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Download a Web Page using the WebClient

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Users of the .NET framework can now display a web page and its source code at the same time.
This functionality has been available for a while in VB6. In the .NET framework, it belongs to
the WebClient class and the WebClient Control. Keep reading to learn how to use these handy
In the past you might have used the Microsoft Internet Controls (SHDOCVW.dll) and the
Microsoft Internet Transfer Control 6.0 (SP4) in VB6 applications. The WebBrowser Control
(SHDOCVW.dll) gives you the ability to display a web page in a Visual Basic Application. The
Inet Control (Internet Transfer Control) gives you the ability to download and upload files to
URLs. Please review the tutorial on the WebBrowser control used for downloading web pages.
Given the URL, the two controls together can show the web page and its source at the same time.
This basic tutorial shows how the same functionality is now available to .NET framework users
by calling the methods and properties of the WebClient class, which belongs to the System.NET
Namespace. In order to use this class, the Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition (also
Visual Studio 2005) can be used. The program can be downloaded from the Microsoft website.
This beginners oriented tutorial also shows how to use the WebClient Control as well.
You can find the WebClient in the .NET Framework Components page in the Choose Toolbox
Items pop-up when you access it using the Tools-->Choose Toolbox Items... hyperlink. You can
also find the WebBrowser Control in the same folder. You can also access these controls in the
same exact manner in Visual Studio 2005, and the Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition.

Download a Web Page using the WebClient -

Creating a Windows project to use the
WebClient Class
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Create a Windows Application project by accessing the New Project from the File menu item.
This opens the New project window. Choose the Windows Application as shown and change the
default WindowsApplication1 name to something different. In the present case it is called

Change the default Form1.vb to WebPage.vb. Using the WebClient class we will download a
web page, in this case, a blog from the site http://hodentek.blogspot.com/. This is a blog that
requires no authentication; you may use any other web page as well. To the WebPage.vb form
add a button, a textbox, and a WebBrowser control. If the WebBrowser control is not already in
the Toolbox, you may add the control by going to Toolbox--> Choose Toolbox items...

and click the hyperlink to open the Choose ToolBox Items Window as shown.
This adds the control to the Toolbox and appears immediately when you click OK to the above
after placing a check mark against the item.
With these controls added, your page should appear as shown in the next picture. The area above
the button is the textbox which has been set in design to show multi-lines and to show both scroll
bars. It does not show the horizontal scroll bar for reasons which are not clear. The clear area
below the button is the resized WebBrowser control.
To the click event of the button add the following code as shown:
Imports System.Net

Imports System.IO

Public Class WebPage

Dim wclient As New WebClient

Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, _

ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click

Dim sr As New StreamReader(wclient. _

Dim s As String = sr.ReadToEnd
TextBox1.Text = s
End Sub

End Class
The Imports System.NET allows us to use the WebClient class and spawn a new instance by
calling the New method. The newly created instance can call one of its methods, OpenRead() to
read the contents of the URL.
This gets directly read into the Stream by the StreamReader, and all that is read is sent to the
textbox. Since you are using the StreamReader, you need the second imports statement,
The WebBrowser1 ActiveX control is straightforward to code. Given an URL, it displays the
web page.

Download a Web Page using the WebClient -

Know your options
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Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition has all the nice features of the full Visual Studio 2005; that
includes intellisense. You should make use of this feature to code so that you will understand the
various possibilities as shown in the next picture. As you can see, the number of overloaded
options you have, and in fact most of what you can code, is spelled out and laid out neatly.

Click on Project and from the drop-down click on the ExploreWebClient Properties... hyperlink
to open the following window, where you can set the project to run the page you choose from
among other forms in this application, as shown by the drop-down, Startup Object.

When you run the form, you will see the form displayed as shown. The textbox shows the source
of the blog and the one below it shows the web page.
View from the Object Browser
The Object Browser provides access to the tree structure of the various Namespaces and classes
used in the project. The next picture shows a part of the class WebClient which has a large
number of methods and some properties. The OpenRead() method is highlighted.
Download a Web Page using the WebClient -
Create a form using the WebClient Control
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Another way of opening an URL to read its contents is to use the WebClient Control, which may
be added to the Toolbox using the same procedure used for adding the WebBrowser control. Add
a new form, WebClientControl.vb, to the project. From the Toolbox double click the WebClient
control when the form is in the design view. Add a command button and a textbox whose multi-
line property is set to true, with both scroll bars showing. The WebClient control gets to the
component tray area as shown.
To the click event of the command button add code as shown:
Imports System.IO
Public Class WebClientControl

Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As _

System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) _
Handles Button1.Click
Dim wc As New System.Net.WebClient
Dim strm As New StreamReader _
Dim s As String = strm.ReadToEnd
TextBox1.Text = s
End Sub
End Class
This time the OpenRead() method reads the TestClient.htm file on the local intranet. You are not
referencing the class directly by the imports statement, rather you are instantiating a New
WebClient. Otherwise using the StreamReader is similar to the previous case. When you run this
form, your display appears as shown.
WebClient Class and the WebClient Control are very useful for interacting with web sites. The
many properties and methods can be put to good use for importing any part of a web site. By
creating a COM wrapper the controls can be called from VB 6. However the Inet and
WebBrowser controls can continue to be used in VB6 programs. What is achieved using several
lines of code in the Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition program can be achieved by two lines in a
VB6 project, however one is object-oriented and the other is object-based. Whether Microsoft
will continue to support VB 6 or not is another point to consider.