Windows Ribbon for WinForms, Part 1 – Introduction

September 3, 2009

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So here is the plan:
I’ll write a series of posts regarding using the Windows Ribbon with .NET WinForms.

The goal:
Having .Net wrappers for using Windows Ribbon in WinForms applications and a set of examples of how to use each and every ribbon feature.

Development methodology
I’ll develop a library that will hold all the relevant classes, interfaces and native functions.
The library will use the Windows API Code Pack, since they already implemented good wrappers for some of the shell interfaces we will use.
Update (18.11.2009): The library is not dependent on Windows API Code Pack anymore, though it is still a recommended download.
Also, I’ll try to keep my conventions similar to the ones used in the Code Pack.

Along with the library I will develop a sample WinForms application (or more) that will show how to correctly use the library.

The most updated version of the code will be available on codeplex.

So, before we start to code, let’s give some background on the subject.

Definition (from MSDN): “The Windows Ribbon (Ribbon) framework is a rich command presentation system that provides a modern alternative to the layered menus, toolbars, and task panes of traditional Windows applications."

In Office 2007 Microsoft introduced a new way to organize UI in an application. The problem with the old UI was that it wasn’t flexible enough to represent the majority of office features. (People actually kept asking for features that already existed but were hidden deep in the menus…)

word ribbon 
[Microsoft Word 2007 Ribbon]

After the Office 2007 Ribbon turned out to be a success, many UI companies provided their own implementation for a ribbon control to be used in your application.
When Microsoft realized they were onto something good they decided to supply the Ribbon feature to the general public.
They have released 3 (!) Ribbons:

  • MFC version, available in Visual Studio 2008 SP1, to be used by native MFC developer
  • WPF version, available in WPF toolkit for .Net 3.5 SP1, to be used by managed WPF developers
  • Windows Ribbon, available in Windows 7 as a COM object [and in a future Vista update], to be used by native win32 developers.

So, what about managed WinForms users?
They should use the third, COM based version. So the purpose of these posts is to give you a working example of using the Windows Ribbon within a WinForms application.

Why use Windows Ribbon?
Note that the question I want to answer is not "Why use A ribbon control?" but "Why use THIS ribbon control?"
Why not use other ribbon controls? There are dozens of third party controls; some of them are free.

The main reason why to use the Windows Ribbon Framework: It’s developed by Microsoft.
This means:

  • Since it’s the original one, it contains ALL the features, as opposed to other free/commercial ribbon controls which always have those "not implemented" sections.
  • It has COMPLETE support and integration with windows 7 UI & accessibility features. Just think about touch screen support or high DPI screens compatibility.

That’s it for now, hopefully you gained some motivation for the project.
Arik Poznanski

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