Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Whats the difference between Control.Invalidate, Control.Update and Control.Refresh? (.NET)

Control.Invalidate() v/s Control.Update() v/s ControlRefresh()

Before discussing each one of the above functions, let’s look at how winforms controls paint.

Windows controls paint is response to WM_PAINT messages. This message is sent when UpdateWindow or RedrawWindow is called, or by the DispatchMessage function when the application gets a WM_PAINT through the message queue. On getting the WM_PAINT message, the control paints its background and then the foreground if necessary. Double-buffering and transparency is honored while painting and then the OnPaint event is fired to give the user a chance to perform his custom painting.

With this background, let’s look at the above mentioned three functions in more detail,

Control.Invalidate( ) / Control.Invalidate(bool) / Control.Invalidate(Rectangle) / Control.Invalidate(Rectangle, bool) / Control.Invalidate(Region) / Control.Invalidate(Region, bool)

The bool parameter denotes whether the user wants to invalidate the child controls of the control on which he is calling Invalidate. The Rectangle parameter are the bounds to invalidate and the region parameter is the region to invalidate. All the overloads essentially end up calling one of the RedrawWindow, InvaliateRect or InvalidateRgn functions. If RedrawWindow is called then this may result in a WM_PAINT message being posted to the application message queue (to invalidate the child controls).

The important thing to note here is that these functions only “invalidate” or “dirty” the client area by adding it to the current update region of the window of the control. This invalidated region, along with all other areas in the update region, is marked for painting when the next WM_PAINT message is received. As a result you may not see your control refreshing (and showing the invalidation) immediately (or synchronously).


Update function calls the UpdateWindow function which updates the client area of the control by sending WM_PAINT message to the window (of the control) if the window's update region is not empty. This function sends a WM_PAINT directly to WNDPROC() bypassing the application message queue.

Thus, if the window update region is previously “invalidated” then calling “update” would immediately "update" (and cause repaint) the invalidation.


By now, you might have guessed what Refresh( ) would be doing. Yes, it calls Invalidate(true) to invalidate the control and its children and then calls Update( ) to force paint the control so that the invalidation is synchronous.

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