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Posted 4 Mar 2008
Licenced CPOL

Creating an Outlook Navigation Pane by Restyling a WPF TabControl

, 24 Jun 2008
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Restyling a standard TabControl to look like an Outlook Navigation Pane


Arguable Office 2007 has revolutionized the way modern user interfaces will look like with great innovations like the ribbon... The control I would like to focus on in this article though is the Office 2007 Navigation Pane, or more specifically, how to recreate the Navigation Pane by restyling a TabControl!

The WPF team has done an excellent job of reducing the need to create custom controls by allowing "lookless controls" to be re-styled! This is how the Navigation Pane looks:


And this is how our standard TabControl currently looks:


Here is the XAML:

<TabControl VerticalAlignment="Stretch" Width="360" Height="Auto"

    <TabItem Header="Mail">
    <TabItem Header="Calendar">
    <TabItem Header="Contacts">
    <TabItem Header="Tasks">

Before I begin restyling, to keep the beginner status for my article, I will briefly explain what a Style and Template are and how they are used here!

What is a Style?

A Style's main function is to group together property values that could otherwise be set individually. The intent is to then share this group of values among multiple elements. If you look at a simple Style in XAML, you will notice that generally it has a TargetType set and then a collection of Setters. Each Setter then allows you to replace a given Property value with the provided value. Here is a very basic example:

<Style x:Key="SimpleStyle" TargetType="{x:Type TabControl}">
    <Setter Property="Foreground" Value="Blue" />
    <Setter Property="Background" Value="Yellow" />

While this is the standard definition of a Style, in this restyle article, it is more used to just replace the Template property.

What is a Template?

A Template allows you to completely replace an element’s visual tree with anything you can dream up, while keeping all of its functionality intact. Here is an example of how we use a style/setter to replace a Template.

<Style x:Key="SimpleStyle" TargetType="{x:Type TabControl}">
    <Setter Property="Template">
            <ControlTemplate TargetType="{x:Type TabControl}">
                <!--<span class="code-comment"> The new visual tree should be placed here --></span>

Since the Template is just a property on the Control object (from which TabControl derives), it can also be replaced by using a setter! We can now replace the complete visual tree while keeping the basic functionality of a TabControl!

For more information about deriving from Control, have a look here.

Restyling the TabControl

The TabControl uses a TabPanel to layout the TabControl's tabs (or buttons). We will now replace this with a StackPanel:

<Style x:Key="OutlookTabControlStyle" TargetType="{x:Type TabControl}">
    <Setter Property="Foreground"

        Value="{DynamicResource {x:Static SystemColors.ControlTextBrushKey}}"/>
    <Setter Property="Background"

        Value="{DynamicResource {x:Static SystemColors.ControlBrushKey}}"/>
    <Setter Property="BorderBrush" Value=
      "{x:Static Microsoft_Windows_Themes:ClassicBorderDecorator.ClassicBorderBrush}"/>
    <Setter Property="BorderThickness" Value="3"/>
    <Setter Property="Margin" Value="0"/>
    <Setter Property="Padding" Value="1"/>
    <Setter Property="MinWidth" Value="10"/>
    <Setter Property="MinHeight" Value="10"/>
    <Setter Property="HorizontalContentAlignment" Value="Center"/>
    <Setter Property="VerticalContentAlignment" Value="Center"/>
    <Setter Property="Template">
            <ControlTemplate TargetType="{x:Type TabControl}">
                <Grid ClipToBounds="true" SnapsToDevicePixels="true"

                        <RowDefinition x:Name="RowDefinition0" Height="Auto"/>
                        <RowDefinition x:Name="RowDefinition1" Height="*"/>
                        <ColumnDefinition x:Name="ColumnDefinition0"/>
                        <ColumnDefinition x:Name="ColumnDefinition1" Width="0"/>
                    <Grid x:Name="ContentPanel" Grid.Column="0" Grid.Row="1"




                        Background="{TemplateBinding Background}"

                        BorderBrush="{TemplateBinding BorderBrush}"


                        BorderThickness="{TemplateBinding BorderThickness}">
                            <ContentPresenter SnapsToDevicePixels=
                            "{TemplateBinding SnapsToDevicePixels}" Margin="2,2,2,2"


                    <StackPanel HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" Margin="0,-2,0,0"

                    x:Name="HeaderPanel" VerticalAlignment="Bottom" Width="Auto" 

                Height="Auto" Grid.Row="1" IsItemsHost="True"/>
                    <Trigger Property="TabStripPlacement" Value="Bottom">
                        <Setter Property="Grid.Row"

                        TargetName="ContentPanel" Value="0"/>
                        <Setter Property="Height"

                            TargetName="RowDefinition0" Value="*"/>
                        <Setter Property="Height"

                            TargetName="RowDefinition1" Value="Auto"/>
                    <Trigger Property="TabStripPlacement" Value="Left">
                        <Setter Property="Grid.Row"

                            TargetName="ContentPanel" Value="0"/>
                        <Setter Property="Grid.Column"

                            TargetName="ContentPanel" Value="1"/>
                        <Setter Property="Width"

                            TargetName="ColumnDefinition0" Value="Auto"/>
                        <Setter Property="Width"

                            TargetName="ColumnDefinition1" Value="*"/>
                        <Setter Property="Height"

                            TargetName="RowDefinition0" Value="*"/>
                        <Setter Property="Height"

                            TargetName="RowDefinition1" Value="0"/>
                    <Trigger Property="TabStripPlacement" Value="Right">
                        <Setter Property="Grid.Row"

                            TargetName="ContentPanel" Value="0"/>
                        <Setter Property="Grid.Column"

                            TargetName="ContentPanel" Value="0"/>
                        <Setter Property="Width"

                            TargetName="ColumnDefinition0" Value="*"/>
                        <Setter Property="Width"

                            TargetName="ColumnDefinition1" Value="Auto"/>
                        <Setter Property="Height"

                            TargetName="RowDefinition0" Value="*"/>
                        <Setter Property="Height"

                            TargetName="RowDefinition1" Value="0"/>
                    <Trigger Property="IsEnabled" Value="false">
                        <Setter Property="Foreground"

                            {x:Static SystemColors.GrayTextBrushKey}}"/>

All of this is automatically created by blend by right-clicking on the TabControl and selecting "Edit Control Parts (Template)" -> "Edit a Copy..."


Next, in XAML just replace the TabPanel with the StackPanel. The only important property to set on the StackPanel is the IsItemsHost="true".


After replacing the TabPanel with a StackPanel, set each TabItems height to 30, the TabControl's Background to White and the BorderBrush to #FF6593CF.


Well, this looks better...

What are Resources?

Resources or more specifically, ResourceDictionary is just a dictionary of key/value pairs that can be accessed from XAML. It is used here to define brushes that are commonly used. Here is a simple example:

<SolidColorBrush x:Key="OutlookButtonForeground" Color="#FF204D89"/>

and here a use for it:

Foreground="{DynamicResource OutlookButtonForeground}"

Restyling the TabItem

Next, create a style for a TabItem by right-clicking on one of them and selecting "Edit Control Parts (Template)" -> "Edit a Copy..."

Before I dig into the default style created, I just want to create two brush resources. The first brush resource is the normal color of a Navigation Pane button:

<LinearGradientBrush x:Key="OutlookButtonBackground" EndPoint="0.5,1" StartPoint="0.5,0">
    <GradientStop Color="#FFD9EDFF" Offset="0"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFC0DEFF" Offset="0.445"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFC0D9GB" Offset="1"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFAFD1F8" Offset="0.53"/>

And the next is the default text color of a button:

<SolidColorBrush x:Key="OutlookButtonForeground" Color="#FF204D89"/>

So, each TabItem should now look something like this:

<TabItem Header="Tasks" Height="30" Style="{DynamicResource OutlookTabItemStyle}"

    Background="{DynamicResource OutlookButtonBackground}"

            Foreground="{an>DynamicResource OutlookButtonForeground}">

Creating a style for the TabItem has two purposes: Align the TabItem's header to the left and change the TabItem's border from a ClassicBorder to a normal Border (for more control).

<Style x:Key="OutlookTabItemStyle" TargetType="{x:Type TabItem}">
    <Setter Property="FocusVisualStyle" Value="{StaticResource TabItemFocusVisual}"/>
    <Setter Property="Padding" Value="12,2,12,2"/>
    <Setter Property="Foreground"

        Value="{DynamicResource {x:Static SystemColors.ControlTextBrushKey}}"/>
    <Setter Property="Background"

        Value="{DynamicResource {x:Static SystemColors.ControlBrushKey}}"/>
    <Setter Property="HorizontalContentAlignment" Value="Stretch"/>
    <Setter Property="VerticalContentAlignment" Value="Stretch"/>
    <Setter Property="Template">
            <ControlTemplate TargetType="{x:Type TabItem}">
                <Border SnapsToDevicePixels="true" x:Name="Bd"

                    Background="{TemplateBinding Background}"

                    BorderThickness="1" BorderBrush="#FF6593CF">
                    <ContentPresenter SnapsToDevicePixels=
                        "{TemplateBinding SnapsToDevicePixels}"

                        Margin="{TemplateBinding Padding}"

                VerticalAlignment="{Binding Path=VerticalContentAlignment,
                RelativeSource={RelativeSource AncestorType=
                        {x:Type ItemsControl}}}"

                ContentSource="Header" RecognizesAccessKey="True"


This is how it looks now: "BetterStyle.jpg"


Ahhh... even better! So, what's next?

What are Triggers?

Triggers have a collection of Setters just like Style (and/or collections of TriggerActions). But whereas a Style applies its values unconditionally, a trigger performs its work based on one or more conditions. There are three types of triggers:

  • Property triggers — Invoked when the value of a dependency property changes
  • Data triggers — Invoked when the value of a plain .NET property changes
  • Event triggers — Invoked when a routed event is raised

We will make use of an Event Trigger. The TabItem provides us with an IsSelected routed event!


We now need to indicate (by changing color) that an item is selected. Again, we create a brush to represent the color the button needs to change to once highlighted:

<LinearGradientBrush x:Key="OutlookButtonHighlight" EndPoint="0.5,1" StartPoint="0.5,0">
    <GradientStop Color="#FFFFBD69" Offset="0"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFFFB75A" Offset="0.0967"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFFFB14C" Offset="0.2580"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFFB8C3C" Offset="0.3870"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFFEB461" Offset="0.9677"/>
    <GradientStop Color="#FFFEBB67" Offset="1"/>

And here is the trigger:

    <Trigger Property="Selector.IsSelected" Value="True">
        <Setter Property="Background" TargetName="Bd"

                Value="{DynamicResource OutlookButtonHighlight}"/>

Here is how it looks:


That's better...

That is basically all that is required to restyle a TabControl!


  • 4th March, 2008 - Initial release
  • 5th March, 2008 - Changed the title, updated the colors
  • 23rd June, 2008 - Added source file

Please vote for this article if you liked it and also visit my blog.
Thank you!


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

GeneralSilverlight Pin
spook30-Sep-09 16:38
memberspook30-Sep-09 16:38 
GeneralRe: Silverlight Pin
rudigrobler30-May-10 2:02
memberrudigrobler30-May-10 2:02 
GeneralRe: Silverlight Pin
nportelli15-Jul-10 7:45
membernportelli15-Jul-10 7:45 
GeneralTemplate problem Pin
MrPMorris9-Jul-09 4:10
memberMrPMorris9-Jul-09 4:10 
Generalgood Pin
zhujinlong1984091316-Apr-09 20:45
groupzhujinlong1984091316-Apr-09 20:45 
QuestionHow can i add picture and events.. Pin
fifiza10-Mar-09 2:46
memberfifiza10-Mar-09 2:46 
Questionhow can i provide shrink functonality in this control Pin
Progress 200715-Dec-08 4:02
memberProgress 200715-Dec-08 4:02 
GeneralNice Job... Pin
Venkatesh Mookkan16-Nov-08 18:16
memberVenkatesh Mookkan16-Nov-08 18:16 
QuestionAbout the Images/Icons Pin
dearcyrix12-Oct-08 18:20
memberdearcyrix12-Oct-08 18:20 
QuestionTabStripPlacement - does it work? Pin
indyfromoz26-Jun-08 18:07
memberindyfromoz26-Jun-08 18:07 
AnswerRe: TabStripPlacement - does it work? Pin
rudigrobler26-Jun-08 20:10
memberrudigrobler26-Jun-08 20:10 
GeneralRe: TabStripPlacement - does it work? Pin
Rami Shareef18-Jan-09 23:43
memberRami Shareef18-Jan-09 23:43 
AnswerRe: TabStripPlacement - does it work? Pin
Rami Shareef19-Jan-09 1:19
memberRami Shareef19-Jan-09 1:19 
QuestionPlease help me Pin
Member 268137218-Jun-08 22:32
memberMember 268137218-Jun-08 22:32 
AnswerRe: Please help me Pin
rudigrobler22-Jun-08 23:51
memberrudigrobler22-Jun-08 23:51 
GeneralGood one Pin
Ceaser Y16-May-08 2:16
memberCeaser Y16-May-08 2:16 
GeneralRe: Good one Pin
rudigrobler22-Jun-08 23:53
memberrudigrobler22-Jun-08 23:53 
GeneralNice Job! Pin
Venkatesh Mookkan26-Mar-08 19:52
memberVenkatesh Mookkan26-Mar-08 19:52 
GeneralRe: Nice Job! Pin
rudigrobler22-Jun-08 23:54
memberrudigrobler22-Jun-08 23:54 
GeneralNeato Pin
Sacha Barber6-Mar-08 8:59
mvaSacha Barber6-Mar-08 8:59 
GeneralRe: Neato Pin
rudigrobler6-Mar-08 19:42
memberrudigrobler6-Mar-08 19:42 
GeneralOutlook brushes Pin
Benoît Dion6-Mar-08 0:21
memberBenoît Dion6-Mar-08 0:21 
GeneralNice Pin
Yogesh Jagota5-Mar-08 18:35
memberYogesh Jagota5-Mar-08 18:35 
GeneralRe: Nice Pin
Angelo Cresta5-Mar-08 23:35
professionalAngelo Cresta5-Mar-08 23:35 
GeneralBlend or VS2008 Pin
izwaldschwartz5-Mar-08 3:10
memberizwaldschwartz5-Mar-08 3:10 

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