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Posted 31 Aug 2004


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A Simple C# Toolbar Docking Framework

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7 Sep 20043 min read
An example framework for toolbar handling, written in C#.

Sample Image - ToolBarDock.gif


This code snippet includes a simple framework for handling docking toolbars. This framework includes support for:

  • floating/docking bars
  • changing layout of docked bars
  • double-click to switch from docked to floating and back
  • show/hide bar
  • right-click for bar view menu
  • disabling docking using the control key
  • handles any kind of control, not just toolbars

The code runs on Windows XP and VS .NET 2002, but should work on most .NET environments.


The code was written while exploring the .NET framework. Although several toolbar handling implementations are available, I decided to have a go at writing my own. Nevertheless, I hope this article might be of use.

Using the code

Using the code is quite simple. Create a ToolBarManager object, giving it the form where the toolbars may be docked. This form would most likely be your application main form which would also keep the ToolBarManager as a member.

_toolBarManager = new ToolBarManager(this);

The ToolBarManager handles all UI operations on the toolbars and it is also the only class the programmer will access. Adding toolbars is performed by invoking the AddControl method. Different versions of this method are available to allow more control over the positioning of the new toolbar.

// Add toolbar (default position)
// Add toolbar (floating)
_toolBarManager.AddControl(_toolBar2, DockStyle.None);
// Add toolbar (left)
_toolBarManager.AddControl(_toolBar3, DockStyle.Left);
// Add toolbar (left, on the left of _toolBar3)
_toolBarManager.AddControl(_toolBar4, DockStyle.Left, _toolBar3, DockStyle.Left);
// Add control
_toolBarManager.AddControl(_dateTimePicker, DockStyle.Bottom);

Other methods are also available to access the toolbars being handled by the ToolBarManager. Their use is rather straightforward:

  • public ArrayList GetControls() - Returns the set of all the added controls.
  • public bool ContainsControl(Control c) - Returns
    if the control is included.
  • public void ShowControl(Control c, bool show) - Shows or hides the control.
  • public void RemoveControl(Control c) - Removes the control.

Points of Interest

The docking behavior is performed by four ToolBarDockArea controls that are added and docked to all four sides of the form. These controls simply perform specific layout handling and automatic resizing according to the controls that are added or changed.

To achieve dragging, the ToolBarManager handles mouse events on all controls added via AddControl. During drags, the ToolBarManager checks, according to the mouse position, if the dragged control should be placed on its own form (floating) or on any of the dock areas.

The control key events are handled via PreFilterMessage.

The appearance of the toolbar (the floating frame and the gripper) are user drawn in the ToolBarDockHolder user control.


A history file with detailed information is included in the download, here is a summary.

Version 1.0:
First version by Rogério Paulo.

Version 2.0:
Updates by Martin Müller (aka mav.northwind):

  • ToolBarManager c'tor now takes a ScrollableControl and a Form so that you can define an independent docking region and do not always have to use the form. The form itself is still needed as owner of floating toolbars, though.
  • ToolBarDockHolder now has a new property ToolbarTitle, allowing you to specify an independent name for a floating toolbar. The default is still the control's Text, but the Control.TextChanged event will no longer modify the title.
  • ToolBarDockHolder now has a new property AllowedBorders where you can specify which borders the toolbar is allowed to dock to.
  • ToolBarManager.AddControl() now returns the newly added ToolBarDockHolder, so that it's properties can be modified. The example now includes a MainMenu
  • Modified the size calculation for vertical toolbars with separators


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.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Rogério Paulo
Web Developer
Portugal Portugal
Rogério Paulo is a software engineer in the domain of industrial information technology since 1999.
He has been mainly involved in product development in the fields of SCADA, engineering toolsets, embedded systems, communication networks and industrial communication protocols.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionHow to have 'toolbar option' icon at the end of toolbar [modified] Pin
Sports Kuo7-Jul-10 16:28
MemberSports Kuo7-Jul-10 16:28 
GeneralDoes not work in VS9 Pin
Krischu3-Dec-09 0:20
MemberKrischu3-Dec-09 0:20 
GeneralEventHandler Pin
MazdakShojaie14-May-09 15:15
MemberMazdakShojaie14-May-09 15:15 
QuestionIs the demo old? Pin
hyping21-Aug-07 22:38
Memberhyping21-Aug-07 22:38 
JokeCongratulation Pin
emmanuel3016-Aug-07 3:07
Memberemmanuel3016-Aug-07 3:07 
GeneralGUI Design in C# Pin
Homup26-Jun-07 22:46
MemberHomup26-Jun-07 22:46 
Generala problem from XYZ Pin
Sean Ewington17-May-07 5:47
editorSean Ewington17-May-07 5:47 
GeneralToolbar manager for MDI Pin
armina_200722-Apr-07 3:20
Memberarmina_200722-Apr-07 3:20 
QuestionUpdate to ToolStrip Pin
Danielku154-Mar-07 8:12
MemberDanielku154-Mar-07 8:12 
GeneralToolbar Docking problem Pin
kausik9615-Jan-07 22:06
Memberkausik9615-Jan-07 22:06 
GeneralUsing with UserControl's Pin
infal7-Nov-06 5:28
Memberinfal7-Nov-06 5:28 
GeneralConversion of the ToolBar into a Toolbox control Pin
ignaciordc19-Jul-06 5:25
Memberignaciordc19-Jul-06 5:25 
QuestionHow to Creat Navigator bar by C# Pin
triluu22-Jun-06 2:17
Membertriluu22-Jun-06 2:17 
Generalgood! Pin
qinshihuang19-Jun-06 4:56
Memberqinshihuang19-Jun-06 4:56 
Generalme to get free C# teacher Pin
Hsen Ho15-Jun-06 16:44
MemberHsen Ho15-Jun-06 16:44 
GeneralRe: me to get free C# teacher Pin
mr_lasseter15-Jun-06 17:06
Membermr_lasseter15-Jun-06 17:06 
QuestionPrevent close and context menu from showing? Pin
id10t24-Apr-06 3:36
Memberid10t24-Apr-06 3:36 
AnswerRe: Prevent close and context menu from showing? Pin
Hamid Qureshi24-Apr-06 18:34
MemberHamid Qureshi24-Apr-06 18:34 
GeneralRe: Prevent close and context menu from showing? Pin
id10t25-Apr-06 2:54
Memberid10t25-Apr-06 2:54 
QuestionUsage of this code? Pin
sm@va22-Mar-06 5:27
Membersm@va22-Mar-06 5:27 
AnswerRe: Usage of this code? Pin
Rogério Paulo26-Mar-06 7:23
MemberRogério Paulo26-Mar-06 7:23 
QuestionRe: Usage of this code? Pin
Darkne_Se29-Jan-07 1:02
MemberDarkne_Se29-Jan-07 1:02 
AnswerRe: Usage of this code? Pin
sinsel17-Jun-08 9:57
Membersinsel17-Jun-08 9:57 
GeneralDock Toolbar w.r.t Form Pin
NCoder92142-Mar-06 17:10
MemberNCoder92142-Mar-06 17:10 
GeneralAdd multiple control to holder Pin
vutle24-Feb-06 9:32
Membervutle24-Feb-06 9:32 

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