WPF WindowChrome Processing Overlays

by Avatar Bill Henning (Actipro) - 2 comments
Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 8:58pm

Actipro WPF Controls v2020.1 development is in progress, and the new version’s main goals are to modernize our UI control features/themes, and make theme customization much easier.

In yesterday’s post, we took a look at WindowChrome (our class for theming WPF Windows that also adds customization features) and its new ability to support full-window overlays. The example in that post showed an Office-like Backstage menu overlay.

Processing Overlays

Another common use of overlays is for processing indicators. Let’s say you kick off a time-consuming thread and you don’t want the user interacting with anything on the window. This is a perfect scenario for displaying a beautiful processing overlay.

A WindowChrome processing overlay

In this sample, we start a worker thread that runs for several seconds. While the thread runs, we show a processing overlay with an animated progress spinner. The overlay uses a subtle fade animation when opening and closing.

Note how the window title bar is still fully accessible while the overlay is displayed. This allows the user to continue interacting with the window itself (e.g. move the window, minimize it, and so on), even though the main content area of the window is blocked from interaction.

Summary

WindowChrome overlay features will be ship in the 2020.1 version and offer up all kinds of exciting possibilities for your apps.

Post in the comments below if you have any feedback or questions about WindowChrome overlays.

WPF WindowChrome Application Menu Overlays

by Avatar Bill Henning (Actipro) - 2 comments
Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 9:51pm

Actipro WPF Controls v2020.1 development is in progress, and the new version’s main goals are to modernize our UI control features/themes, and make theme customization much easier.

We plan on making a lot of blog posts in the coming weeks to detail various features that will be shipping in the WPF Controls 2020.1 release.  The first several posts will focus on new features and functionality coming to our WindowChrome class.  Let’s dig in!

What is WindowChrome?

WindowChrome, which is included in the Shared Library, allows any WPF Window to have advanced chrome features.  In the past this has mostly related solely to providing a themed window that had a Metro, Office, or Aero-like appearance.  We have been working on refining our WindowChrome template, while adding an extensive new feature set that customers are going to love.

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at one of our favorite new WindowChrome demos, which shows the ability to create an animated full-window overlay similar to an Office-like Backstage.

WindowChrome Overlays

WindowChrome has a new MVVM-compatible overlay feature that allows custom content to be injected that overlays the entire window, including the title bar area. 

WindowChrome showing an application menu overlay

Best of all, several built-in animations are supported.  In the sample above, we slide and fade in the overlay for a pleasing user experience.  The animation doesn’t occur on machines without hardware acceleration.

This sample also shows how WindowChrome lets you optionally align the title bar text to the center, and how custom buttons can be injected into the title bar.  This sample has a Menu button on the left side of the title bar and a Help button on the right side.

An Office Colorful theme is in use, which makes use of an accent color in the title bar.  It’s easy to change to any other accent color, and we supply predefined colors that match Office apps.

As the overlay is displayed, we switch the title bar to an “alternate” title bar style that has a more traditional appearance.  We also hide the Menu title bar button and show a Back button in its place.

Summary

WindowChrome overlay features will be ship in the 2020.1 version and offer up all kinds of exciting possibilities for your apps.  Anything from a home screen to an Office-like Backstage can be implemented in the overlay.

In our next blog post, we’ll show another way to use overlays during time-consuming processing operations.

WPF Controls v2019.1 Build 684 Maintenance Release

by Avatar Bill Henning (Actipro)
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 9:03pm

Our v2019.1 WPF controls have been updated with a new maintenance release that is now ready for download. 

See this announcement post for the detailed list of enhancements and updates.

Download Buy Now

Let's have a look at some of the larger updates.

Docking/MDI

Tab Overflow Menus

A tabbed MDI overflow menu

The tab overflow menu now places a checkmark by the currently-selected tab.

Editors

AutoCompleteBox Input Modes

A new AutoCompleteBox input mode property has been added that determines how the control behaves.  Search mode is intended for usage when the control is providing search-like functionality, commonly seen in application title bars. 

An AutoCompleteBox

ComboBox mode is an alternate mode intended for use when the control should be used in more traditional ComboBox-like scenarios, where an items source is bound and the user should be able to easily choose an item from the list of items. A big difference between the modes is that when in ComboBox mode, the popup list filter turns off when not typing in the control. This allows the entire list to be browsed when interacting with the control purely via the popup.

Edit Box Large Incremental Changes

Numeric edit boxes now support large incremental changes when holding Shift while pressing Up/Down, using the spinner, or rotating the mouse wheel.

Edit Box Conditional Format Strings

Several numeric edit boxes now support custom format strings with semi-colon conditional format specifiers.

Grids

PropertyGrid API Improvements

A PropertyGrid.RequestRefresh method has been added, which requests that the property grid refresh its contents.

A PropertyDescriptorPropertyModel.PropertyDescriptor property has been added, which returns the PropertyDescriptor used in that particular property model.

SyntaxEditor

Selection Scope Search Ranges

The built-in search overlay pane, currently using Selection scope, and with the search range showing in the editor view

When using the search overlay pane, a new text background renders over the search range if in Selection scope mode.  Logic related to Selection scope search range has been refactored and improved.

Search Overlay Pane Hotkeys

A new property can determine if built-in hotkeys are supported that can activate for the search overlay pane.  Turn this feature off when external search UI is used.

Completion Item Performance

Completion list item-adding performance has been dramatically improved when using new batch features.  All add-ons take advantage of the new features.

Themes

WindowChrome Updates

WindowChrome’s startup logic has been streamlined to reduce Win32 calls, and help prevent against rendering issues.

WPF Controls 2020.1 Themes Goals

by Avatar Bill Henning (Actipro) - 7 comments
Tuesday, December 10, 2019 at 6:54pm

Actipro WPF Controls v2020.1 development is in progress, and the new version’s main goals are to modernize our themes and make theme customization much easier.

In today’s post, I’d like to provide some high-level information on some of the updates.

Theme Generation Concept

When an Actipro theme is activated, hundreds of brush and other resources are loaded and used throughout all our Actipro and native control templates.  This allows our themes to provide a cohesive appearance throughout all controls in your app.  Our WPF Controls ship with over 25 professionally-desired themes that match system, Office, and Metro themes.

In v2019.1 and earlier, all these theme resources are pre-defined by us in large XAML files and customers can customize individual resources or tint groups of them.  While these themes look great, it can be tedious to customize them if you don’t like the out-of-the-box look.

A primary focus of the 2020.1 WPF Controls is to move from our previous pre-defined themes towards themes that are generated at run-time based on theme generator options you set.  For instance, a main setting is the theme intent, which can be White, Light, Dark, Black, or HighContrast.  This tells the theme generator how the theme is meant to be used in general.  Then various grayscale and color ramps are generated based on configurable options.  All the highlight colors are based on colors generated in the color ramps.  There are options for things like the corner radius of tabs, whether the title bar uses an accent color (like in Office colorful themes), etc.

We are currently prototyping out this concept and so far, it’s working very well.  We will provide some screenshots once we are further along.  Please post your ideas on what kinds of options you’d like to have configurable in the comments below, as that will help guide us.  Now is the time to think big!

Modernizing Control Appearances

We have numerous ideas for bringing more modern control appearances to our new WPF themes.  Some of these, such as menu item checkmark updates, involve changes to our core control templates, both for Actipro and native controls.  Other modernization features will be optionally activated via properties set when generating themes.

WindowChrome, which allows any WPF Window to have advanced chrome features, is also getting a lot of enhancements that will be described in a future post.  These updates provide new functionality that wasn’t available before.

With several older themes being removed and other modernization template changes being made, we are finding that some of the brush and other resources used in our WPF themes are no longer needed.  We are working on consolidating brush resources where possible and removing unnecessary resources.

Older Themes

Luna and Classic

As part of the themes updates, we are going to be removing several very old themes that are outdated at this point.  These include the Luna themes (Windows XP appearance) and Classic theme (based on system colors and hasn’t been available in Windows 10 for years).

Aero and Office 2010

In a previous post, we had asked for feedback on whether customers still use Aero and/or Office 2010 themes.  Aero theme provided the Windows 7/Vista appearance, but Windows 7 is going end-of-life this month by Microsoft.  Office 2010 went mainstream end-of-life in 2015. 

We received feedback from several customers who still wished to use those themes in the foreseeable future, and we will be retaining those themes as options.  They are being consolidated into a separate optional Themes.Aero assembly that you will be able to reference and register at app startup.  This will allow us to keep our Shared Library smaller while still allowing the pre-defined Aero-style themes to be available for customers who wish to use them.

Aero Glass

With Windows 7 going end-of-life, we are removing support for transparent Aero glass features in our WindowChrome.  But as mentioned above, the Aero theme will still be fully available.

Feedback

We’d love to hear your comments, especially what kinds of options you’d like to see on our theme generator. 

Twitter Poll on Modernizing WPF Themes

by Avatar Bill Henning (Actipro) - 13 comments
Monday, November 11, 2019 at 3:57pm

Work on the WPF Controls 2020.1 version has begun.  This version is going to have large updates to our themes system.  Our goal is to focus on modern designs, allowing you to easily customize and personalize the themes used for your WPF applications.  We have a lot of ideas that we're excited to work on and will be sharing over the coming months on the blog.

As we dive into this effort, we are removing old system themes that aren't really needed any more.  For instance, "Classic" themes haven't been available as an option in Windows 10 for some time.  "Luna" (Windows XP) themes are for an operating system that went end-of-life many years ago.

Similarly, Windows 7 is going end-of-life around the end of 2019 and Offce 2010 went mainstream end-of-life in 2015. 

We are strongly considering dropping the Aero and Office 2010 themes so that we can slim down our product assemblies and focus on more current-era "modern" theming.  Rest assured, what we have planned for modern themes will allow for a high degree of customization and ease-of-use.

We've created a Twitter poll so that you can share your thoughts on dropping Aero and Aero-like Office 2010 themes in our 2020.1 WPF Controls.  We ask that you provide your opinion in this poll.  If you would like to see them kept, please contact our support team with the reasons why.

Answer the Twitter Poll

Again, all the operating systems and Office versions that had these themes are imminently or are already end-of-life.  Thank you for your feedback!