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Printing and Previewing Rich Edit Controls

Part 3: Previewing Rich Edit Controls

Part 2 of this paper demonstrated how to print the contents to a Rich Edit control to an arbitrary area on a page.  This part of the paper describes how to implement a Rich Edit print preview feature in your project.  If you have not already studied Part 2, I suggest that you do so now.  Much of the code in this part of the paper assumes that you understand all of the concepts in Part 2.


One must assume that the original Rich Edit design goal was to render identically on all devices.  Sadly, Rich Edit controls fall short of this ideal – if you need a flawless print preview feature, you have several choices:

On the other hand, if you can live with a few imperfections, Rich Edit controls can come pretty close and the code is not too difficult.

Before you make a decision, let me describe the behavior that I have encountered.  First, things seem pretty close to perfection if you are not scaling the page to less than 100% of the actual printed size (as represented on the screen).  What happens when scaling to less than 100% is something like this:

I can live with this – I just scale to 100% when I need to see things accurately and advise the user that the right and bottom margins may be clipped otherwise.  The bugs do not really interfere with getting a general idea of the page layout, which is what I really wanted.  For what it is worth, the technique used in this paper is the same method used by WordPad’s print preview feature and has the same flaws.

To demonstrate all of this, we will code up a little extension to the Part 2 example to:

The Code

First, add a form to the Part 2 project and add the main form header include file to the new form.  Include the vcl\printers.hpp and STL vector headers and declare the TPageOffsets structure to the new form's *.cpp file.  The code should look something like this:

#include <vcl.h>

#pragma hdrstop

#include "TestRichEditPnPPreviewForm.h"

#include "TestRichEditPnPForm.h"


#include <vcl\printers.hpp>

#include <vector> // for stl

typedef struct tagTPageOffset {

        long int Start;

        long int End;

        RECT rendRect;

        } TPageOffsets;


#pragma package(smart_init)

#pragma resource "*.dfm"

TPreviewForm *PreviewForm;

Add the following to public portion of the class declaration (in the preview form header file):

__fastcall ~TPreviewForm(void);

void DrawRichEdit(void);

TPanel* PreviewPanel;

Note that this adds a destructor method, a DrawRichEdit member function, and a TPanel variable.

We will draw the scaled Rich Edit control's output on a TPanel.  To facilitate this, define a TPreviewPanel class in the *.cpp file as follows:

class TPreviewPanel : public TPanel



        __fastcall virtual TPreviewPanel(Classes::TComponent* AOwner) : TPanel(AOwner) { };

        __fastcall virtual ~TPreviewPanel(void) { };

        __fastcall virtual void Paint(void) {




        __property Canvas;


The two reasons for deriving the class are (1) to call the PreviewForm::DrawRichEdit() method when the panel is painted and (2) to make the panel's Canvas property public.

Modify the TPreviewForm constructor to create an instance of TPreviewPanel and add the destructor to delete the TPreviewPanel instance.

__fastcall TPreviewForm::TPreviewForm(TComponent* Owner) : TForm(Owner)


        PreviewPanel = new TPreviewPanel(this);

        PreviewPanel->Parent = this;

        PreviewPanel->Color = clWhite;


__fastcall TPreviewForm::~TPreviewForm(void)


        if (PreviewPanel) delete PreviewPanel;


We want the TPreviewPanel to approximate the scaled dimensions of the printed page.  Whenever the parent form is resized, we need to rescale and center the panel on the form.  To do this, add an OnResize event to the form and add the following code:

void __fastcall TPreviewForm::FormResize(TObject *Sender)


        // get the printer dimensions.

        int wPage = ::GetDeviceCaps(Printer()->Handle, PHYSICALWIDTH);

        int hPage = ::GetDeviceCaps(Printer()->Handle, PHYSICALHEIGHT);

        // get the client window dimensions.

        int wClient = ClientWidth;

        int hClient = ClientHeight;

        // initially adjust width to match height

        wClient = ::MulDiv(ClientHeight, wPage, hPage);

        // if that doesn't fit, then do it the other way

        if (wClient > ClientWidth) {

                wClient = ClientWidth;

                hClient = ::MulDiv(ClientWidth, hPage, wPage);

                // center the page in the window

                PreviewPanel->Top = (ClientHeight - hClient) >> 1; // divide by two


        else // center the page in the window 

        PreviewPanel->Left = (ClientWidth - wClient) >> 1; // divide by two

        // now set size of panel

        PreviewPanel->Width = wClient;

        PreviewPanel->Height = hClient;


The DrawRichEdit() method renders the contents of the control on the preview panel.  Much of the code is very close to the code used to print the control in Part 2.  The first part of the method is identical to the printing code:

void TPreviewForm::DrawRichEdit(void)


        int wPage = ::GetDeviceCaps(Printer()->Handle, PHYSICALWIDTH);

        int hPage = ::GetDeviceCaps(Printer()->Handle, PHYSICALHEIGHT);

        int xPPI = ::GetDeviceCaps(Printer()->Handle, LOGPIXELSX);

        int yPPI = ::GetDeviceCaps(Printer()->Handle, LOGPIXELSY);

        int wTwips = ::MulDiv(wPage, 1440, xPPI);

        int hTwips = ::MulDiv(hPage, 1440, yPPI);

        RECT pageRect;

        pageRect.left = = 0;

        pageRect.right = wTwips;

        pageRect.bottom = hTwips;

        RECT rendRect;

        rendRect.left = = 0;

        rendRect.right = pageRect.right - 1440 * 4;

        rendRect.bottom = pageRect.bottom - 1440 * 4;

        std::vector<TPageOffsets> FPageOffsets;

        TPageOffsets po;

        po.Start = 0;

We will be using several device contexts (DCs), so let's go ahead and create variables for them.

        HDC hdcDesktop = ::GetWindowDC(::GetDesktopWindow());

        HDC hdcCanvas = dynamic_cast<TPreviewPanel*>(PreviewPanel)->Canvas->Handle;

        HDC hdcPrinter = Printer()->Handle;

Next, define and initialize a FORMATRANGE structure.

        TFormatRange fr;

        fr.hdc = hdcDesktop;

        fr.hdcTarget = hdcPrinter;

        fr.chrg.cpMin = po.Start;

        fr.chrg.cpMax = -1;

We will need the size of the text in the control.

        int lastOffset = ::SendMessage(Form1->RichEdit1->Handle, WM_GETTEXTLENGTH, 0, 0);

Clear the control's formatting buffer before rendering.

        ::SendMessage(Form1->RichEdit1->Handle, EM_FORMATRANGE, (WPARAM) 0, (LPARAM) 0);

Here is the tricky part.  We need to scale the rendering DC to match the size of the printed page in printer device units.


        ::SetMapMode(hdcCanvas, MM_TEXT); // set to device units

        ::SetMapMode(hdcCanvas, MM_ANISOTROPIC); // inherits prior mapping mode

        ::SetMapMode(hdcPrinter, MM_TEXT); // set to device units

        ::SetWindowExtEx(hdcCanvas, pageRect.right, pageRect.bottom, NULL);

        int xDesktopPPI = ::GetDeviceCaps(hdcDesktop, LOGPIXELSX);

        int yDesktopPPI = ::GetDeviceCaps(hdcDesktop, LOGPIXELSY);

        ::ScaleWindowExtEx(hdcCanvas, xDesktopPPI, 1440, yDesktopPPI, 1440, NULL);

        ::SetViewportExtEx(hdcCanvas, PreviewPanel->ClientWidth, PreviewPanel->ClientHeight, NULL);

Apparently, the Rich Edit control reduces the width of the rendering area by the amount of the left offset to the printable portion of the page when printing.  This is a little odd to me because none of the Windows API GDI functions care whether you are printing within the printable portion of the page.  Further, this occurs even though the rendering rectangle is already within the printable portion of the page.  Anyway, this does not seem to happen when the rendering DC is the screen so we need to manually adjust the rectangle ourselves.

        int xPrinterOffset = ::MulDiv(::GetDeviceCaps(hdcPrinter, PHYSICALOFFSETX), 1440, xPPI);

        int yPrinterOffset = ::MulDiv(::GetDeviceCaps(hdcPrinter, PHYSICALOFFSETY), 1440, yPPI);

        rendRect.left += xPrinterOffset >> 1;

        rendRect.right -= xPrinterOffset - (xPrinterOffset >> 1); += yPrinterOffset >> 1;

        rendRect.bottom -= yPrinterOffset - (yPrinterOffset >> 1);

Remember that we are hardcoding two-inch margins.

        int xOffset = ::MulDiv(PreviewPanel->ClientWidth << 1, 1440, pageRect.right);

        int yOffset = ::MulDiv(PreviewPanel->ClientHeight << 1, 1440, pageRect.bottom);

        ::SetViewportOrgEx(hdcCanvas, xOffset, yOffset, NULL);

Now we build the table of offsets.  Note that we save the rendering rectangle returned by the format call.  When the rendering and target devices are the same (or the target device is set to zero), the returned rectangle is not really needed.  In that case, you can simply ask the control to print to the original rendering rectangle.  However, when the devices are different, the returned rendering rectangle is sometimes larger than the requested rectangle.  This must be a bug in the Rich Edit control.  We deal with it by saving the returned value to use when we actually render the control to the screen.

        do { 

                fr.rc = rendRect;

                fr.rcPage = pageRect;

                po.Start = fr.chrg.cpMin;

                fr.chrg.cpMin = ::SendMessage(Form1->RichEdit1->Handle, EM_FORMATRANGE, (WPARAM) 0, (LPARAM) &fr);

                po.End = fr.chrg.cpMin - 1;

                po.rendRect = fr.rc;


                } while (fr.chrg.cpMin != -1 && fr.chrg.cpMin < lastOffset);

If we were writing a fully working preview function, we could use FPageOffsets.size() to determine how many pages had been formatted.  We would then set currPage (below) to the page that we wanted to display.  In this example, however, we are going to display only the first page.

        int currPage = 0;

Now we set the rendering device to the panel's canvas.  Since we have not cleared the formatting buffer, the target device is not needed, so we set it to zero.  Then we fill in the remaining parts of the FORMATRANGE structure with the values we saved in FPageOffsets.  Finally, we render the text to the screen (WPARAM is non-zero).

        fr.hdc = hdcCanvas;

        fr.hdcTarget = 0;

        fr.rc = FPageOffsets[currPage].rendRect;

        fr.rcPage = pageRect;

        fr.chrg.cpMin = FPageOffsets[currPage].Start;

        fr.chrg.cpMax = FPageOffsets[currPage].End;

        fr.chrg.cpMin = ::SendMessage(Form1->RichEdit1->Handle, EM_FORMATRANGE, (WPARAM) 1, (LPARAM) &fr);

As I mentioned, the text may be drawn outside of the rendering rectangle.  To make that easier to see, let's draw a rectangle that shows where the rendering rectangle should be.

        ::SetMapMode(hdcCanvas, MM_TEXT);

        ::SetViewportOrgEx(hdcCanvas, 0, 0, NULL);

        RECT frameRect = rendRect;

        OffsetRect(&frameRect, 1440 + 1440, 1440 + 1440);

        int xFactor = ::MulDiv(PreviewPanel->ClientWidth, (pageRect.right - rendRect.right) >> 1, pageRect.right);

        int yFactor = ::MulDiv(PreviewPanel->ClientHeight, (pageRect.bottom - rendRect.bottom) >> 1, pageRect.bottom);

        frameRect.left = xFactor;

        frameRect.right = PreviewPanel->ClientWidth - xFactor; = yFactor;

        frameRect.bottom = PreviewPanel->ClientHeight - yFactor;

        ::FrameRect(hdcCanvas, &frameRect, ::GetStockObject(BLACK_BRUSH));

To wrap up, we restore the panel's canvas to the original state, release the desktop DC, clear the Rich Edit control's formatting buffer, empty the page offset table, and close the DrawRichEdit() method.

        ::RestoreDC(hdcCanvas, -1);

        ::ReleaseDC(::GetDesktopWindow(), hdcDesktop);

        ::SendMessage(Form1->RichEdit1->Handle, EM_FORMATRANGE, (WPARAM) 0, (LPARAM) 0);

        FPageOffsets.erase(FPageOffsets.begin(), FPageOffsets.end());


You now have a preview window.  The last step is to go back to the main form and add code to the Preview button’s OnClick handler to show the form:

void __fastcall TForm1::PreviewBtnClick(TObject *Sender)




Back to Part 2: Printing Rich Edit Controls

On to Part 4: Page-Breaks in Rich Edit Controls

The complete project for parts 1 - 3 is available for download.

Download BCB 3.0 Project.

Download BCB 4.0 Project.

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Copyright © 1998-2001 Thin Air Enterprises and Robert Dunn.  All rights reserved.