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VC++ Tutorial: Custom CListBox - A ListBox with Radio Box, DrawFrameControl, DrawFocusRect

 By Jaime Olivares. 


Recently I had discussed in a Visual C++ forum about a member's request to implement a custom ListBox control similar to CCheckListBox, but with radio buttons. Initially it appeared to be trivial, since the ListBox control's unique selection version complies with ucancode.neter requirements, but I have concluded that this control has some advantages:

  • It is clearer, with radio buttons, that options are mutually exclusive.
  • Is a good alternative to a group of radio buttons, because you have to maintain just one control.
  • It inherits some useful features like scrolling, sort and multi-column.
  • Will be easier to change options dynamically, as shown in demo application.
  • Will be easier to manage selection events, also shown in demo application.

Using the code

To implement CRadioListBox into your project, you just need to do a few steps:

  • Include RadioListBox.cpp and RadioListBox.h in your project.
  • Insert a CRadioListBox object into your dialog class declaration (.h file).
  • Put a standard ListBox control into your dialog's template layout, "ensure that 'owner draw fixed' property is active".
  • Create or modify an OnInitDialog event, and subclass corresponding ListBox.

For example, if your dialog is named CMyDialog, the ListBox member is m_RadioListBox, and the control ID is IDC_RADIOLISTBOX, then you can subclass the control in the following way:

BOOL CMyDialog::OnInitDialog()

    // Some other custom source code here

    m_RadioListBox.SubclassDlgItem(IDC_RADIOLISTBOX, this);   
    return TRUE;  // return TRUE  unless you set the focus to a control

There are other ways to subclass a control in a MFC application, as explained by Eric Sanchez in his article ("Control Subclassing") but I think the above version is the shortest one.


As you can see in the above pictures, there is a transparency feature, so the ListBox can imitate Radio Button's aspect, this can be easily done by setting the WS_EX_TRANSPARENCY attribute of the control in the Visual C++ Dialog Editor. Also it will be necessary to make WS_BORDER style "off".

CRadioListBox internals

CRadioListBox class is derived from CListBox class with just one derived method: DrawItem. The method does not highlight the selected item as in a standard ListBox control, but draws a radio button instead. It also manages focus state to draw the focus rectangle properly and the background color according to the transparency attribute. I know it could have been better, but this first version runs OK under different screen conditions. Here is the source code:

void CRadioListBox::DrawItem(LPDRAWITEMSTRUCT lpDrawItemStruct) 
    CDC* pDC = CDC::FromHandle(lpDrawItemStruct->hDC);
    // just draws focus rectangle when listbox is empty
    if (lpDrawItemStruct->itemID == (UINT)-1)
         if (lpDrawItemStruct->itemAction & ODA_FOCUS)
         int selChange = lpDrawItemStruct->itemAction & ODA_SELECT;
         int focusChange = lpDrawItemStruct->itemAction & ODA_FOCUS;
         int drawEntire = lpDrawItemStruct->itemAction & ODA_DRAWENTIRE;
         if (selChange || drawEntire) 
               BOOL sel = lpDrawItemStruct->itemState & ODS_SELECTED;
               // Draws background rectangle, color depends on transparency
               // Draw radio button
               int h = 
                 lpDrawItemStruct->rcItem.bottom - lpDrawItemStruct->;
               CRect rect(lpDrawItemStruct->rcItem.left+2, 
               pDC->DrawFrameControl(&rect, DFC_BUTTON, 
                       DFCS_BUTTONRADIO | (sel?DFCS_CHECKED:0));
               // Draws item text
               lpDrawItemStruct->rcItem.left += h;
                            &lpDrawItemStruct->rcItem, DT_LEFT);
         // draws focus rectangle
         if (focusChange || (drawEntire && 
                  (lpDrawItemStruct->itemState & ODS_FOCUS)))

To achieve transparency feature, it will be necessary to control the background painting too, by handling the WM_CTLCOLOR message:

HBRUSH CRadioListBox::CtlColor(CDC* pDC, UINT nCtlColor) 
    // If transparent style selected...
    if ( (GetExStyle()&WS_EX_TRANSPARENT) && nCtlColor==CTLCOLOR_LISTBOX)
        return (HBRUSH)::GetSysColorBrush(COLOR_BTNFACE);

    return NULL;



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