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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 is a real nice guy who has been writing code since 1990 when he first got his hands on an 8088 with 640 KB RAM. Originally from sunny Trivandrum in India, he has been living in various places over the past few years and often thinks it’s time he settled down somewhere.
Nish has been a Microsoft Visual C++ MVP since October, 2002 - awfully nice of Microsoft, he thinks. He maintains an MVP tips and tricks web site - where you can find a consolidated list of his articles, writings and ideas on VC++, MFC, .NET and C++/CLI. Oh, and you might want to check out his blog on C++/CLI, MFC, .NET and a lot of other stuff -
Nish loves reading Science Fiction, P G Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, and also fancies himself to be a decent writer of sorts. He has authored a romantic comedy Summer Love and Some more Cricket as well as a programming book – Extending MFC applications with the .NET Framework.
Nish's latest book C++/CLI in Action published by Manning Publications is now available for purchase. You can read more about the book on his blog.
Despite his wife's attempts to get him into cooking, his best effort so far has been a badly done omelette. Some day, he hopes to be a good cook, and to cook a tasty dinner for his wife.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionIs there a reason to check IsAppThemed / IsThemeActive first? Pinmemberpeterchen24-Mar-09 8:11 
Shouldn't the check for COMMCTL32 dll version be enough?

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 
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 

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