Easy InkCanvas in Winforms for capturing signatures

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In WPF there’s an interesting control called “InkCanvas” that can be used to capture signatures and the like in Tablet PC applications.

Recently I created a prototype for a windows forms application.  I did consider using WPF, but the overhead seemed unnecessary considering the simplicity of the requirement.

I am aware there’s a specific SDK for Tablet PC that provides winforms controls for the requirement, but I thought it might be fun to create my own.  As it turns out, it was pretty easy.

The requirement was to have a signature panel which could be used to collect a bitmap that would be attached to an entity to act as an authorisation.

Signature Panel

In the prototype I decided to create the signature panel as a standalone usercontrol called it, strangely enough “SignaturePanel”.

It uses Mousedown and MouseUp events to determine stylus pressure and mousemove for drawing.  Like the WPF control it keeps a collection of strokes internally.

Unlike the wpf control, I just decided to expose a “SignatureImage” property to allow a developer to retrieve a bitmap.  This is rendered from the strokes in realtime.

I assume it works for the Tablet PC, but I don’t know for sure.

Write your signature here

An additional feature of this control is a label which tells the user the last time the signature was last updated.  I thought the user may find this helpful.

If the user hasn’t written anything then it just reads “Write your signature here”.

The user control consists of a picturebox called “inkPanel” and a button for resetting the content:

 

What the control looks like in design time

Here’s the code:

 

Public Class SignaturePanel

    Private moCurrentWriting As New List(Of Point)
    Private moRememberInk As New List(Of List(Of Point))
    Private mbPenDown As Boolean = False
    Private Sub inkPanel_MouseDown(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Forms.MouseEventArgs) Handles inkPanel.MouseDown
        mbPenDown = True
    End Sub

    Private Sub inkPanel_MouseMove(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Forms.MouseEventArgs) Handles inkPanel.MouseMove
        If mbPenDown Then
            moCurrentWriting.Add(e.Location)
            mdLastSignatureUpdate = Now
            Me.Refresh()
        End If
    End Sub

    Private Sub inkPanel_MouseUp(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Forms.MouseEventArgs) Handles inkPanel.MouseUp
        If moCurrentWriting.Count > 2 Then
            moRememberInk.Add(moCurrentWriting)
        End If

        moCurrentWriting = New List(Of Point)
        mbPenDown = False
    End Sub

    Private Sub inkPanel_Paint(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Forms.PaintEventArgs) Handles inkPanel.Paint

        mRenderSignature(e.Graphics)

        Dim lsText As String = ""
        If Not Me.DesignMode Then
            If mdLastSignatureUpdate.HasValue Then
                lsText = "Signature last updated " & Me.LastSignatureUpdate.ToLongTimeString
            End If
            e.Graphics.DrawString(lsText, Me.Font, Brushes.Black, 5, inkPanel.Height - 20)
        Else
            lsText = "... Write your signature here ..."

            e.Graphics.DrawString(lsText, Me.Font, Brushes.Black, (inkPanel.Width / 2) - (e.Graphics.MeasureString(lsText, Me.Font).Width / 2), (inkPanel.Height / 2) - (e.Graphics.MeasureString(lsText, Me.Font).Height / 2))
        End If
    End Sub
    Private Sub mRenderSignature(ByVal g As Graphics)
        Using loPen As New Pen(Color.Black)
            loPen.Width = 2
            For Each loLines As List(Of Point) In moRememberInk
                g.DrawLines(loPen, loLines.ToArray)
            Next
            If moCurrentWriting.Count > 1 Then
                g.DrawLines(loPen, moCurrentWriting.ToArray)
            End If
        End Using
    End Sub
    Private Sub cmdClearInk_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles cmdClearInk.Click
        moRememberInk.Clear()
        inkPanel.Refresh()
    End Sub
    Private mdLastSignatureUpdate As Nullable(Of Date) = Nothing
    <System.ComponentModel.DesignerSerializationVisibility(System.ComponentModel.DesignerSerializationVisibility.Hidden)> _
    Public Property LastSignatureUpdate() As Date
        Get
            Return mdLastSignatureUpdate
        End Get
        Set(ByVal value As Date)
            mdLastSignatureUpdate = value
        End Set
    End Property

    <System.ComponentModel.DesignerSerializationVisibility(System.ComponentModel.DesignerSerializationVisibility.Hidden)> _
    Public ReadOnly Property SignatureImage() As Image
        Get
            Dim loBitmap As New Bitmap(Me.Width, Me.Height)
            Using loGfx As Graphics = Graphics.FromImage(loBitmap)
                mRenderSignature(loGfx)
            End Using

            Return loBitmap
        End Get
    End Property

End Class

 

If anyone’s interested in a standalone sample project, post the request to this blog and I’ll see what I can do.

Possible Uses

It may be interesting to use this code as:

  • Signature recognition
  • “Mud map” style sketching for business applications
  • A basis for a drawing program ;)

Of course, if you’re using WPF, use InkPanel.  But if you don’t want the overhead, maybe this will be the foundation of a lightweight solution.

 


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5 responses »

  1. You’ll get a bunch of features with the WPF InkCanvas which you might want to check out, such as “smart” erase, selection (which you don’t need in your case), and more.

    Also, if you’re running Vista, you probably have the Tablet bits (including handwriting recognition) on your machine–you just need an external digitizer, such as a Wacom tablet, to “get to them.” InkCanvas will work OK with a mouse though.

  2. Thanks for the info.
    I have used WPF’s InkCanvas in the past for other things.
    In this particular case, WPF’s overhead is not really warranted (perhaps), so I wanted to see how hard it would be to do this in Winforms.

  3. It looks nice, but how to save the image to a file. I try to save it, but the image always black.

    This the code I used to save the file:
    Dim bm As Bitmap = SignatureImage ‘ inkPanel.Image

    ‘ Save the picture as a bitmap, JPEG, and GIF.
    bm.Save(file_name & “bmp”, System.Drawing.Imaging.ImageFormat.Bmp)
    bm.Save(file_name & “jpg”, _
    System.Drawing.Imaging.ImageFormat.Jpeg)
    bm.Save(file_name & “gif”, _
    System.Drawing.Imaging.ImageFormat.Gif)

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