A Control in WPF is any class that represents a visible object in an application.

The user experiences that are delivered by the application model are constructed controls. In WPF, control is an umbrella term that applies to a category of WPF classes that have the following characteristics:

  • Hosted in either a window or a page.
  • Have a user interface.
  • Implement some behavior.

Note that a class does not need to inherit from the Control class to have a visible presence. Classes that inherit from the Control class contain a ControlTemplate, which allows the consumer of a control to radically change the control’s appearance without having to create a new subclass.

How to Create a Control in WPF

You can create a Control in WPF using one of following techniques:

(a). Via XAML

You can create declaratively via XAML. For example here is code to create for us a simple application:

<Grid>
  <Grid.RowDefinitions>
    <RowDefinition Height="30"/>
    <RowDefinition Height="30"/>
    <RowDefinition Height="30"/>
    <RowDefinition/>
  </Grid.RowDefinitions>
  <Grid.ColumnDefinitions>
    <ColumnDefinition/>
    <ColumnDefinition/>
  </Grid.ColumnDefinitions>

  <Label>
    Enter your first name:
  </Label>
  <TextBox Grid.Row="0" Grid.Column="1" 
           Name="firstName" Margin="0,5,10,5"/>

  <Label Grid.Row="1" >
    Enter your last name:
  </Label>
  <TextBox Grid.Row="1" Grid.Column="1" 
           Name="lastName" Margin="0,5,10,5"/>

  <Button Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="0" 
          Name="submit" Margin="2">
    View message
  </Button>

  <Button Grid.Row="2" Grid.Column="1" 
          Name="Clear" Margin="2">
    Clear Name
  </Button>
</Grid>

(b). Via Code

Here is the same application with a few minor ommissions(for brevity) created in C# code:

Label firstNameLabel;
Label lastNameLabel;
TextBox firstName;
TextBox lastName;
Button submit;
Button clear;

void CreateControls()
{
    firstNameLabel = new Label();
    firstNameLabel.Content = "Enter your first name:";
    grid1.Children.Add(firstNameLabel);

    firstName = new TextBox();
    firstName.Margin = new Thickness(0, 5, 10, 5);
    Grid.SetColumn(firstName, 1);
    grid1.Children.Add(firstName);

    lastNameLabel = new Label();
    lastNameLabel.Content = "Enter your last name:";
    Grid.SetRow(lastNameLabel, 1);
    grid1.Children.Add(lastNameLabel);

    lastName = new TextBox();
    lastName.Margin = new Thickness(0, 5, 10, 5);
    Grid.SetColumn(lastName, 1);
    Grid.SetRow(lastName, 1);
    grid1.Children.Add(lastName);

    submit = new Button();
    submit.Content = "View message";
    Grid.SetRow(submit, 2);
    grid1.Children.Add(submit);

    clear = new Button();
    clear.Content = "Clear Name";
    Grid.SetRow(clear, 2);
    Grid.SetColumn(clear, 1);
    grid1.Children.Add(clear);
}

How to change the Appearance of a control

You can change the appearance of a control in WPF using one of the following techniques:

(a). Change the value of a property of the control.

For example:

<Button FontSize="14" FontWeight="Bold">
  <!--Set the Background property of the Button to
    a LinearGradientBrush.-->
  <Button.Background>
    <LinearGradientBrush StartPoint="0,0.5" 
                            EndPoint="1,0.5">
      <GradientStop Color="Green" Offset="0.0" />
      <GradientStop Color="White" Offset="0.9" />
    </LinearGradientBrush>

  </Button.Background>
  View message
</Button>

You can also change the appearance via code as shown below:

LinearGradientBrush buttonBrush = new LinearGradientBrush();
buttonBrush.StartPoint = new Point(0, 0.5);
buttonBrush.EndPoint = new Point(1, 0.5);
buttonBrush.GradientStops.Add(new GradientStop(Colors.Green, 0));
buttonBrush.GradientStops.Add(new GradientStop(Colors.White, 0.9));

submit.Background = buttonBrush;
submit.FontSize = 14;
submit.FontWeight = FontWeights.Bold;

(b). Create a Style for the control.

The following example creates a Style that is applied to each Button in the application. Style definitions are typically defined in XAML in a ResourceDictionary, such as the Resources property of the FrameworkElement.

<Style TargetType="Button">
  <Setter Property="FontSize" Value="14"/>
  <Setter Property="FontWeight" Value="Bold"/>
  <Setter Property="Background">
    <Setter.Value>
      <LinearGradientBrush StartPoint="0,0.5" 
                              EndPoint="1,0.5">
        <GradientStop Color="Green" Offset="0.0" />
        <GradientStop Color="White" Offset="0.9" />
      </LinearGradientBrush>

    </Setter.Value>
  </Setter>
</Style>

(c). Create a new ControlTemplate for the control.

A Style allows you to set properties on multiple controls at a time, but sometimes you might want to customize the appearance of a Control beyond what you can do by creating a Style. Classes that inherit from the Control class have a ControlTemplate, which defines the structure and appearance of a Control. The Template property of a Control is public, so you can give a Control a ControlTemplate that is different than its default. You can often specify a new ControlTemplate for a Control instead of inheriting from a control to customize the appearance of a Control.

The following example creates a ControlTemplate for a Button. The ControlTemplate creates a Button with rounded corners and a gradient background. The ControlTemplate contains a Border whose Background is a LinearGradientBrush with two GradientStop objects. The first GradientStop uses data binding to bind the Color property of the GradientStop to the color of the button’s background. When you set the Background property of the Button, the color of that value will be used as the first GradientStop.

<!--Define a template that creates a gradient-colored button.-->
<Style TargetType="Button">
  <Setter Property="Template">
    <Setter.Value>
      <ControlTemplate TargetType="Button">
        <Border 
          x:Name="Border"  
          CornerRadius="20" 
          BorderThickness="1"
          BorderBrush="Black">
          <Border.Background>
            <LinearGradientBrush StartPoint="0,0.5" 
                                 EndPoint="1,0.5">
              <GradientStop Color="{Binding Background.Color, 
                    RelativeSource={RelativeSource TemplatedParent}}" 
                            Offset="0.0" />
              <GradientStop Color="White" Offset="0.9" />
            </LinearGradientBrush>
          </Border.Background>
          <ContentPresenter 
            Margin="2"
            HorizontalAlignment="Center"
            VerticalAlignment="Center"
            RecognizesAccessKey="True"/>
        </Border>
        <ControlTemplate.Triggers>
          <!--Change the appearance of
          the button when the user clicks it.-->
          <Trigger Property="IsPressed" Value="true">
            <Setter TargetName="Border" Property="Background">
              <Setter.Value>
                <LinearGradientBrush StartPoint="0,0.5" 
                                     EndPoint="1,0.5">
                  <GradientStop Color="{Binding Background.Color, 
                    RelativeSource={RelativeSource TemplatedParent}}" 
                                Offset="0.0" />
                  <GradientStop Color="DarkSlateGray" Offset="0.9" />
                </LinearGradientBrush>
              </Setter.Value>
            </Setter>
          </Trigger>

        </ControlTemplate.Triggers>
      </ControlTemplate>
    </Setter.Value>
  </Setter>
</Style>

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