Programming the OS/2 Container Control: By Example

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Written by Peter Haggar and Peter Brightbill

OS/2 Developer Spring 1993, Vol. 5 No. 2, Pages 48-59

Programming the OS/2 Container Control: By Example

The OS/2 container control was shipped with OS/2 2.0 as a 32-bit control and with the CUA Controls Library (CCL/2) as a 16-bit control; the two are functionally equivalent within their respective products, and the information in this article can be used by developers working with either product. This article assumes the reader has some knowledge of the container control and how to program to it. For more information on the container control, see the References section at the end of this article.

Moving the Splitbar with the Keyboard

While the container control allows users to move the splitbar (the vertical bar that separates two windows in the details view, shown in Figures 5 and 6 which appear at the end of this article) using a pointing device such as a mouse, many developers have asked how to do so using the keyboard. Currently, the container only provides mouse manipulation of the splitbar. Figure 1 (see FIGURE1.C in the file CNREXM.ZIP in the OS2DF2 forum, section "OS/2 Developer Mag".) shows how to add this feature to the container. The CUA 1991 recommendation for initiating this function is to provide a Split entry in the system menu.

Scrolling to a Particular Record

With some applications, users may want to scroll a particular record into view. For example, a user might want to scroll the cursored item to the top-left corner of the current viewport. The application can do this with the container control's messages. Important considerations include the position of the record relative to the current viewport and the size of that viewport. The container control provides a number of useful query messages. Figure 2 (see FIGURE2.C in the file CNREXM.ZIP in the OS2DF2 forum, section "OS/2 Developer Mag".) shows a function that uses some of these query functions to make this scrolling feature possible. While this function will bring a record into view, it is not always possible to bring it to the top-left corner.

Filtering Records

The filter feature lets users see a subset of the objects in a container. The code in Figure 3 (see FIGURE3.C in the file CNREXM.ZIP in the OS2DF2 forum, section "OS/2 Developer Mag".) deals with a container of vehicles; the vehicles can be either gas powered (Mazda Miata) or manually powered (Schwinn Bicycle). The objects are displayed in details view and information about them is listed in the Year through Mileage fields in the VEHICLERECORD structure. Because not all columns apply to all types of vehicles, some fields are empty.

The code example allows a user to filter the container for either gas-powered or manual vehicles. To accomplish this, it is necessary to create a filter function (pfnFilter, shown in Figure 4) (see FIGURE4.C in the file CNREXM.ZIP in the OS2DF2 forum, section "OS/2 Developer Mag".) that is called by the container once filtering is initiated with the CM_FILTER message. The bGasPowered field of each VEHICLERECORD has been set to indicate the type of each vehicle. The container control allows the application to pass a pointer as mp2 of the CM_FILTER message, which is then passed to the application's filter function as the second parameter. In Figure 4 the FILTERSTRUCT structure is passed for this purpose. This structure is set up differently depending on whether the user is filtering for gas-powered or manual vehicles. Once the CM_FILTER message is sent to the container, the pfnFilter function is called once for each item in the container. The pfnFilter function returns either TRUE (to make the item visible) or FALSE (to remove the item from the viewable subset).

Once the records are filtered, it is desirable to show only those columns that apply to the given subset. The MPG (miles per gallon) column, for example, is not applicable to manually powered vehicles. The container control provides the CFA_INVISIBLE column attribute for this purpose. The pUserData field of the FIELDINFO data structure has been set to indicate the type of column; 0 is for all vehicles, 1 for gas powered only, 2 for manual powered only. Iterate through all columns, turning the CFA_INVISIBLE attribute on or off depending on the desired subset. Finally, update the changes by sending the CM_INVALIDATEDETAIL FIELDINFO message to the container. Figure 5 shows the container before any filtering has been done. Figure 6 shows the container after it has been filtered for manually powered vehicles. (Figure 5 and Figure 6 appear at the end of this article).

Record Sharing

The container's record sharing is probably one of its least understood features. Record sharing is the ability of an application to allocate record memory once, then insert the same record into an unlimited number of container windows. The position and attributes of each record are kept separately on a per-container basis. For example, the same record can be inserted into multiple containers, with a different position and different attributes in each container. In this situation, the application would allocate memory for only one record while the the container control manages data associated with that record across multiple containers. The records, although identical and occupying the same area of memory, can appear totally independent to the user. The record sharing feature, however, is available only to containers operating in the same process.

Record sharing is useful to an application that must display one record in multiple container windows at the same time. The OS/2 2.0 Workplace Shell, which uses the container control for all its folders, uses record sharing to implement CUA's Multiple Concurrent View concept. For example, a user can open a command-prompts folder simultaneously in the Icon and Details views. The objects in these folders, although appearing separately, are actually the same objects (i.e., the same container record inserted into multiple container windows). But because the positions and attributes of each object are unique to its container, they can appear to the user to be separate objects.

To take full advantage of record sharing in an application, the developer must code certain parts of the program carefully. Understanding how record sharing is implemented can help develop a well-behaved application.

As each record is inserted into a container using CM_INSERTRECORD or a currently inserted record is invalidated using CM_INVALIDATERECORD, the container copies the attributes in the flRecordAttr field and the (x,y) position specified in the ptlIcon field to an internal storage area for that record. As a record's attributes and position are changed, it is updated only in the internal storage area, not in the fields of the external record structure. Therefore, when the same record is inserted into multiple containers, its positions and attributes can vary, as they are stored internally for each record on a per-container basis. Figure 7 (see FIGURE7.C in the file CNREXM.ZIP in the OS2DF2 forum, section "OS/2 Developer Mag".) shows the memory layout resulting from the same record being inserted into two different container windows. The application has access only to the external record. The container has access to the internal storage area for each record, as well as to the external record.

When a record is returned to the application from the container, the ptlIcon and flRecordAttr information is retrieved from the records' internal storage area and updated in the external record to reflect the state of the record in that particular container. For example, if the application uses the CM_QUERY RECORD message, the ptlIcon and flRecordAttr fields of the returned record will be updated to reflect the records' current state in the container from which it has been queried. If the application wishes to query information for a record, the CM_QUERYRECORDINFO message is sent to the appropriate container.

When writing an application, the most important aspect of record sharing is that CM_INVALIDATERECORD should almost always be preceded by CM_QUERYRECORDINFO for the records being invalidated. Because CM_INVALIDATERECORD will copy the external record's current ptlIcon and flRecordAttr fields to the record's internal storage area, this information must be accurate. It is not necessary to send the CM_QUERYRECORDINFO message if you are explicitly setting the ptlIcon position and flRecordAttr fields. Figures 8 and 9 give code samples of record sharing. (see FIGURE8.C and FIGURE9.C in the file CNREXM.ZIP in the OS2DF2 forum, section "OS/2 Developer Mag".)

When using record sharing, it is important to note that when an application attempts to free the memory of a record (CM_FREERECORD or CM_REMOVERECORD with the CMA_FREE flag), it will be freed only if the record is not inserted into any other container. For each version of the container with which record sharing is used, there are differences in behavior that affect application design. One major difference between the 16- and 32-bit containers involves the memory area from which records are allocated.

Record Sharing with the 16-Bit Container

With the 16 bit CCL/2 container, all records are allocated from a common storage space created when the container is created. When a container is destroyed, so is the storage space for that container. The destruction of the storage space and all the records within it occurs regardless of whether the records are inserted into another container. Avoid allocating records from one container (A), inserting the same records into another container, then destroying A before removing the records from the other container. In this case, the records allocated from A would be freed, with unpredictable results for other containers holding the same records.

It is important that records be freed only from the container from which they were allocated. Freeing a record from another container can lead to memory corruption. For example, a record is allocated from container A and then inserted into container B. B frees the record with CM_FREERECORD. This causes a memory error because the freed record was not part of B's storage space. The container checks only if a record is not inserted into any other container before it allows it to be freed.

These problems can be avoided by creating an invisible "source" container. Each record should be allocated from, and inserted into, the source container so no other container can free it. When the application is terminated, destroy the invisible source container last. (When a container is destroyed, it will also free the memory of all FIELDINFO structures inserted into it).

Record Sharing with the 32-Bit Container

With the 32-bit OS/2 2.0 container, all records are allocated from the process address space, making them common across the process. When a container is destroyed, all records inserted into that container not inserted into any other container are automatically freed. Records can be allocated from one container and safely freed from another, since there is no concept of unique storage spaces for each individual container, as with the 16-bit container. Because of the way the 32-bit container manages memory, there is no need here for the concept of a source container.


The container control provides developers with a variety of powerful functions. The examples presented here should make using the container control much easier.


  • Haggar, Peter and Peter Brightbill. Programming the OS/2 Container Control: The Basics, IBM OS/2 Developer. (Winter 1993): 96-101.
  • Haggar, Peter, Tai Woo Nam, and Ruth Anne Taylor. "Container Control: Implementing the Workplace Model," IBM Personal Systems Developer, (Winter 1992): 48-54.
  • OS/2 2.0 Programmers Guide Volume II (IBM Doc. S10G-6494)
  • OS/2 2.0 Presentation Manager Programming Reference Volume III (IBM Doc. S10G-6272)
  • SAA CUA Guide to User Interface Design, (IBM Doc. SC34-4289)
  • SAA CUA Advanced Interface Design Reference, (IBM Doc. SC34-4290)


 Year      Vehicle      ||   Price Color      Mileage  Miles per  Calories
        Make and Model  ||                             Gallon     per Hour
 1990  Mazda Miata      || 17,000  Red        25,000     31
 1981  Chevy Malibu     ||  1,095  Brown     135,500     22
 1988  Schwinn Special  ||    495  Silver                          245
 1988  Skateboard       ||     49  Black                           245
 1988  Honda Accord     || 14,000  Blue       50,000     34
 1985  Nissan 200SX     ||  2,100  Black     132,000     28
 1975  Radio Flyer Wagon||     45  Red                             100
 1979  Radio Flyer Wagon||     10  Red                             100
 1990  Fuji XL100       ||    575  Red/White                       100
 1991  Ford Explorer    || 22,050  Green      13,500     18
 1985  Nissan Sentra    ||  2,800  Gray       85,000     32
 <                     >||<                                             >

Figure 5. Container before filtering

 Year      Vehicle      ||   Price Color      Calories
        Make and Model  ||                    per Hour
 1988  Schwinn Special  ||    495  Silver      245
 1988  Skateboard       ||     49  Black       245
 1975  Radio Flyer Wagon||     45  Red         100
 1979  Radio Flyer Wagon||     10  Red         100
 1990  Fuji XL100       ||    575  Red/White   100
 <                     >||<                                             >

Figure 6. Container after filtering for manually powered vehicles

  R1 inserted into hwndCnr1
  and hwndCnr2
                          Internal storage       Internal storage
  +---------------+ <-+   area for               area for
  |      .        |   |   R1 in Cnr1             R1 in Cnr2
  |      .        |   |  +--------------+   +-> +--------------+   +-> NULL
  |      .        |   |  |   HwndCnr1   |   |   |   HwndCnr2   |   |
  +---------------+   |  +--------------+   |   +--------------+   |
  |  flRecordAttr |   |  |   ptlIcon    |   |   |   ptlIcon    |   |
  +---------------+   |  +--------------+   |   +--------------+   |
  |    ptlIcon    |   |  | flRecordAttr |   |   | flRecordAttr |   |
  +---------------+   |  +--------------+   |   +--------------+   |
  |      .        |   |  |   pNext      |---+   |   pNext      |---+
  |      .        |   |  +--------------+       +--------------+
  +---------------+   |  |  pExtRec     |       |  pExtRec     |
                      |  +----+---------+       +----+---------+
                      |       |                      |

Figure 7. External and internal record memory layout