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Hosting EXE Applications in a WinForm project

, 21 Dec 2004
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A custom control to launch and embed an EXE into a WinForm based application.

Sample Image

Introduction

Though not a common task, recently I needed to take an existing executable application and embed it into an application I was building. Oddly enough, I did not need any interaction between my application and the existing EXE. As it ends up, this is not a difficult thing to do. To make it even easier, I created a custom C# control that allows you to specify the name of an executable you want embedded into your application. The control takes care of all the rest.

How does it work

In design time, the user can specify the name of the executable to embed. When the control is created in runtime, it launches the application as follows:

Process p = null; 
try 
{
  // Start the process 
  p = System.Diagnostics.Process.Start(this.exeName); 

  // Wait for process to be created and enter idle condition 
  p.WaitForInputIdle(); 

  // Get the main handle
  appWin = p.MainWindowHandle; 
} 
catch (Exception ex) 
{ 
  MessageBox.Show(this, ex.Message, "Error"); 
}

After launching, the code must then set the parent of the executable's main window to the control handle. It does this as follows:

// Put it into this form
SetParent(appWin, this.Handle);

// Remove border and whatnot
SetWindowLong(appWin, GWL_STYLE, WS_VISIBLE);

// Move the window to overlay it on this window
MoveWindow(appWin, 0, 0, this.Width, this.Height, true);

Any time the control is resized, it must also resize the executable window. To do so, it does this in the Resize function:

protected override void OnResize(EventArgs e)
{
  if (this.appWin != IntPtr.Zero)
  {
    MoveWindow(appWin, 0, 0, this.Width, this.Height, true);
  }
  base.OnResize (e);
}

Lastly, when the control is destroyed, it should shut down the executable. To do so, it does the following:

protected override void OnHandleDestroyed(EventArgs e)
{
  // Stop the application
  if (appWin != IntPtr.Zero)
  {

    // Post a colse message
    PostMessage(appWin, WM_CLOSE, 0, 0);

    // Delay for it to get the message
    System.Threading.Thread.Sleep(1000);

    // Clear internal handle
    appWin = IntPtr.Zero;

  }

  base.OnHandleDestroyed (e);
}

History

  • 12-20-2004: Released.

License

This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here

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About the Author

Jay Nelson
Web Developer
United States United States
I have been developing software professionaly since 1991 writing software in Automation and Manufacturing environments. For 14 years I worked for companies that built custom robotic automated equipment for the semiconductor, telecommunications, and other industies. Presently, I work for a medical device manufacturer developing applications for the compact framework.
 
My undergraduate degrees are in Mathematics and Philosopy. My graduate degree is in Management Information Systems. I am MCSD certified in Visual C++ 6.0 and MCSD.NET certified in C#.
 
I enjoy triathlons and reading.

Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralAnother problem Pinmemberil172316-Nov-09 5:36 
GeneralProblem Pinmemberil172316-Nov-09 4:59 
GeneralRe: Problem PinmemberElbe Alves Miranda24-Feb-11 3:24 
GeneralReally great, works perfectly after bug fix - thank you very much! PinmemberBlasterwurm10-Nov-09 4:39 
GeneralRe: Really great, works perfectly after bug fix - thank you very much! PinmemberAtchyuta Rao9-Dec-09 20:29 
GeneralRe: Really great, works perfectly after bug fix - thank you very much! Pinmembercs_can3-Apr-10 5:41 
GeneralApplication dosen't work Pinmembertreuveni26-Sep-09 9:37 
GeneralNice Article... But one clarification required ... Running the Code..it;s launching the custom control and IE .. separately [modified] PinmemberNikkiee28-May-09 7:00 
Hi,
 
Good Shot....nice article.....
 
But running the Code, for my self I found it;s launching the custom control and IE .. separately
I tried to run the code and as a result .. running WindowsApplication1 application ..it is not launching the IE inside the user control..
But what is happing is the UI form having nothing launching first .. then the IE is launching separately outside the user control...not inside the control.
 
Have anyone noticed that.. But as per my understanding the IE shud launch inside the form as it is a Custom control.
 

Jay, can you please help me why it is happing like this ..Do I need to do something else.
I tried with VS 2005 and VS 2008 and release and debug mode of dlls...getting the same results.
Actually treating the example as a sample, I want to create one user control which would launch the Adobe Photoshop.
 
modified on Thursday, May 28, 2009 1:11 PM

GeneralRe: Nice Article... But one clarification required ... Running the Code..it;s launching the custom control and IE .. separately [modified] PinmemberBlasterwurm10-Nov-09 2:18 
GeneralRe: Nice Article... But one clarification required ... Running the Code..it;s launching the custom control and IE .. separately [modified] Pinmemberbencodeproject2515-Mar-11 11:33 
GeneralRe: Nice Article... But one clarification required ... Running the Code..it;s launching the custom control and IE .. separately [modified] Pinmembersukesh.gudikandulla27-May-12 7:43 
GeneralScrolling PinmemberWallbert Elicot22-Apr-09 1:39 
QuestionAll good for Microsoft Programs like notepad and Excel but what about others like winamp? Pinmembernoka036-Apr-09 20:31 
AnswerRe: All good for Microsoft Programs like notepad and Excel but what about others like winamp? [modified] PinmemberBlasterwurm10-Nov-09 2:20 
QuestionThe EXE application is a separate window, not hosted by the control! PinmemberNotGood27-Feb-09 5:07 
QuestionRe: The EXE application is a separate window, not hosted by the control! Pinmemberpcm_it14-Mar-09 1:45 
AnswerRe: The EXE application is a separate window, not hosted by the control! Pinmembermbaocha6-May-09 16:43 
GeneralRe: The EXE application is a separate window, not hosted by the control! PinmemberBlasterwurm10-Nov-09 3:37 
QuestionAwesome!!! PinmemberMember 440744029-Jan-09 5:30 
QuestionRe: Awesome!!! PinmemberKrishna01 Valluri5-Mar-10 0:20 
AnswerRe: Awesome!!! Pinmembercs_can3-Apr-10 5:54 
GeneralWorks great but... PinmemberMember 447052825-Jan-09 8:31 
QuestionRewritten with bug fix? PinmemberThord Johansson9-Dec-08 22:07 
Generalnice article PinmemberMember 237557729-Oct-08 9:59 
GeneralWow... Excellent PinmemberMrWolfy14-Sep-08 8:53 

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