Using Labels with Visual COBOL

Micro Focus released Visual COBOL R4 earlier this year and it has turned out to be an awesome addition to Visual Studio 2010. The development teams have done a great job in delivering a very usable product. To help you learn about Visual COBOL and COBOL.NET in a managed environment we'd like to provide some example solutions. Now there are great samples that come with Visual COBOL but they don't define or detail one specific control, they show a finished application and the user has to read through the code to figure out how the code was created.

Our examples will focus on a single control. We'll show you how to manipulate the properties of that control programmatically. We may have to include one additional control but the focus on each project will be on a single control with a supporting role for the additional control. Our first control is the Label.

While maybe not a glamorous control, the Label provides a very important function for the developer: It enables the developer to present content, instructions or images to the user. Without the Label presenting information to the user all we'd have is a form with a bunch of boxes or circles without any idea what they were for.

So let's begin by looking at how to work with Labels.


We've already created the WinForm we'll be using. Remember, the intent is to learn how to manipulate Labels, not create WinForms. Our WinForm was specifically designed to be simple and present only the basic information. It appears as:


Pretty simple, right? At the top we have a Label that says "This is a Label". We also have a button on the screen that says "Click Me". The button is in a supporting role for now and will be explored in another article. Our interest is in the Label.

Label Properties

Labels, like all controls, have properties associated with them. Although there are many properties that can be manipulated there really are only a few that have any real implication when working with Labels.

When working with properties the general format used to update a property is:

SET controlName::property TO {something}
Where: controlName is the name of the control
Property is the name of the property to be manipulated
{something} is specific to each property and can be text, Boolean, enums, etc.

We're going to concentrate our discussion on the following properties:




The actual text that is displayed to the user


Can you see the control. Accepts a Boolean value of 'true' or 'false'


The background color for the control


The color the text displayed in the Text property


The type and size of the font to use when displaying the Text property


Where does the text show-up in the label

For information on the remaining properties for a Label or to review the properties above please see the Visual COBOL documentation or Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).

Text Property

The Text property contains the information we want to show to the user. Updating the value of the property can be done by the following statement:


Our example we set the Text property to "This is how to change what a label shows".

Visible Property

The Visible property is used to either show or hide a control on a form. You can use hidden fields to store information that the user entered on a screen, as a counter or just about anything you don't want the user to see.

In our example we use the Visible property to both show and hide different labels on the screen:


The first line of code shows a hidden label on the form. (lblHidden::Visible to true).

The next line of code shows a hidden button on the form. (btnReset::Visible to true).

The last line of code hides the 'Click Me' button. (btnClickMe::Visible to false).

BackColor Property

BackColor is used to define the color of the background in the label. In our example we set the color to Red with the following statement:


Visual COBOL R4 has made accessing native .NET classes very simple by inclusion of the keyword 'type'. "Type" enables you to directly access classes and properties without having to create Repository settings pointing to different classes.

In the supplied project try this, create a new line immediately after the BackColor line defined above and rekey the line just as it appears. When you enter the word 'type' intellisense will see you've entered a keyword and a pop-up will appear with different classes from which to choose from. Enter in 'co' for color and the following is displayed.


Enter the two semi-colons and another popup will appear with the attributes you can select for the different colors.


Try experimenting with the code, changing the color. You'll see how easy VCr4 makes this.

ForeColor Property

The ForeColor property is used to define the color the text in the Label will be displayed with. The process is similar to that of the BackColor and thus we won't go into a deep explanation. The code to change the ForeColor property is:


In our example we change the ForeColor on the displayed text to Crimson.

Font Property

Being able to change the style or size of the displayed font during program execution can help identify errors, warnings or highlight text the user needs to concentrate on. To do that programmatically based on a condition is done using the Font property. In our example we'll change the displayed font to 'Verdana'. Before we do that though we need to save the current font information so we can restore it when we reset everything.

Saving the current font information requires an entry in the Working-Storage section at the Class level, not the method level. The code to do that is:


We create a field called ws-font that is of type 'System.Drawing.Font'. If you'd like to additional information on 'System.Drawing.Font' please review the Microsoft documentation. The next step is to copy the current font information for the label to the working storage field and that is accomplished with the following code:


The code is self-explanatory but basically it's copying the font information from the label (lblThisIs::Font) to the working storage field we created. The next step is to update the label's font to a new value. Our example changes the font to 'Verdana' and the size to '8' with the following code:


There are other options available that can be changed as well. We kept the example simple to show the basic method to changing a font. Experiment with the code and see what else can be changed.

TextAlign Property

Shifting text from left to right, centering or moving to the upper or lower portion of a field is accomplished with the TextAlign property.


The process is similar to the way the color was changed with BackColor and ForeColor. We use the key word 'type' to gain access the Class 'System.Drawing.ContentAlignment'. You can then select the alignment you'd like to see from the pop-up provided.

Reset Button

The Reset button is used to return the application to position it was in when we the application first started. Study the code and the technique. There is nothing different in the method that what has already been discussed above, without all the comments in-line in the code.


The ZIP file has all the necessary source code for you to follow along and see how to update the properties we've described in the article. Read through the code; learn from it and use it in your projects. Even though we used a WinForm to present the information, the same concepts apply to WPF or WebForms. Yes there may be differences but this should at least serve as a starting point to help you figure out how to manipulate similar properties in the other presentation environments. Also, if you have a Label property you're not sure how to work with send it to us. Chances are if you're having questions someone else is also and we'd like to help you figure it out and expand this example!

Happy Coding!