Tools to Manage Projects: The Properties Window


Introduction to the Properties Window




A property is a piece of information that characterizes or describes an object. It could be related to its location or size. It could be its color, its identification, or any visual aspect that gives it meaning. The properties of an object can be changed either at design time or at run time. You can also manipulate these characteristics both at design and at run times. This means that you can set some properties at design time and some others at run time.

To manipulate the properties of an object at design time, first select it, then use the Properties window. To access the Properties window if it is not visible:

  • On the main menu, you can click View -> Properties Window
  • Right-click the object and click Properties
  • The shortcut to display the Properties window is F4


The Properties window uses the behaviors we reviewed in Lesson 1 about auto-hiding, docking, floating or tabbing the tools that accompany Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. This means that you can position it on one side of the screen or to have it float on the screen as you wish.

The Properties window is divided in 5 sections:

The Properties window starts on top with a title bar, which displays the string Properties. If the window is docked somewhere, it displays the Window Position Window Position, the Auto-Hide Auto, and the Close Close buttons on its right side. If the window is floating, it would display only the Close button.

Under the title bar, the Properties window displays a combo box. The content of the combo box is the name of the object that is selected. You can click the arrow of the combo box and select an object from the list:


Under the combo box, the Properties window displays a toolbar with 4 buttons.

Under the toolbar, the Properties window displays the list of properties of the selected control(s). On the right side, the list is equipped with a vertical scroll bar. The items in the Properties window display in a list set when installing Microsoft Visual Studio. In the beginning, you may be regularly lost when looking for a particular property because the list is not arranged in a strict order of rules. You can rearrange the list. For example, you can cause the items to display in alphabetic order. To do this, on the toolbar of the Properties window, click the Alphabetic button . To restore the list, you can click the categorized button Categorized.

Two lists share the main area of the Properties window. When the list of properties is displaying, the Properties button is clicked Properties. The second is the list of events. Therefore, to show the events, you can click the Events button . If the events section is displaying, to show the list of properties, you can click the Properties button Properties.

Under the list of properties, there is a long bar that displays some messages. The area is actually a help section that displays a short description of the property that is selected in the main area of the Properties window.

Accessing the Properties of One or More Objects

Based on a previous description,

  • If the Properties window is already displaying, to access the properties of the object, simply click it
  • If the Properties window is not displaying, to access the characteristics of an object, right-click either the object and click Properties
  • If the Properties window is not available, to access the characteristics, click the object and, on the main menu, click View -> Properties

When a control is selected, the Properties window displays only its characteristics. You can change some characteristics of various objects at the same time. To do this, first select the objects and access the Properties window:

Common Properties

When various objects have been selected:

  • The Properties window displays only the characteristics that are common to the selected objects
  • The combo box on top of the Properties window is empty
  • Some fields of the Properties window appear empty because the various objects that are selected have different values for those properties

Properties Categories



Each field in the Properties window has two sections: the property's name and the property's value:

Name and Value

The name of a property is represented on the left column. This is usually not the official name of the property. It is usually only a representation of the real property defined in the MFC or the Win32 library.

The box on the right side of each property name represents the value of the property that you can set for an object. There are various kinds of fields you will use to set the properties. To know what particular kind a field is, you can click its name. To set or change a property, you use the box on the right side of the property's name: the property's value, also referred to as the field's value.

Empty Fields

Property Empty  

By default, these fields have nothing in their value section. Most of these properties are dependent on other settings of your program. For example, you can set a menu property only after you have created a menu.

To set the property on such a field, you can type in it or select from a list. 


Text Fields

There are fields that expect you to type a value. Most of these fields have a default value. Here is an example:

Property Text

To change the value of the property, click the name of the property, type the desired value, and press Enter.

While some properties, such as the Caption, would allow anything, some other fields expect a specific type of text, such as a numeric value.

Numeric Fields

Some fields expect a numeric value. In this case, you can click the name of the field and type the desired value. Here is an example:

Numeric Property

If you type an invalid value, you would receive a message box notifying you of the error:


When this happens, click OK and type a valid value. If the value is supposed to be an integer, make sure you don't type it as a decimal number.

Date-Based Fields

Some fields expect you to enter a date. You must type a valid date recognized by the operating system and the Regional and Language Settings in Control Panel. If you enter an invalid date, you would receive an error.

Boolean Fields

Boolean Fields Some fields can have only a True or False value. To change their setting, you can either select from the combo box or double-click the property to toggle to the other value.

Action Fields

Some fields would require a value or item that needs to be set through an intermediary action. Such fields display an ellipsis button Ellipsis. When you click the button, a dialog box would come up and you can set the value for the field.
Property Action

List-Based Fields

To change the value of some of the fields, you would use their combo box to display the available values. After clicking the arrow, a list would display:

Property Selection

There are various types of list-based fields. Some of them display just two items. To change their value, you can just double-click the field. Some other fields have more than two values in the field. To change them, you can click their arrow and select from the list. You can also double-click a few times until the desired value is selected.