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How to accurately detect if an application is theme-enabled?

, 1 Jun 2005
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Describes a function that overcomes the inadequacies of IsAppThemed and IsThemeActive.

Fig. 1 : System wide and app-specific themes enabled

Fig. 2 : System wide themes enabled, app-specific themes disabled

Fig. 3 : System wide themes disabled. (App-specific doesn't matter)


When you develop custom controls that work differently depending on whether the application has themes enabled or not, you need to detect whether the currently running application is using themes or not. MSDN lists two functions IsAppThemed and IsThemeActive and I list below snippets from their documentation :-

IsAppThemed Function - Reports whether the current application's user interface displays using visual styles.
IsThemeActive Function - Tests if a visual style for the current application is active.

You'd think that all you need to do is to use one or both of these functions, wouldn't you? Guess what? On XP (even SP2) both these functions return TRUE if your system wide themes setting is enabled. Thus any system that's using an XP styled theme will always have these two functions returning TRUE.

I googled around and didn't find anything worthwhile. I saw a posting from Jeff Partch (MVP) who suggested calling GetModuleHandle on comctl32.dll and comparing this module handle with the handle returned by calling GetClassLongPtr on a known control handle with the GCLP_HMODULE flag. While I didn't actually try that out, I thought it'd be easier to call DllGetVersion on comctl32.dll and check if the version is 6 or greater.

The IsThemed function

The code lavishly uses LoadLibrary/GetProcAddress to avoid a dependency on the PSDK (the code now compiles on the default installation of VC++ 6).

#pragma once

#include "stdafx.h"
#include <Shlwapi.h>

BOOL IsThemed()
    BOOL ret = FALSE;
    OSVERSIONINFO ovi = {0};
    ovi.dwOSVersionInfoSize = sizeof ovi;
    if(ovi.dwMajorVersion==5 && ovi.dwMinorVersion==1)
        //Windows XP detected
        typedef BOOL WINAPI ISAPPTHEMED();
        HMODULE hMod = LoadLibrary(_T("uxtheme.dll"));
            pISAPPTHEMED = reinterpret_cast<ISAPPTHEMED*>(
            pISTHEMEACTIVE = reinterpret_cast<ISTHEMEACTIVE*>(
                if(pISAPPTHEMED() && pISTHEMEACTIVE())                

                    HMODULE hModComCtl = LoadLibrary(_T("comctl32.dll"));
                        pDLLGETVERSION = reinterpret_cast<DLLGETVERSION*>(
                            DLLVERSIONINFO dvi = {0};
                            dvi.cbSize = sizeof dvi;
                            if(pDLLGETVERSION(&dvi) == NOERROR )
                                ret = dvi.dwMajorVersion >= 6;
    return ret;

Using the code

    m_bThemed = true;
    m_bThemed = false;


  • June 02, 2005 - Article first published


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About the Author

Nish Nishant

United States United States
Nish Nishant is a Software Architect/Consultant based out of Columbus, Ohio. He has over 15 years of software industry experience in various roles including Lead Software Architect, Principal Software Engineer, and Product Manager. Nish is a recipient of the annual Microsoft Visual C++ MVP Award since 2002 (13 consecutive awards as of 2014).

Nish is an industry acknowledged expert in the Microsoft technology stack. He authored
C++/CLI in Action for Manning Publications in 2005, and had previously co-authored
Extending MFC Applications with the .NET Framework for Addison Wesley in 2003. In addition, he has over 140 published technology articles on and another 250+ blog articles on his
WordPress blog. Nish is vastly experienced in team management, mentoring teams, and directing all stages of software development.

Contact Nish : You can reach Nish on his google email id voidnish.

Website and Blog

Comments and Discussions

QuestionIs there a reason to check IsAppThemed / IsThemeActive first? Pinmemberpeterchen24-Mar-09 8:11 
GeneralSuggestion: No need to check comctl32.dll version PinmemberSumit Kapoor2-Aug-06 21:38 
GeneralRe: Suggestion: No need to check comctl32.dll version PinmemberAnil K P11-Jun-07 0:54 
GeneralRe: Suggestion: No need to check comctl32.dll version PinmemberKeith Worden17-Jul-08 3:40 
It IS necessary to check the comctl32.dll version as Nishant explained in his article. IsAppThemed seems to return true whether the application allows themes (i.e. includes a manifest file) or not. When a manifest file is not included the comctl32 version is 5.something when included it's 6.something. I have testing this on Win 2000, XP and Vista and found Nishant's code to work perfectly.
GeneralUnicode PinmemberWarren D Stevens13-Nov-05 3:34 
GeneralRe: Unicode PinstaffNishant Sivakumar13-Nov-05 3:38 
GeneralMaking code Vista (or later) friendly PinmemberWarren D Stevens11-Nov-05 8:21 
GeneralRe: Making code Vista (or later) friendly PinmemberYongchun8-Jan-06 1:28 
GeneralRe: Making code Vista (or later) friendly PinmemberWarren D Stevens11-Jan-06 6:21 
GeneralRe: Making code Vista (or later) friendly PinmemberKeith Worden17-Jul-08 3:37 
GeneralRe: Making code Vista (or later) friendly PinmemberWarren Stevens17-Jul-08 18:21 
GeneralRe: Making code Vista (or later) friendly PinmemberKeith Worden18-Jul-08 1:11 
GeneralIsAppThemed returns FALSE for a Windows XP (Modified) theme PinsussBrian KS6-Oct-05 7:52 
Questionxp+ ? PinmemberUnruled Boy2-Jun-05 3:51 
AnswerRe: xp+ ? PinstaffNishant Sivakumar2-Jun-05 6:42 

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