Creating a Custom Window in WPF
       by kirupa  |  17 August 2008

By default, when you create a WPF application, it will look like your standard Windows application with the default window styles and borders that your OS specifies:

While having applications match the look and feel of your OS is good for consistency, you may want your app to look completely different. Traditionally, creating such a custom look was hard. It required a fairly good understanding of how windows in Windows were actually created and how to modify them. With WPF, though, the task of creating your own custom windows becomes quite easy.

For example, the following is a small WPF app that I created using a custom window that I designed inside Expression Blend:

Creating this custom window did not take more than a few minutes, so in this tutorial, let's learn how to do that.

Making the Window Transparent
The key to creating your own custom windows is to get rid of the default window style your operating system provides. Create a new WPF project in Expression Blend. By default you will see a preview of something that resembles your window appear:

[ your default WPF application ]

In case you were wondering, Blend fakes the title bar and other elements of your window style, for the chances are your window isn't styled in black.

From the Object tree, select Window to explicitly set the focus on the Window element:

[ give your Window element focus by selecting it on the Object Tree ]

With your Window element selected, your Properties Inspector now displays all properties that are relevant to just your Window. While a lot of the properties are interesting, the one that will be most interesting to you are the ones found in the Appearance category:

[ the Appearance category provides you with visual customizations ]

Notice the property called AllowsTransparency. Click on the checkbox next to it to set the value for AllowsTransparency to True. Once you have done that, notice that the titlebar and other window elements from Window on your design surface are now gone:

[ all default window elements are now removed ]

What you now have is the equivalent of a blank canvas on which to design not just your application but also the window in which your application will be hosted in. For example, here is how I ended up designing my Window, and notice that all I am really using are just curved rectangles for the various shapes that make up this window:

That's all there is to creating your own custom windows. The trick was knowing that by setting AllowsTransparency to true, you have full freedom in defining the look of your windows. This freedom isn't cheap though. If you want to emulate the default window functionality, you'll need to provide your own code for minimizing, maximizing, resizing, and repositioning.

 Three code snippets that will come in handy are those for minimizing, maximizing, and dragging your window:

Minimizing

private void Minimize(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
this.WindowState = WindowState.Minimized;
}

Maximizing

private void Maximize(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
this.WindowState = WindowState.Maximized;
}

Drag Window

private void DragStart(object sender, MouseButtonEventArgs e)
{
this.DragMove();
}

Resizing your window is a little bit tricky - even with the ResizeGrip control, so I'll defer covering that topic for a later date. If you just want the code for resizing a custom window, visit my blog post titled Resizing Custom / Transparent Windows.


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Cheers!

Kirupa Chinnathambi

 

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