How to update the GUI from another thread? C# [Answered]

Sample problem:

Which is the simplest way to update a Label from another Thread?

  • I have a Form running on thread1, and from that I’m starting another thread (thread2).
  • While thread2 is processing some files I would like to update a Label on the Form with the current status of thread2‘s work.

How could I do that?

How to update the GUI from another thread in C#? Answer #1:

The simplest way is an anonymous method passed into Label.Invoke:

// Running on the worker thread
string newText = "abc";
form.Label.Invoke((MethodInvoker)delegate {
    // Running on the UI thread
    form.Label.Text = newText;
});
// Back on the worker thread

Notice that Invoke blocks execution until it completes–this is synchronous code.

Answer #2:

For .NET 2.0, here’s a nice bit of code I wrote that does exactly what you want, and works for any property on a Control:

private delegate void SetControlPropertyThreadSafeDelegate(
    Control control, 
    string propertyName, 
    object propertyValue);

public static void SetControlPropertyThreadSafe(
    Control control, 
    string propertyName, 
    object propertyValue)
{
  if (control.InvokeRequired)
  {
    control.Invoke(new SetControlPropertyThreadSafeDelegate               
    (SetControlPropertyThreadSafe), 
    new object[] { control, propertyName, propertyValue });
  }
  else
  {
    control.GetType().InvokeMember(
        propertyName, 
        BindingFlags.SetProperty, 
        null, 
        control, 
        new object[] { propertyValue });
  }
}

Call it like this:

// thread-safe equivalent of
// myLabel.Text = status;
SetControlPropertyThreadSafe(myLabel, "Text", status);

If you’re using .NET 3.0 or above, you could rewrite the above method as an extension method of the Control class, which would then simplify the call to:

myLabel.SetPropertyThreadSafe("Text", status);

UPDATE 05/10/2010:

For .NET 3.0 you should use this code:

private delegate void SetPropertyThreadSafeDelegate<TResult>(
    Control @this, 
    Expression<Func<TResult>> property, 
    TResult value);

public static void SetPropertyThreadSafe<TResult>(
    this Control @this, 
    Expression<Func<TResult>> property, 
    TResult value)
{
  var propertyInfo = (property.Body as MemberExpression).Member 
      as PropertyInfo;

  if (propertyInfo == null ||
      [email protected]().IsSubclassOf(propertyInfo.ReflectedType) ||
      @this.GetType().GetProperty(
          propertyInfo.Name, 
          propertyInfo.PropertyType) == null)
  {
    throw new ArgumentException("The lambda expression 'property' must reference a valid property on this Control.");
  }

  if (@this.InvokeRequired)
  {
      @this.Invoke(new SetPropertyThreadSafeDelegate<TResult> 
      (SetPropertyThreadSafe), 
      new object[] { @this, property, value });
  }
  else
  {
      @this.GetType().InvokeMember(
          propertyInfo.Name, 
          BindingFlags.SetProperty, 
          null, 
          @this, 
          new object[] { value });
  }
}

which uses LINQ and lambda expressions to allow much cleaner, simpler and safer syntax:

myLabel.SetPropertyThreadSafe(() => myLabel.Text, status); // status has to be a string or this will fail to compile

Not only is the property name now checked at compile time, the property’s type is as well, so it’s impossible to (for example) assign a string value to a boolean property, and hence cause a runtime exception.

Unfortunately this doesn’t stop anyone from doing stupid things such as passing in another Control‘s property and value, so the following will happily compile:

myLabel.SetPropertyThreadSafe(() => aForm.ShowIcon, false);

Hence I added the runtime checks to ensure that the passed-in property does actually belong to the Control that the method’s being called on. Not perfect, but still a lot better than the .NET 2.0 version.

If anyone has any further suggestions on how to improve this code for compile-time safety, please comment!

Answer #3:

Handling long work

Since .NET 4.5 and C# 5.0 you should use Task-based Asynchronous Pattern (TAP) along with asyncawait keywords in all areas (including the GUI):

TAP is the recommended asynchronous design pattern for new development

instead of Asynchronous Programming Model (APM) and Event-based Asynchronous Pattern (EAP) (the latter includes the BackgroundWorker Class).

Then, the recommended solution for new development is:

  1. Asynchronous implementation of an event handler (Yes, that’s all):private async void Button_Clicked(object sender, EventArgs e) { var progress = new Progress<string>(s => label.Text = s); await Task.Factory.StartNew(() => SecondThreadConcern.LongWork(progress), TaskCreationOptions.LongRunning); label.Text = "completed"; }
  2. Implementation of the second thread that notifies the UI thread:class SecondThreadConcern { public static void LongWork(IProgress<string> progress) { // Perform a long running work... for (var i = 0; i < 10; i++) { Task.Delay(500).Wait(); progress.Report(i.ToString()); } } }

Notice the following:

  1. Short and clean code written in sequential manner without callbacks and explicit threads.
  2. Task instead of Thread.
  3. async keyword, that allows to use await which in turn prevent the event handler from reaching the completion state till the task finished and in the meantime doesn’t block the UI thread.
  4. Progress class (see IProgress Interface) that supports Separation of Concerns (SoC) design principle and doesn’t require explicit dispatcher and invoking. It uses the current SynchronizationContext from its creation place (here the UI thread).
  5. TaskCreationOptions.LongRunning that hints to do not queue the task into ThreadPool.

Handling exceptions

The below snippet is an example of how to handle exceptions and toggle button’s Enabled property to prevent multiple clicks during background execution.

private async void Button_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    button.Enabled = false;

    try
    {
        var progress = new Progress<string>(s => button.Text = s);
        await Task.Run(() => SecondThreadConcern.FailingWork(progress));
        button.Text = "Completed";
    }
    catch(Exception exception)
    {
        button.Text = "Failed: " + exception.Message;
    }

    button.Enabled = true;
}

class SecondThreadConcern
{
    public static void FailingWork(IProgress<string> progress)
    {
        progress.Report("I will fail in...");
        Task.Delay(500).Wait();

        for (var i = 0; i < 3; i++)
        {
            progress.Report((3 - i).ToString());
            Task.Delay(500).Wait();
        }

        throw new Exception("Oops...");
    }
}

Answer #4:

Variation of the simplest solution mentioned in answer #1 for .NET 4:

control.Invoke((MethodInvoker) (() => control.Text = "new text"));

Or use Action delegate instead:

control.Invoke(new Action(() => control.Text = "new text"));

Answer #5:

Fire and forget extension method for .NET 3.5+

using System;
using System.Windows.Forms;

public static class ControlExtensions
{
    /// <summary>
    /// Executes the Action asynchronously on the UI thread, does not block execution on the calling thread.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="control"></param>
    /// <param name="code"></param>
    public static void UIThread(this Control @this, Action code)
    {
        if (@this.InvokeRequired)
        {
            @this.BeginInvoke(code);
        }
        else
        {
            code.Invoke();
        }
    }
}

This can be called using the following line of code:

this.UIThread(() => this.myLabel.Text = "Text Goes Here");

Answer #6:

This is the classic way you should do this:

using System;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using System.Threading;

namespace Test
{
    public partial class UIThread : Form
    {
        Worker worker;

        Thread workerThread;

        public UIThread()
        {
            InitializeComponent();

            worker = new Worker();
            worker.ProgressChanged += new EventHandler<ProgressChangedArgs>(OnWorkerProgressChanged);
            workerThread = new Thread(new ThreadStart(worker.StartWork));
            workerThread.Start();
        }

        private void OnWorkerProgressChanged(object sender, ProgressChangedArgs e)
        {
            // Cross thread - so you don't get the cross-threading exception
            if (this.InvokeRequired)
            {
                this.BeginInvoke((MethodInvoker)delegate
                {
                    OnWorkerProgressChanged(sender, e);
                });
                return;
            }

            // Change control
            this.label1.Text = e.Progress;
        }
    }

    public class Worker
    {
        public event EventHandler<ProgressChangedArgs> ProgressChanged;

        protected void OnProgressChanged(ProgressChangedArgs e)
        {
            if(ProgressChanged!=null)
            {
                ProgressChanged(this,e);
            }
        }

        public void StartWork()
        {
            Thread.Sleep(100);
            OnProgressChanged(new ProgressChangedArgs("Progress Changed"));
            Thread.Sleep(100);
        }
    }


    public class ProgressChangedArgs : EventArgs
    {
        public string Progress {get;private set;}
        public ProgressChangedArgs(string progress)
        {
            Progress = progress;
        }
    }
}

Your worker thread has an event. Your UI thread starts off another thread to do the work and hooks up that worker event so you can display the state of the worker thread.

Then in the UI you need to cross threads to change the actual control… like a label or a progress bar.

Answer #7:

The simple solution is to use Control.Invoke.

void DoSomething()
{
    if (InvokeRequired) {
        Invoke(new MethodInvoker(updateGUI));
    } else {
        // Do Something
        updateGUI();
    }
}

void updateGUI() {
    // update gui here
}

Answer #8:

Threading code is often buggy and always hard to test. You don’t need to write threading code to update the user interface from a background task. Just use the BackgroundWorker class to run the task and its ReportProgress method to update the user interface. Usually, you just report a percentage complete, but there’s another overload that includes a state object. Here’s an example that just reports a string object:

    private void button1_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        backgroundWorker1.WorkerReportsProgress = true;
        backgroundWorker1.RunWorkerAsync();
    }

    private void backgroundWorker1_DoWork(object sender, DoWorkEventArgs e)
    {
        Thread.Sleep(5000);
        backgroundWorker1.ReportProgress(0, "A");
        Thread.Sleep(5000);
        backgroundWorker1.ReportProgress(0, "B");
        Thread.Sleep(5000);
        backgroundWorker1.ReportProgress(0, "C");
    }

    private void backgroundWorker1_ProgressChanged(
        object sender, 
        ProgressChangedEventArgs e)
    {
        label1.Text = e.UserState.ToString();
    }

That’s fine if you always want to update the same field. If you’ve got more complicated updates to make, you could define a class to represent the UI state and pass it to the ReportProgress method.

One final thing, be sure to set the WorkerReportsProgress flag, or the ReportProgress method will be completely ignored.

Answer #9:

The vast majority of answers use Control.Invoke which is a race condition waiting to happen. For example, consider the accepted answer:

string newText = "abc"; // running on worker thread
this.Invoke((MethodInvoker)delegate { 
    someLabel.Text = newText; // runs on UI thread
});

If the user closes the form just before this.Invoke is called (remember, this is the Form object), an ObjectDisposedException will be likely fired.

The solution is to use SynchronizationContext, specifically SynchronizationContext.Current as hamilton.danielb suggests (other answers rely on specific SynchronizationContext implementations which is completely unnecessary). I would slightly modify his code to use SynchronizationContext.Post rather than SynchronizationContext.Send though (as there’s typically no need for the worker thread to wait):

public partial class MyForm : Form
{
    private readonly SynchronizationContext _context;
    public MyForm()
    {
        _context = SynchronizationContext.Current
        ...
    }

    private MethodOnOtherThread()
    {
         ...
         _context.Post(status => someLabel.Text = newText,null);
    }
}

Note that on .NET 4.0 and up you should really be using tasks for async operations. See n-san’s answer for the equivalent task-based approach (using TaskScheduler.FromCurrentSynchronizationContext).

Finally, on .NET 4.5 and up you can also use Progress<T> (which basically captures SynchronizationContext.Current upon its creation) for cases where the long-running operation needs to run UI code while still working.

Hope you learned something from this post.

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