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, 11 Mar 2009 CPOL
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Standard .NET TextBox control with three additional properties that allow the developer to add a 'hint' to the text...sort of like a tooltip but always visible while the control is empty.
mockup of the TextBoxHint in action


An application I'm building has numerous Tree controls on a number of forms. Some of the trees produced contain thousands of rows of data. My users requested a search capability that spanned several columns of data in those trees so I was unable to use the built-in search functions.

That left me to write my own search routines which included input from Text Boxes sized and positioned directly above each column the user could search on... unfortunately that also meant no room for a Label to describe what the user could search on so I thought, "Why not put the label contents inside the TextBox?" and that lead me to build the TextBoxHint control.


I didn't want to use the Text property to hold the description - I also wanted the description to 'fade out' like you'll see in some WPF apps.

Immediately I set out to create a User Control that inherits from a TextBox. I figured I could just override the Paint and from there... sounds logical right? WRONG! Turns out, the .NET TextBox isn't really a .NET control at all! It's a wrapper to a very old Win32 control - Searching on how to override the Paint was nothing short of a several hour, hair and tooth pulling experience but in the end I figured out what was needed by reading an article from a very old, VB website called

Using the Cursor

Add a reference to the TextBoxHint.dll into .NET ToolBox and use it just like you would a TextBox control.

TextBoxHint Extended Properties

HintDetails.HintText This is the text that is displayed inside the Textbox that will fade out once the user enters data.
HintDetails.HintColor The color used to paint the HintText
HintDetails.HintFadeSpeed An integer from 0-5 (if you enter a value < 0, it will default to 0. Enter one > 5 and it will default to 5.
HintDetails.HintTextAlign Can be set to Left (default), Center or Right
CharFilter Can be set to All (default), NumericOnly (0-9) and AlphaOnly (A-Z, a-z)
CharFilterSpecial Allows you to extend the allowed characters selected in CharFilter
If you select CharFilter=NumericOnly and set CharFilterSpecial to "AaBbCc" the TextBox will allow 0-9 and Aa, Bb or Cc.

Using the Control

You can adjust how long the Hint takes to fade out by increasing the HintFadeSpeed:

  • 0 = Instantly vanish when the user enters data into the TextBox
  • 1 = Slow Fade out (approximately 2.5 seconds)
  • 2-9 = Faster Fade out
  • 10 = Fastest Fade out

If you would like to allow for longer or shorter fading, you can adjust the Interval on the Timer used that handles the repainting during fading:

Public Sub New()
	' This call is required by the Windows Form Designer.

	' Add any initialization after the InitializeComponent() call.
	FadeTimer = New System.Windows.Forms.Timer
	FadeTimer.Interval = 50	' Make this smaller for faster fading 
				' - larger for slower
	FadeTimer.Enabled = False
	AddHandler FadeTimer.Tick, AddressOf FadeTimer_Tick
End Sub

If you would like to extend the range of Fade, adjust the maximum allowed HintFadeSpeed:

Private _HintFadeSpeed As Integer = 3
Public Property HintFadeSpeed() As Integer
		Return _HintFadeSpeed
	End Get
	Set(ByVal value As Integer)
		_HintFadeSpeed = value
		If value < 0 Then _HintFadeSpeed = 0
		If value > 10 Then _HintFadeSpeed = 10
	End Set
End Property

Sure, I know my use of these rather basic Properties is extremely cryptic. If you would like to see some samples of how you can manage these properties in a more elegant manner, there are numerous, fantastic samples here on CodeProject. (I demonstrate a few in my article, Border Container.)

Points of Interest

This control has the four 'Hint' properties nested inside an expandable Property called HintDetails. You can see how this is done by looking at the Property Converter code found in TextBoxHintDetails.vb.


  • 3/5/2009
    • Control is introduced to CodeProject
  • 3/11/2009 - Control is upgraded
    • Added HintTextAlign allowing the developer to align where the HintText is displayed (thanks to Frank for the suggestion)
    • The four Hint properties have been moved into an Expandable Property HintDetails and two additional properties allow the developer to control the type of allowable keys: CharFilter and CharFilterSpecial


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

BugStrange Appearance Pinmemberchrisf86578-Mar-15 9:24 
GeneralMy vote of 4 PinmemberAJMH26-Apr-11 12:38 
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pinmembersopheak.programming13-Nov-10 16:57 
GeneralProblem with Khmer unicode Pinmembersopheak.programming13-Nov-10 16:56 
GeneralCue PinmemberTobiasP21-Apr-09 10:15 

Since the article mentions the Win32 edit control that the .NET TextBox wraps, it can be noted that Windows versions after XP has built-in support for cues (same as hints in this article) in edit controls. However, it is not directly available for the .NET Framework nor has it (as far as I know) the additional properties that this solution has. See the article CueProvider[^] (especially the comment that show how the cue can be set through an IExtenderProvider) for a comparison of the methods.
GeneralRe: Cue [modified] PinmemberElkay29-Apr-09 11:01 
General[Message Deleted] PinmemberNorm .net21-Mar-09 9:03 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 PinmemberRyleigh27-Mar-09 8:35 
GeneralRe: My vote of 1 [modified] PingroupNorm .net20-May-09 5:29 
General[Message Deleted] PinmemberNorm .net21-Mar-09 9:02 
GeneralRe: Crap PinmemberElkay22-Mar-09 14:16 
GeneralRe: Crap PinmemberNorm .net22-Mar-09 22:35 
GeneralNice work. PinmemberStumproot17-Mar-09 13:37 
GeneralRe: Nice work. PinmemberElkay18-Mar-09 7:52 
GeneralOverriding WM_PAINT PinmemberMatthew Noonan15-Mar-09 16:28 
GeneralRe: Overriding WM_PAINT PinmemberElkay15-Mar-09 19:14 
GeneralHint Test Alignment Pinmemberfperugini10-Mar-09 2:45 
GeneralRe: Hint Test Alignment PinmemberElkay11-Mar-09 9:17 
GeneralRe: Hint Test Alignment Pinmemberfperugini11-Mar-09 11:47 

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