Saturday, June 18, 2011

Changing the Windows titlebar gradient colors

Summary: This post describes how to change the gradient colors of the titlebar of a single window on Windows XP, using C#.

On Windows XP the titlebar of most windows have a gradient coloring:

For various reasons, I wanted to override the titlebar gradient colors on a single window. The SetSysColors function can change the colors, but that applies to all windows and immediately forces all windows to repaint, which is slow and very flickery. You can paint the titlebar your self (like Chrome does), but then you need to draw and handle min/max buttons etc. After some experimentation, using the unofficial SetSysColorsTemp function, I was able to change the gradient for a single window. As an example, here are some screenshots, overriding the left color with green, then overriding both the colors with green/blue and orange/blue:

Disclaimer: This code uses an undocumented function, and while it seems to work robustly on my copy of Windows XP, it unlikely to work on future versions of Windows. Generally, it is a bad idea to override user preferences - for example the titlebar text may not be visible with overridden gradient colors.

All the necessary code is available at the bottom of this post, and can be used by anyone, for any purpose. The crucial function is SetSysColorsTemp, which takes an array of colors and an array of brushes created from those colors. If you call SetSysColorsTemp passing a new array of colors/brushes they will override the global system colors until a reboot, without forcing a repaint. Passing null for both arrays will restore the colors to how they were before. To make the color change only for the current window we hook into WndProc, and detect when the colors are about to be used in a paint operation. We set the system colors before, call base.WndProc which paints the titlebar (using our modified system colors), then put the colors back.

There are two known issues:

1) If you change the colors after the titlebar has drawn, it will not use the colors until the titlebar next repaints. I suspect this problem is solvable.
2) As you can see in the demo screenshots, the area near the min/max buttons does not usually get recolored. If you only change the left gradient color this doesn't matter.

public class GradientForm : Form
// Win32 API calls, often based on those from
[DllImport("gdi32.dll")] static extern bool DeleteObject(int hObject);
[DllImport("user32.dll")] static extern int SetSysColorsTemp(int[] lpaElements, int [] lpaRgbValues, int cElements);
[DllImport("gdi32.dll")] static extern int CreateSolidBrush(int crColor);
[DllImport("user32.dll")] static extern int GetSysColorBrush(int nIndex);
[DllImport("user32.dll")] static extern int GetSysColor(int nIndex);
[DllImport("user32.dll")] private static extern IntPtr GetForegroundWindow();

// Magic constants
const int SlotLeft = 2;
const int SlotRight = 27;
const int SlotCount = 28; // Math.Max(SlotLeft, SlotRight) + 1;

// The colors/brushes to use
int[] Colors = new int[SlotCount];
int[] Brushes = new int[SlotCount];

// The colors the user wants to use
Color titleBarLeft, titleBarRight;
public Color TitleBarLeft{get{return titleBarLeft;} set{titleBarLeft=value; UpdateBrush(SlotLeft, value);}}
public Color TitleBarRight{get{return titleBarRight;} set{titleBarRight=value; UpdateBrush(SlotRight, value);}}

void CreateBrushes()
for (int i = 0; i < SlotCount; i++)
Colors[i] = GetSysColor(i);
Brushes[i] = GetSysColorBrush(i);
titleBarLeft = ColorTranslator.FromWin32(Colors[SlotLeft]);
titleBarRight = ColorTranslator.FromWin32(Colors[SlotRight]);

void UpdateBrush(int Slot, Color c)
Colors[Slot] = ColorTranslator.ToWin32(c);
Brushes[Slot] = CreateSolidBrush(Colors[Slot]);

void DestroyBrushes()

// Hook up to the Window

public GradientForm()

protected override void Dispose(bool disposing)
if (disposing) DestroyBrushes();

protected override void WndProc(ref System.Windows.Forms.Message m)
const int WM_NCPAINT = 0x85;
const int WM_NCACTIVATE = 0x86;

if ((m.Msg == WM_NCACTIVATE && m.WParam.ToInt32() != 0) ||
(m.Msg == WM_NCPAINT && GetForegroundWindow() == this.Handle))

int k = SetSysColorsTemp(Colors, Brushes, Colors.Length);
base.WndProc(ref m);
SetSysColorsTemp(null, null, k);
base.WndProc(ref m);

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

INLINE pragmas in the Safe library

Summary: The Safe library has lots of small functions, none of which have INLINE pragmas on them. The lack of INLINE pragmas probably has no effect on the optimisation.

I was recently asked a question about the Safe library:

I was wondering why you didn't use any INLINE pragmas in the Safe library. I'm not a Haskell expert yet, but I've noticed that in many other libraries most one-liners are annotated by INLINE pragmas, so is there any reason you didn't add them to Safe as well?

When compiling with optimisations, GHC tries to inline functions/values that are either "small enough" or have an INLINE pragma. These functions will be inlined within their module, and will also be placed in their module's interface file, for inlining into other modules. The advantage of inlining is avoiding the function call overhead, and possibly exposing further optimisations. The disadvantage is that the code size may grow, which may result in poor utilisation of the processor's instruction cache.

The Safe library contains wrappers for lots of partial Prelude and Data.List functions (i.e. head), with versions that don't fail, or fail with more debugging information. Using the tail function as an example, the library supplies four additional variants:

  • tail :: [a] -> [a], crashes on tail []

  • tailNote :: String -> [a] -> [a], takes an extra argument which supplements the error message

  • tailDef :: [a] -> [a] -> [a], takes a default to return instead of errors

  • tailMay :: [a] -> Maybe [a], wraps the result in a Maybe

  • tailSafe :: [a] -> [a], returns some sensible default if possible, [] in the case of tail

As the questioner correctly noted, there are no INLINE pragmas in the library. Taking the example of tailSafe, it is defined as:

tailSafe :: [a] -> [a]
tailSafe = liftSafe tail null

liftSafe :: (a -> a) -> (a -> Bool) -> (a -> a)
liftSafe func test val = if test val then val else func val

Given this indirection, and the lack of an INLINE pragma, is calling tailSafe as cheap as you might hope? We can answer this question by looking at the interface file at the standard optimisation level, by running ghc -ddump-hi Safe.hs -O -c. Looking at the definition attached to tailSafe, we see:

tailSafe = \val -> case val of
[] -> []
ds1:ds2 -> ds2

The tailSafe function has been optimised as much as it can be, and will be inlined into other modules. Adding an INLINE pragma would have no effect at standard optimisation. When compiling without optimisation, even with an INLINE pragma, the function is not included in the module's interface. Adding the INLINE pragma to tailSafe is of no benefit.

Let us now look at all functions in the Safe module. When compiled without optimisation (-O0) no functions are placed in the interface file. At all higher levels of optimisation (-O1 and -O2) the interface files are identical. Looking through the functions, only 6 functions are not included in the interface files:


The abort function is defined as:

abort = error

Neither adding an INLINE pragma or eta expanding (adding an additional argument) includes the function in the interface file. I suspect that GHC decides no further optimisation is possible, so doesn't ever inline abort.

atMay and $watMay

The function atMay is recursive, and thus cannot be inlined even when it's definition is available, so GHC sensibly omits it from the interface file. The function $watMay is the worker/wrapper definition of atMay, which is also recursive.

readNote and readMay

The functions readNote and readMay both follow exactly the same pattern, so I describe only readNote. The function readNote is quite big, and GHC has split it into two top-level functions - producing both readNote and readNote1. The function readNote is included in the interface file, but readNote1 is not. The result is that GHC will be able to partially inline the original definition of readNote - however, the read functions tend to be rather complex, so GHC is unlikely to benefit from the additional inlining it has managed to acheive.


The atNote function is bigger than the inlining threshold, so does not appear in the interface file unless an INLINE pragma is given. Since the inner loop of atNote is recursive, it is unlikely that inlining would give any noticable benefit, so GHC's default behaviour is appropriate.


Having analysed the interface files, I do not think it is worth adding INLINE pragmas to the Safe library - GHC does an excellent job without my intervention. My advice is to only add INLINE pragmas after either profiling, or analysing the resulting Core program.