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How to Build Dynamic Menus and Toolbars in WPF?

, 1 Nov 2007 CPOL
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This article explains how to use build in features of WPF to insert menus, toolbars or any other content dynamically into your application

Introduction

WPF is a very dynamic language. It contains very smart objects, enables you to load, parse and display content dynamically. More than this, you can even create custom event handlers (commands) and bind them into loose XAML files that will be loaded in runtime, whenever you need it without recompiling application code.

Background

The challenge is as follows:

  • I want to have external XAML files with menus and toolbars
  • I do not want to recompile a project if I want to change something in those menus and toolbars
  • I want to provide commands for those menus and toolbars without recompiling
  • I want to write least amount of code to provide such functionality

Using the Code

Let's create our menu in the Menu.xaml file. This is a loose XAML file and it does not contain C# code behind.

<Menu xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation" 
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"> 
  <MenuItem Header="Edit"> 
    <MenuItem Command="ApplicationCommands.Cut"/> 
    <MenuItem Command="ApplicationCommands.Copy"/> 
    <MenuItem Command="ApplicationCommands.Paste"/> 
  </MenuItem> 
</Menu>

I put into this file everything I'll use in the application. In this case, those are three common clipboard commands: Cut, Copy and Paste. ApplicationCommand will take care of those commands and provide me with requested functionality.

Now, let's create a toolbar in the ToolBar1.xaml file.

<ToolBar xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation" 
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"> 
  <Button Command="ApplicationCommands.Cut"> 
    <Image Source="pack://siteoforigin:,,,/cut.png"/> 
  </Button> 
    <Button Command="ApplicationCommands.Copy"> 
      <Image Source="pack://siteoforigin:,,,/copy.png"/> 
    </Button> 
    <Button Command="ApplicationCommands.Paste"> 
      <Image Source="pack://siteoforigin:,,,/paste.png"/> 
    </Button> 
</ToolBar>

And last but not least, XAML code for my main Window, named Window1.xaml. Here, I'll put custom style to assure that once any of the Images or its parent controls become disabled, the images become semi-transparent.

<Window x:Class="DynamicMenu.Window1" 
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation" 
    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml" 
    Title="DynamicMenu" Height="300" Width="300" 
    > 
  <Window.Resources> 
    <Style TargetType="Image"> 
      <Style.Triggers> 
        <Trigger Property="IsEnabled" Value="False"> 
          <Setter Property="Opacity" Value="0.5"/> 
        </Trigger> 
      </Style.Triggers> 
    </Style> 
  </Window.Resources> 
    <StackPanel Name="main"> 
      <TextBox/> 
      <TextBox/> 
    </StackPanel> 
</Window>

Now, when we have all XAMLs, we have to load my dynamic menu and toolbar and add this into the application. To perform this action, we'll use XamlReader that will read and parse my loose XAML and add it into the application.

public Window1() 
       { 
           InitializeComponent(); 
           using (FileStream s = new FileStream("Menu1.xaml", FileMode.Open)) 
           { 
               Menu menu = XamlReader.Load(s, new ParserContext()) as Menu; 
               if (menu != null) 
               { 
                   main.Children.Insert(0, menu); 
               } 
           } 
           using (FileStream s = new FileStream("ToolBar1.xaml", FileMode.Open)) 
           { 
               ToolBar tool = XamlReader.Load(s, new ParserContext()) as ToolBar; 
               if (tool != null) 
               { 
                   main.Children.Insert(1, tool); 
               } 
           } 
       } 

Points of Interest

Isn't it nice that you have not recompiled anything in order to achieve very rich functionality?

History

  • 1st November, 2007: Initial post

License

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

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About the Author

Tamir Khason
Architect Better Place
Israel Israel
Hello! My name is Tamir Khason, and I am software architect, project manager, system analyst and [of course] programmer. In addition to writing big amount of documentation, I also write code, a lot of code. I used to work as a freelance architect, project manager, trainer, and consultant here, in Israel, but recently join the company with extremely persuasive idea - to make a world better place. I have very pretty wife and 3 charming kids, but unfortunately almost no time for them.

To be updated within articles, I publishing, visit my blog or subscribe RSS feed. Also you can follow me on Twitter to be up to date about my everyday life.

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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralReal-world example? Pin
paul130727-May-11 5:18
memberpaul130727-May-11 5:18 
QuestionWPF Project Type Pin
cyberjp7-Nov-07 8:07
membercyberjp7-Nov-07 8:07 
AnswerRe: WPF Project Type Pin
Tamir Khason7-Nov-07 19:58
memberTamir Khason7-Nov-07 19:58 
GeneralThis would work for built-in commands but... Pin
kemetokara1-Nov-07 15:03
memberkemetokara1-Nov-07 15:03 
GeneralRe: This would work for built-in commands but... Pin
Tamir Khason1-Nov-07 20:29
memberTamir Khason1-Nov-07 20:29 

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