Using and Modifying Frames

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A VCL frame with data-aware controls and a data source component.
A FireMonkey frame selected in a form, at design time.

To use a frame in an application, you must place it, directly or indirectly, on a form. You can add frames directly to forms, to other frames, or to other container objects such as panels and scroll boxes.

The Form Designer provides two ways to add a frame to an application:

  • Select a frame from the Tool Palette and drop it onto a form, another frame, or another container object. If necessary, the Form Designer asks for permission to include the frame's unit file in your project.
  • Select Frames from the Standard category of the Tool Palette and click on a form or another frame. A dialog appears with a list of frames that are already included in your project; select one and click OK.

When you drop a frame onto a form or other container, Delphi declares a new class that descends from the frame you selected. (Similarly, when you add a new form to a project, Delphi declares a new class that descends from TForm.) This means that changes made later to the original (ancestor) frame propagate to the embedded frame, but changes to the embedded frame do not propagate backward to the ancestor.

Suppose, for example, that you wanted to assemble a group of data-access components and data-aware controls for repeated use, perhaps in more than one application. One way to accomplish this would be to collect the components into a component template; but if you started to use the template and later changed your mind about the arrangement of the controls, you would have to go back and manually alter each project where the template was placed.

If, on the other hand, you put your database components into a frame, later changes would need to be made in only one place; changes to an original frame automatically propagate to its embedded descendants when your projects are recompiled. At the same time, you are free to modify any embedded frame without affecting the original frame or other embedded descendants of it. The only limitation on modifying embedded frames is that you cannot add components to them.

In addition to simplifying maintenance, frames can help you to use resources more efficiently. For example, to use a bitmap or other graphic in an application, you might load the graphic into the Picture (VCL) or Bitmap (FireMonkey) property of a TImage control. If, however, you use the same graphic repeatedly in one application, each Image object you place on a form will result in another copy of the graphic being added to the form's resource file. (This is true even if you set the Picture or Bitmap property once and save the Image control as a component template.) A better solution is to drop the Image object onto a frame, load your graphic into it, then use the frame where you want the graphic to appear. This results in smaller form files and has the added advantage of letting you change the graphic everywhere it occurs simply by modifying the Image on the original frame.

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