Daily Archives: July 27, 2009

The curious case of WindowsFormsParkingWindow

I was debugging a problem the other day involving WebKit.NET, a webkit wrapper control for winforms. When the webkit control was hosted inside winforms, it had a strange problem of always thinking that it is out of focus. This had the effect of drawing all selections as grayed out.

Everything I threw at it (WM_SETFOCUS, WM_ACTIVATE) seemed to be going into a void, so it was time to break into the source and figure out what exactly was wrong. After a few breakpoints and step overs, I found that the WebKit control searches for the parent window and listens to its messages by subclassing the window. It listens for WM_NCACTIVATE event and then determines whether it has focus or not.

This was working exactly as expected on a normal non-winforms window, so what was different? Debugging the code, I found that it got the root parent window as WindowsFormsParkingWindow. Why is it returning that as the parent window and not the actual parent window I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s some special super root window like the Application window in Delphi? It wasn’t shown in Spy++ either. Then again what’s a WindowsFormsParkingWindow? It’s something that I ought to google. Unfortunately google wasn’t very forth coming. Puzzled, I devised a hack by simply temporarily unassigning the immediate parent window of the webkit control WS_CHILD, simply because the webkit find ancestry detection algorithm stops when it encounters a non-child. After the setHostWindow() call, I make the parent window WS_CHILD again. That seemed to work but something lingered in the back of my mind telling that there is a better solution.

The next day as I was about to post a solution on the mailing list describing my solution, just when I was about to talk about this weird WindowsFormsParkingWindow, something in my mind clicked. Suddenly it all seemed to make sense. There was a reason WindowsFormsParkingWindow wasn’t in the tree ancestry when I looked at Spy++. There’s also a reason for the name. It turns out that on creation, all controls get put into WindowsFormsParkingWindow. It just so happens the setHostWindow call was made in the constructor when the parent control was still parked. The solution seemed obvious now. The setHostWindow should be called after the parent is correctly set, ie on the Load event. So, another case closed.