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Capturing Window Controls and Modifying their properties

, 19 Feb 2005 GPL3
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A Spy tool program like MS Spy++ that lets you capture window controls and modify their properties. Useful for learning window handles and their properties.

Sample Image - windowspy.gif


I was interested to have a tool such as Spy++ in Microsoft Visual Studio, but I'd like that the tool can modify window controls. For instance, some times, we need to enable some inactive controls in a program during run-time. MS Spy++ does not have any facilities to do this, and so I made it by myself.

This program is useful to obtain a window handle, caption, class name, style, and size. Moreover, it facilitates changing caption name, style, and extended style of victim window control in run-time load.

The application is a Win32 project without using MFC. It hooks the target window by WindowFromPoint() user32 API. There is an algorithm to seek on child and parent window to capture child windows inside a program by using GetWindowRect() and GetWindow() in a tricky way. It applies GetWindowLong() to obtain window properties and SetWindowLong() to modify them.

Hooking target window

We can hook victim window through WM_MOUSEMOVE mouse event:

if (bSeeking)
  HWND hWindowUnderTheMouse;
  //HWND hWindowUnderTheMouseChild;
  points = MAKEPOINTS(lParam); 
  hWindowUnderTheMouse = WindowFromPoint(point);
  if(hWindowUnderTheMouse != hSeekedWindow)
    hSeekedWindow = hWindowUnderTheMouse;
    // update the twin window
  points = MAKEPOINTS(lParam); 

It seeks the correct window target by searching through its parent and its children by SeekDumpWindow() which is defined in <DumpSeek.h> inside the program.

Modifying target window

It is very easy to modify the victim window by its handle. If you have the window handle, you can obtain and change styles very easily by GetWindowLong() and SetWindowLong() and also window caption by using SetWindowText() and SendDlgItemMessage(). By looking inside UpdateFlags() in the program, you will find the code which performs this to modify the target window:

  HWND_TOPMOST, 0, 0, 0, 0,
  HWND_NOTOPMOST, 0, 0, 0, 0,
if(BACKdwID!=dwID) SetWindowLong(hHandle, GWL_ID, dwID);
if(BACKdwStyle!=dwStyle)SetWindowLong(hHandle, GWL_STYLE, dwStyle);
SetWindowLong(hHandle, GWL_EXSTYLE, dwExtendedStyle);

The code to change caption depends on the type of window control. To change caption of Edit Control and Box Control, it has to use SendDlgItemMessage() instead of SetWindowText() in other window controls:

  HWND hWndParent=GetParent(hHandle);


I hope this tool clarifies window classes and their manipulation for people who are beginners in this field. This would be an introduction to make window Spy tools and work with handles.

Eventually, I should appreciate you if you would kindly take the time to mention your ideas, suggestions, and any bugs you may find in this program.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The GNU General Public License (GPLv3)


About the Author

Ashkbiz Danehkar

Australia Australia
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Comments and Discussions

QuestionTo most Pin
Nguyen Luong Son at 20-Oct-14 2:03
memberNguyen Luong Son20-Oct-14 2:03 
QuestionManually enter handle Pin
Nguyen Luong Son at 28-Aug-14 18:33
memberNguyen Luong Son28-Aug-14 18:33 
QuestionStay on top .... Pin
Member 518374 at 11-Oct-13 1:41
memberMember 51837411-Oct-13 1:41 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Yiannis Spyridakis at 10-May-12 2:06
memberYiannis Spyridakis10-May-12 2:06 
QuestionGood job! Pin
DH0008 at 1-Mar-12 4:53
memberDH00081-Mar-12 4:53 
GeneralInstance of ClassName Pin
charleslambert14 at 24-Mar-11 6:12
membercharleslambert1424-Mar-11 6:12 
GeneralGreat! Pin
yulinxie at 16-May-10 5:22
memberyulinxie16-May-10 5:22 
GeneralOne Pblm Pin
Naveen.R at 10-Sep-07 19:23
memberNaveen.R10-Sep-07 19:23 
QuestionSpy++ Pin
Bourtree at 7-Mar-07 10:26
memberBourtree7-Mar-07 10:26 
GeneralNice article, but cannot compile with VS.Net 2005 Pin
yjagota at 18-Feb-07 10:38
memberyjagota18-Feb-07 10:38 
QuestionCan it capture a label in vb6 program? Pin
pctimhk at 30-Sep-06 9:24
memberpctimhk30-Sep-06 9:24 
GeneralGoogle Earth Toolbar Pin
Todd Wilder at 22-Jul-06 17:55
memberTodd Wilder22-Jul-06 17:55 
GeneralExtra Ordinary Pin
AsheshVashi at 9-May-06 20:56
memberAsheshVashi9-May-06 20:56 
GeneralMsDos Pin
roberto1979es at 8-Feb-06 5:15
memberroberto1979es8-Feb-06 5:15 Pin
roberto1979es at 7-Feb-06 12:10
memberroberto1979es7-Feb-06 12:10 
GeneralRe: Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 7-Feb-06 13:07
memberAshkbiz Danehkar7-Feb-06 13:07 
GeneralRe: Pin
Tutu at 7-Jun-06 21:51
memberTutu7-Jun-06 21:51 
Generalwindows controls Pin
B!Z at 16-Jan-06 23:13
memberB!Z16-Jan-06 23:13 
GeneralModifing Window Title name Pin
Vitoto at 7-Dec-05 12:10
memberVitoto7-Dec-05 12:10 
GeneralRe: Modifing Window Title name Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 7-Feb-06 13:19
memberAshkbiz Danehkar7-Feb-06 13:19 
GeneralFound bug and fix - nice app Pin
drudru at 2-Aug-05 20:54
memberdrudru2-Aug-05 20:54 
GeneralRe: Found bug and fix - nice app Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 7-Feb-06 13:09
memberAshkbiz Danehkar7-Feb-06 13:09 
Generalmay be a bug Pin
Amilan at 29-Jun-05 7:17
memberAmilan29-Jun-05 7:17 
GeneralJust what I want Pin
ispring at 24-Jun-05 1:30
memberispring24-Jun-05 1:30 
GeneralXP related question Pin
CodeBuddy26 at 12-Jun-05 8:59
memberCodeBuddy2612-Jun-05 8:59 
GeneralRe: XP related question Pin
JackyFrost at 26-Aug-05 15:02
memberJackyFrost26-Aug-05 15:02 
GeneralPorting to WindowsCE Pin
hgode at 9-Jun-05 1:55
memberhgode9-Jun-05 1:55 
GeneralRe: Porting to WindowsCE Pin
hgode at 9-Jun-05 3:40
memberhgode9-Jun-05 3:40 
GeneralRe: Porting to WindowsCE Pin
foobar7 at 15-Oct-05 6:57
memberfoobar715-Oct-05 6:57 
GeneralRe: Porting to WindowsCE Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 7-Feb-06 13:22
memberAshkbiz Danehkar7-Feb-06 13:22 
GeneralRe: Porting to WindowsCE [modified] Pin
Prabhat.Singh at 30-Sep-07 2:01
memberPrabhat.Singh30-Sep-07 2:01 
QuestionWhere is the input focus? Pin
Free to Go at 21-Mar-05 10:35
memberFree to Go21-Mar-05 10:35 
GeneralTiz the sweet nectar... Pin
Mark (Code6) Belles at 15-Mar-05 12:54
memberMark (Code6) Belles15-Mar-05 12:54 
GeneralSend Messages plans Pin
Peter Ritchie at 12-Feb-05 7:39
memberPeter Ritchie12-Feb-05 7:39 
GeneralRe: Send Messages plans Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 13-Feb-05 6:59
memberAshkbiz Danehkar13-Feb-05 6:59 
GeneralWell, I must say, something innovative! Pin
Polite Programmer at 11-Feb-05 8:47
memberPolite Programmer11-Feb-05 8:47 
GeneralRe: Well, I must say, something innovative! Pin
ThatsAlok at 11-Feb-05 18:54
memberThatsAlok11-Feb-05 18:54 
GeneralRe: Well, I must say, something innovative! Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 13-Feb-05 7:19
memberAshkbiz Danehkar13-Feb-05 7:19 
GeneralGreat Article! Pin
ThatsAlok at 10-Feb-05 19:23
memberThatsAlok10-Feb-05 19:23 
GeneralRe: Great Article! Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 13-Feb-05 7:14
memberAshkbiz Danehkar13-Feb-05 7:14 
GeneralRe: Great Article! Pin
f2 at 11-Apr-05 7:10
memberf211-Apr-05 7:10 
GeneralRe: Great Article! Pin
Ashkbiz Danehkar at 12-Apr-05 8:00
memberAshkbiz Danehkar12-Apr-05 8:00 

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