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How to make a DLL with VB.NET Standard Edition
by George Poth | Published  11/19/2003 | .NET Framework | Rating:
George Poth

I have been teaching English in Brazil since 1994 and always wanted to do more for learners than common textbooks can offer. This started with web sites that couldn't reach most students as computers and the Internet are not standard for most people in this country.

Computer tools to help Brazilian students learn a complex language like English are practically non-existent and so I sent some suggestions to software companies. Since Brazil is neither a target market for English textbooks nor for software of this kind, the rejection seemed natural.

As a result, I tried some free developer tools such as Borland's free C++ compiler, Free Pascal, and Envelope's Visual Basic. Envelope's Visual Basic, which is a Microsoft Visual Basic 1.0 clone and still available, suited my taste but I knew it was obsolete technology. In March 2003, I bought a copy of Microsoft Visual Basic .NET Standard and have been hopelessly contaminated with the programming virus ever since.

I mostly write programs for educational purposes. Having discovered the wonderful world of DirectX recently, I am diving into the most entertaining part of programming: games. One can connect teaching with pure entertainment, learning, and culture.


View all articles by George Poth...
How to make a DLL with VB.NET Standard Edition

When you ask in forums which edition of Microsoft Visual Basic .NET you should buy, most experienced programmers will tell you to go for anything but the standard edition. Why? Well, they say that you can't make .dll's and all the good pro stuff with the standard edition. I got news for you: you can make your .dll's with the standard edition. In fact, you can use the Class Library, Windows Control Library, Web Control Library, yep, and even Windows Service.

In this tutorial, I will show you how you can produce your .dll. Don't expect something complicated. Our example here will be a simple button, so if you want something more elaborated than that, you will have to work that out on your own. By the way, when you're through with this one, go to Ged Mead's tutorial on how to make a custom control; this gets you some more practice.

Start a new Windows Application project and give a name; "My Button" will be fine here. This should look like in Figure 01.

(Figure 01)

From the file menu, select "Add New Item", or press Ctrl + Shift + A to do the same. This will open the "Add New Item - My Button" window. In the "Add New Item" window, select the User Control template and name it "My Button.vb" as shown in Figure 02. Click to open it.

(Figure 02)

A user control doesn't have any borders. That's because it serves as a carrier. Insert a button and adjust the following button properties:

Back ColorRed
Flat StyleFlat
Font StyleBold
Fore ColorWhite

Right click the button and select "View Code". Select btnExit from the Class Name list and MouseEnter from the Method Name list. Edit the generated code so that it looks like Code 01

Code 01

Private Sub btnExit_MouseEnter(ByVal sender As Object_
    ByVal e As System.EventArgsHandles btnExit.MouseEnter
    '[Change the properties when the mouse enters]
    btnExit.Text = "Click here"
    btnExit.BackColor = Color.White
    btnExit.ForeColor = Color.Red
    '[Change the properties when the mouse enters/]
End Sub

Now select btnExit from the Class Name list and MouseLeave from the Method Name list. Edit the code so that it looks like Code 02.

Code 02

Private Sub btnExit_MouseLeave(ByVal sender As Object_
    ByVal e As System.EventArgsHandles btnExit.MouseLeave
    '[Reset the properties]
    btnExit.Text = "Exit"
    btnExit.BackColor = Color.Red
    btnExit.ForeColor = Color.White
    '[Reset the properties/]
End Sub

Select btnExit from the Class Name list and MouseLeave from the Method Name list. Edit the code so that it looks like Code 03.

Code 02

Private Sub btnExit_Click(ByVal sender As Object_
    ByVal e As System.EventArgsHandles btnExit.Click
    '[Close the program]
    '[Close the program/]
End Sub

Go back to design view and adjust the size of the user control to the same size of the button. If you haven't changed the size of the button, then it should be 75; 23, but you should check that out as it might be different. When you're finished with that, go to the folder of your program which should look approximately like the one in Figure 03.

(Figure 03)

Right click the project file, which appears selected in Figure 03. You might have to look out for the .vbproj extension. Select to open the file with Notepad. You will see the items as in Figure 04.

(Figure 04)

Change the OutputType = "WinExe" to OutputType = "Library", and the StartupObject = "My_Button.Form1" to StartupObject = "". When you have edited these items, the section should look like the one Figure 05.

(Figure 05)

Make sure there aren't any spelling mistakes and then save the changes and close the file. Now go back to the editor. The editor will tell you that the project has been modified outside the IDE. Click "Reload" and then rebuild your project. Now open the bin folder of your program and you will see the .dll like in Figure 06.

(Figure 06)

You can copy your newly created .dll into a separate folder reserved for dll's. However, it's not a good idea to delete the original project as you wouldn't be able to make changes later. You will soon find the way that works best for you.

Create a new project with the name "My dll Test" or something similar. Right click "My dll Test" in the solution explorer and select "Add Reference". Select the "Projects" tab and browse for your .dll in your newly created "DLL Library" folder. Double click the .dll so that it will be added to the selected components as shown in Figure 07.

(Figure 07)

When you have done so, click "OK". Now right click the toolbox and select "Add Tab". Type "Custom Controls" and then click anywhere on the toolbox. Your toolbox could now look like the one in Figure 08.

(Figure 08)

Right click the toolbox and select "Customize Toolbox". The "Customize Toolbox" window will take some moments to appear. Click the ".NET Framework Components" tab and then browse to your .dll. Double click the file and it will be added to the components list. This should look like in Figure 09.

(Figure 09)

Make sure the checkbox is checked and click "OK". You will now see "My_Button" added to the toolbox as shown in Figure 10.

(Figure 10)

You can now double click "My_Button" to put it on your form. Arrange the button so that it is in an appropriate location and run your program. You will see the form with your .dll as Figure 11 shows.

(Figure 11)

When your mouse goes over the button, the text and the color will change as we coded it. This could look like shown in Figure 12.

(Figure 12)

The button will also close your program since we coded it to do so. The .dll will be copied to the output folder of the program when you build or run the project; provided you have referenced to it.

This example is very basic, but with some imagination, only the sky is the limit. This tutorial also proved one thing: you don't need the pro edition to make pro stuff. There are ways to work around certain "limits" of the standard edition. So, should you prefer the cheaper standard edition? Well, if your cash is shorter than your months, yes. The same is true when you are just taking your first steps because as a learning tool the standard edition is well worth it. Otherwise, listen to those who make those ugh-faces when you talk about the standard edition and get something better than this.

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