by September 3, 2009 0 comments

Last month we looked at application compatibility for your apps on Windows 7
and how to get them to actually work correctly on the new OS. This month we dive
into a couple of new features of Windows 7 and show how you can add them easily
to ‘light up’ your applications on Windows 7. This will give your end-users, who
are on Windows 7, a nice new feedback system, and also provide good performance
on older versions.

All new features in Windows 7 are available using the Windows 7 SDK. However
for this series, we’ll perform these tasks with .NET. You will need Visual
Studio 2008 or Visual C# Express 2008 with service pack 1. You will also need
the Windows API Code Pack for .NET from Download the
file and extract it anywhere on your system. Now create a new Windows
application project and then add two existing projects from within the
WindowsAPICodePack folder where you extracted the archive — Core and Shell. Also
add these two projects as ‘references’ to the Windows application project you
created. This will enable your WinForms project to use the new features in Win7.

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Applies To: .NET developers
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Keywords: Windows 7

Windows 7 has a very new and revamped Taskbar that has a ton of new features.
We’ll explore each of these features and how you can enhance your applications
with them in the coming months as well. For this issue, we’ll take a look at
some cool features — Icon Overlays, Application ID and Progress Status.

Icon Overlays
In earlier versions of Windows, whenever an application wanted to display
some status to the user, it would use the Notification Area/System Tray (the
place near the clock on the Taskbar) to show up an icon. This was 1) fairly
counter-intuitive as most people would miss it and 2) will not work nicely on
Windows 7 as the Notification Area is by default kept clean and all icons are
pushed off into a popup bubble — where it will not be seen most probably.

In Windows 7 there is a much better way of doing this. You can now display a
status icon over the application’s icon on the Taskbar — which makes it much
easier to notice. A lot of new apps are now doing precisely this to draw
attention to a status. For instance Windows Live Mail and the new Outlook 2010
display a new mail icon over the application icon whenever there are any unread
e-mails. You too can add this into code in your application. First open the code
for your main form and add the following using statements at the top:

Add the Core & Shell projects as
reference from the Windows API Code Pack for your project.

using Microsoft.Windows APICodePack. Shell;
using Microsoft.Windows APICodePack. Shell.Taskbar;

Now drop a button on the form and add the following into the button’s click

private void btnOverlay_Click(object sender, EventArgs
{ if (Taskbar.OverlayImage.Icon == null) Taskbar.OverlayImage = new
OverlayImage(SystemIcons.Asterisk, "Hello");
Taskbar.OverlayImage = null;}

This simple code first checks whether the application’s icon already has an
overlay set and if not, adds a simple icon from the system icons. Note you can
load any icon from a resource file for your app if you want. Such a code would
allow you to display different icons to represent the status of your application
at different times, which the user can view to get immediate feedback even if he
is working on something else.

Application ID
Another nice feature of Windows 7 is the Taskbar grouping of an application’s
icons. If there are multiple instances of an application, they are all
automatically grouped under the same icon on the Taskbar to save space. You can
however control this by using a feature known as Application ID.

Every application has an AppID which is automatically generated for it from
the name of the executable and path + some metadata. You might choose that your
application shows as different icons based on different criteria — say
parameters from a shortcut or application launch buttons. To do this all you
need to do is change the AppID for the running app. You can also do the reverse:
have two different apps to combine under a single icon by using the same AppID
in both — say in an application suite launcher.

To do this in our sample app, drop in a button and in the click event add the

private void btnAppID_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
{ System.Diagnostics.Process.Start(Application.ExecutablePath, "Random");

This basically starts up the same app with a command line argument of
‘Random.’ You should also add the following in the form’s constructor:

public Form1()
{InitializeComponent(); String[] AppID =
if (AppID.Count() > 1)
Taskbar.AppId = AppID[1];

This code checks whether the application had a startup argument and if it
did, the application ID is changed to this new value. When you run the
application normally, it will group the windows under the same icon. However, if
you use the button you created above to launch a new window you will see a new
icon appear on the Taskbar. You can use combinations of these to get the effect
you want quite nicely.

Progress status icons
The next feature we’ll take a look at is the ability for icons on the taskbar to
display progress bars. For instance, when you copy a file to a different folder
or download a file using IE, you will be able to see the progress bar in the
icon itself.

To add this in your application, first drop a ComboBox, Button and
ProgressBar control on the form. Add the values: “Normal”, “Error”, “Paused”,
“Indeterminate” and “NoProgress” to the ComboBox. Now add the following in the
button’s click event:

private void btnProgress_Click(object sender, EventArgs
if (progressBar1.Value > progressBar1.Maximum)
progressBar1.Value =
(comboBox1.SelectedItem.ToString()) {
case "Normal": Taskbar.ProgressBar.State =
TaskbarButtonProgressState.Normal; break;
case "Error": Taskbar.ProgressBar.State =
TaskbarButtonProgressState.Error; break; case "Paused":
Taskbar.ProgressBar.State =
TaskbarButtonProgressState.Paused; break; case "Indeterminate":
Taskbar.ProgressBar.State =
TaskbarButtonProgressState.Indeterminate; break; case "NoProgress":
Taskbar.ProgressBar.State =
TaskbarButtonProgressState.NoProgress; break; default: Taskbar.ProgressBar.State
= TaskbarButtonProgressState.Normal;
Taskbar.ProgressBar.CurrentValue = progressBar1.Value;

This code increases the value of the progress bar in the window and at the same
time also increases the value of the progress bar in the application icon. The
state of the Taskbar progress bar is set by the value in the ComboBox which lets
you notify the user with different colors about the state of the activity.

As you can see, these three features are quite simple to create and you can
add them into your .NET applications with the minimum of effort, yet offer a
great new user experience to your end customers. Next month we’ll take a look at
more such stuff that lets you do tasks easily in Windows 7.

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