In addition to referencing other assemblies, it is quite common for a .NET application to need to reference things such as images, icons, audio, and other files. These files aren't used to provide application logic but are used at runtime to provide support for the look, feel, and even text used to communicate with the application's user. In theory, you can reference a series of images associated with your application by looking for those images based on the installed file path of your application. Doing so, however, places your application's runtime behavior at risk, because a user might choose to replace, copy for profit, or just delete your files.

This is where project references become useful. Instead of placing the raw files onto the operating system alongside your executable, Visual Studio will package these files into your executable so that they are less likely to be lost or damaged. Figure 1-11 shows the Resources tab, which enables you to review and edit all the existing resources within a project, as well as import files for use as resources in your project. It even allows you to create new resources from scratch.

figure 1-11

Note one little-known feature of this tab: Using the Add Resource drop-down button and selecting an image (not an existing image but one based on one of the available image types) will create a new image file and automatically open Microsoft Paint (for Express Edition developers); this enables you to actually create the image that will be in the image file.

Users of Visual Studio 2010 have additional capabilities not supported by Visual Basic's Express Edition. For one thing, instead of using Paint, Visual Studio provides a basic image-editing tool, so when Visual Studio developers add a new image (not from a file), this editor opens within Visual Studio.

Additionally, within the list of Add Resource items, Visual Studio users can select or create a new icon. Choosing to create a new icon opens Visual Studio's icon editor, which provides a basic set of tools for creating custom icons to use as part of your application. This makes working with .ico files easier because you don't have to hunt for or purchase such files online; instead, you can create your own icons.

However, images aren't the only resources that you can embed with your executable. Resources also apply to the fixed text strings that your application uses. By default, people tend to embed this text directly into the source code so that it is easily accessible to the developer. Unfortunately, this leaves the application difficult to localize for use with a second language. The solution is to group all of those text strings together, thereby creating a resource file containing all of the text strings, which is still part of and easily accessible to the application source code. When the application is converted for use in another language, this list of strings can be converted, making the process of localization easier. Localization is covered in detail in Chapter 27.

The next tab is the Services tab. This tab is discussed in more detail in Chapter 13, which addresses services.

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