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Bitmaps, HBITMAP, and DirectDraw Surfaces

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I''m coding (of all things) an RPG! It''s in the early stages (I taught myself the DirectX basics yesterday). I need to know how to load bitmaps (16 bit) from files (instead of compiling them as resources all the time). I know the DirectX tools included in the SDK (ddutil.cpp) let you load a bitmap from a file, but the example had it loading from a resource. I don''t know how to get it to load from an actually *.bmp file. How do I do this? Also, which would be more efficient? Loading all the textures into DirectDraw Surfaces and letting DDraw deal with everything or loading all the bitmaps into system memory and then loading only the bitmaps that will be on the current map into video memory? Thanks

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