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How to: Support COM Interop by Displaying Windows Forms on a Shared Thread 

You can resolve Component Object Model (COM) interoperability problems by displaying your form on a .NET Framework message loop, which is created by using the System.Windows.Forms.Application.Run method.

To make a Windows Form work correctly from a COM client application, you must run it on a Windows Forms message loop. To do this, use one of the following approaches:

The following code example demonstrates how to display Windows Forms on a new thread with a shared message loop.

There is extensive support for this feature in Visual Studio.


Displaying Windows Forms on a shared thread is similar to the approach shown in How to: Support COM Interop by Displaying Each Windows Form on Its Own Thread. However, instead of displaying each form on its own thread by using its own message loop, you create a shared message loop that runs on only one new thread in the .NET Framework component.

This approach more accurately represents the behavior of a standard Windows Forms application. It also makes it easier for you to share resources between multiple forms, because all the forms run on the same thread. The solution in How to: Support COM Interop by Displaying Each Windows Form on Its Own Thread creates a new thread for each form. That solution requires additional thread synchronization code to share resources between different forms.

Because displaying forms on a shared thread is more similar to the behavior of a Windows Forms application, you will see that with .NET Framework Windows Forms the client application will close when the .NET Framework message loop stops. This behavior occurs when the user closes the form that is designated as the main form for the ApplicationContext. The ApplicationContext is used to start the message loop.

In the following code examples, the main form of the ApplicationContext is set to the first form that the client application opens. Therefore, when the user closes that form instance, the .NET Framework message loop exits, and all other Windows Forms will close.

Imports System.Windows.Forms
Imports System.Runtime.InteropServices

<ComClass(COMForm.ClassId, COMForm.InterfaceId, COMForm.EventsId)> _
Public Class COMForm

#Region "COM GUIDs"
    ' These  GUIDs provide the COM identity for this class 
    ' and its COM interfaces. If you change them, existing 
    ' clients will no longer be able to access the class.
    Public Const ClassId As String = "9322c6dd-2738-428b-ba89-414ce2ea1941"
    Public Const InterfaceId As String = "210f5b8e-296a-4e26-bd7b-cd2cffa43389"
    Public Const EventsId As String = "f25c0ebb-2a2e-42b5-bf20-4bb84989a7da"
#End Region

    ' A creatable COM class must have a Public Sub New() 
    ' with no parameters, otherwise, the class will not be 
    ' registered in the COM registry and cannot be created 
    ' via CreateObject.
    Public Sub New()
    End Sub

    Private WithEvents frmManager As FormManager

    Public Sub ShowForm1()
        ' Call the StartForm method by using a new instance
        ' of the Form1 class.
        StartForm(New Form1)
    End Sub

    Private Sub StartForm(ByVal frm As Form)

        ' This procedure is used to show all forms
        ' that the client application requests. When the first form
        ' is displayed, this code will create a new message
        ' loop that runs on a new thread. The new form will
        ' be treated as the main form.

        ' Later forms will be shown on the same message loop.
        If IsNothing(frmManager) Then
            frmManager = New FormManager(frm)
        End If
    End Sub

    Private Sub frmManager_MessageLoopExit() Handles frmManager.MessageLoopExit
        'Release the reference to the frmManager object.
        frmManager = Nothing
    End Sub

End Class

Imports System.Runtime.InteropServices
Imports System.Threading
Imports System.Windows.Forms

<ComVisible(False)> _
Friend Class FormManager
    ' This class is used so that you can generically pass any
    ' form that you want to the delegate.

    Private WithEvents appContext As ApplicationContext
    Private Delegate Sub FormShowDelegate(ByVal form As Form)
    Event MessageLoopExit()

    Public Sub New(ByVal MainForm As Form)
        Dim t As Thread
        If IsNothing(appContext) Then
            appContext = New ApplicationContext(MainForm)
            t = New Thread(AddressOf StartMessageLoop)
            t.IsBackground = True
        End If
    End Sub

    Private Sub StartMessageLoop()
        ' Call the Application.Run method to run the form on its own message loop.
    End Sub

    Public Sub ShowForm(ByVal form As Form)

        Dim formShow As FormShowDelegate

        ' Start the main form first. Otherwise, focus will stay on the 
        ' calling form.

        ' Create a new instance of the FormShowDelegate method, and
        ' then invoke the delegate off the MainForm object.
        formShow = New FormShowDelegate(AddressOf ShowFormOnMainForm_MessageLoop)
        appContext.MainForm.Invoke(formShow, New Object() {form})
    End Sub

    Private Sub ShowFormOnMainForm_MessageLoop(ByVal form As Form)
    End Sub

    Private Sub ac_ThreadExit(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles appContext.ThreadExit
        appContext.MainForm = Nothing
        appContext = Nothing
        RaiseEvent MessageLoopExit()
    End Sub
End Class

Imports System.Windows.Forms

Public Class Form1
    Inherits System.Windows.Forms.Form

    Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click
        MessageBox.Show("Clicked button")
    End Sub

    'Form overrides dispose to clean up the component list.
    <System.Diagnostics.DebuggerNonUserCode()> _
    Protected Overloads Overrides Sub Dispose(ByVal disposing As Boolean)
        If disposing AndAlso components IsNot Nothing Then
        End If
    End Sub

    'Required by the Windows Form Designer
    Private components As System.ComponentModel.IContainer

    'NOTE: The following procedure is required by the Windows Form Designer
    'It can be modified using the Windows Form Designer.  
    'Do not modify it using the code editor.
    <System.Diagnostics.DebuggerStepThrough()> _
    Private Sub InitializeComponent()
        Me.TextBox1 = New System.Windows.Forms.TextBox
        Me.TextBox2 = New System.Windows.Forms.TextBox
        Me.TextBox3 = New System.Windows.Forms.TextBox
        Me.Button1 = New System.Windows.Forms.Button
        Me.TextBox1.Location = New System.Drawing.Point(12, 12)
        Me.TextBox1.Name = "TextBox1"
        Me.TextBox1.Size = New System.Drawing.Size(100, 20)
        Me.TextBox1.TabIndex = 0
        Me.TextBox2.Location = New System.Drawing.Point(12, 38)
        Me.TextBox2.Name = "TextBox2"
        Me.TextBox2.Size = New System.Drawing.Size(100, 20)
        Me.TextBox2.TabIndex = 1
        Me.TextBox3.Location = New System.Drawing.Point(12, 64)
        Me.TextBox3.Name = "TextBox3"
        Me.TextBox3.Size = New System.Drawing.Size(100, 20)
        Me.TextBox3.TabIndex = 2
        Me.Button1.Location = New System.Drawing.Point(12, 90)
        Me.Button1.Name = "Button1"
        Me.Button1.Size = New System.Drawing.Size(75, 23)
        Me.Button1.TabIndex = 3
        Me.Button1.Text = "Button1"
        Me.Button1.UseVisualStyleBackColor = True
        Me.AutoScaleDimensions = New System.Drawing.SizeF(6.0!, 13.0!)
        Me.AutoScaleMode = System.Windows.Forms.AutoScaleMode.Font
        Me.ClientSize = New System.Drawing.Size(130, 138)
        Me.Name = "Form1"
        Me.Text = "Form1"

    End Sub
    Friend WithEvents TextBox1 As System.Windows.Forms.TextBox
    Friend WithEvents TextBox2 As System.Windows.Forms.TextBox
    Friend WithEvents TextBox3 As System.Windows.Forms.TextBox
    Friend WithEvents Button1 As System.Windows.Forms.Button
End Class

Compiling the Code

  • Compile the COMForm, Form1, and FormManager types into an assembly called COMWinform.dll. Register the assembly for COM interop by using one of the methods described in Packaging an Assembly for COM. You can now use the assembly and its corresponding type library (.tlb) file in unmanaged applications. For example, you can use the type library as a reference in a Visual Basic 6.0 executable project.

See Also