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How to: Handle Keyboard Input at the Form Level

Windows Forms provides the ability to handle keyboard messages at the form level, before the messages reach a control. This topic shows how to accomplish this task.

To handle a keyboard message at the form level

  • Handle the KeyPress or KeyDown event of the startup form, and set the KeyPreview property of the form to true so that keyboard messages are received by the form before they reach any controls on the form. The following code example handles the KeyPress event by detecting all of the number keys and consuming '1', '4', and '7'.

    // Detect all numeric characters at the form level and consume 1, 
    // 4, and 7. Note that Form.KeyPreview must be set to true for this
    // event handler to be called.
    void Form1_KeyPress(object sender, KeyPressEventArgs e)
    {
        if (e.KeyChar >= 48 && e.KeyChar <= 57)
        {
            MessageBox.Show("Form.KeyPress: '" +
                e.KeyChar.ToString() + "' pressed.");
    
            switch (e.KeyChar)
            {
                case (char)49:
                case (char)52:
                case (char)55:
                    MessageBox.Show("Form.KeyPress: '" +
                        e.KeyChar.ToString() + "' consumed.");
                    e.Handled = true;
                    break;
            }
        }
    }
    
    

Example

The following code example is the entire application for the above example. The application includes a TextBox along with several other controls that allow you to move focus from the TextBox. The KeyPress event of the main Form consumes '1', '4', and '7', and the KeyPress event of the TextBox consumes '2', '5', and '8' while displaying the remaining keys. Compare the MessageBox output when you press a number key while the TextBox has focus with the MessageBox output when you press a number key while focus is on one of the other controls.

using System;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Windows.Forms;

namespace KeyboardInputForm
{
    class Form1 : Form
    {
        TextBox TextBox1 = new TextBox();

        [STAThread]
        public static void Main()
        {
            Application.EnableVisualStyles();
            Application.Run(new Form1());
        }

        public Form1()
        {
            this.AutoSize = true;
           
            FlowLayoutPanel panel = new FlowLayoutPanel();
            panel.AutoSize = true;
            panel.FlowDirection = FlowDirection.TopDown;
            panel.Controls.Add(TextBox1);
            this.Controls.Add(panel);

            this.KeyPreview = true;
            this.KeyPress +=
                new KeyPressEventHandler(Form1_KeyPress);
            TextBox1.KeyPress +=
                new KeyPressEventHandler(TextBox1_KeyPress);
        }

        // Detect all numeric characters at the form level and consume 1, 
        // 4, and 7. Note that Form.KeyPreview must be set to true for this
        // event handler to be called.
        void Form1_KeyPress(object sender, KeyPressEventArgs e)
        {
            if (e.KeyChar >= 48 && e.KeyChar <= 57)
            {
                MessageBox.Show("Form.KeyPress: '" +
                    e.KeyChar.ToString() + "' pressed.");

                switch (e.KeyChar)
                {
                    case (char)49:
                    case (char)52:
                    case (char)55:
                        MessageBox.Show("Form.KeyPress: '" +
                            e.KeyChar.ToString() + "' consumed.");
                        e.Handled = true;
                        break;
                }
            }
        }

        // Detect all numeric characters at the TextBox level and consume  
        // 2, 5, and 8.
        void TextBox1_KeyPress(object sender, KeyPressEventArgs e)
        {
            if (e.KeyChar >= 48 && e.KeyChar <= 57)
            {
                MessageBox.Show("Control.KeyPress: '" +
                    e.KeyChar.ToString() + "' pressed.");

                switch (e.KeyChar)
                {
                    case (char)50:
                    case (char)53:
                    case (char)56:
                        MessageBox.Show("Control.KeyPress: '" +
                            e.KeyChar.ToString() + "' consumed.");
                        e.Handled = true;
                        break;
                }
            }
        }
    }
}

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