Makes a guy pretty proud to be a part of a group like the Common Controls Replacement Project! It was a good conference, highlighted by the presentation of this extremely nice award. Below, I've taken the liberty of reprinting both Jeff's note on how the awards were determined, as well as Rod's write-up on the CCRP.

Thanks VBPJ!

Sweet, huh? :-) Jump to CCRP Web Site

During the VIP Boat Trip at VBITS'99 on Monday March 1, the editors of Visual Basic Programmer's Journal surprised all of us by awarding to the CCRP the VBPJ Editor's Choice Merit Award. In attendance were CCRP members Earl Damron, Randy Birch, Jonathan DeVries, Ramon Guerrero, Karl Peterson and Brad Martinez. Everyone at the CCRP appreciates the honor, and thanks VBPJ for the award.


Readers' and Editors' Top Picks

Welcome to VBPJ's 1999 Buyers Guide & Product Directory. Each year, we look forward to putting this issue together for you. It represents the wealth of tools and components available to you as you build solutions for your business. And it represents the one issue each year in which we're able to focus entirely on things you can buy, not build. VBPJ articles show you how to do it yourself. By doing so, you learn by doing�and know exactly what goes into a project. But it doesn't always make sense to do something yourself, even when you know how. You might need to meet a particular deadline (gasp!), or you might have limited resources available (double gasp!). Whatever the circumstances, the breadth of helpful products available to you�a VB programmer�is amazing.

Each month, VBPJ brings you a hand-picked selection of the best new products. But with this issue, you did the hand-picking. This winter, we e-mailed a select sample of VBPJ subscribers and asked them to take a special, Web-based survey. Based on their responses�and there were plenty�we've got a pretty good idea of what you think about this important question: �What products do you consider the best?� We asked this question of products in the categories you see reflected in this issue. In each case, we also provided the opportunity to write in a response in case we'd overlooked your favorite products.

The product receiving the most votes in any category receives the coveted VBPJ 1999 Readers Choice Award; the product receiving the second-most votes receives the nearly-as-coveted VBPJ 1999 Readers Choice Merit Award. For these award winners, we've included reviews in this issue to help you decide whether these products can help you be more productive or address a particular need�and so you can see if you agree with the votes from your fellow readers.

We've also included hundreds of listings to help you find products. Based on popular demand, we've restored the product descriptions to our listings. Mind you, due to space constrictions, these listings can't be comprehensive. Once you've perused this issue, though, don't forget to visit our detailed product guide, available on The Development Exchange ( It includes details on thousands of products, along with, in many cases, product reviews, downloadable demos, and more.

This issue includes four special awards as well: the Editors Choice Awards. We grant these awards to products released during the past 12 months that show particular promise or some notable technical innovation. This year, we selected four products. Here's why:

  • Visio Enterprise 5.0. We've heard about modeling over and over again this year. Why modeling? As apps become more complex, including distributed and n-tier projects, a solid architecture and plan are essential. Many companies produce solid tools to help you model apps, but one has attempted to make it extraordinarily simple, yet powerful as well. Visio Enterprise is a new version of the popular Visio product; it sports several new features including AutoDiscovery technology. Despite a few flaws, Visio Enterprise gets our nod for its attempt to bring powerful modeling to the masses.

  • AnswerWorks 3.0 from WexTech Systems. WexTech, well-known for its Doc-To-Help product, brings a new twist to the competitive Windows help-authoring field. Let's face it�none of us like writing user documentation or help files. And lucky for us, several high-quality tools are available to help. But AnswerWorks adds an additional twist: It gives you the ability to allow users to search for help using a natural language. Check out the review for details.

  • Microsoft SQL Server 7.0. Other strong database products have been released this year, but Microsoft's SQL Server 7 represents an overhaul of the previous engine and a leap forward in scalability and ease of use. New engines scale from the desktop to the enterprise. Although not without flaws, SQL Server 7's technology and integration with Visual Basic and Visual Studio earn it our vote.

  • Our Editors Choice Merit Award goes to a noncommercial product: the Common Controls Replacement Project (CCRP). This nonprofit project aims to make freely distributable controls that improve VB's intrinsic controls, as well as completely new controls. Read the details in our expert review.

Our congratulations to the winners, but especially to you. As a VB developer, you have a vast array of off-the-shelf tools to help you get your job done faster.

Jeff Hadfield
Editor in Chief

How do we choose the products we review in this issue? We don't. You do.

What products should we review in the future? What did you think of this issue? Tell me:


Jump to
Product Review
Common Controls Replacement Project
(Reviewed 3/15/99)
Common Controls Replacement Project (CCRP)
Free enhanced replacements for Microsoft's Common Controls.
Have you ever tried to use one of Visual Basic's common controls, only to discover that it could almost�but not quite�do what you wanted? The VB and C++ programmers who make up the Common Controls Replacement Project (CCRP) have. This group of talented Windows developers aims to provide smaller, faster, and�most important�free replacements to Microsoft's common controls and common dialogs. The CCRP controls provide roughly the same functionality as Microsoft's versions, with a ton of extra features.

For example, Microsoft's ProgressBar allows an application to display its progress graphically by filling a rectangle with bars or with a solid color. The CCRP version of the ProgressBar does this as well, but it can also fill itself with a picture. It can automatically display a caption indicating progress textually, as in "16 of 20 files copied" or "70% complete."

Prime-Time Controls
Other controls available in the project include Animation, BrowseDialog, Extended FileDialogs, High-Performance Timer Objects, HotKey, and Pager controls. I particularly like how the Animation control allows a program to easily display standard system animations such as the copy file, delete file, or empty wastebasket animations. For instance, to display the move file animation, the program simply sets the control's OpenStandardAVIResource property to 161 and enables it.

In addition to these prime-time controls, the CCRP also has beta versions of several controls. You can download the DragList, IP Address, Date/Time Picker, and FolderTreeview controls and test them now. The Extended FileDialogs DLL, ListView, MonthCal, Slider, Splitter, Status Bar, Tab, and ToolBar controls are also in the works, but they're not ready for beta. The Splitter control is one Microsoft should have provided long ago.

Reduced Size
The CCRP controls not only provide extra features, but they can also reduce a program's size. If a program uses a single Microsoft common control, it must include all the controls in the OCX, paying a total price of about 1 MB of disk space. On the other hand, if the program needs a single CCRP control, it can include only that control and save the space. The savings can be substantial, but you need to exercise some caution. If you build a VB6 program using a CCRP control written in VB5, the deployment package must include both the VB5 and VB6 runtime libraries, eliminating any space savings.

In addition to its controls, the CCRP Web site includes a Cool Tools section that deserves special mention. This section contains a half dozen tools to simplify VB programming chores. For example, the CoolTabs Visual Tabstop Designer lets you graphically specify locations for tabs in a listbox or textbox. The RegSvr Context Menu tool adds register and unregister commands to the context menu that appear when you right-click on an OCX or DLL file in Windows Explorer. You can use the Registration Utility tool to provide a simple, interactive interface to register and unregister DLL, OCX, and TLB files.

No Source Code
The CCRP controls provide a lot of useful features, but they have a few shortcomings. For example, the CCRP controls don't come with source code. That means if they don't provide the features you need, you're stuck. You can't modify the controls and you can't fix them if you find a bug (I found a couple). The CCRP team doesn't include the code to prevent people from creating dozens of different versions of the controls. This is an admirable goal, and the control authors say the code isn't really a secret. If you contact them, they'll tell you generally how the controls work. This isn't a perfect solution, but I can't think of a better answer to this sticky problem.

The CCRP controls are impressive. They provide a lot of features omitted by Microsoft's custom controls, and their price (free) is unbeatable. Perhaps most important, these controls can inspire us all. They clearly demonstrate that you can build sophisticated controls using Visual Basic and not some "more powerful" language such as C++.

Rod Stephens is the author of several Visual Basic books, including Ready-to-Run Visual Basic Algorithms and Custom Controls Library. Reach Rod at, or learn more about his books and download example programs at

Pretty darn cool, huh?