January 21, 2012

C# - Implementing the SystemTray using NotifyIcon

1. Introduction to .Net NotifyIcon Control

"NotifyIcon Control" is useful for providing the system tray support for your application. This control is grouped under the common control inside the developer studio’s toolbox. Usually when the user minimizes the application, an icon in the system tray area appears. When you right click on the icon (Sometimes clicking also, depends on how you implement) it displays a context menu and you can take action from there.

OK. When will it be useful? Some application runs in the background or some task of the application takes more time to complete or simply the interaction between the users is very less/read only (Take information application). These applications use the system tray concept. Some examples are: Your Internet connection, TaskManager etc

2. About the Sample

The sample example screen shot is shown below:

The example shown above will take input seconds in the textbox and when you click on the button Track Seconds elapsed, a counter next to button shows the remaining seconds. When you click the close button, this example actually runs in the background and an icon will be placed in the system tray. Right-clicking the system tray Icon for this sample will pop-up a menu and you can actually exit the sample by clicking the exit menu item or you can come back and see the dialog by clicking the remaining seconds Menu item. This is shown below:

So all we need to develop the above-shown sample are listed below:

  1. An Icon that displays in the system tray. In the above screenshot, it is marked in red.
  2.  A Context menu that will display when the tray icon is right-clicked
  3.  A timer that is useful to track the seconds entered.

Ok. When the sample is closed and the timer is still running, as shown in the application screenshot (11 seconds), the tray icon will notify you with tooltip stating that the seconds you specified (11 Seconds) is expired. This is shown below:

OK. Let us start designing the form first, then move to the coding.

3. Build the Context Menu

The form design is simple. It has a label, a textbox and a button. In the previous section, we saw that a menu is displayed when we right click on the icon in the system tray. So first we need to add the "Context Menu" to the form then start adding the menu items to it. Setting up the context menu is shown in the below video.

4. Adding NotifyIcon Control

When the application’s close button is clicked, we are going to actually hide the form and display the icon over the system tray area, which is usually at the lower right-hand corner of the task bar. NotifyIcon is the control that will make this task easier. In our sample, after adding this control the following properties are set:

"BallonTipText Property": This property will display the information text that gets displayed as tooltip text on the tray area. 
"BallonTipTitle Property": This property is used to provide title to the tooltip text.
"BallonTipIcon Property": Icon for the tool tip that appears before the tooltip title.
"ContextMenu Property": A context menu associated to this Tray Icon. We will just select the context menu created in the previous step as the value of this property
"Text Property": This text gets displayed when you move the mouse over the icon in the system tray.
"Icon Property": This property takes the Icon as input and displays that on the system tray area.

Below is the video that shows how we set these properties for the NotifyIcon Control.

5. Add Timer component

Now the NotifyIcon control is set (Of course we should write some code) and ready to implement. Before that, our form requires a way to communicate the tray icon in the taskbar when the number of seconds specified in the textbox is elapsed. We will use a timer for that and the timer procedure will run for every 1000 milliseconds (1 sec). Setting up the timer component to the form is shown in the below video. The interval property is set to 1000 milliseconds and it says the control to raise the "Tick Event" for every 1-second.

6. Source Code: Some basic implementation

1) First the variable required for the implementation is declared. Below are the declarations:

//Tray_01: Variable to know when should I exit the form
private bool EndNow = false;
private int m_secs ;

The Boolean variable EndNow tells when should we actually exit the form. The variable is used by a piece of code, which runs when the close button (x) of the form is pressed. The variable m_secs will track the remaining time before raising the notification message.

2) Next, when the button Track Seconds Elapsed is clicked, we enable the timer and it will raise the Tick event for each second passes. The Button click handler is shown below:

//Tray_02: Simply wait for the Seconds to elapse
private void btnMonitor_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    m_secs = Int32.Parse(txtSeconds.Text);           
    timer.Enabled = true;

Well, the Parse function converts the number entered into the textbox and stored that in the m_secs class level variable and it is going to crash the sample when you enter something other than a number. I do not want to divert it placing the validation part of the textbox.

3) We know that the context menu has two menu items. The handler for those menu items are shown below:

//Tray_03: Implement Context Menu
private void mnuRemaining_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
private void mnuExit_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    EndNow = true;

When we click the Remaining item, the show() method makes the form visible and the person can look at the form to know remaining time. And when the exit button is clicked, we just set the EndNow variable to true and then make a call to Close() to close the form. This close function will raise an event before actually closing the form and handler for that event (Will be shown, continue reading) will check this variable to know OOOk, now I can dismiss the form EndNow is set to true.

4) When we load the form we just hide the TrayIcon by setting its Visible property to false. The code is shown below:

//Tray_06: Set the Tray Icon visibility to False
private void frmTrayIcon_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    TrayIcon.Visible = false;

7. Source Code: Displaying System Tray Icon

We know that the when the user clicks the x button to close the form, we should display the system tray icon in the taskbar. Before closing the form .net framework will raise a "FormClosing Event" giving a chance for doing something like clearing activities like closing the resources, releasing the memory (Forceful not respecting G.collector) or even having chance to say “Hey don’t close”. That last one we are doing here by providing the handler for the event that we are discussing. Below is code for it:

//Tray_05: When the close button clicked, hide the form and show TrayIcon
private void frmTrayIcon_FormClosing(object sender, FormClosingEventArgs e)
    if (EndNow == false)
        e.Cancel = true;
        TrayIcon.Visible = true;

In the above code, first, we are checking the variable to make sure we can close a form. When the variable is set false (Form load already set it to false) the first thing we did was cancelling the close action. Setting cancel property of the passed in "FormClosingEventArgs" to true does this. After requesting to cancel the close operation, we displayed TrayIcon by setting the Visible property to true. And before this, we are hiding the form, as it has to be run in the background using the call to the Hide() method.

8. Source Code: Displaying Balloon Tooltip

The "Balloon Tooltip" will be displayed when the seconds entered in the input textbox is expired. All we need to do is, provide a handler for the Tick event of the timer, and when event triggers, ask the "System Tray Icon" to display the balloon text. The code for this event handler is shown below:

//Tray_04: Timer will display the remaining seconds and ends
//              when all the seconds passed by. Also it shows balloon tip
//              When you are in form hided state (Tray iconified)
private void timer_Tick(object sender, EventArgs e)
    m_secs = m_secs - 1;
    lblElapsed.Text = m_secs.ToString();
    if (m_secs == 0)
        timer.Enabled = false;
        if (this.Visible == false)

In the above code (Runs for every 1 seconds until the timer is disabled), first, we decremented the seconds. So the variable m_secs will actually hold remaining time to raise the notification. When seconds reads zero, we disabled the timer (timer.Enabled = false) so that this procedure won’t run again. Then, the call to the "ShowBalloonTip()" method of the NotifyIcon object will display the tooltip for 5 seconds. The parameter says display it for five seconds.

Watch the below video to see the sample in action:

Source Code : Download

January 17, 2012

C++ - The duty of Compiler and Linker on EXE file creation

1. Introduction

We know that a project delivers the output as exe files. I mean, there are other forms also like dll, ocx etc., but here in this write-up I will discuss about the exe. The EXE stands for executable and that means the operating system with the help of the processor executes the instruction specified in the Exe file. This exe is a binary file and it also has information required by the Operating system in the file header. In the meantime its majority of the content is for the Processor of the machine that runs it.

2. Exe File headers

The header of the exe file contains information required for the operating system. OS knows how much memory to allocate in the data segment and how much code segment memory is required to load the instruction set packed inside the executable from this header. Well. As already told in the blogs, data segment is responsible for the entire program scoped constants, global variables etc. Whereas code segment is responsible for holding the instruction set that a Processor understands. We call this header as Process control Block. You can do a web search to know more about it.

Next to the process control block is the actual exe contents, which is nothing but the instruction set and its data processing in the form of microprocessor’s opcode format. We call this assembly language and that mean it is not that opening an exe file in word processor will reveal the assembly code for you.

3. How the Exe is generated?

Let us consider a simple example. Say, you have exe project, and the project has three header files and three implementation files. After the coding done without any error, you buildthe project. The build project operation will create the exe output. Have a look at the below picture.

When you build the project the following actions are taken by the development IDE (Say VS2005):

1)      The compiler conducts a pre-processing operation before doing its actual job of compilation. The processing is conducted on the source file; I mean the cpp files. This pre-processing replaces the macros to its content, #include header files, to its content etc.
2)      Once the above said operation is completed for the single file say a.cpp, the compiler starts compiling that file to generate the a.objfile. And this continues till all the cpp files on a specific project (Exe or dll or ocx; whatever it is) is converted to object file.
3)      Now linker comes into picture. The linker understands more robust and compact form of input that comes as object file for each compiler-processed cpp in the previous step. The linker combines all object files and generates the required binary say the exe file in our case.

If you we feed input to the compiler in the form of the cpp programming language and the linker actually generates the output binaries.

If your Solution workspace contains 57 projects with dependency properly set, the above said compilation and linking takes place for each project. When you build such big solution, just sit back and watch the output window. You will see for each project, the build operation displays cpp file processing and at the end the linker will generate the output.

4 Swapping the EXE process

The Operating system reads the information from process control block of the exe file and loads the exe data and instruction sets to the memory location. Once loaded the Operating see your exe as the running process. The processor will execute the instruction set of the all loaded process (Multi-tasking OS like windows). When the memory required to run the new process waiting in the queue is not adequate and the process has high priority the OS swaps the exe content (Instruction set part) and the state (All the global variable values) to the physical disc. The process (Your exe) is not terminated and suspended for some time. Once your process needs the execution of instruction set, OS will take the Image of the process from the disc and keeps that in main memory. This is called swapping. Some people say virtual memory. This is shown below:

In the above picture, processor executes the instruction set from code segment of exe, which allocated on the main memory. When they’re multiple processes to manage the limited availability of the main memory, sometime the OS swaps the exe process to disc. In the above case, Exe process P1, P2 and P3 in Main memory. And P4 and P5 are kept is physical disc as temporarily suspended.

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