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How to Get a Reference to Parent Form from a Component

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19 Oct 2007CPOL2 min read 63.5K   21   5
Components don't have a .Parent property like controls do. Getting a reference to the instance of the parent form the component was on is very difficult.


I have been working on a custom component that inherits from and extends the BindingSource component (more detailed article in the works). I needed to get a reference to the instance of the parent form the component was on. This proved to be very difficult.


Components don't have a .Parent property like controls do. They do have a container property, but it does not have a parent property either. Sometimes casting the container as a ContainerControl works (it does have a parent property), but in this case it won't cast correctly.

All Windows Designer forms add a container called "components" and all components are added to this container and show at the bottom of the screen in design mode. From inside the component, it is easy to get a reference to the container, but I could not get a reference to the parent form of the container?

I got some useful help from "nobugz" (Hans Passant – Microsoft MVP) on the Windows Form Forum on MSDN who found that the Error Provider component manages to get a reference to the parent form and exposes it in a property called "ContainerControl". The secret the Error Provider uses is to override the Site function of the component and capture IDesignerHost service.

The Code

It turns out that the solution is even simpler. All that is needed is to reference the Site property of the base component and get the designer host information from it. Here are the steps to achieve the goal:

  1. Create a new item in your Windows Project and use the "Component" template.
  2. Switch to "Code View" and add the following code:
    Imports System.ComponentModel.Design 
    Private _form As Form
    Private Sub GetFormInstance() ' called from constructor 
       Dim _host As IDesignerHost = Nothing 
       If MyBase.Site IsNot Nothing Then _host = _ 
       CType(MyBase.Site.GetService(GetType(IDesignerHost)), IDesignerHost) 
       If _host IsNot Nothing Then _form = CType(_host.RootComponent, Form) 
    End Sub
  3. Open the Designer code (you may have to toggle the "Show All Files" button at the top of the Solution Explorer and then expand the files under the component to see the file with the .Designer extension).
  4. At the end of the default constructor, add a call to the GetFormInstance function. The code should look like this:
    <System.Diagnostics.DebuggerNonUserCode()> _ 
    Public Sub New() 
       'This call is required by the Component Designer. 
       'Added by developer 
    End Sub
  5. Now switch back to the user partial class for the component and add whatever code is needed to manipulate the parent form.
  6. Create a Form in your Windows Application and add the custom component (it should be listed at the top of the Toolbox after you build).

That's it. It is fairly simple once you understand the magic that happens in the ISite service interface that allows applications to interact with the designer (Visual Studio in this case).


  • 19th October, 2007: Initial post


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

Written By
Web Developer
United States United States
Dave Catherman is an application architect/lead developer for .NET applications. He has been developing database applications for many years and jumped on the .NET bandwagon early on. He is MCP certified in .NET Web Apps and Windows Apps and is pursuing MCSD.

Comments and Discussions

Generaltested working solution Pin
db_developer3-Feb-10 13:45
db_developer3-Feb-10 13:45 
GeneralPossible solution in VB Pin
Richard Turnbull5-Nov-08 19:11
Richard Turnbull5-Nov-08 19:11 
QuestionHow i solve this problem Pin
gfx181-Apr-08 16:03
gfx181-Apr-08 16:03 
GeneralIt doesn't works (( Pin
gfx1831-Mar-08 22:39
gfx1831-Mar-08 22:39 
GeneralRe: It doesn't works (( Pin
David Catherman1-Apr-08 2:10
David Catherman1-Apr-08 2:10 

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