .T.
return llReturn

&#9;Now, when you select either New Property or New Method from the Form or Class menu, you'll get the new dialog rather than the native one.

In addition to hooking into selections from the VFP system menu, you can also trap system shortcut menus, such as the one displayed when you right-click in the Properties window. This is done using the same mechanism as MENUHIT, except the ABBREV field in the IntelliSense table contains "MENUCONTEXT" rather than "MENUHIT".

&#9;As with MENUHIT, the code for the MENUCONTEXT record should accept an object parameter. In this case, there are three properties of interest: Item, an array of the prompts displayed in the shortcut menu; ValueType, which has the same purpose as it does for MENUHIT; and MenuItem, the ID for the shortcut menu.

&#9;Some of the values for MenuItem are "24446" for the shortcut menu on the Command window, "24447" for the Project Manager's shortcut menu, and "24456" for the Properties window's shortcut menu. How did I discover these values? I created a MENUCONTEXT record with code that simply displayed the value of toParameter.MenuItem, and then I right-clicked in various places. As with MENUHIT, you should set ValueType to "V" or "L" and return .T. to prevent the native behavior (the display of the shortcut menu).

&#9;MENUCONTEXT isn't nearly as easy to use as MENUHIT, for a variety of reasons. First, changing the contents of the Items array doesn't change the display of the menu. For example, this code doesn't seem to have any effect on the shortcut menu at all:

  lparameters toParameter
toParameter.Items[1] = 'My Bar'

&#9;Similarly, the following code doesn't result in a new bar in the menu:

  lparameters toParameter
lnItems = alen(toParameter.Items) + 1
dimension toParameter.Items[lnItems]
toParameter.Items[lnItems] = 'My Bar'

&#9;Second, there isn't a way to change what happens when a bar is selected. For example, you may want the Properties bar of the Command window shortcut menu to display your dialog rather than the native one. The problem is that none of the properties of the parameter object specify what to do when a menu item is chosen–that's built into the menu itself.

&#9;So, it appears the only way we can change the menu is to use our own shortcut menu and then prevent the native behavior. However, there's a complication with that approach: Since you have to replace the entire menu with your own, how do you tell VFP to use the native behavior when some of your menu items are chosen? As of this writing, there doesn't appear to be any way to do that, so I suspect MENUCONTEXT will be used only sparingly.

Replacing the Project Manager shortcut menu

Even with these issues, let's try an example anyway. In my May 2000 FoxTalk article, "Zip it, Zip it Good," I presented a utility that packs all of the table-based files in a project (such as VCX, SCX, and FRX files) and another utility that zips all of the files referenced in a project into one ZIP file. In that article, these utilities were called from a toolbar displayed by a project-specific project hook. Let's instead put them into the shortcut menu that will be available for any project.

&#9;MENUCONTEXT has the same potential conflict issue as MENUHIT, so we'll use the same solution: a "standard" record that simply delegates to another record for a particular shortcut menu. In fact, the code for this standard record is exactly the same as it is for the MENUHIT record (run StandardMenuContext.PRG to create the MENUCONTEXT record). However, instead of putting the bar prompt into the ABBREV field for handler records, we'll put the menu ID. (You may want to put the menu purpose, such as "Command window", into the EXPANDED field, to make it obvious what the record is for.)

&#9;After creating the MENUCONTEXT record, I created a record with TYPE = "M", ABBREV = "24447" (the ID for the Project Manager's shortcut menu), and the following code in DATA:

  lparameters toParameter
local loMenu
loMenu = newobject('_ShortcutMenu', ;
  home() + 'ffc\_menu.vcx')
loMenu.AddMenuBar('\<Pack Project', ;
  'do PACKPROJ with _vfp.ActiveProject.Name')
loMenu.AddMenuBar('\<Zip Project', ;
  'do ZIPPROJ with _vfp.ActiveProject.Name')
loMenu.AddMenuBar('Project \<Info...', ;
  'keyboard "{CTRL+J}" plain')

&#9;This code uses the FFC (FoxPro Foundation Classes) _ShortcutMenu class to provide the shortcut menu. I discussed this class in my February 1999 FoxTalk article, "A Last Look at the FFC." Run ProjectMenu.PRG to create this record in the IntelliSense table.

&#9;When you right-click in the Project Manager, the new custom menu shows three bars (see Figure 2): Pack Project, which calls PACKPROJ.PRG with the name of the current project file; Zip Project, which calls ZIPPROJ.PRG with the name of the current project file; and Project Info, which uses the KEYBOARD command to invoke the Project Info dialog from the Project menu. (The latter function shows that you can reproduce the functionality of a bar in the native shortcut menu as long as there's a system menu function it calls.)


The new MENUHIT and MENUCONTEXT features allow us to hook into the VFP IDE more tightly than ever before. In addition to the uses I presented in this article, I can see replacements for the Edit Property/Method dialog and the New, Import, and Export functions in the File menu. I'm sure you can think of IDE functions you'd like to see implemented differently in VFP 9; please let me know what ideas you have for this cool new feature.

Download 409HENNIG.ZIP

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