Windows Forms Controls

2.1 How do you prevent serialization of certain child controls in your Composite Control?

One solution is to use a panel that has a picturebox placed on it with DockStyle.Fill. This will make the picturebox assume the size of the panel. In addition, set the DockPadding.All property to the width of the desired border. Then in the Panel's OnPaint method, call the baseclass and then paint the desired borders.

Here are both VB and C# projects that illustrate how you might go about this. The derived PicturePanel class has properties that allow you to set the bordersize and color as well as the image that is to be displayed. This sample retrieves the image from an embedded

2.2 How do I get hold of the currently focused Control?

The .Net framework libraries does not provide you an API to query for the focused Control. You have to invoke a windows API to do so:

public class MyForm : Form
[DllImport("user32.dll", CharSet=CharSet.Auto, CallingConvention=CallingConvention.Winapi)]
internal static extern IntPtr GetFocus();

private Control GetFocusedControl()
Control focusedControl = null;
// To get hold of the focused control:
IntPtr focusedHandle = GetFocus();
if(focusedHandle != IntPtr.Zero)
// Note that if the focused Control is not a .Net control, then this will return null.
focusedControl = Control.FromHandle(focusedHandle);
return focusedControl;
Public Class Form1

' Declare the GetFocused method here:
Public Shared Function GetFocus() As IntPtr
End Function
Private Function GetFocusedControl() As Control
Dim focusedControl As Control = Nothing
' To get hold of the focused control:
Dim focusedHandle As IntPtr = GetFocus()
If IntPtr.Zero.Equals(focusedHandle) Then
' Note that if the focused Control is not a .Net control, then this will return null.
focusedControl = Control.FromHandle(focusedHandle)
End If
Return focusedControl
End Function
End Class

2.3 Why do calling Focus() on a control not set focus on it?

Note that when you call this method the control should be visible, otherwise the focus will not be set. Hence calling this in say Form_Load on a control in the form will be ineffective. You should instead consider give that control an appropriate TabIndex, so that it will be the first focused control.

2.4 How do I listen to windows messages in my Control?

In a derived class you should override WndProc as follows (listening to the WM_KEYUP message, for example):
public class MyCombo : ComboBox
private const int WM_KEYUP = 0x101;

protected override void WndProc(ref System.Windows.Forms.Message m)
if(m.Msg == WM_KEYUP)
return; //ignore the keyup
base.WndProc(ref m);
Public Class MyTextBox
Inherits TextBox
Private WM_KEYUP As Integer = &H101

Protected Overrides Sub WndProc(ByRef m As System.Windows.Forms.Message)
If m.Msg = WM_KEYUP Then
Return 'ignore the keyup
End If
End Sub 'WndProc
End Class 'MyTextBox

2.5 How do I programatically change the color of a control?

Use the properties BackColor and ForeColor.
button1.BackColor = Color.White;
button1.ForeColor = Color.Blue;

2.6 How can I change the Border color of my control?

Override the OnPaint. Here is some code for a derived Button.
public class MyButton : Button
protected override void OnPaint(PaintEventArgs e)
int borderWidth = 1;
Color borderColor = Color.Blue;
ControlPaint.DrawBorder(e.Graphics, e.ClipRectangle, borderColor,
borderWidth, ButtonBorderStyle.Solid, borderColor, borderWidth,
ButtonBorderStyle.Solid, borderColor, borderWidth, ButtonBorderStyle.Solid,
borderColor, borderWidth, ButtonBorderStyle.Solid);

Public Class MyButton
Inherits Button
Protected Overrides Sub OnPaint(e As PaintEventArgs)
Dim borderWidth As Integer = 1
Dim borderColor As Color = Color.Blue
ControlPaint.DrawBorder(e.Graphics, e.ClipRectangle, borderColor, borderWidth, ButtonBorderStyle.Solid, borderColor, borderWidth, ButtonBorderStyle.Solid, borderColor, borderWidth, ButtonBorderStyle.Solid, borderColor, borderWidth, ButtonBorderStyle.Solid)
End Sub 'OnPaint
End Class 'MyButton

2.7 Why should I provide a Non-Client border to my Control derived class?

Providing a border in the non-client region of your control rather than in the ClientRectangle has very many advantages:
• When you include a scrollbar in your control, the scrollboar will appear inside the border, rather than to the outside if you drew the border in the client area.
• When you allow custom painting of the control, your user will not draw over the NC border.
• Your own client painting code will be simplified in that you will not have to bother about taking the border into account while painting the client area. The next faq will tell you how to include a non-client border.

2.8 How do I provide a 2 pixel 3d border in the Non-Client area of my Control derived class?

You can do so as follows by overriding the CreateParams property in your Control. The advantage with this approach is that drawing is handled by the system as soon as you set the flag below.
protected override CreateParams CreateParams
CreateParams cparams;

cparams = base.CreateParams;

cparams.ExStyle &= ~512;
cparams.Style &= ~8388608 /*WS_BORDER*/;
cparams.ExStyle = cparams.ExStyle | 512 /*WS_EX_DLGFRAME*/;
return cparams;

2.9 How do I provide a 1 pixel border in the NonClient area of my Control?

You will have to first provide some space in the NC area by setting the WS_BORDER flag in CreateParams and then draw the border yourself by listening to the WM_NCPAINT message in your Control, as follows:
protected override CreateParams CreateParams
System.Windows.Forms.CreateParams cp = base.CreateParams;
cparams.ExStyle &= ~512 /*WS_EX_CLIENTEDGE*/;
cparams.Style &= ~8388608 /*WS_BORDER*/;
cp.Style |= 0x800000; // WS_BORDER
protected override void WndProc(ref Message m)
if(m.Msg == 133/*WM_NCPAINT*/)
this.DrawFlatNCBorder(ref m);
base.WndProc(ref m);
private void DrawFlatNCBorder(ref Message msg)
IntPtr hRgn1 = (IntPtr) msg.WParam;
// The update region is clipped to the window frame. When wParam is 1, the entire window frame needs to be updated.

IntPtr hdc = NativeMethods.GetDCEx(msg.HWnd, hRgn1, 1/*DCX_WINDOW*/|0x0020/*DCX_PARENTCLIP*/);
if (hdc != IntPtr.Zero)
using (Graphics g = Graphics.FromHdc(hdc))

Rectangle bounds = new Rectangle(0,0,this.Width,this.Height);


// create a clipping region for remaining parts to be drawn excluding
// the border we did just drew
bounds.Inflate(-1, -1);
IntPtr hRgn2 = NativeMethods.CreateRectRgn(bounds.Left, bounds.Top, bounds.Right, bounds.Bottom);
if(hRgn2 == (IntPtr)1)
// Provide a new clipping region.
msg.WParam = (IntPtr) hRgn2;
// combine with existing clipping region.
NativeMethods.CombineRgn(hRgn1, hRgn1, hRgn2, NativeMethods.RGN_AND);

msg.Result = (IntPtr) 1;
NativeMethods.ReleaseDC(msg.HWnd, hdc);

2.10 How do I invalidate a control including it's NonClient area?

You can do so as follows in your Control:
private void InvalidateWindow()
NativeMethods.RedrawWindow(this.Handle, IntPtr.Zero, IntPtr.Zero,
0x0400/*RDW_FRAME*/ | 0x0100/*RDW_UPDATENOW*/
| 0x0001/*RDW_INVALIDATE*/);

2.11 How can I implement a scrollable picture box?

See Mike Gold's article on C# Corner for a detailed discussion.

2.12 How can I put Controls, a ProgressBar for example, into a StatusBar?

You cannot place controls into a StatusBar control in the designer. However, you can add any no. of Controls to the StatusBar programatically through it's Controls property. After adding the Controls, set their Visible, Location and Bounds property appropriately.
You could then create a status bar that looks like this, for example:

2.13 How do I implement an ownerdrawn statusbar so I can put a progressbar in it?

Check out the code posted originally in VB by Jacob Grass, and translated to C# by Jason Lavigne on the dotnet.discussion newsgroup at

2.14 How would I change the icon that appears on the toolbox for a custom control?

You can do this in different ways explained below. In all the cases the bitmap or icon should follow these rules:
• The bitmap or icon dimension should be 16X16 with 16 colors.
• The left-bottom pixel-color will be assumed to be the transparent color.
Technique 1: Use a bitmap (not an icon, in the embedded resource) file implicitly without specifying the ToolboxBitmapAttribute for the type:
Say, you have a custom control MyControl in the namespace MyNamespace, create a bmp file MyControl.bmp following the above rules. Add this file to your project at the top-level and make it an embedded resource. The project's default namespace should be MyNamespace.
If the control's namespace and the project's default namespace don't match then move the bitmap to appropriate subfolders so that they match. If this is not possible, typically when the namespaces are not related at all then you cannot use this technique, use instead one of the techniques below using the ToolboxBitmap attribute.
Create the assembly and the next time you add it to the toolbox the custom image in MyControl.bmp should be available in the toolbox.
This is the easiest technique to implement as it doesn't require you to use the ToolboxBitmapAttribute in your type defenition.
Technique 2: Use ToolboxBitmap attribute.
Example 1:
Use a bitmap (not icon) in the embedded resource with the same name as the type.
Default Assembly Namespace: "MyAssemblyNamespace"
namespace MyAssemblyNamespace
public class MyCustomType : Component

In the above scenario the runtime will look for a embedded bmp file of name MyCustomType.bmp in the project's root directory. Note that the default namespace and the type's namespace match.
Example 2:
If you want your icons in sub-directories then change the attribute like this:
[ToolboxAttribute(typeof(MyCustomType), "ToolboxIcons.MyCustomType.bmp")]

[ToolboxAttribute(typeof(MyCustomType), "ToolboxIcons.MyCustomType.ico")]

where the bmp or ico file (yap, now, when you explicity specify the resource, you can use an ico file) is in a sub-directory called "ToolboxIcons".
Example 3:
Sometimes your type's namespace and the default assembly namespace may be unrelated, in which case you have to use a different type that has the same namespace as the default assembly namespace to scope the embedded image file.
Default namespace: "MyAssemblyNamespace"
namespace MyAssemblyNamespace
public class SomeType
namespace DifferentNamespace
// Using SomeType which has the same namespace as the default assembly namespace to scope the embedded resource.
[ToolboxBitmap(typeof(SomeType), "MyCustomType.ico")]
public class MyCustomType

In this case the runtime will look for the above resource at the top-most directory. If your icons were in a subdirectory named "ToolboxIcons" then the attribute would look like this:
[ToolboxBitmap(typeof(SomeType), "ToolboxIcons.MyCustomType.ico")]

2.15 A control's Validating event is hit even when the user clicks on the Close box. How can I avoid this behavior?

One way is to add code to your Validating handler and only execute the validation routine if the mouse is in the client area. This will avoid the click on the title bar and its system menu. You might also want to add special handling for the tab key so your validation is hit independent of the mouse location when you tab off the control.
private bool tabKeyPressed = false;

private void textBox1_Validating(object sender, System.ComponentModel.CancelEventArgs e)
if(tabKeyPressed ||
if(boolNotOKValues) //do your validating
e.Cancel = true; //failed
tabKeyPressed = false;

protected override bool ProcessDialogKey(Keys keyData)
tabKeyPressed = keyData == Keys.Tab;
return base.ProcessDialogKey(keyData);

2.16 I would like to prevent validation in my textbox when the user clicks on my Cancel button, how do I do this?

Say textBox1 and canelButton and the control names, then this is how you could do this:
// Handler to the Validating event of the TextBox.
private void TextBox_Validating(object sender, System.ComponentModel.CancelEventArgs e)
if (!this.cancelButton.Focused)
// Do this only when the cancel button is not clicked.
e.Cancel = true;
' Handler to the Validating event of the TextBox.
Private Sub TextBox_Validating(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.ComponentModel.CancelEventArgs)
If Not Me.cancelButton.Focused Then
' Do this only when the cancel button is not clicked.
If invalidState Then
e.Cancel = True
End If
End If
End Sub

2.17 Why does adding images to an ImageList in the designer cause them to lose their alpha channel?

Looks like the ImageList editor loses the transparency when it does some internal copy/clone of the images. However, it seems that it does work when you add the images in code to the ImageList.
One workaround (not so tidy) is to add the images to the ImageList in the design time (so that your design-time will be closer to the runtime) and then clear that ImageList and refill it with the images again, in code.
Take a look at this faq on how to add images to your project and retrive them programatically during runtime. Adding image files to a project as an embedded resource and retrieving them programatically.

2.18 Why do the XP Icons when drawn using Graphics.DrawImage not draw transparently?

Note that it's only the ImageList class that can draw an Icon with alpha channel properly. So, instead of using the Graphics.DrawImage method, first associate this icon to a ImageList and then use the ImageList.Draw method to draw the icon. Also, note that this is possible only in XP with XP Themes enabled for that application.

2.19 Why do the XP Icons that have alpha channel not draw properly when associated with controls like ListView?

Make sure that you include the manifest file that will enable XP themes support for you application. Then the icons with alpha channel will draw semi-transparently.

2.20 How do I prevent resizing of my Controls by the user, via Docking or anchoring or manual resizing during design-time?

The best place to ensure a particular height/width for you control is in the SetBoundsCore override of your Control, as follows:
protected override void SetBoundsCore(int x, int y, int width, int height, BoundsSpecified specified)
int prefHeight = this.GetPreferredHeight();
// Ensure that the height is atleast as big as prefHeight
if(height < prefHeight)
height = prefHeight;

base.SetBoundsCore(x, y, width, height, specified);
Protected Overrides Sub SetBoundsCore(ByVal x As Integer, ByVal y As Integer, ByVal width As Integer, ByVal height As Integer, ByVal specified As BoundsSpecified)
Dim prefHeight As Integer = Me.GetPreferredHeight()
' Ensure that the height is atleast as big as prefHeight
If height < prefHeight Then
height = prefHeight
End If

MyBase.SetBoundsCore(x, y, width, height, specified)
End Sub

2.21 What control do I use to insert Separator lines between Controls in my Dialog?

Use the Label Control with the BorderStyle set to Fixed3D and height set to 2.
2.22 How can I make my controls transparent so the form's background image can show through them?
By default, a control's background color will be the same as the container's background. In the picture below, the form's background was set to Color.Red. In design mode, you can see the four controls have the red background, but since the form's Image was set to a bitmap, you cannot see the form's red background. To make the controls' background transparent, you can set the alpha blend value of their background to zero. In code, you could use:
public Form1()

checkBox1.BackColor = Color.FromArgb(0, checkBox1.BackColor);
button1.BackColor = Color.FromArgb(0, button1.BackColor);
linkLabel1.BackColor = Color.FromArgb(0, linkLabel1.BackColor);
label1.BackColor = Color.FromArgb(0, label1.BackColor);
// Or use the System.Drawing.Color.Transparent color.

In design mode, you can set the alpha blend value to zero by typing the four component in the property grid. So, for each control's BackColor property, you would type 0,255,0,0 to make it a tranparent red.

Here is a VB project using this idea.

2.23 How do I create an editable listbox with an in-place TextBox and Button?

The attached EditableList UserControl implements an editable listbox with an in-place TextBox and Button allowing users to directly edit the contents of the list box.
When the user clicks on a selected item, a textbox and a button is shown over the selected item and the user can directly edit the selectected item text. The button can be programmed to show for example a OpenFileDialog to allow user to select a file (useful while implementing a Files list).

2.24 How do I determine the width/height of the Non-Client area (like the border in a textbox) of a Control?

One generic way for all Controls is to get the difference between the ClientRectangle's width and the Control.Bounds' width. That should give the border width (and in general the NC area width); similarly for height.

2.25 How can I programmatically manipulate Anchor styles?

You can do this using the bitwise operators &, | and ^ ( And, Or and Xor (or &, Or, ^) in VB.Net). Here is code that will toggle label1 being anchored on the left.
private void button1_Click(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
if ((label1.Anchor & AnchorStyles.Left) == 0)
{ //add it
label1.Anchor = label1.Anchor | AnchorStyles.Left;
else if ((label1.Anchor & AnchorStyles.Left) != 0)
{ //remove
label1.Anchor = label1.Anchor ^ AnchorStyles.Left;
Private Sub button1_Click(sender As Object, e As System.EventArgs)
If(label1.Anchor And AnchorStyles.Left) = 0 Then
'add it
label1.Anchor = label1.Anchor Or AnchorStyles.Left
ElseIf(label1.Anchor And AnchorStyles.Left) <> 0 Then
label1.Anchor = label1.Anchor Xor AnchorStyles.Left
End If
End Sub 'button1_Click

2.26 What is the best method to override in custom Controls to perform custom initialization during runtime?

When custom initialization is to be done during runtime on certain Controls, the best way is to implement the ISupportInitialize interface in that Control. Then the BeginInit method will be called as soon as the Control gets created and EndInit will be called after the design-time initialization of that control.

2.27 I set a Control's Visible property to true and in the immediate next statement, it returns false. Why doesn't setting the Visible property 'take'?

A control's Visible property will also depend on it's parent control's (if any) visible property. If the parent control is not visible, the control will also return false.

2.28 I'm trying to make the background of my linklabel transparent so a picturebox will show through it. However, if I set the link label's BackColor property to Transparent the label still has a white background. Why?

Controls with a "Transparent" color actually render their parent's background, so you're seeing the White background of the Form, not the PictureBox. Three easy ways to deal with this:
• Use a Panel with it's "BackgroundImage" property set instead of a PictureBox, and parent the LinkLabels to the panel (PictureBoxes generally don't have children)
• Set the BackgroundImage of the Form to the image (basically the same as 1 above, but avoids the extra control)
• In code, set the Parent of the LinkLabel to be the PictureBox. You'll need to update the LinkLabel's position to match the new origin of the parent if the PictureBox isn't at (0,0)
(Shawn Burke on microsoft.public.dotnet.framework.windowsforms newsgroup)

2.29 How do I dynamically load a control from a DLL?

You use System Reflection to dynamically load a control. If the DLL is named "SpecControls.DLL" and the class you want is "SpecControls.ColorControl", then use this code.
// load the assembly
System.Reflection.Assembly assembly = Assembly.LoadFrom("SpecControls.DLL");

// get the type
Type t = assembly.GetType("MyControls.MyControl");

// create an instance and add it.
Control c = (Control)Activator.CreateInstance(t);

' load the assembly
Dim assembly1 As System.Reflection.Assembly = Assembly.LoadFrom("SpecControls.DLL")

' get the type
Dim t As Type = assembly1.GetType("MyControls.MyControl")

' create an instance and add it.
Dim c As Control = CType(Activator.CreateInstance(t), Control)

2.30 What is the (DynamicProperties) item listed on a control's property page in VS.NET?

Clicking Advanced... under this DynamicProperties option in the control properties displays certain control properties that can be set through an XML app.config file that is added to your project. This file stores the dynamic property values and is automatically read during the intialization process on the form at design time. You can manually edit this file to change the properties and next when you run the application, controls will pick up the new values. This file is used strictly for design time initializations.

2.31 How can I make a Panel or Label semi-transparent on a Windows Form?

You can make a panel or label transparent by specifying the alpha value for the Background color.
panel.BackColor = Color.FromArgb(65, 204, 212, 230);

In the designer you have to enter these values manually in the edit box. Don't select the color using the ColorPicker.

2.32 How can I add a control to a Window Form at runtime?

To add a control at runtime, you do three steps:
• 1. Create the control
• 2. Set control properties
• 3. Add the control to the Form's Controls collection

In general, if you need help on exactly what code you need to add, just look at the code generated by the designer when you add the control at design time. You can generally use the same code at runtime.

Here are code snippets that create a textBox at runtime.
//step 1
TextBox tb = new TextBox();

tb.Location = new Point( 10, 10);
tb.Size = new Size(100, 20);
tb.Text = "I was created at runtime";



'step 1
Dim tb as TextBox = New TextBox()

tb.Location = New Point( 10, 10)
tb.Size = New Size(100, 20)
tb.Text = "I was created at runtime"


2.33 How do I make the arrow keys be accepted by a control (such as a button) and not handled automatically by the framework's focus management?

By default, the arrow keys are not handled by a control's key processing code, but instead are filtered out for focus management. Hence, the control's KeyDown, KeyUp and KeyPressed events are not hit when you press an arrow. If you want your control to handle these keyboard events, you tell the framework by overriding your control's IsInputKey method.
protected override bool IsInputKey(Keys key)
case Keys.Up:
case Keys.Down:
case Keys.Right:
case Keys.Left:
return true;
return base.IsInputKey(key);

2.34 In the property browser for a custom control, how do I disable a property initially, but enable it later based on some other property changing?

Implement ICustomTypeDescriptor, and provide your own PropertyDescriptor for that property that changes it's return value for IsReadOnly.

2.35 How can I have the control designer create the custom editor by calling the constructor with the additional parameters rather than the default constructor?

You can do this by creating the editor yourself rather than allowing TypeDescriptor to do it:

1) Shadow the property you care about in your designer...

protected override void PreFilterProperties(IDictionaryProperties props)
PropertyDescriptor basePD = props["MyProperty"];
props["MyProperty"] = new EditorPropertyDescriptor(basePD);

2) Create a property descriptor that "wraps" the original descriptor

private class EditorPropertyDescriptor : PropertyDescriptor
private PropertyDescriptor basePD;
public EditorPropertyDescriptor(PropertyDescriptor base)
this.basePD = base;

// now, for each property and method, just delegate to the base...
public override TypeConverter Converter
get { return basePD.Converter; }

public override bool CanResetValue(object comp)
return basePD.CanResetValue(comp);

// and finally, implement GetEditor to create your special one...

3) create your editor by hand when it's asked for

public override object GetEditor(Type editorBaseType)
if (editorBaseType == typeof(UITypeEditor))
return new MyEditor(Param1, param2, param3);
return basePD.GetEditor(editorBaseType);

(from on microsoft.public.dotnet.framework.windowsforms)

2.36 How do I listen to the screen resolution change in my control?

You should override WndProc in your control/form and listen to the WM_DISPLAYCHANGE message. Refer to this faq a WndProc override sample:
How do I listen to windows messages in my Control?

2.37 How do I determine which button in a Toolbar is clicked?

When you click on a button on a Toolbar the click is sent to the Toolbar, so you need to check the ToolBarButtonClickEventArgs's button property to determine the button on the Toolbar that was clicked.
private void toolBar1_ButtonClick(object sender, System.Windows.Forms.ToolBarButtonClickEventArgs e)
//check if toolBarButton1 was clicked
if (e.Button == toolBarButton1)
MessageBox.Show("Button 1 clicked");

Private Sub toolBar1_ButtonClick(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.Windows.Forms.ToolBarButtonClickEventArgs)
'check if toolBarButton1 was clicked
If e.Button = toolBarButton1 Then
MessageBox.Show("Button 1 clicked")
End If
End Sub

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