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Posted 21 Dec 2004

Hosting EXE Applications in a WinForm project

, 21 Dec 2004
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A custom control to launch and embed an EXE into a WinForm based application.

Sample Image


Though not a common task, recently I needed to take an existing executable application and embed it into an application I was building. Oddly enough, I did not need any interaction between my application and the existing EXE. As it ends up, this is not a difficult thing to do. To make it even easier, I created a custom C# control that allows you to specify the name of an executable you want embedded into your application. The control takes care of all the rest.

How does it work

In design time, the user can specify the name of the executable to embed. When the control is created in runtime, it launches the application as follows:

Process p = null; 
  // Start the process 
  p = System.Diagnostics.Process.Start(this.exeName); 

  // Wait for process to be created and enter idle condition 

  // Get the main handle
  appWin = p.MainWindowHandle; 
catch (Exception ex) 
  MessageBox.Show(this, ex.Message, "Error"); 

After launching, the code must then set the parent of the executable's main window to the control handle. It does this as follows:

// Put it into this form
SetParent(appWin, this.Handle);

// Remove border and whatnot
SetWindowLong(appWin, GWL_STYLE, WS_VISIBLE);

// Move the window to overlay it on this window
MoveWindow(appWin, 0, 0, this.Width, this.Height, true);

Any time the control is resized, it must also resize the executable window. To do so, it does this in the Resize function:

protected override void OnResize(EventArgs e)
  if (this.appWin != IntPtr.Zero)
    MoveWindow(appWin, 0, 0, this.Width, this.Height, true);
  base.OnResize (e);

Lastly, when the control is destroyed, it should shut down the executable. To do so, it does the following:

protected override void OnHandleDestroyed(EventArgs e)
  // Stop the application
  if (appWin != IntPtr.Zero)

    // Post a colse message
    PostMessage(appWin, WM_CLOSE, 0, 0);

    // Delay for it to get the message

    // Clear internal handle
    appWin = IntPtr.Zero;


  base.OnHandleDestroyed (e);


  • 12-20-2004: Released.


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

Jay Nelson
Architect Omron Adept Technologies, Inc
United States United States
I have been developing software professionaly since 1991 writing software in automation and manufacturing environments. For 14 years I worked for companies that built custom robotic automated equipment for the semiconductor, telecommunications, and other industies. Presently, I work for a company that manufacturers industrial robots where I write high level coordination and control software.

My undergraduate degrees are in Mathematics and Philosopy. My graduate degree is in Management Information Systems. I am MCSD certified in Visual C++ 6.0 and MCSD.NET certified in C#. I am also have the PMI-ACP certification.

I enjoy karate and reading.

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Comments and Discussions

Generalnice article Pin
Member 237557729-Oct-08 10:59
memberMember 237557729-Oct-08 10:59 
GeneralWow... Excellent Pin
MrWolfy14-Sep-08 9:53
memberMrWolfy14-Sep-08 9:53 
GeneralCan't load sample code. Pin
supermankelly31-Jul-08 4:30
membersupermankelly31-Jul-08 4:30 
QuestionQuestions about really cool component Pin
jbyrneiu22-Jul-08 17:05
memberjbyrneiu22-Jul-08 17:05 
GeneralVista incompatibility Pin
Andrei Pana23-Mar-08 13:14
memberAndrei Pana23-Mar-08 13:14 
GeneralRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
Enquiren4-Jul-08 21:32
memberEnquiren4-Jul-08 21:32 
GeneralRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
Enquiren4-Jul-08 21:38
memberEnquiren4-Jul-08 21:38 
AnswerRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
Andre Wells22-Aug-09 5:04
memberAndre Wells22-Aug-09 5:04 
Yeah, same problem but I have a solution:

I was stepping through the control's code (running on IE7 and Vista sp1) and
noticed that it works when placing a breakpoint at

appWin = p.MainWindowHandle;

(Line 147, i think) and stepping through execution.

I'm unsure of the exact cause, but it looks like it needs a second or so of delay
to get the proper handle when running with Vista and IE7.

Modifying the parameter for WaitForInputIdle() doesn't seem to help.
I modified the control to the following:

// Wait for process to be created and enter idle condition

Dirty, i know, but it works Smile | :)
GeneralRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
Atchyuta Rao9-Dec-09 21:03
memberAtchyuta Rao9-Dec-09 21:03 
GeneralRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
Member 869768711-Apr-12 7:15
memberMember 869768711-Apr-12 7:15 
GeneralRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
Shulha Yahya8-Jun-12 11:51
memberShulha Yahya8-Jun-12 11:51 
GeneralRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
Shulha Yahya8-Jun-12 12:15
memberShulha Yahya8-Jun-12 12:15 
GeneralRe: Vista incompatibility Pin
pb1513-Dec-12 7:39
memberpb1513-Dec-12 7:39 
QuestionForm visibility Pin
putzol27-Sep-07 22:35
memberputzol27-Sep-07 22:35 
GeneralNice man! Pin
BohemianDre20-Jul-07 9:57
memberBohemianDre20-Jul-07 9:57 
GeneralErase background Pin
HHGClark18-Jul-07 5:51
memberHHGClark18-Jul-07 5:51 
GeneralRe: Erase background Pin
benjamin2313-Apr-08 10:41
memberbenjamin2313-Apr-08 10:41 
GeneralA call to PInvoke function 'AppControl!AppControl.ApplicationControl::SetWindowLong' Pin
sinclas18-May-07 6:21
membersinclas18-May-07 6:21 
GeneralRe: A call to PInvoke function 'AppControl!AppControl.ApplicationControl::SetWindowLong' Pin
rimblock10-Jun-07 13:26
memberrimblock10-Jun-07 13:26 
GeneralRe: A call to PInvoke function 'AppControl!AppControl.ApplicationControl::SetWindowLong' Pin
Elbe Alves Miranda24-Feb-11 4:18
memberElbe Alves Miranda24-Feb-11 4:18 
GeneralRe: A call to PInvoke function 'AppControl!AppControl.ApplicationControl::SetWindowLong' Pin
hrdpatel23-Jul-07 7:30
memberhrdpatel23-Jul-07 7:30 
GeneralRe: A call to PInvoke function 'AppControl!AppControl.ApplicationControl::SetWindowLong' Pin
Windows M11-Aug-07 5:12
memberWindows M11-Aug-07 5:12 
GeneralRe: A call to PInvoke function 'AppControl!AppControl.ApplicationControl::SetWindowLong' Pin
sagyla31-Aug-07 14:19
membersagyla31-Aug-07 14:19 
GeneralRe: A call to PInvoke function 'AppControl!AppControl.ApplicationControl::SetWindowLong' Pin
RoyalRikyoo25-Feb-09 22:08
memberRoyalRikyoo25-Feb-09 22:08 
Generalcan't start programe that have login window. Pin
caixrz11-Apr-07 17:56
membercaixrz11-Apr-07 17:56 

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