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Posted 14 Sep 2007


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Draw Skin Window Using Pure Win32 API

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4.35/5 (33 votes)
14 Sep 2007CPOL3 min read
An article to show how to draw a skin window
Screenshot - drawwindow1.gif


How can you make an application's own skin window without MFC extension UI libraries like BGCControlBar, Xtreme Toolkit and so on? This article uses pure Win32 API to find the answer.


Windows Messages

For the beginner, I want to explain the window messages that should be processed. Anybody who wants to draw a window should process the window messages as below:

WM_NCPAINTThe message is sent to a window when its frame must be painted. We should paint the window here.
WM_NCCALCSIZEThe message is sent when the size and position of a window's client area must be calculated. By processing this message, an application can control the content of the window's client area when the size or position of the window changes.
WM_NCACTIVATEThe message is sent to a window when its non-client area needs to be changed to indicate an active or inactive state.
WM_NCHITTESTThe message is sent to a window when the cursor moves or when a mouse button is pressed or released. If the mouse is not captured, the message is sent to the window beneath the cursor. Otherwise, the message is sent to the window that has captured the mouse.
WM_NCLBUTTONUP<br />WM_NCLBUTTONDOWN<br />WM_NCLBUTTONDBLCLK<br />WM_NCRBUTTONUP<br />WM_NCRBUTTONDOWN<br />WM_NCMOUSEMOVE The message is posted when the user releases the left mouse button while the cursor is within the non-client area of the window. This message is posted to the window that contains the cursor. If a window has captured the mouse, this message is not posted.
WM_GETMINMAXINFOThe message is sent to a window when the size or position of the window is about to change. An application can use this message to override the window's default maximized size and position, or its default minimum or maximum tracking size.
WM_ACTIVATEThe message is sent to both the window being activated and the window being deactivated. If the windows use the same input queue, the message is sent synchronously. First it is sent to the window procedure of the top-level window being deactivated and then it is sent to the window procedure of the top-level window being activated. If the windows use different input queues, the message is sent asynchronously, so the window is activated immediately.

Class SkinWindow

We should create a class named SkinWindow that takes responsibility for painting the window. The class SkinWindow defines some functions to process the special window's message.

OnNcPaintProcess message WM_NCPAINT
OnNcActiveProcess message WM_NCACTIVATE
OnNcCalcSizeProcess message WM_NCCALCSIZE
OnNcHitTestProcess message WM_NCHITTEST
OnNcLButtonUpProcess message WM_NCLBUTTONUP
OnNcLButtonDownProcess message WM_NCLBUTTONDOWN
OnNcLButtonDblClkProcess message WM_NCLBUTTONDBLCLK
OnNcMouseMoveProcess message WM_NCMOUSEMOVE
OnNcRButtonUpProcess message WM_NCRBUTTONUP
OnNcRButtonDownProcess message WM_NCRBUTTONDOWN
OnSizeProcess message WM_SIZE
OnSizingProcess message WM_SIZING
OnActiveProcess message WM_ACTIVE
OnWindowPosChangingProcess message WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
OnGetMinMaxInfoProcess message WM_GETMINMAXINFO
OnSetTextProcess message WM_SETTEXT
OnSysCommandProcess message WM_SYSCOMMAND


Firstly, we create a new Win32 application that includes SkinWindow in its project.

#include <span class="code-string">"skinwindow.h"</span>

Secondly, we should define a global variant in the main CPP file.

CSkinWindow SkinWin;

Thirdly, we load the skin from resource at the function InitInstance.

SkinWin.Load(hInstance, hWnd);

Last, we should add some code in the function WndProc to process the special window's messages.

// handle some special window's message here
if( SkinWin.IsHandledMessage( message ) )
    return SkinWin.WndProc( hWnd, message, wParam, lParam );


When you size or drag and move a window as fast as you can, the monitor will flash and the window will take up more CPU percent. I've tried many approaches, but the problem persists. Is there anyone who can resolve it? The problem's picture is like below.

Screenshot - drawwindow2.gif

Additional Notes

This is by no means a finished product! This is my first attempt at writing a terribly complicated Win32 application library. I want to tell a beginner how to skin a window using pure Win32 API without MFC and give the beginner some hints to comprehensive window messages. I wanted something similar to SkinWindow in functionality, but without the overhead of MFC. There will be bugs and errors! I hope that you find this code useful. If you have any improvements/suggestions, comments/flames or questions please post them here.


  • 14 September, 2007 -- Original version posted


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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Comments and Discussions

QuestionThanks! The one working and simple example Pin
KevinSW19-Mar-14 17:58
MemberKevinSW19-Mar-14 17:58 
AnswerRe: Thanks! The one working and simple example Pin
jackyxinli20-Mar-14 21:40
Memberjackyxinli20-Mar-14 21:40 
First, it is my first program in Windows GUI and "borrow" some ideas from my friend, and the basic owner draw was tested from MSDN. This is a test program simply for FUN, not mature and robust. It has some buges like memory leak that you just point out.
Second, thank you for your long and honest comments to my article, it really helpful. I hope it can give hints and helpness for beginners.
PS: if your GUI framework was finished, could you tell me?
AnswerRe: Thanks! The one working and simple example Pin
jackyxinli20-Mar-14 21:45
Memberjackyxinli20-Mar-14 21:45 
GeneralRe: Thanks! The one working and simple example Pin
KevinSW13-Jul-14 19:14
MemberKevinSW13-Jul-14 19:14 
QuestionWow, Was a nice try. Pin
xox_c0bra_xox6-Dec-11 6:16
Memberxox_c0bra_xox6-Dec-11 6:16 
AnswerRe: Wow, Was a nice try. Pin
KevinSW19-Mar-14 16:55
MemberKevinSW19-Mar-14 16:55 
QuestionProblem with title bar Pin
Member 445058125-May-08 10:33
MemberMember 445058125-May-08 10:33 
AnswerRe: Problem with title bar [modified] Pin
jackyxinli26-May-08 15:38
Memberjackyxinli26-May-08 15:38 
Questioni want to ask,what developtool r u do u use? Pin
macroideal29-Apr-08 16:28
Membermacroideal29-Apr-08 16:28 
AnswerRe: i want to ask,what developtool r u do u use? Pin
jackyxinli29-Apr-08 22:15
Memberjackyxinli29-Apr-08 22:15 
GeneralScrollBar Pin
salah_nrg9-Apr-08 19:14
Membersalah_nrg9-Apr-08 19:14 
GeneralVery good, but..... Pin
markin.alves29-Nov-07 7:30
Membermarkin.alves29-Nov-07 7:30 
GeneralRe: Very good, but..... Pin
jackyxinli1-Dec-07 15:46
Memberjackyxinli1-Dec-07 15:46 
Generalgood work Pin
braindamage1029-Oct-07 8:47
Memberbraindamage1029-Oct-07 8:47 
GeneralI noticed the lag when resizing, Pin
code_discuss18-Oct-07 23:30
Membercode_discuss18-Oct-07 23:30 
GeneralRe: I noticed the lag when resizing, Pin
gdier29-Oct-07 5:19
Membergdier29-Oct-07 5:19 
GeneralImpressive even Pin
John R. Shaw20-Sep-07 20:23
MemberJohn R. Shaw20-Sep-07 20:23 
GeneralRe: Impressive even Pin
jackyxinli22-Sep-07 19:40
Memberjackyxinli22-Sep-07 19:40 
QuestionWhat about WS_SYSMENU style? Pin
Dandy Cheung17-Sep-07 4:54
MemberDandy Cheung17-Sep-07 4:54 
AnswerRe: What about WS_SYSMENU style? Pin
Dandy Cheung17-Sep-07 5:02
MemberDandy Cheung17-Sep-07 5:02 
QuestionCould you check the menu painting ? Pin
Kochise14-Sep-07 22:13
MemberKochise14-Sep-07 22:13 
GeneralInteresting Pin
David Nash14-Sep-07 19:17
MemberDavid Nash14-Sep-07 19:17 
GeneralRe: Interesting Pin
yctsai1-Nov-07 22:31
Memberyctsai1-Nov-07 22:31 

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