Windows’ dialogs can be bad for your app

  • They don’t allow you to resize, minimize or do anything with the containing window
  • As a consequence of the above, when you use WIN+D to show the desktop, then open another window, they suddenly pop back up from nowhere (along with the containing window, of course)
  • You can’t have dialogs that are context-specific (e.g. a certain tab)
  • They misbehave if you don’t set their parent explicitly (sometimes hiding behind other windows, accessible only via crazy ALT-tabbing)
  • They make that annoying ‘ding’ sound when you click the containing window 😉

 

There’s a better way

InlineModalDialog, available in the latest version of WPF Contrib, works a bit differently:

  • It creates an inline dialog that is contained within the window
  • It constrains the input (keyboard, mouse & touch) to the dialog; WPF can easily do that with its sophisticated keyboard navigation options and hit-testing invisibility
  • It uses a Dispatcher frame to block the caller of the Show() method, just like a regular dialog does
  • You can layer dialogs on top of each other
  • You can define multiple scopes in which the dialogs appear

 

How to use

Add the decorator below the element to be used as the container. Set the Target property to the container.

<UserControl xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation"
             xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml"
             xmlns:av="http://schemas.codeplex.com/wpfcontrib/xaml/presentation"
             Name="RootContainer">
    <av:InlineModalDecorator Target="{x:Reference RootContainer}">

    </av:InlineModalDecorator>
</UserControl>

Create a dialog and show it:

var dialog = new InlineModalDialog
{
    Owner = this,
    Content = new MyDialogViewModel(),
};
dialog.Show();

The Owner can be any element contained within the Target specified in the decorator (or the target itself).

You may also use the new ShowInline() overloads in TaskDialog.

Limitations

  • In the current implementation, you can’t move or resize the dialogs (but they can be resized with the container using stretching and margins). This can be easily mitigated, and I may address it in a future release.
  • The developer needs to be more aware of the dialogs’ state, especially when these are dialogs that are shown when closing a window. For example, what happens if, while editing a document, the user has opened a settings dialog and clicks the window’s close button? Should you ask whether to save the settings? Save the document? Ignore/disable it? It’s up to you to decide what’s the better UX.

 

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