Click here to Skip to main content
Click here to Skip to main content
Go to top

Silent printing in Silverlight

, 13 Jul 2011
Rate this:
Please Sign up or sign in to vote.
How to avoid the Print dialog while printing from Silverlight.

Introduction

As you may know, Silverlight 4 introduced the support for a basic printing functionality through its Printing API (based on the PrintDocument class). This API allows you to send to a printer (in a bitmap-based way) your application screen, a portion of it, or an alternative custom visual-tree properly constructed.

In Silverlight, the printing support is limited in some ways for security reasons; for example:

  • the print operation must be user-initiated (that is: it is only permitted in the context of a handler that handles a user event);
  • the "Print" dialog box (that is the window depicted below, where the user can select the printer's settings and then click "Print" to continue, or "Cancel" to cancel the print operation) is always shown.

Print dialog box

Especially the latter limitation is quite annoying, specifically when the user is expected to confirm all the default settings proposed by the Print dialog and to simply initiate the printing operation by clicking on the "Print" button. Not only could this represent a click-once-more bother, but in some situations, it could represent a real issue.

For example, think about a controlled line-of-business scenario where the Silverlight application is used for a ticket counter: in order to deliver a ticket to the buyer, the user is expected to type in some data and then to print a ticket that should be printed once (and only once) to the default printer. Of course, in this scenario, giving the user the ability to print more copies or to change the target printer is unwanted and to be avoided. Then the mandatory appearance of the Print dialog (as forced by Silverlight) looks like a big limitation. Moreover, as a programmer, you have no ways to know if the user changed some details in the Print dialog's options before confirming the print operation; so not only are you unable to prevent him/her from making those modifications but also you can't actually know if some modifications occurred (in fact, neither the BeginPrintEventArgs nor the PrintPageEventArgs do carry this information).

Because I found myself exactly in this situation, I tried to find out a solution to guarantee the printing operation from Silverlight occurs in a silent way, that is: having the user initiating the print operation from the application without the need for him/her to interact with the Print dialog, and basically having the default Print dialog's options all auto-confirmed without the user intervention.

This way:

  1. I'm sure that the application will print on the printer currently configured as the default printer;
  2. I'm sure that only one copy will be printed after the user initiates the print operation;
  3. further reprinting (in case needed because of paper jams or other issues) will be driven completely by the application logic (for example, asking for further confirmations or further passwords and privileges for reprinting) and properly logged at the application level.

The solution I'm proposing here (be aware of that!) is suitable only in some specific scenarios (typically: controlled line-of-business or enterprise situations) because:

  • it is subject to some limitations (it runs only on Windows-based PCs, even if Silverlight has a wider compatibility);
  • it leverages the Silverlight Isolated Storage, so the user must not disable it on his client;
  • it requires control over the final user's machine (where a custom executable has to be running to enable such kind of silent printing from Silverlight).

The basic idea

To achieve silent printing from Silverlight, on the assumption that the Print dialog showing is unavoidable, my basic idea consists in intercepting that dialog appearance and immediately simulating a user confirmation of the proposed default settings by a mimic click on the "Print" button of the same dialog.

In order to intercept the opening of a particular window, we have to work at the Operating System level, interacting with the messages and events the Windows OS manages when dealing with windows. This requires running a fully trusted code on the client machine, something you can achieve by running a native .NET executable or by leveraging COM Interop with Silverlight (but only if you are choosing a solution involving a fully trusted out-of-browser Silverlight application).

For the specific scenario I had to deal with (where I had full control over the installation and setup of the PCs targeted to operate at the ticket counter desks), I chose the option to have a custom executable installed on the client machine, acting as an "intercepting service". It performs the task of monitoring any window being opened, checks if it is a Print dialog and - if it actually is - automatically confirms the proposed options by simulating a click on the "Print" button.

Intercepting the Print dialog

In order to monitor any window being opened, I decided to hook into the system event WM_SETFOCUS (fired when any window receives the user input focus). To accomplish this, I used the Microsoft UI Automation framework (available from .NET Framework 3.5 onwards) and specifically the UIAutomationClient.dll and UIAutomationTypes.dll assemblies (containing a set of types for managed code that enables UI Automation client applications to obtain information about the UI and to send input to controls).

The code I prepared for the intercepting service (actually implemented in a simple Windows Forms application in the source code download), basically does the following:

  • it hooks into the WM_SETFOCUS Windows event;
  • when managing the WM_SETFOCUS Windows event happens:
    • it retrieves the control that currently has the focus;
    • it traverses the controls tree upwards in order to find a window titled "Print";
    • when a window titled "Print" has been found:
      • it identifies the "Print" button;
      • it invokes a "click" on it in order to auto-confirm the printing operation.

In fact, while this intercepting code is running on the client machine, if I navigate to my Silverlight application and I use it to print something, the Print dialog appears for a very short moment (it just "blinks") and it is immediately closed by the auto-confirmation code, without giving me any chance to interact with it or to modify any of the proposed settings. So, this seems to work! But we are only half way, because of these main problems:

  1. the intercepting code just looks for a focused window titled "Print", but currently there is no check about the owner of the Print dialog; so, the auto-confirmation will work for the Print dialog initiated by any caller (not only by the designated Silverlight application); and this is not good, because if I'm going to print a web page through the standard Print facility of the browser or I want to print a document through any application like Microsoft Word, if the intercepting code is running, then the auto-confirmation occurs, but I don't want it;
  2. if I want, in the same Silverlight application, to provide some printing features "controlled" in the described way (i.e., with a Print dialog suppressed by auto-confirmation) and other printing features "left open" to the normal user intervention through the standard Print dialog, at the moment, I can't achieve that;
  3. if the intercepting code is not running (because it crashed or didn't start), the Silverlight application behaves normally, showing me the Print dialog and allowing me to change everything in it; I'd like, instead, to have the print functionality prevented in such a situation, then forcing the intercepting code to be up'n'running as a condition to have the Silverlight application be able to execute the printing operations I want to keep "controlled".

If problem #1 could be solved by implementing a check on the identity of the application currently owning the Print dialog window detected as just opened and focused, it's clear that problems #2 and #3 require a sort of communication between the intercepting application and the Silverlight application. In fact, in order to distinguish printing operations that should be auto-confirmed from printing operations that shouldn't, the Silverlight application should in some way differentiate the calls to the printing API, and the intercepting code should be able to operate this distinction consequently. Moreover, it should signal in some way to the Silverlight application the fact it is running, in order to let the Silverlight application decide if a controlled printing operation has to be initiated (because the intercepting code is running and able to manage the auto-confirmation) or if it has to be prevented (because the intercepting code appears not to be running, so it wouldn't able to manage the auto-confirmation - and in this case, we prefer to inhibit the printing operation at all).

Letting Silverlight communicate with the intercepting application

Is a browser-hosted Silverlight application and a local executable able to communicate? My first answer to this question has been: "of course not, because of the Silverlight's sandbox and the limitations of a browser-hosted application, that (in Silverlight 4) cannot be fully trusted!"

But an easy way to let them communicate does exist, and I found it in the Silverlight Isolated Storage. Think about this: the Isolated Storage for a Silverlight application is a files structure hosted on the client PC's file system, inside the user's profile folder subtree; if a Windows executable is executed with proper permissions and proper file system access, it is certainly able to read and write on the same files and folders used by the Silverlight application's Isolated Storage... or not?

So I decided to have the Silverlight application and the local executable implementing the "intercepting service" communicate through Isolated Storage. Basically, I considered Isolated Storage as a common place to deliver and pick-up messages (a sort of shared mailbox):

  • Messages delivered by the Silverlight application are actually carrying this conceptual content: "My dear intercepting service, I'm about to start a controlled printing operation and I would like you to manage it by issuing an auto-confirmation on the Print dialog that is going to appear". Such kind of messages (sent immediately before invoking a PrintDocument.Print) are to be used only for controlled printing operations and obviously are to be omitted for left-open printing operations (then solving problem #2 above, that was: differentiating and distinguishing between controlled and left-open print operations). Moreover, because it is the Silverlight application that is in charge of signaling its intention to have a print operation managed by the intercepting service, this also solves problem #1; in fact, any other print operation (for example, initiated by another application) will generate a Print dialog window that - even if detected by the service as a just opened and focused "Print" window - will not be auto-confirmed at all.
  • The conceptual content carried by messages delivered by the intercepting service is: "My dear Silverlight application, I'm up, running, and in good health: if you want, you can initiate a controlled printing operation, because I'm ready to manage it by issuing an auto-confirmation on the Print dialog that will appear if you do so; but - please - just before initiating a printing operation that you want me to manage as controlled, tell me about your intention". Such kind of messages (sent on a recurring basis, typically more times in a minute) actually implement a sort of "service heart beat" and let the application know if the service is running or not. Obviously, the Silverlight application has to check the service's health before starting a controlled printing operation, and it has to prevent the operation if the service is not found alive. Of course for normal, left-open printing operations, the existence and health of the service are not significant.

A problem I had to solve while implementing this communication through Isolated Storage was about the physical Isolated Storage location itself; in fact, even if the root path for the Isolated Storage of any Silverlight application can be easily found in the user's profile subtree in a directory path like: SYSTEMDRIVE\Documents and Settings\USER\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Silverlight\is for Windows XP and SYSTEMDRIVE\Users\USER\AppData\LocalLow\Microsoft\Silverlight\is for Windows Vista and 7, it is not easy to say in advance the exact physical path of a specific Silverlight application.

In order to solve this issue, I decided to let the service find by itself the Isolated Storage specific path, given the root path and the name of the Silverlight application (expressed in the form of a URL of the XAP file). In fact, by recursively inspecting the Isolated Storage file system subtree, and analyzing the content of the file named id.dat, it is possible to find the exact Isolated Storage physical path for a specific Silverlight application. The only condition to have this search working is that the application should have already created its own Isolated Storage repository (even if - in case - during a preceding working session).

Because at its very first startup (or after the user deleted the Isolated Storage deliberately) the Silverlight application has not yet created its Isolated Storage repository (because this will happen upon the first read/write operation on it), to be sure it is created early, I have to force its creation just when the application starts up.

When the Isolated Storage specific path is known by the intercepting application, the communication between the Silverlight application and the intercepting application can occur, by simply reading and writing simple files having predefined, conventional names.

The messages sent by the intercepting service (namely "service heart beats") will be implemented simply by a sentinel text file named ServiceHeartBeat.txt containing a timestamp (the current date and time on the client PC). This file will be rewritten with the updated date and time on a recurring basis (let's say, each 8 seconds). The messages sent by the application (that I'll call "application signals", because they signal for an imminent printing operation) will also be implemented by a sentinel text file named ApplicationSignal.txt containing a timestamp (the current date and time on the client PC). This file will be rewritten with the updated date and time each time a controlled print operation is requested by the Silverlight application's user.

The following time/activity diagram (time running up-down) should clarify the interaction between the application and the intercepting service (that is: our local executable) in the hypothesis that the latter is already running when the Silverlight application starts:

Service-application interaction 1

As stated before, any controlled printing operation from Silverlight should occur if and only if the intercepting service is actually running. That's why the Silverlight application must check for the presence of the service heart beat before invoking the actual print, and must prevent the printing operation if the intercepting code is not running, as shown in the following diagram:

Service-application interaction 2

Of course, if the Silverlight application has to provide a left-open print operation, no checks are to be done on the intercepting code running status (because we don't want to prevent the printing operation in any case, both being the service running or stopped). Besides, the application shouldn't signal the imminent print operation to the intercepting executable (because it's not a controlled print operation, and we don't want the Print dialog auto-confirmed). Then the intercepting code (if running) will not auto-confirm the Print dialog (even if it still detects it as a just opened and focused Print window):

Service-application interaction 3

And also if the user starts a printing operation from other applications or uses the browser print facility, as anticipated, the intercepting service (if running) will not auto-confirm the Print dialog (because no application signaled an imminent printing operation to be managed with auto-confirmation):

Service-application interaction 4

Implementation details

Let's now have a look at the code I wrote in order to implement what I explained above.

The source code download is made up of a Visual Studio 2010 solution containing two projects:

  • PrintControlled: a Silverlight project simulating an application that needs to provide a controlled (that is: auto-confirmed) printing operation;
  • ControlledPrintService: a Windows Forms project implementing the "intercepting service" as a standard C# application.

The Silverlight application (PrintControlled project)

As stated before, the Silverlight application needing a controlled printing operation has to initialize its Isolated Storage on startup, in order to have the communication with the intercepting service enabled. This step is performed by the InitializeIsolatedStorage method, that in turn simply invokes the IsolatedStorageFile.GetUserStoreForApplication method. From this moment on, the intercepting service will be able to identify the exact Isolated Storage path of the application and interact with it.

When the application needs to start a controlled printing operation, it will:

  • write on the Isolated Storage its own signal sentinel file, in order to signal that it is going to invoke a Print operation (see the WriteApplicationSignal method);
  • check if the ControlledPrintService application is up'n'running, by verifying the presence of the service heart beat (see the ControlledPrintServiceIsRunning method).

If the service heart beat is present and "recent enough" (see ServiceHeartBeatTolerance), then the printing operation can proceed.

The following code excerpt implements these concepts:

private void btnPrint_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
  // Write on the Isolated Storage the application
  // signal sentinel file, in order to signal
  // that the application is going to invoke a Print operation
  WriteApplicationSignal();

  // Check if the ControlledPrint service
  // is up&running by verifying the presence
  // of the service heart beat
  // If the service heart beat is absent
  // or not "recent" (see ServiceHeartBeatTolerance),
  // then the print operation is prevented
  if (!ControlledPrintServiceIsRunning())
  {
    MessageBox.Show("Printing is not enabled at this moment.\n
    The ControlledPrint service is not running.");
    return;
  }

  // Actually execute the print operation
  pd = new PrintDocument();

  ...

  pd.Print("");
}

// Execute the writing of the application signal
// in order to signal that the application
// is going to invoke a print operation
// The signal is a simple text file containing a timestamp
private void WriteApplicationSignal()
{
  try
  {
    IsolatedStorageFile ISfile = IsolatedStorageFile.GetUserStoreForApplication();
    IsolatedStorageFileStream fs = 
      ISfile.OpenFile(ApplicationSignalFilename, FileMode.Create);
    StreamWriter sw = new StreamWriter(fs);
    sw.Write(DateTime.Now.ToString("yyyyMMddHHmmss", new CultureInfo("en-us")));
    sw.Close();
    fs.Close();
  }
  catch { }
}

// Check if the ControlledPrint service heart beat is there, and if it is recent enough
// (see ServiceHeartBeatTolerance)
private bool ControlledPrintServiceIsRunning()
{
  try
  {
    IsolatedStorageFile ISfile = IsolatedStorageFile.GetUserStoreForApplication();
    if (!ISfile.FileExists(ServiceHeartBeatFilename))
      return false;

    IsolatedStorageFileStream fs = 
       ISfile.OpenFile(ServiceHeartBeatFilename, FileMode.Open);
    StreamReader sr = new StreamReader(fs);
    DateTime ServiceHeartBeatDateTime;
    try
    {
      ServiceHeartBeatDateTime = DateTime.ParseExact(sr.ReadToEnd(), "yyyyMMddHHmmss",
      new CultureInfo("en-us"));
    }
    catch
    {
      ServiceHeartBeatDateTime = DateTime.MinValue;
    }
    sr.Close();
    fs.Close();

    if (ServiceHeartBeatDateTime.AddSeconds(ServiceHeartBeatTolerance) >= DateTime.Now)
      return true;  // the ControlledPrint service is considered up & running
    else
      return false; // the ControlledPrint service seems to be asleep or dead
  }
  catch 
  {
    return false;
  }
}

The Silverlight application will need some configuration parameters (currently hard-coded), for example to tune the tolerance period to be used in evaluating if a detected service heart beat is "recent enough":

// Filename for the application "signal"
// sentinel file, to be written in the Isolated Storage of the
// application in order to signal that
// the application is going to invoke a Print operation
string ApplicationSignalFilename = "ApplicationSignal.txt";

// Filename for the service "heart beat" sentinel file,
// to be looked for in the Isolated Storage of the
// application in order to check if the ControlledPrint service is up&running
string ServiceHeartBeatFilename = "ServiceHeartBeat.txt";

// Tolerance (in sec.) to be used in order to decide
// if the detected service heart beat is recent enough
// It should be set to a value greather than ServiceHeartBeatTimerInterval
// in the ControlledPrint service
int ServiceHeartBeatTolerance = 10;

The intercepting application (ControlledPrintService project)

First of all, the intercepting application must hook the WM_SETFOCUS Windows event, in order to be prepared to intercept and identify any focused window. Also, while starting up the intercepting code, the heart beat mechanism has to be started too (here, this is simply done with a Timer): at each "Tick" of the heart beat timer, the service will try to write the sentinel heart beat text file on the application's Isolated Storage; if the application's Isolated Storage path is not known yet, the file system is inspected in order to find it before writing the service heart beat.

private void Form1_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
  // Hook the WM_SETFOCUS Windows event
  Automation.AddAutomationFocusChangedEventHandler(
             new AutomationFocusChangedEventHandler(Focus_Changed));

  // Setup the timer for the ControlledPrint service heart beat
  // This heart beat signals to a designated Silverlight
  // application that the service is up&running
  // (by writing a sentinel file to the Isolated Storage
  // of that Silverlight application)
  timServiceHeartBeat.Interval = ServiceHeartBeatTimerInterval * 1000;
  timServiceHeartBeat_Tick(null, null);   // Force a first service heart beat
  timServiceHeartBeat.Enabled = true;     // Start the service heart beat timer
}

// The following variable will hold the path of the Isolated Storage
// for the designated Silverlight application (detected at runtime
// by looking for the SilverlightApplicationURL in the general
// Isolation Storage, see ISrootPath)
string ISapplicationFullPath = "";

// Execute the writing of the service heart beat in order to give evidence
// to the fact that the ControlledPrint service is up&running
private void timServiceHeartBeat_Tick(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
  if (ISapplicationFullPath == "")
  {
    // If the ISapplicationFullPath variable is still empty,
    // discover the Isolated Storage full path
    // for the designated Silverlight application
    ISapplicationFullPath = 
      SearchISfullPath(ISrootPath, SilverlightApplicationURL);
  }

  if (ISapplicationFullPath != "")
    WriteServiceHeartBeat();
}

// Execute the writing of the service heart beat in order to signal
// that the ControlledPrint service is up&running
// The heart beat is a simple text file containing a timestamp
private void WriteServiceHeartBeat()
{
  try
  {
    FileStream fs = File.Open(ISapplicationFullPath + @"\" + 
                              ServiceHeartBeatFilename, FileMode.Create);
    StreamWriter sw = new StreamWriter(fs);
    sw.Write(DateTime.Now.ToString("yyyyMMddHHmmss", 
                                   new CultureInfo("en-us")));
    sw.Close();
    fs.Close();
  }
  catch { }
}

The SearchISfullPath method simply does the following: it recursively traverses the file system hierarchy starting from a given path (typically, the Isolated Storage root) to find out the Isolated Storage full path for a designated Silverlight application (given the URL of its XAP in SilverlightApplicationURL):

private string SearchISfullPath(string path, string SilverlightApplicationURL)
{
  string[] files = Directory.GetFiles(path);
  foreach (string f in files)
    if (Path.GetFileName(f) == "id.dat")
    {
      string SLapp = ReadSLappFromIdDatFile(f);
      if (SLapp.ToUpper() == SilverlightApplicationURL.ToUpper())
        return Path.GetDirectoryName(f) + @"\f";
    }
  string[] dirs = Directory.GetDirectories(path);
  foreach (string d in dirs)
  {
    string res = SearchISfullPath(d, SilverlightApplicationURL);
    if (res != "")
      return res;
  }
  return "";
}

// Retrieve the Silverlight application URL
// from an "id.dat" Isolated Storage file
private string ReadSLappFromIdDatFile(string IdDatFilename)
{
  FileStream fs = File.Open(IdDatFilename, FileMode.Open);
  StreamReader sr = new StreamReader(fs);
  string res = sr.ReadToEnd();
  sr.Close();
  fs.Close();
  return res;
}

The remaining work for the intercepting service is done when a FocusChanged event occurs. The intercepting service has to: detect if the focused window is a window titled "Print"; find the "Print" button on the window; check the application signal to see if it is "recent enough" (see ApplicationSignalTolerance); invoke the "click" on the Button:

// Manage the WM_SETFOCUS Windows event happened
private void Focus_Changed(object src, AutomationFocusChangedEventArgs e)
{
  // Retrieve the control that currently has the focus
  AutomationElement FocusedElement = src as AutomationElement;

  try
  {
    // Traverse the control tree upwards in order to find a window titled "Print"
    while (FocusedElement != null && FocusedElement != AutomationElement.RootElement)
    {
      // Check if the window title is "Print"
      string WindowTitle = FocusedElement.Current.Name;
      if (string.Equals("Print", WindowTitle, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase))
      {
        if ((IntPtr)FocusedElement.Current.NativeWindowHandle != IntPtr.Zero)
          // A window titled "Print" has been found
          PrintDialogReceivedFocus(FocusedElement);
        break;
      }

      // Retrieve the parent control
      FocusedElement = TreeWalker.ControlViewWalker.GetParent(FocusedElement);
    }
  }
  catch
  { }
}

private void PrintDialogReceivedFocus(AutomationElement PrintWindow)
{
  if (PrintWindow == null && PrintWindow == AutomationElement.RootElement)
    return;

  AutomationElement ParentWindow = TreeWalker.ControlViewWalker.GetParent(PrintWindow);
  if (ParentWindow == null)
    return;
  
  // Identify the "Print" button,
  // that will be used to auto-confirm the printing operation
  AutomationElement PrintButton = null;

  //PrintButton = FindButtonByName(PrintWindow, "Print");
  // For testing/debugging purposes, use the "Cancel" button
  // instead of the "Print" button
  PrintButton = FindButtonByName(PrintWindow, "Cancel");

  if (PrintButton != null)
  {
    object objPattern;
    // Prepare the invocation for the button
    if (PrintButton.TryGetCurrentPattern(InvokePattern.Pattern, out objPattern))
    {
      if (objPattern != null)
      {
        // Check if the application signal is recent enough;
        // if it is "old", then do nothing
        if (!CheckApplicationSignal())
          return;

        // Actually execute the invocation on the button
        (objPattern as InvokePattern).Invoke();
        //System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine("PrintDialogOpened: Closed");
      }
    }
  }
}

// Traverse the control tree downwards in order to find a button with the specified name
private AutomationElement FindButtonByName(AutomationElement StartingElement, 
                                           string ButtonName)
{
  try
  {
    AutomationElement ElementNode = 
      TreeWalker.ControlViewWalker.GetFirstChild(StartingElement);

    while (ElementNode != null)
    {
      try
      {
        if (ElementNode.Current.ControlType.ProgrammaticName == "ControlType.Button")
          if (ElementNode.Current.Name == ButtonName)
            return ElementNode;
      }
      catch { }

      AutomationElement ButtonInChildren = FindButtonByName(ElementNode, ButtonName);
      if (ButtonInChildren != null)
        return ButtonInChildren;

      ElementNode = TreeWalker.ControlViewWalker.GetNextSibling(ElementNode);
    }
    return null;
  }
  catch
  {
    return null;
  }
}

// Check if the application signal is there, and if it is
// recent enough (see ApplicationSignalTolerance)
private bool CheckApplicationSignal()
{
  try
  {
    if (ISapplicationFullPath == "")
      return false;

    if (!File.Exists(ISapplicationFullPath + @"\" + ApplicationSignalFilename))
      return false;

    FileStream fs = File.Open(ISapplicationFullPath + @"\" + 
                              ApplicationSignalFilename, FileMode.Open);
    StreamReader sr = new StreamReader(fs);
    DateTime ApplicationSignalDateTime;
    try
    {
      ApplicationSignalDateTime = 
        DateTime.ParseExact(sr.ReadToEnd(), "yyyyMMddHHmmss",
      new CultureInfo("en-us"));
    }
    catch
    {
      ApplicationSignalDateTime = DateTime.MinValue;
    }
    sr.Close();
    fs.Close();

    if (ApplicationSignalDateTime.AddSeconds(ApplicationSignalTolerance) >= DateTime.Now)
      return true;  // the Silverlight application is considered up & running
    else
      return false; // the Silverlight application seems to be asleep, dead,
                    // or not having called the printing function recently
  }
  catch
  {
    return false;
  }
}

The intercepting service will need some configuration parameters (currently hard-coded for simplicity), to let it know the root path of the Isolated Storage on the client machine, to let it know the name of the Silverlight application to be elected for communication, to tune the service heart beat frequency, to tune the tolerance period to be used in evaluating if a detected application signal is "recent enough". Also, the file names to be used in the communication through Isolated Storage will need to be configured according to the Silverlight application's configuration.

// Root path of the general Silverlight Isolated Storage;
// it depends from the current user
// and could vary depending on the operating system.
// For Windows XP it is in the form of: 
//  <SYSTEMDRIVE>\Documents and Settings\<user>\Local
//             Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Silverlight\is 
// For Windows Vista / Seven:
//  <SYSTEMDRIVE>\Users\<user>\AppData\LocalLow\Microsoft\Silverlight\is 
string ISrootPath = 
  @"C:\Users\alberto.venditti\AppData\LocalLow\Microsoft\Silverlight\is";

// URL of the XAP file of the Silverlight Application designated
// to interact with the ControlledPrint service
string SilverlightApplicationURL = 
       "HTTP://LOCALHOST:47787/CLIENTBIN/PRINTCONTROLLED.XAP";

// Filename for the service "heart beat" sentinel file, to be written 
// in the Isolated Storage of the designated Silverlight application
// in order to signal that the ControlledPrint service is up&running
string ServiceHeartBeatFilename = "ServiceHeartBeat.txt";
// Interval (in seconds) for the service heart beat updates
int ServiceHeartBeatTimerInterval = 8;

// Filename for the application "signal" sentinel file,
// to be looked for in the Isolated Storage
// of the designated Silverlight application
// in order to check if the application recently invoked a Print operation
string ApplicationSignalFilename = "ApplicationSignal.txt";
// Tolerance (in seconds) to be used in order to decide
// if the detected application signal is recent enough
int ApplicationSignalTolerance = 2;

Points of interest

This solution explores a queer way to achieve the communication between a standard local .NET application and a Silverlight application running in the browser, through an original use of the Isolated Storage. Even if this mechanism could be considered in some way inelegant, it does actually work and it did represent a concrete solution in my scenario.

Apart from that peculiar use of the Silverlight's Isolated Storage, I found interesting the use of the Microsoft UI Automation framework to obtain information about the UI events occurring on the client machine and to interact with that UI sending input to controls.

Warnings

As stated in the introductory paragraph, the solution presented here is suitable only in some specific scenarios (typically: controlled line-of-business or enterprise situations): be aware of that and of the subsequent limitations it exposes.

If used in a production environment, the hand-shake communication explained here (based on reading and writing very simple text files) should certainly be enriched with some security concepts (such as: encrypting the actual text file's content) in order to make it difficult for the user to tamper the information exchanged by the Silverlight application and the intercepting service.

As promptly noted by a reader, the intercepting code approach (currently implemented in a standard Windows Forms application) could not work if packaged inside a Windows Service (due to the non-interactive nature of Windows services).

License

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

Share

About the Author

Alberto Venditti
Technical Lead
Italy Italy
I was born in 1970.
 
My first computer experience dates back to early 80s, with a Sinclair ZX81.
From that time on, as many "friends" say, my IT-illness has increased year by year.
 
I graduated in Electronic Engineering and earned the following Microsoft certifications:
MCP, MCT, MCDBA, MCSD, MCAD, MCSD for .NET (early achiever).
 
I worked in IT as a developer, a teacher, a consultant, a technical writer, a technical leader.
IT knowledge applied to real life is my primary interest and focus.

Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionPrint Service Pinmembercjb11020-Aug-13 22:12 
Questionprint a word document with a bitmap image? PinmemberMember 379692919-Jul-13 23:58 
AnswerRe: print a word document with a bitmap image? PinmemberAlberto Venditti22-Jul-13 1:42 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberElio R. Batista Gonzalez14-Jun-13 8:30 
QuestionOver engineered Pinmemberzaxbowow8-Oct-12 6:59 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembernetizenk13-Jul-11 6:26 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 PinmemberAlberto Venditti14-Jul-11 5:07 
QuestionNeat idea using IsolatedStorage to talk to WinForms but PinmvpSacha Barber12-Jul-11 2:27 
AnswerRe: Neat idea using IsolatedStorage to talk to WinForms but PinmemberAlberto Venditti12-Jul-11 5:02 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberRhuros12-Jul-11 1:19 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 PinmemberAlberto Venditti12-Jul-11 5:07 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.

| Advertise | Privacy | Mobile
Web04 | 2.8.140922.1 | Last Updated 13 Jul 2011
Article Copyright 2011 by Alberto Venditti
Everything else Copyright © CodeProject, 1999-2014
Terms of Service
Layout: fixed | fluid