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Posted 25 Oct 2012


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AvalonDock [2.0] Tutorial Part 1 - Adding a Tool Window

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6 Nov 2018CPOL9 min read
How to create a new tool window in AvalonDock [2.0]



"AvalonDock is a WPF controls library which can be used to create a docking layout system like that is present in Visual Studio. It supports fly-out panes, floating windows, multiple docking manager in same window, styles and themes and it can host WinForms controls."  (citation from origanl codeplex project)

AvalonDock is a very complete and stable open source project for .NET/WPF that offers this functionality and has been in the making for half a decade now. The current solution is a step forward as it was build from scratch, supports MVVM, is themable, and can be localized.

AvalonDock was written by Adolfo Marinucci. I was in no way involved in the development of AvalonDock but felt that it was time to document some essential things and started my own repository in the mean time (if you feel like contributing)

The first two parts of the tutorial are covering initial preparation steps and adding a Most Recent Files (MRU) tool window and a Start Page. There may be more parts on other AvalonDock subjects (theming, localization, AvalonEdit in AvalonDock 2.0) later. Those who cannot wait for later articles shall look at Edi ( to see some of the things before I document them here. This article was in fact written with Edi.

Solution Preparation

  • Download AvalonDock sources from GitHub (I used the end of 2012 CodePlex build 98289 which is no longer available, but the version linked here should be close enought):
  • Find the version 2.0 Sub-folder and remove all other sub-folders.
  • Review the solution in the version 2.0 sub-folder and remove all projects except for AvalonDock.MVVMTestApp and AvalonDock.

    I ended up removing the sub-projects:

    • AvalonDock.TestApp.csproj
    • AvalonDock.WinFormsTestApp.csproj
    • AvalonDock.Theme.VS2010 (theming resources library)
    • AvalonDock.Themes.Aero (theming resources library)
    • ... and other theming projects.

    and was left with:

    • AvalonDock (docking layout system library)
    • AvalonDock.MVVMTestApp (Test apllication to be extended in this article)
  • Add a new WPF Application project with the application name that you want to develop based on AvalonDock (mine is Edi) and copy files from AvalonDock.MVVMTestApp into the new project. I also resorted some items into folders and namespaces as you can see if you review Your solution should look like this:

    Image 1

Let's get down to business

Open the solution and set the Edi project as Startup Project in Visual Studio. Hit the F5 key to check that the application runs OK. I have seen the following content in my case:

Image 2 

The initial test application framework consists (in my case) of an empty document panel and one tool window at the bottom. Play around with the menu and tool window to get familiar with the functionality that is already there. We are going to extend this functionality with a Start Page and a second Tool Window (both are mainly displaying a recent files list).

Add the Recent Files List Control

I have documented a way of developing (look-less) controls through composition and theming in an earlier article series ( An extended version of this library contains a listview which can hold hyperlinks which in turn are customized such that:

The parts that implement the above requirements are:

Now I am not going too much into details on these items because I really want to focus on AvalonDock [2.0]. Please read the referenced articles if you really want to know more about the MRU implementation. And if that does not help, feel free to ask a question below the article.

So back to our AvalonDock integration project. Download and extract the file. This should give you a working solution with a Recent Files tool window in it. Just execute File>Open a few times to generate some hyperlink entries in the tool window and take a note of the extra MRU entries in the file sub-menu.

How does this solution work and what is necessary to get it? That is discussed in the remainder of this article.

The Most Recent Files (MRU) Tool Window (ViewModel)

I like to use RoutedUICommands whenever I can so I added the AppCommand class with a static constructor and the following commands:



The LoadFile command is executed when a user opens a file. It is necessary to open a file when a user clicks on an entry in the recent files list. The PinUnpin command reverses the state of a pin in the MRU. And the other two commands AddMruEntry and RemoveMruEntry are executed to add or remove an entry. You can determine their function by following their references from the AppCommand class into the Workspace class (The Workspace class is similar to what others often call an ApplicationViewModel or MainViewModel. It is the root of all ViewModels in this project):  

public void InitCommandBinding(Window win)
  win.CommandBindings.Add(new CommandBinding(AppCommand.LoadFile,
  (s, e) =>
    if (e == null)

    string filename = e.Parameter as string;

    if (filename == null)


  win.CommandBindings.Add(new CommandBinding(AppCommand.PinUnpin,
  (s, e) =>
    this.PinCommand_Executed(e.Parameter, e);

  win.CommandBindings.Add(new CommandBinding(AppCommand.RemoveMruEntry,
  (s, e) =>
    this.RemoveMRUEntry_Executed(e.Parameter, e);

  win.CommandBindings.Add(new CommandBinding(AppCommand.AddMruEntry,
  (s, e) =>
    this.AddMRUEntry_Executed(e.Parameter, e);

Each MRU command executes the corresponding Executed method and the LoadFile command executes the Open() method in the Workspace class. Furthermore, the MRU is realized in a Workspace property called RecentFiles. It is this property whos data is visible in the GUI. But how does it get there and what is necessary to extend AvalonDock [2.0] to show it? Thats what we discuss next.

The Most Recent Files Tool Window (View)

Merging the versions contained in and shows that I added a RecentFilesView in the View namespace. This is the view that AvalonDock [2.0] will show inside its tool window docking controls. It is bound to the RecentFilesViewModel whos property is located in the Workspace class.  

The View

AvalonDock uses a DataTemplateSelector (View.Pane.PanesTemplateSelector) to determine the appropriate view whenever it sees a data item that needs a display. I extended this class by the RecentFilesViewTemplate property:

public DataTemplate RecentFilesViewTemplate

...and the corresponding statement in the SelectTemplate method:

if (item is RecentFilesViewModel)
  return RecentFilesViewTemplate;

This code works hand in hand with this view extension in the MainWindow.xaml file:


The Style

A style PanesStyleSelector controls how fields in the viewmodel are mapped into AvalonDock's primary functions (such as, display a name of an item, or the command to execute for closing etc). Again we can extend the View.Pane.PanesStyleSelector class with an additional property:

public Style RecentFilesStyle

...and the corresponding logic in the SelectStyle method:

if (item is RecentFilesViewModel)
  return RecentFilesStyle;

...which works hand in hand with this XAML in MainWindow.xaml:

<style targettype="{x:Type avalonDock:LayoutItem}">
  <Setter Property="Title" Value="{Binding Model.Title}"/>
  <Setter Property="IconSource" Value="{Binding Model.IconSource}"/>
  <Setter Property="Visibility" Value="{Binding Model.IsVisible, Mode=TwoWay, Converter={StaticResource BoolToVisibilityConverter}, ConverterParameter={x:Static Visibility.Hidden}}"/>

  <Setter Property="ToolTip" Value="{Binding Model.FilePath}"/>
  <Setter Property="CloseCommand" Value="{Binding Model.CloseCommand}"/>
  <Setter Property="ContentId" Value="{Binding Model.ContentId}"/>

The very long line on the Visibility property (with the converter) is crucial to get the menu entry Tools>RecentFiles to work. The preferred method for this is a command binding but we just set a Boolean property here (for the sake of simplicity). The Boolean property IsVisible is located in the derived class of the RecentFilesViewModel. That is, it is present in RecentFilesViewModel because it inherits it from the Base.ToolViewModel class.

The BoolToVisibilityConverter does the conversion between the Boolean and the Visibility property. This conversion is required since Boolean has 2 states (true, false) while Visibility has 3 (Visible, Hidden, Collapsed) states in WPF. Read, for example, the article referenced in [3] if you want know more about converters and their application in WPF.

The Recent Files Menu Entry

The Recent Files menu entry at File>Recent Files is defined by this XAML code (taken from MainWindow.xaml):

<MenuItem ItemsSource="{Binding RecentFiles.MruList.ListOfMRUEntries}" Grid.Row="0" Header="Recent Files"
           Visibility="{Binding Path=RecentFiles.MruList.ListOfMRUEntries, Mode=OneWay, Converter={conv:ZeroToVisibilityConverter}}">
    <Style TargetType="MenuItem">
      <Setter Property="Header" Value="{Binding DisplayPathFileName, Mode=OneWay}" />
      <Setter Property="Command" Value="cmd:AppCommand.LoadFile" />
      <Setter Property="CommandParameter" Value="{Binding PathFileName, Mode=OneWay}" />

Here you can see at the ItemsSource binding that each entry is taken directly from RecentFiles.MruList.ListOfMRUEntries. Where RecentFiles is a property of the Workspace class and the MruList is a property of the RecentFilesViewModel viewmodel. So, the source of the menu item collection is really managed the MRUListVM class.

The command that is executed when a user clicks a recent files menu item is the LoadFile command which is implemented as a RoutedUICommand in the AppCommand class. But the AppCommand class provides just the commanding facility, the actual logic is implemented in the InitCommandBinding method in the Workspace class (see code listing on LoadFile further up in this article).

Customizing AvalonDock 2.0

Here is one of the many things that make AvalonDock such a cool control. Users are actually able to drag items out of the main window (for example a document on to a second monitor) and keep working with that. I have often seen people asking how can I configure my application to decide whether someone can actually drag an item off or not.

Image 3

Add the following setting

<Setter Property="CanFloat" Value="False" /> 

into the style of an AvalonDock LayoutItem to disable the fly out functionality. You could even bind this property in your viewmodel to make this setting configurable at run-time.

Updating to AvalonDock 3.x

The demo source code attached to this section shows how Version 02 from the downloads can be updated to AvalonDock Version 3.4. The major differences between Version 02 and Version 03 are:

  • The AvalonDock control library can be downloaded from Nuget
  • The AvalonDock namespaces are changed from AvalonDock to Xceed.Wpf.AvalonDock

So, updating to a current version is easy and should also be possible for other parts of this series of articles.


...and there you have it. That's mainly all that is necessary to get a new tool window in AvalonDock. Lets give Adolfo Marinucci a big applause for doing something so complex in such a simplified way.

We finally have separation of concerns between view and viewmodel and there is a simple pattern to follow. Lets not forgot that docking and fly out functionality that AvalonDock offers out of the box. Now who thought that MVVM is too complex and too difficult to implement? Think again.

In the next article we'll be looking at creating a new document - do not forget to give me your feedback on this article and go on to the next stage [1] whenever you feel like learning to add a start page to your application.



  • 24.20.2012 Initial creation.
  • 01.03.2013 Updated AvalonDock version and simplified article and source code.
  • 29.10.2018 Added AvalonDock 3.x section


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


About the Author

Dirk Bahle
Germany Germany
The Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and C# are among my favorites and so I developed Edi

and a few other projects on GitHub. I am normally an algorithms and structure type but WPF has such interesting UI sides that I cannot help myself but get into it.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionAvalon dock , Title and Dock combobutton options not appearing for LayoutAnchorable WPF application Pin
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AnswerRe: Avalon dock , Title and Dock combobutton options not appearing for LayoutAnchorable WPF application Pin
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QuestionThanks Again Pin
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professionalJeff Bowman19-Jun-21 10:11 
Questionfloating window Pin
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QuestionMust I use the CodePlex version? Pin
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professionalJeff Bowman10-Feb-19 14:29 
AnswerRe: Must I use the CodePlex version? Pin
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GeneralRe: Must I use the CodePlex version? Pin
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GeneralRe: Must I use the CodePlex version? Pin
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GeneralRe: Must I use the CodePlex version? Pin
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QuestionMissing Download Pin
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QuestionMissing Download Pin
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GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
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GeneralRe: My vote of 5 Pin
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QuestionCodePlex Link Pin
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Questionhow to create separate "FileStats" and "Recent Stats"? Pin
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AnswerRe: how to create separate "FileStats" and "Recent Stats"? Pin
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GeneralRe: how to create separate "FileStats" and "Recent Stats"? Pin
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GeneralRe: how to create separate "FileStats" and "Recent Stats"? Pin
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QuestionHow to arrange dockingable views at the first start of the program. Pin
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