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Posted 15 Aug 2003

Basic use of Shell_NotifyIcon in Win32

, 15 Aug 2003
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Starting your app minimized on the sytem tray.


Recently I was browsing CodeProject, looking for a simple example of how to manage system tray icons. Ooops sorry, I shouldn't call them tray icons as MSDN documentation so carefully points out:

"The taskbar notification area is sometimes erroneously called the tray."

In spite of this, I will insist on calling a spade a shovel and refer to the "taskbar notification area" as the "tray" and "taskbar notification area icons" as "tray icons". Anyway back to the point, why another article about tray icons?

  • I've never written a Code Project article before and this seemed pretty easy.
  • This isn't another wrapper, but simple straight forward example of Shell_NotifyIcon with a minimum amount of code.
  • I wanted an example written in pure Win32 code.
  • I wanted to address some of the common problems and questions I've seen posted in other articles on the subject.

The basics

Adding, modifying, hiding and deleting tray icons is accomplished in two steps:

  1. Initialize a NOTIFYICONDATA structure
  2. Call Shell_NotifyIcon

Initialize a NOTIFYICONDATA structure

// zero the structure - note: Some Windows funtions
// require this but I can't be bothered to remember
// which ones do and which ones don't.


// get Shell32 version number and set the size of the
// structure note: the MSDN documentation about this is
// a little dubious(see bolow) and I'm not at all sure
// if the code bellow is correct

    ULONGLONG ullVersion =

    if(ullVersion >= MAKEDLLVERULL(6,0,0,0))
        niData.cbSize = sizeof(NOTIFYICONDATA);

    else if(ullVersion >= MAKEDLLVERULL(5,0,0,0))
        niData.cbSize = NOTIFYICONDATA_V2_SIZE;

    else niData.cbSize = NOTIFYICONDATA_V1_SIZE;

// the ID number can be any UINT you choose and will
// be used to identify your icon in later calls to
// Shell_NotifyIcon

    niData.uID = MY_TRAY_ICON_ID;

// state which structure members are valid
// here you can also choose the style of tooltip
// window if any - specifying a balloon window:
// NIF_INFO is a little more complicated 


// load the icon note: you should destroy the icon
// after the call to Shell_NotifyIcon

    niData.hIcon =
        (HICON)LoadImage( hInstance,

// set the window you want to recieve event messages

    niData.hWnd = hWnd;

// set the message to send
// note: the message value should be in the
// range of WM_APP through 0xBFFF

    niData.uCallbackMessage = MY_TRAY_ICON_MESSAGE;

Call Shell_NotifyIcon

// NIM_ADD adds a new tray icon

Stealth dialog

I've seen more than a few posts asking how to begin a dialog app minimized to the system tray, hence the name Stealth Dialog. This can be accomplished simply by first creating a modeless dialog:

HWND hWnd = CreateDialog( hInstance,
    (DLGPROC)MyDlgProc );

Then use Shell_NotifyIcon as shown above to add your icon to the tray. Do not call ShowWindow.

Menus and messages

Messages from the tray will go to the window specified by the hWnd member of the NOTIFYICONDATA struct and the message ID is specified by the uCallbackMessage member (see above). The specific message is in the LPARAM.

    WPARAM wParam, LPARAM lParam)
        case WM_LBUTTONDBLCLK:
            ShowWindow(hWnd, SW_RESTORE);
        case WM_RBUTTONDOWN:
        case WM_CONTEXTMENU:

If you implement a context menu, messages are received through WM_COMMAND and the menu item ID is contained in the low-order word of the WPARAM.

    switch (LOWORD(wParam))
    case MY_MENU_MSG1:
    case MY_MENU_MSG2:

Important: If you implement a context menu, it's vital that you set your window to the foreground before calling TrackPopupMenu to ensure the menu closes properly.

void ShowContextMenu(HWND hWnd)

    HMENU hMenu;

// create or load a menu


    TrackPopupMenu(hMenu, ...

Cleaning up

Sometime before your app closes you should remove your tray icon by calling Shell_NotifyIcon with the NIM_DELETE flag.



The MSDN documentation says about the cbSize member of the NOTIFYICONDATA structure:

"You can keep your application compatible with all Shell32.dll versions while still using the current header files by setting the size of the NOTIFYICONDATA structure appropriately. Before initializing the structure, use the DllGetVersion function to determine which Shell32.dll version is installed on the system. If it is version 5.0 or greater, initialize the cbSize member with:

nid.cbSize = sizeof(NOTIFYICONDATA);

Setting cbSize to this value enables all the version 5.0 and 6.0 enhancements. For earlier versions, the size of the pre-6.0 structure is given by the NOTIFYICONDATA_V2_SIZE constant and the pre-5.0 structure is given by the NOTIFYICONDATA_V1_SIZE constant. Initialize the cbSize member with:


Using this value for cbSize enables your application to use NOTIFYICONDATA with earlier Shell32.dll versions, although without the version 6.0 enhancements:"

Now maybe it's my neighbors Turkish tobacco or maybe I'm just not catching on here, but there seems to be an overlapping conflict between "5.0 or greater" and "pre-6.0".

Anyway, if anybody can shed any light on this or anything else they care to shed light on, please shed.


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.

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