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Posted 1 Mar 2010
Licenced Ms-PL

Windows Ribbon for WinForms, Part 2 - Basic Ribbon Wrapper

, 2 Mar 2010
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In this article, I'll present the basic .NET wrappers for the Windows 7 Ribbon Framework.


This series of CodeProject articles is based on a series of posts I've first published on my blog.

Today, we will start looking at some code, but before we begin, you might want to know where to find it.

The most updated version of "Windows Ribbon for WinForms" code will be at It will include the latest version of the project code and samples of how to use its different features. Note that it is based on the Windows API Code Pack, so make sure you have it if you plan to compile the code..

Update (18.11.2009): The Windows Ribbon for WinForms project is not dependent on the Windows API Code Pack anymore, so downloading it is not a must.

Let's get started.

Creating .NET wrappers

The first thing needed for using Windows Ribbon from .NET is converting the C++ / COM definitions to C# ones.

The files relevant to Ribbon are: UIRibbon.idl, UIRibbonKeydef.h and UIRibbonPropertyHelpers.h. Note that UIRibbon.h is not interesting since it is auto-generated from UIRibbon.idl by the MIDL compiler. All these files are installed with the Windows 7 SDK.

I won't discuss the details of the conversion since it's a very mechanical process, just change every C++ type and convert it to its corresponding .NET equivalent. If you are interested in these details, there are endless sources of information on .NET interoperability.

Following the Windows API Code Pack convention, the file UIRibbon.idl was converted to four different files:

  • RibbonProperties.cs - containing Ribbon properties definition
  • RibbonCOMGuids.cs - containing all Ribbon related GUIDs
  • RibbonCOMInterfaces.cs - containing Ribbon interfaces definitions
  • RibbonCOMClasses.cs - containing Ribbon classes definitions

These files are my conversions of the COM interfaces and types used by the Windows Ribbon Framework. These files may change as the project continues, since surely I had some conversions error that will be discovered only when I'll try to use a certain feature. The most updated version will be the one on CodePlex.

How does the Windows Ribbon Framework work?

The full details are provided in MSDN, which I recommend reading. Here, I'll only give a short overview so we are all on the same page.

To initialize a ribbon in your application, you need to do the following:

  1. Design your ribbon appearance using XAML-like markup.
  2. Compile your XAML-like markup using Microsoft Ribbon Markup Compile, provided with the Windows 7 SDK.
  3. Have the binary output of the markup compiler stored as a (unmanaged) resource of your application.
  4. On application load, CoCreateInstance the UIRibbonFramework class which implements IUIFramework interface.
  5. Call framework.Initialize and pass it a reference to your implementation of the IUIApplication interface along with the HWND of your application window.
    • The IUIApplication interface supplies a callback for the ribbon framework to call when it needs a command handler, for handling commands (represented as buttons, combos, and the other usual controls).
  6. Call framework.LoadUI which loads the pre-compiled resource and shows the actual ribbon.

What have I done, up until now?

In order to facilitate the use of the ribbon within .NET applications, we will create a singleton class that will be used as a façade for the Windows Ribbon Framework. Update (10.11.2009): The Ribbon class is no longer a singleton to support applications with two ribbons on different forms. This class, named Ribbon, will be in charge of initialization and communication with the Windows Ribbon Framework.

The Ribbon class will provide an implementation of IUIApplication and handle all the COM details. The information that it can't supply on its own will be provided by your implementation of the interface IRibbonForm (which I invented, so don't go look for it). The idea is to have your application provide only the minimal required details for the ribbon to work.

Currently, IRibbonForm is defined like this:

/// <summary>
/// IRibbonForm interface should be implemented
/// by the main form who want the ribbon
/// </summary>
public interface IRibbonForm : IUICommandHandler
    /// <summary>
    /// Getter for the main form window handle
    /// </summary>
    IntPtr WindowHandle { get; }

    /// <summary>
    /// Called when the ribbon height is changed, 
    /// allowing the form to reposition its controls so the ribbon doesn't hide them.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="newHeight">new height</param>
    void RibbonHeightUpdated(int newHeight);

The WindowHandle property is used to supply the parent window handle for the ribbon framework.

The RibbonHeightUpdated function is used to notify your application that the ribbon height has changed. Since the ribbon height might change dynamically (for instance, if you resize your window to a minimum, the ribbon will disappear), you get this notification so you can re-organize your form controls properly (so the ribbon doesn't hide them).

One last note about the IRibbonForm interface is that it inherits IUICommandHandler. IUICommandHandler is the interface required by the Ribbon Framework to handle command events. It provides the way for your application to know that a button (or any other ribbon control) has been pressed and thus your action is needed.

Update (18.11.2009): The updated version of the Ribbon class provides an implementation for IUICommandHandler, so IRibbonForm doesn't inherit anymore from IUICommandHandler.

The Ribbon class currently exposes two methods:

  • InitFramework - receives your implementation of the IRibbonForm interface and the resource name that will be used to load the ribbon configuration.
  • DestroyFramework - cleanup code, free Windows Ribbon Framework resources.

These methods should be called when the main application form is loaded and closed, respectively.


This post turned out to be quite long, so I think I'll just stop here for now. I've put the library code on CodePlex along with a sample application that uses the code to create a simple WinForms application with Ribbon support.

On my next post, I'll provide simple details on how to build your first WinForms Ribbon application using what we've developed so far.

That's it for now.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL)


About the Author

Arik Poznanski
Software Developer (Senior) Verint
Israel Israel
Arik Poznanski is a senior software developer at Verint. He completed two B.Sc. degrees in Mathematics & Computer Science, summa cum laude, from the Technion in Israel.

Arik has extensive knowledge and experience in many Microsoft technologies, including .NET with C#, WPF, Silverlight, WinForms, Interop, COM/ATL programming, C++ Win32 programming and reverse engineering (assembly, IL).

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