Capturing the Elusive Form

Last night I decided to try write a web browser that has the ability to take screen captures. I have an rss2book program that I wrote for my Sony Reader which has been great at producing PDF content from the web (mostly RSS but it is not limited to that). However, I figured that for some content, especially that which is largely Javascript driven, it might be better to capture the full content of a web page as an image and then turn that into a DJVu document (the Sony Reader doesn't actually support DJVu, but I imagine that there will be e-book readers soon that do - or at the least there's always the Nokia N800).

Essentially, this app needs to do the following:

  • host the AxWebBrowser Active/X control
  • have a 'Capture' button that, when clicked, will grab the entire page as an image and write it to a JPEG file

The first part is easy. The second part involves a couple of steps:

  • resizing the host form so that the full page fits with no scroll bars
  • somehow grabbing the contents of this form

It took a little while to figure out hwo to solve the first problem, but once you know it's easy:

IHTMLDocument2 doc = (IHTMLDocument2)webBrowser.Document;
IHTMLElement2 body = (IHTMLElement2)doc.body;
this.Width += (body.scrollWidth - webBrowser.Width);
this.Height += (body.scrollHeight - webBrowser.Height);

However, the second problem is really hard. I already had some code I'd written which does window captures. The problem is that if the window is obscured or clipped anywhere it gets no content for that area. Given that I am typically resizing the form to have a height much larger than my display's physical resolution I'm almost always going to have clipping occur.

In .Net 2.0 there is an alternative, namely Control.DrawToBitmap. That actually works wonderfully for WinForms controls - but it does not draw anything for Active X controls (or at least not for AxWebBrowser). My understanding is that the control must be able to handle WM_PRINT messages, although I'm not entirely convinced of this explanation, because it is inconsistent with my experience with PrintWindow (see below).

I tried calling RaisePaintEvent on the form and passing in a Graphics object created from a bitmap - but that doesn't work either. Only the form is drawn, not any of the child controls (so all you really get in most cases is a blank image with a border).

I tried P/Invoking PrintWindow from user32.dll, but that suffers from the same clipping problem that my original window grabbing code has. So I'm still stumped here. Watch this space to see if I find a solution. In the meanwhile, if you don't have Active/X controls to worry about, I recommend Control.DrawToBitmap; it is simple and works well.

Update: I found my code that accesses the ActiveX control broke with IE7. I rewrote it using the Windows.Forms.WebBrowser classes in .Net 2.0. They work fine. There is still no Control.DrawToBitmap though, presumably because these classes are just wrapping the underlying ActiveX control.

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