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Creating a Tasktray Application

, 23 Sep 2007 CPOL
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How to create an application that consists primarily of a tasktray icon
Screenshot - TaskTrayApp.png


Quite often, people find themselves writing small applications that live mainly in the TaskTray as a TaskTray icon. Something that monitors something, updates something, little applications that run in the background but that they want to let the user know it's running.

To date, the method I've seen all around the Internet to achieve this is to create the configuration form (which in turn contains the NotifyIcon) and then hide the configuration form.

This, however, has several drawbacks, the main one being that the configuration form will flicker whenever you start the application. Getting it to start hidden can be a bit of a chore.

Fortunately, there is a better way to start an application as a NotifyIcon: using ApplicationContext.

Using the Code

Start by creating a WinForms project and editing the configuration form to suit your needs. Once you have done this, open up Program.cs. You should find that the last line looks like this:

Application.Run(new Form1());

This tells the Application to load and show Form1, and to keep the Application alive as long as Form1 is alive. But take a look at the overloads for Run. Not only does it accept Forms, but also ApplicationContexts.

Create a new class that inherits from ApplicationContext (we will refer to it as MyApplicationContext). Then replace the above line with:

Application.Run(new MyApplicationContext());

Inside the constructor for MyApplicationContex, you can insert the code to initialize the NotifyIcon. Mine looks something like this:

MenuItem configMenuItem = new MenuItem("Configuration", new EventHandler(ShowConfig));
MenuItem exitMenuItem = new MenuItem("Exit", new EventHandler(Exit));

NotifyIcon notifyIcon = new NotifyIcon();
notifyIcon.Icon = TaskTrayApplication.Properties.Resources.AppIcon;
notifyIcon.ContextMenu = new ContextMenu(new MenuItem[] 
    { configMenuItem, exitMenuItem });
notifyIcon.Visible = true;

You can then create a ShowConfig method to display the configuration window. Mine looks something like this:

Configuration configWindow = new Configuration();
void ShowConfig(object sender, EventArgs e)
    // If we are already showing the window, merely focus it.
    if (configWindow.Visible)

And for completeness, my Exit method looks like this:

void Exit(object sender, EventArgs e)
    // We must manually tidy up and remove the icon before we exit.
    // Otherwise it will be left behind until the user mouses over.
    notifyIcon.Visible = false;

So you should now be able to create applications that start, live and die in the TaskTray without having to hack together a form to host the NotifyIcon.


  • 07/05/2007
    • Submitted article
  • 09/23/2007
    • Fixed formatting
    • Changed configWindow.Focus(); to configWindow.Activate();


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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Comments and Discussions

QuestionVery nice, but can I start a message-loop without any forms? Pin
david zha020-May-07 20:46
memberdavid zha020-May-07 20:46 
A nice example. But can I start a message loop without any forms? Sometimes I want my application to recive some Windows Messages.

Thank you.
AnswerRe: Very nice, but can I start a message-loop without any forms? Pin
[ICR]20-May-07 23:52
member[ICR]20-May-07 23:52 
AnswerRe: Very nice, but can I start a message-loop without any forms? Pin
david zha021-May-07 2:08
memberdavid zha021-May-07 2:08 

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