#1,202 – Using a Color Animation to Draw Emphasis to Something

There are times when you might want to draw a user’s attention to some user interface element, for example when some event causes the contents of the element to change. A ColorAnimation on the Background of the element is a nice way to do that.

Below, we have a TextBlock that binds to a string property and a Button that changes that property’s value. We set up a style for the TextBlock containing an EventTrigger that fires whenever the target of the binding changes, i.e. the trigger will fire whenever the value of the Text property changes.

In the trigger, we have a Storyboard continuing two animations that run consecutively. The first fades in the background color and the second fades back to the original transparent value. The first animation is shorter, so that we have a longer fade out.

Here’s the XAML fragement:

        <Style x:Key="LookAtMe" TargetType="TextBlock">
            <Setter Property="Background" Value="Transparent"/>
                <EventTrigger RoutedEvent="Binding.TargetUpdated">
                                <ColorAnimation Storyboard.TargetProperty="(TextBlock.Background).(SolidColorBrush.Color)" 
                                                From="Transparent" To="Magenta" FillBehavior="Stop" 
                                                BeginTime="0:0:0" Duration="0:0:0.3"/>
                                <ColorAnimation Storyboard.TargetProperty="(TextBlock.Background).(SolidColorBrush.Color)" 
                                                From="Magenta" To="Transparent" 
                                                BeginTime="0:0:0.3" Duration="0:0:1"/>
    <StackPanel Margin="10">
        <TextBlock Text="{Binding SomeText, NotifyOnTargetUpdated=True}" 
                   Style="{StaticResource LookAtMe}"/>
        <Button Content="Do Something" 
                Margin="0,10,0,0" HorizontalAlignment="Center" 

In the code-behind, we have the SomeText property and code to change this property whenever the button is pressed.

private string _someText = "Original text";
public string SomeText
    get { return _someText; }
        if (value != _someText)
            _someText = value;

private int nextNum = 1;
private void btnDoSomething_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
    SomeText = string.Format("Change to {0}", nextNum++);

public event PropertyChangedEventHandler PropertyChanged = delegate { };

private void RaisePropChanged(string propname)
    PropertyChanged(this, new PropertyChangedEventArgs(propname));

When you run this code, the background of the TextBlock flashes magenta whenever you click on the button.

#1,201 – How to Share Star Sized Column Sizes

You can use the SharedSizeGroup attribute to share column sizes across different grids. You can’t normally share sizes of star-sized columns across multiple grids, however, since star sizing works only in the context of the current grid.

Below is an example of how to get a star sized column to be the same size as a star sized column in a different grid. In the example, we have two grids. In the first, we have two auto-sized TextBlocks and then a star-sized TextBox that takes up the remaining space. In the second grid, we have just a TextBlock and a TextBox, but we want the TextBox to be the same size as the one in the first grid. Using SharedSizeGroup on the TextBox columns won’t work, since the columns would then get auto-sized.

The solution is to set up a SharedSizeGroup on every column except for the TextBox columns and to add a dummy third column in the second grid. The TextBox columns will then each independently use star sizing and end up the same size.

    <StackPanel Margin="15" Grid.IsSharedSizeScope="True">
                <ColumnDefinition Width="Auto" SharedSizeGroup="A"/>
                <ColumnDefinition Width="*"/>
                <ColumnDefinition Width="Auto" SharedSizeGroup="B"/>

            <TextBlock Grid.Column="0" Text="Col 1"/>
            <TextBox Grid.Column="1" />
            <TextBlock Grid.Column="2" Text="3rd column here"/>

        <Separator Margin="0,20"/>

                <ColumnDefinition Width="Auto" SharedSizeGroup="A"/>
                <ColumnDefinition />
                <ColumnDefinition SharedSizeGroup="B"/>

            <TextBlock Grid.Column="0" Text="1"/>
            <TextBox Grid.Column="1"/>


#1,200 – Overriding a Default Style

In WPF, you often set up default styles to set a series of properties on all instances of a certain type of element. Below, we set a default style that applies to all TextBlock elements, using the TargetType attribute. All properties in the style will be set for all instances of the TextBlock element.

        <Style TargetType="TextBlock">
            <Setter Property="Foreground" Value="Purple"/>
            <Setter Property="FontStyle" Value="Italic"/>

<StackPanel Margin="10">
    <TextBlock Text="Fafnir"/>
    <TextBlock Text="Siegfried"/>
    <TextBlock Text="Brynhildr"/>


Sometimes you’ll be working in an environment where these default styles have been defined for you, but you want to override them.

The first way to override a default style is to define one of your own. Below, we define a named style and use it on the second TextBlock. (The style is added to the ResourceDictionary that we showed above).

<Style x:Key="BlueBig" TargetType="TextBlock">
   <Setter Property="Foreground" Value="Blue"/>
   <Setter Property="FontSize" Value="20"/>
<TextBlock Text="Siegfried" Style="{StaticResource BlueBig}"/>

The second way to override a default style is to revert the element to having no style at all using the x:Null markup extension. Below, the default style exists in our application but the first and third elements indicate that that they don’t want to use it. Notice that these TextBlocks appear normally.

<TextBlock Text="Fafnir" Style="{x:Null}"/>
<TextBlock Text="Siegfried" Style="{StaticResource BlueBig}"/>
<TextBlock Text="Brynhildr" Style="{x:Null}"/>


#1,199 – Complete WPF Command Example

Below is a cheat sheet for creating a custom command in WPF.

Use a static property to expose a command object from the ViewModel or code-behind. RoutedUICommand allows for associating control text with the command itself.

private static RoutedUICommand _pressMeCommand = 
    new RoutedUICommand("Press Me", "PressMe", typeof(MainWindow));
public static RoutedUICommand PressMeCommand
    get { return _pressMeCommand; }

Add command handlers (in code-behind or ViewModel).

private void PressMe_CanExecute(object sender, CanExecuteRoutedEventArgs e)
    e.CanExecute = CowboyCanTalk;
private void PressMe_Executed(object sender, ExecutedRoutedEventArgs e)
    MessageBox.Show("Howdy howdy I'm a cowboy");

Bind the command to its handlers, done here in XAML for a window.

    <CommandBinding Command="local:MainWindow.PressMeCommand" 

Wire a button up to the command. Note use of command’s Text property for the button’s Content (text).

<Button Command="local:MainWindow.PressMeCommand" 
        Content="{Binding RelativeSource={RelativeSource Self}, Path=Command.Text}" />

We can also wire up the command to other GUI elements, e.g. a menu item in a context menu. The menu item’s text is set up automatically.

        <MenuItem Command="{x:Static local:MainWindow.PressMeCommand}" />

#1,198 – Selectively Enabling Child Elements in a Disabled Panel

When you set IsEnabled to false in a panel, all child elements in that panel are disabled. You cannot selectively enabled child elements in the panel.

You may, however, want to selectively enable child elements in a panel. (E.g. Disable entire panel, then set IsEnabled=True, IsReadOnly=True on TextBox controls so that you can copy text).

One possible solution is to define a new control that inherits from TextBox and does not coerce the value of IsEnabled.

    public class CanEnableTextBox : TextBox
        static CanEnableTextBox()
                new System.Windows.UIPropertyMetadata(true,
                    new PropertyChangedCallback(IsEnabledPropertyChanged),
                    new CoerceValueCallback(CoerceIsEnabled)));


        private static void IsEnabledPropertyChanged(DependencyObject source, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs args)
            // Overriding PropertyChanged results in merged metadata, which is what we want--
            // the PropertyChanged logic in UIElement.IsEnabled will still get invoked.

        private static object CoerceIsEnabled(DependencyObject source, object value)
            return value;

You can now use this control in a panel that has IsEnabled set to false and you’ll be able to set IsEnabled on the child TextBox.

#1,197 – Autosizing in a Grid with Maximum Size

You can use autosizing for grid rows or columns to have the row or column automatically size to fit its contents. There are times, however, when you want the row or column to fit its contents, but only up to a limit. E.g. Autosize a row height, but only to a maximum of 20% of the size of the entire grid.

You can autosize within limits by using the MaxHeight attribute and a value converter.

Below, we have a grid with two rows, each containing a ListBox. The second row is set to autosize and the first to use all remaining space.

        <local:MaxHeightConverter x:Key="MaxHeightConverter"/>
        <sys:Double x:Key="adjMaxHeightRatio">0.2</sys:Double>

<Grid x:Name="grdRoot">
        <RowDefinition Height="*"/>
        <RowDefinition Height="Auto"/>

    <ListBox Grid.Row="0" ItemsSource="{Binding Dogs}" />

    <ListBox Grid.Row="1" ItemsSource="{Binding MoreDogs}" MaxHeight="{Binding ElementName=grdRoot, Path=ActualHeight, Converter={StaticResource MaxHeightConverter}, ConverterParameter={StaticResource adjMaxHeightRatio}}" />

The second ListBox will take as much room as it needs (grow to fit all elements), until it reaches 20% of the height of the parent grid. At that point, it will be constrained and get a vertical scrollbar.

Here’s the code for the converter:

public class MaxHeightConverter : IValueConverter
    public object Convert(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, CultureInfo culture)
        double pctHeight = (double)parameter;

        if ((pctHeight <= 0.0) || (pctHeight > 100.0))
            throw new Exception("MaxHeightConverter expects parameter in the range (0,100]");

        return ((double)value * pctHeight);

    public object ConvertBack(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, CultureInfo culture)
        throw new NotImplementedException();

#1,196 – Making a Window Fully Transparent

You can make the background of a window fully transparent by setting its Background property to Transparent, settings AllowsTransparency to true and setting WindowStyle to None.

Below is an example.  Note that because WindowStyle is None, the window doesn’t have a normal border and we can’t therefore move the window around.

<Window x:Class="WpfApplication1.MainWindow"
        Height="190" Width="268"

        <TextBlock Text="Topper (1937) starred Cary Grant and Constance Bennett"
               HorizontalAlignment="Center" Height="40" Margin="47,0"/>
        <Button Content="Ok, Got It"
                Padding="10,5" Margin="10"

Here’s the window in action. (We added a handler to the button’s Click event to close the window when clicked).