Developing with the Taskbar in Windows 7
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by Sergey Zwezdin
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Thumbnail preview

Windows 7 has a convenient functionality to display preview for applications. The mouse hovering over the task panel makes it possible to look a window reduced representation at a window icon for few seconds. It is very convenient when a user has a lot of open windows. By default, in these miniwindows all contents of a window are displayed. However, for some application it would be much more convenient not to show all contents of a window, but only its part. Such functionality is also provided for the task panel of Windows 7 and it is possible to use it for the applications.

Within wrappers for functions from system libraries of Windows there is SetThumbnailClip method which helps us with the implementation of the given functionality. Calling this method, you need to point a current copy of a form and coordinates that limit area of a window.

Listing 9: Setting thumbnail area

private void Clip5_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
  WindowsFormsExtensions.SetThumbnailClip(this, new Rectangle(10, 10, 145, 145));

Let us create a small application where we could see possibilities of this functionality. For this purpose we will create an empty application and add some controls there. After the application start its work in a window of preliminary viewing will look as follows.

Figure 5: Preview window

You can see that the whole window is initially displayed. Let us limit the area of display thanks to usage of SetThumbnailClip method. For example, we want to display only TextBoxs which are on the form.

Figure 6: Preview window with selected area

What is interesting, if we have dynamic contents (for example, video) on a form, then it will be displayed in dynamics. In the demonstrated application there are some animated images and they are displayed within the area of preview. Thus, there is no need to do anything else. We can change content of a preview window during the work of application and this is important to mention. For example, at one moment of time we need to display content of any important TextBoxs while at another moment to display an image from a form. Such dynamics give the user an opportunity to get actual information. At last, if you need to see the whole form, you can display all its contents thanks to usage of the same method, but it is necessary to pass the form’s sizes. In this case, in a preview window, the whole window will be displayed again.

Listing 10: Showing all window area

private void NoClip_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
        new Rectangle(new Point(0, 0), Size));

However, in certain situations it can be more useful to display not a window part, but an completely different picture. For example, Windows Live Messenger uses this possibility. If we hover over the icon for Windows Live Messenger then the pop-up window will display a current user's avatar.

Figure 7: Custom image in preview area

To implement similar behavior in .NET Interop Sample Library there is the SetIconicThumbnail method. With its help we can create our own kind of a preview area for our window easily and simply. But before we start its usage, it is necessary to enable this behavior. Thanks to EnableCustomWindowPreview Otherwise executing method SetIconicThumbnail we get the following exception. It can be done directly in a form constructor.

Listing 11: Enabling custom window preview

public Form1()

It is necessary to say that sizes of the image which are displayed in a preview area are limited. These sizes are limited by values 200x120. The image can be less than this size; in this case the area of preview will be reduced too. If an image is more than these sizes the exception will be generated.

In parameters of SetIconicThumbnail method there is a reference to the current form and image (Bitmap) which should be displayed. Our goal is to generate this Bitmap. And in this case we can do whatever we want. We can generate everything what we need. It can be a screenshot of a window with any additional text atop or be any own picture containing information or text with some statistics.

In the demonstration application we will generate an image which will display a state of the application by text and graphic, and also by a small picture of a window. For this purpose let us create an image (Bitmap) with necessary sizes and fill in its background. After that we will draw an image of a state and a window picture there. Then we will write a state text on the image and the result should be passed in SetIconicThumbnail method.

Listing 12: Generating custom image

private static void SetState(Form form, string stateText, Image stateImage)
    // blank image
    var preview = new Bitmap(200, 120);
    var g = Graphics.FromImage(preview);
    // fill background
    g.DrawImage(Images.background, 0, 0);
    // file image of state
    if (stateImage != null)
        g.DrawImage(stateImage.GetThumbnailImage(100, 100, null, IntPtr.Zero), 
            100, 10);
    // fill image of form
    g.DrawImage(GetFormImage(form, 50, 60), 10, 10);
    // draw text
    g.DrawString(stateText, new Font("Verdana", 18), Brushes.White, 10, 70);
    // setting thumbnail
    WindowsFormsExtensions.SetIconicThumbnail(form, preview);

Apparently, the code has turned out laconic enough. As a result we will see the following representation.

Figure 8: Result of generation custom window preview

What is interesting is that our application can change its state in a background. If a mouse is over an icon of the application and a preview window is displayed at this moment, an image changing then occurs smoothly in a pop-up window without any by-effects. So, for example, it is possible to create a timer where in its handler states will be changed in certain time intervals.

It is necessary to notice also, that if we hover a mouse cursor over a preview area of a window all other windows will disappear and the allocated window will be displayed. It looks as follows.

Figure 9: Peek window

In this case the task panel of Windows 7 also allows us to set up our own behavior. So we have the possibility to assign contents of form by our own image. For example, we can write any useful text. In this case, the work scenario can look as follows. A user in the task panel has an application which is executing something. It can trace its state on the basis of ProgressBar and OverlayIcon. If this information is not enough, you can hover a mouse cursor on an icon of the application. As a result, you see a preview area with additional information. A user can hover over a preview area of the necessary window and, in this case, all windows will disappear and on the screen there will be only an allocated window. In this window we can display even more information which is necessary for a user.

To implement a similar scenario in our application we will take advantage of .NET Interop Sample Library. SetPeekBitmap method of a class-wrapper is intended for these purposes. When the user hovers a mouse over a preview area of a window it is necessary to generate an image. For these purposes we will redefine WndProc method and get the following:

WM_DWMSENDICONICLIVEPREVIEWBITMAP message. Just during this moment of time it is necessary to generate the image.


protected override void WndProc(ref Message m)
            GeneratePeekBitmap(this, Images._111), true);
    base.WndProc(ref m);

In this case, we call a method which will generate the necessary image. Generation of this image does not represent any complexity. Generally we can copy a picture of our window in this Bitmap and draw necessary information over it. Let us fill in this area with a background and draw an icon of a state over it in the demonstrational application.

Listing 14: Generating peek image

private static Bitmap GeneratePeekBitmap(Form form, Image stateImage)
    var preview = new Bitmap(form.ClientSize.Width, form.ClientSize.Height);
    var g = Graphics.FromImage(preview);
        form.ClientSize.Width, form.ClientSize.Height, null, IntPtr.Zero), 0, 0);
    if (stateImage != null)
        Size thumbSize = new Size(100, 100);
              thumbSize.Height, null, IntPtr.Zero), 
            form.ClientSize.Width / 2 - thumbSize.Width / 2, 
            form.ClientSize.Height / 2 - thumbSize.Height / 2);
    return preview;

Pay attention to display such representation correctly since the sizes of an image should coincide with the sizes of a form. After that we get an application which looks as follows.

Figure 10: Custom peek window preview

Actually, such image can be installed from any place of application. The main thing is that this image should be generated at the moment of the processing event specified above. For example, in the demonstration application we also set this image in the timer. Thus, we can hover a mouse cursor over a preview area and observe how the form changes at the timer operation.

Besides, SetPeekBitmap method has a third parameter of boolean type. Changing this parameter, it is possible to specify whether it is necessary to clean an application border when similar viewing is carried out. 

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User Comments

Title: Source Code & Windows 7 Lib   
Name: Willy
Date: 2011-01-13 9:07:34 PM
hi sergey, your article is amazing
please send me the source code, I need to improved my application, email me at

I wonder where is download the windows 7 library for C# visual studio .net 2008, my application running on it.

many thanks.
Title: Re: Attach Full Source Code   
Name: Sergey Zwezdin
Date: 2010-03-08 12:54:15 AM
Ashish, send me mail-request, please?
Title: Attach Full Source Code   
Name: Ashish Kumar
Date: 2010-03-07 3:26:16 AM
please attach full source code with this article.
Title: reviews   
Name: r4 dsi
Date: 2009-11-30 5:43:34 AM
Windows 7 is more than what Vista should have been, it's where Microsoft needed to go. How much damage Vista did and whether Windows 7 is enough for people to finally abandon Windows XP are questions that nobody has the answers to right now.
Title: Amazing !   
Name: Aamod Thakur
Date: 2009-11-06 4:15:19 AM
Amazing Article, Very Informative.

Thanks Sergey

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