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Implementing a Progress Bar in Visual Basic

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• May 10, 2004
• By zipcn046
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A progress bar is used to inform the user about (lengthy) processing. It shows the user the
status of processing/computations, and depicts that the application has not gone into a "not
responding" state. A large number of applications, such as setups, database-driven
applications, and file transfer tools, swear by progress bars. Under Visual Basic, the progress
bar can be included on forms through the Microsoft Windows Common Controls component.
After spending a month on the Internet, searching for an (useful) implementation of a
progress bar in a Visual Basic application (which eventually failed), I thought of implementing
one on my own.

What Will We Be Doing?

We will search a table (in a database named Fpnwnd.mdb) for tuples that meet a specified
search criteria. More specifically, we will search a table for Company Names in a particular
country. As we find a tuple in the table with the specified country, we will add the
corresponding Company Name to a list box. While the table is being searched from beginning
to end, we will try to keep the user informed about the search progress through the use of a
progress bar. This progress bar will start at 0% and go to 100%, which means that the entire
table has been searched.

A Little Homework
For those who haven't used a progress bar ever in Visual Basic, it is a control provided with
the Microsoft Windows Common Controls component. It has various exposed properties and
methods, of which we will be interested in only three properties: Min, Max, and Value.

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Min, as the name indicates, is used to denote the lowest value a progress bar can take. This
is the initial starting position of the progress bar. Similarly, Max is used to depict the maximum
value that can be assigned to the progress bar. A progress bar can't take a value greater than
the one specified in the Max property. Finally, the Value property can be used to assign (or
retrieve) a value (which must, of course, be between Min and Max (both inclusive)) to the
progress bar, so that thebar in the progress bar can increase appropriately.
I have used ADO (ActiveX Data Objects) and ODBC to connect to the database. Once I am
connected to the database and have fired the query, I am provided with the recordset objects
containing all the records (satisfying the specified SQL command, 'select * from
Customers', in my case).

Steps to Follow
I have used Microsoft Office XP's default database Fpnwind.mdb for my example. However, if
you don't have it on your machine, you can use any other database. (You will, in that case,
need to change the SQL statement appropriately.)

1. First of all, create a DSN for the database (you may name it 'fpnwnd').
2. Open Microsoft Visual Basic and create a 'Standard EXE'.
3. Go to Project > References and select 'Microsoft ActiveX Data Objects x.x Library'.
Here, x.x is the version of ADO your system has. Click OK.
4. Now, go to Project > Components and select 'Microsoft Windows Common
Controls x.x'. Again, x.x is the version of common controls on your machine. Click
5. Finally, from the toolbox, add the appropriate controls to the default form. Don't
forget to rename the commands accordingly.
When you are done with these steps, place the following source code in the code window and
press<Ctrl> + <F5>.

Source Code

Dim MyConn As New ADODB.Connection

Dim Sql As String
Dim MyRs As New Recordset

Private Sub AdjustListBoxSize()

' Some math, to show up and hide the percent and other label
' The listbox ovelaps the labels
If lstResults.Height = 3375 Then
lstResults.Height = 2790
lstResults.Top = 1800
lstResults.Height = 3375
lstResults.Top = 1200
End If
End Sub

Private Sub cmdSearch_Click()

' Specify the SQL to be run on recordset - selecting all records
MyRs.Source = "Select * from Customers"
' Open the recordset (obtained from SQL)

Call AdjustListBoxSize

' Set up the progress bar's properties

ProgressBar1.Min = 0
ProgressBar1.Max = MyRs.RecordCount
ProgressBar1.Value = 0

' Set up the labels showing percentage of completion

lblPercent.Visible = True
Label2.Visible = True

' Clear the list box


While Not MyRs.EOF

If MyRs("Country") = txtCountry.Text Then
lstResults.AddItem MyRs("CompanyName")
End If
For I = 0 To 400000
' Do nothing, but wait
' To show up the progress bar proceeding
Next I

' Update the progress bar and percent label accordingly

ProgressBar1.Value = ProgressBar1.Value + 1
lblPercent.Caption = Int(ProgressBar1.Value * 100 /


' Hide the percent and other labels

lblPercent.Visible = False
Label2.Visible = False

Call AdjustListBoxSize

' Close the recordset object, so that the next query can be fired
End Sub

Private Sub Form_Load()

MyConn.Open "DSN=fpnwnd"
MyRs.ActiveConnection = MyConn
MyRs.CursorLocation = adUseClient
End Sub

The Trick
The trick for the implementation of the progress bar in this example is that the recordset
object provides aRecordCount method that returns the number of rows affected (as a result
of the query fire on the specified table). All I have done is set up the Min property of the
progress bar to 0 and Max property toMyRs.RecordCount. This will allow me to update the
progress bar (by Value property) in a single-increment fashion.

When the recordset is created in memory, I parse it from beginning to end

(hence MyRs.EOF). As soon as the record with the matching criterion is found (I am
searching for 'Country Name' here), the Company Name attribute is read from the table and is
appended to the list box control; then I move on to the next record
(through MyRs.MoveNext). On the other hand, if the record doesn't match the criteria, I
simply move on the next record (without adding the Company Name to the list box). Prior to
moving on to the next record (in both cases), I increment the value of progress bar by 1. This
process continues until I reach the EOF (End of File), where I must terminate the processing
(the progress bar must reach 100%).

The progress bar calculates the number of bars required to fill itself entirely, by means of the
Min and Max properties. Hence, when we increment or decrement its Value, it automatically
fills up the bars in the area apprpriately. I have also used a label control to depict the
percentage completed (which is plain mathematics, isn't it?). The rest of the code does
formatting (shifting, enlarging, contracting, enabling and disabling, and so forth appropriately).

I hope the code example shown here will give you an insight into the Progress Bar Control. I
believe that (keeping this example in mind) you will be better able to use this control in your
applications in an effective and productive manner.

What You Might Say

Some of the brilliant, seasoned SQL programmers might argue that I wasted my time
searching through the entire table when I could have specified select * from Customer
where Country=" & txtCountry.Text, instead of select * from Customer. My
answer to all those gurus is that I am emphasising the usage of a Progress Bar in a Visual
Basic application and not on writing effective queries. If you use the former version of the
query, the progress bar will fill up very fast and you probably will not be able to view the
practicality of the progress bar.

The Leftovers
You may use a Timer control in place of the blank loop (implemented for the waiting purpose)
in the demo application. This will tune up your application for the optimization. This technique
is useful because, as soon as a blank loop is encountered, the CPU goes into a dark room,
doing nothing but waiting for the loop to finish execution. Thus, a significant number of CPU
cycles is wasted. However, if you use the Timer control (after setting its Interval property to a
reasonable integer value) the CPU will be able to do other useful jobs (such as implementing
the OS' driven scheduling) while the Timer is computing the ticks.

The Timer will notify the CPU from time to time instead of making it engaged all the time.
Even if the Timer will be computing with the help of the CPU, the aliter approach will be
better. The code will require a little modification all over. This modification will not be trivial at
all. Despite of this, if you find the updating clumsy, either remain stuck to the original code or
do let me know about it (and we will work around it).

As I already said, I have used Microsoft Office's default database, Fpnwind.mdb, for this
example (340 KB). If you don't have this database at your machine but still want to test it, you
can send me an e-mail and I will arrange the same for you. View my profile from the top of
this page to send me e-mails.