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WinForms

Introduction

As cTrader indicator/cBots are running .NET applications, you can use all .NET technologies when creating them including UI-related solutions such as WinForms and WPF. cTrader Automate supports all features offered by WinForms and WPF including dialogs, forms, the Visual Studio WinForms designer, third-party UI controls, and components.

Note

As WinForms is a part of Windows, it only works on this OS.

To use WinForms, change your cTrader Automate compiler to .NET SDK.

We will showcase how WinForms can be used by creating a custom WinForms dialog. They are useful for showing alerts or asking for user input.

Configuring Your Project

Before you can use WinForms in your cBots/indicators, you will have to make several changes in your cBot/indicator project file(s). As WinForms only works on Windows, you will have to change the target of your indicator/cBot framework of your project to the Windows 'flavor' of .NET.

To do so, open your project file in Visual Studio and replace its contents with the following.

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<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <TargetFramework>net6.0-windows</TargetFramework>
    <UseWindowsForms>true</UseWindowsForms>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <ItemGroup>
    <PackageReference Include="cTrader.Automate" Version="1.*" />
  </ItemGroup>
</Project>

We have added the UseWindowsForms tag and changed the value of TargetFramework to net6.0-windows.

Afterward, change the value of the AccessRights class parameter to FullAccess. Unless this change is made, your extension will not have sufficient access rights to open a WinForms window.

Rebuild your project after making the above changes. If the rebuild fails, change your Automate compiler to the .NET SDK compiler.

Dialogs

Fortunately, WinForms contains several ready-to-use dialogs that are useful for a wide variety of cases, most notably showing an error message, attaining a confirmation from the user, or selecting a file/folder.

The below example uses the MessageBox class and the file open/save dialogs.

MessageBox

You can use the System.Windows.Forms.MessageBox class the same way it is used in any other .NET application.

The below code attaches a standard confirmation box to an indicator.

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using cAlgo.API;
using System.Windows.Forms;

namespace WinFormsTest
{
    [Indicator(IsOverlay = true, AccessRights = AccessRights.FullAccess)]
    public class WinFormsTest : Indicator
    {
        protected override void Initialize()
        {
            var result = System.Windows.Forms.MessageBox.Show("Are you sure you want confirm?", "Confirmation", MessageBoxButtons.OKCancel, MessageBoxIcon.Information);

            if (result == DialogResult.OK)
            {
                Print("OK");
            }
            else
            {
                Print("Cancel");
            }
        }

        public override void Calculate(int index)
        {
        }
    }
}

After you run an instance of this indicator, you should immediately see a confirmation box with the text you have specified above.

Open/Save File Dialogs

The open/save file dialog can be used to allow cBots/indicators browse and select locally stored files.

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using cAlgo.API;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace WinFormsTest
{
    [Indicator(IsOverlay = true, AccessRights = AccessRights.FullAccess)]
    public class WinFormsTest : Indicator
    {
        protected override void Initialize()
        {
            var thread = new Thread(() =>
            {
                var dialog = new OpenFileDialog
                {
                    CheckFileExists = true,
                    CheckPathExists = true,
                    Filter = "Text Files (*.txt)|*.txt",
                    InitialDirectory = Environment.GetFolderPath(Environment.SpecialFolder.Desktop),
                    Multiselect = true,
                    RestoreDirectory = true,
                };

                var result = dialog.ShowDialog();

                if (result == DialogResult.OK)
                {
                    foreach (var fileName in dialog.FileNames)
                    {
                        Print(fileName);
                    }
                }
                else
                {
                    Print("Dialog Canceled");
                }
            });

            thread.SetApartmentState(ApartmentState.STA);

            thread.Start();

            thread.Join();
        }

        public override void Calculate(int index)
        {
        }
    }
}
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using cAlgo.API;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace WinFormsTest
{
    [Indicator(IsOverlay = true, AccessRights = AccessRights.FullAccess)]
    public class WinFormsTest : Indicator
    {
        protected override void Initialize()
        {
            var thread = new Thread(() =>
            {
                var dialog = new SaveFileDialog
                {
                    CheckFileExists = true,
                    CheckPathExists = true,
                    Filter = "Text Files (*.txt)|*.txt",
                    InitialDirectory = Environment.GetFolderPath(Environment.SpecialFolder.Desktop),
                    RestoreDirectory = true,
                };

                var result = dialog.ShowDialog();

                if (result == DialogResult.OK)
                {
                    Print(dialog.FileName);
                }
                else
                {
                    Print("Dialog Canceled");
                }
            });

            thread.SetApartmentState(ApartmentState.STA);

            thread.Start();

            thread.Join();
        }

        public override void Calculate(int index)
        {
        }
    }
}

In the examples, we have used a separate thread to run the code related to our dialogs. This was done to account for the fact that the main cBot/indicator thread is not an STA thread. We go into more detail about this issue in the following section.

Using a Dedicated Thread for UI

When running code referencing WinForms, you have to use an STA-marked thread, otherwise, there may be errors during execution. For more information, please, refer to [the official documentation]((https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/visualstudio/code-quality/ca2232?view=vs-2022&tabs=csharp).

You cannot change the ApartmentState property of an already running thread. Because the main cBot/indicator threat is not STA-marked, you have to use a new STA-marked thread for WinForms and WPF.

The code in the previous section also calls the thread.Join() method. It blocks the execution of the main cBot/indicator thread until the UI-related threat is released (e.g., by a user clicking on 'OK' in a confirmation dialog).

Whenever you want to display a Windows Form of a WPF element, you have to run your code in a separate STA-marked thread.

Creating a New Custom Form

So far, we have used built-in WinForms classes. However, it is also possible to create custom classes.

In this section, we will create a form showing information about the currently active trading account such as its balance and margin.

To create a new form, right-click on your cBot/indicator while in Visual Studio, click 'Add' and select 'User Control (Windows Forms)...'

Image title

Visual Studio will open a dialog window in which you can select the type of the item you would like to add to your project. Please, select 'Form (Windows Forms)' (VS should have it selected automatically).

Image title

Afterward, change the form name from Form1.cs to AccountInfoForm.cs. Click on the 'Add' button.

A new form will be created inside your project; the IDE will display the Visual Studio WinForms designer. As a result, you will be able to use all of its features including adding controls via a toolbox.

Image title

In this example, we have already created a form. Copy and paste the below code into the AccountIntoForm.Designer.cs file.

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namespace WinForms_Test
{
    partial class AccountInfoForm
    {
        /// <summary>
        /// Required designer variable.
        /// </summary>
        private System.ComponentModel.IContainer components = null;

        /// <summary>
        /// Clean up any resources being used.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="disposing">true if managed resources should be disposed; otherwise, false.</param>
        protected override void Dispose(bool disposing)
        {
            if (disposing && (components != null))
            {
                components.Dispose();
            }
            base.Dispose(disposing);
        }

        #region Windows Form Designer generated code

        /// <summary>
        /// Required method for Designer support - do not modify
        /// the contents of this method with the code editor.
        /// </summary>
        private void InitializeComponent()
        {
            this.label1 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.NumberLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.BrokerLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.label3 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.CurrencyLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.label5 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.BalanceLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.label7 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.EquityLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.label9 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.PositionsNumberLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.label11 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.OrdersNumberLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.label13 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.NetProfitLabel = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.label15 = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();
            this.UpdateButton = new System.Windows.Forms.Button();
            this.SuspendLayout();
            // 
            // label1
            // 
            this.label1.AutoSize = true;
            this.label1.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label1.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 33);
            this.label1.Name = "label1";
            this.label1.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(72, 20);
            this.label1.TabIndex = 0;
            this.label1.Text = "Number:";
            // 
            // NumberLabel
            // 
            this.NumberLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.NumberLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.NumberLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 33);
            this.NumberLabel.Name = "NumberLabel";
            this.NumberLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.NumberLabel.TabIndex = 1;
            // 
            // BrokerLabel
            // 
            this.BrokerLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.BrokerLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.BrokerLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 67);
            this.BrokerLabel.Name = "BrokerLabel";
            this.BrokerLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.BrokerLabel.TabIndex = 3;
            // 
            // label3
            // 
            this.label3.AutoSize = true;
            this.label3.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label3.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 67);
            this.label3.Name = "label3";
            this.label3.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(56, 20);
            this.label3.TabIndex = 2;
            this.label3.Text = "Broker";
            // 
            // CurrencyLabel
            // 
            this.CurrencyLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.CurrencyLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.CurrencyLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 101);
            this.CurrencyLabel.Name = "CurrencyLabel";
            this.CurrencyLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.CurrencyLabel.TabIndex = 5;
            // 
            // label5
            // 
            this.label5.AutoSize = true;
            this.label5.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label5.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 101);
            this.label5.Name = "label5";
            this.label5.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(75, 20);
            this.label5.TabIndex = 4;
            this.label5.Text = "Currency";
            // 
            // BalanceLabel
            // 
            this.BalanceLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.BalanceLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.BalanceLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 135);
            this.BalanceLabel.Name = "BalanceLabel";
            this.BalanceLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.BalanceLabel.TabIndex = 7;
            // 
            // label7
            // 
            this.label7.AutoSize = true;
            this.label7.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label7.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 135);
            this.label7.Name = "label7";
            this.label7.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(63, 20);
            this.label7.TabIndex = 6;
            this.label7.Text = "Balance";
            // 
            // EquityLabel
            // 
            this.EquityLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.EquityLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.EquityLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 173);
            this.EquityLabel.Name = "EquityLabel";
            this.EquityLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.EquityLabel.TabIndex = 9;
            // 
            // label9
            // 
            this.label9.AutoSize = true;
            this.label9.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label9.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 173);
            this.label9.Name = "label9";
            this.label9.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(54, 20);
            this.label9.TabIndex = 8;
            this.label9.Text = "Equity";
            // 
            // PositionsNumberLabel
            // 
            this.PositionsNumberLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.PositionsNumberLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.PositionsNumberLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 210);
            this.PositionsNumberLabel.Name = "PositionsNumberLabel";
            this.PositionsNumberLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.PositionsNumberLabel.TabIndex = 11;
            // 
            // label11
            // 
            this.label11.AutoSize = true;
            this.label11.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label11.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 210);
            this.label11.Name = "label11";
            this.label11.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(85, 20);
            this.label11.TabIndex = 10;
            this.label11.Text = "Positions #";
            // 
            // OrdersNumberLabel
            // 
            this.OrdersNumberLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.OrdersNumberLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.OrdersNumberLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 250);
            this.OrdersNumberLabel.Name = "OrdersNumberLabel";
            this.OrdersNumberLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.OrdersNumberLabel.TabIndex = 13;
            // 
            // label13
            // 
            this.label13.AutoSize = true;
            this.label13.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label13.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 250);
            this.label13.Name = "label13";
            this.label13.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(69, 20);
            this.label13.TabIndex = 12;
            this.label13.Text = "Orders #";
            // 
            // NetProfitLabel
            // 
            this.NetProfitLabel.AutoSize = true;
            this.NetProfitLabel.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.NetProfitLabel.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(188, 285);
            this.NetProfitLabel.Name = "NetProfitLabel";
            this.NetProfitLabel.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(0, 20);
            this.NetProfitLabel.TabIndex = 15;
            // 
            // label15
            // 
            this.label15.AutoSize = true;
            this.label15.Font = new System.Drawing.Font("Segoe UI Variable Display", 11.25F, System.Drawing.FontStyle.Bold, System.Drawing.GraphicsUnit.Point);
            this.label15.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 285);
            this.label15.Name = "label15";
            this.label15.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(79, 20);
            this.label15.TabIndex = 14;
            this.label15.Text = "Net Profit";
            // 
            // UpdateButton
            // 
            this.UpdateButton.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(273, 340);
            this.UpdateButton.Name = "UpdateButton";
            this.UpdateButton.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(75, 23);
            this.UpdateButton.TabIndex = 16;
            this.UpdateButton.Text = "Update";
            this.UpdateButton.UseVisualStyleBackColor = true;
            this.UpdateButton.Click += new System.EventHandler(this.UpdateButton_Click);
            // 
            // AccountInfoForm
            // 
            this.AutoScaleDimensions = new System.Drawing.SizeF(7F, 15F);
            this.AutoScaleMode = System.Windows.Forms.AutoScaleMode.Font;
            this.ClientSize = new System.Drawing.Size(360, 375);
            this.Controls.Add(this.UpdateButton);
            this.Controls.Add(this.NetProfitLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label15);
            this.Controls.Add(this.OrdersNumberLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label13);
            this.Controls.Add(this.PositionsNumberLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label11);
            this.Controls.Add(this.EquityLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label9);
            this.Controls.Add(this.BalanceLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label7);
            this.Controls.Add(this.CurrencyLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label5);
            this.Controls.Add(this.BrokerLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label3);
            this.Controls.Add(this.NumberLabel);
            this.Controls.Add(this.label1);
            this.Name = "AccountInfoForm";
            this.Text = "Account Info";
            this.Load += new System.EventHandler(this.AccountInfoForm_Load);
            this.ResumeLayout(false);
            this.PerformLayout();

        }

        #endregion

        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label1;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label NumberLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label BrokerLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label3;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label CurrencyLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label5;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label BalanceLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label7;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label EquityLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label9;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label PositionsNumberLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label11;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label OrdersNumberLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label13;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label NetProfitLabel;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Label label15;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Button UpdateButton;
    }
}

The above code is generated by the WinForms designer. We will now write the backend code for the new form. To do so, right-click on the form and select 'View Code'.

Image title

Copy and paste the following example.

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using System;
using System.Linq;
using System.Windows.Forms;
using cAlgo.API;

namespace WinForms_Test
{
    public partial class AccountInfoForm : Form
    {
        private int _accountNumber;
        private string _brokerName;
        private string _currency;
        private double _balance;
        private double _equity;
        private int _positionsCount;
        private int _ordersCount;
        private double _netProfit;
        private readonly Indicator _indicator;

        public AccountInfoForm(Indicator indicator)
        {
            _indicator = indicator;

            InitializeComponent();
        }

        private void GetDataFromIndicator()
        {
            _indicator.BeginInvokeOnMainThread(() =>
            {
                _accountNumber = _indicator.Account.Number;
                _brokerName = _indicator.Account.BrokerName;
                _currency = _indicator.Account.Asset.Name;
                _balance = _indicator.Account.Balance;
                _equity = _indicator.Account.Equity;
                _positionsCount = _indicator.Positions.Count;
                _ordersCount = _indicator.PendingOrders.Count;
                _netProfit = _indicator.History.Sum(trade => trade.NetProfit);

                UpdateData();
            });
        }

        private void UpdateData()
        {
            _ = BeginInvoke(() =>
            {
                NumberLabel.Text = _accountNumber.ToString();
                BrokerLabel.Text = _brokerName;
                CurrencyLabel.Text = _currency;
                BalanceLabel.Text = Math.Round(_balance, 2).ToString();
                EquityLabel.Text = Math.Round(_equity, 2).ToString();
                PositionsNumberLabel.Text = _positionsCount.ToString();
                OrdersNumberLabel.Text = _ordersCount.ToString();
                NetProfitLabel.Text = Math.Round(_netProfit, 2).ToString();
            });
        }

        private void UpdateButton_Click(object sender, EventArgs e) => GetDataFromIndicator();

        private void AccountInfoForm_Load(object sender, EventArgs e) => GetDataFromIndicator();
    }
}

Notably, our code uses the BeginInvokeOnMainThread() and BeginInvoke() methods. We explain our rationale for this in the following section.

For now, we will use our custom form by calling its ShowDialog() method from our indicator. Copy and paste the code below into your indicator source code.

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using cAlgo.API;
using System.Threading;
using WinForms_Test;

namespace WinFormsTest
{
    [Indicator(IsOverlay = true, AccessRights = AccessRights.FullAccess)]
    public class WinFormsTest : Indicator
    {
        protected override void Initialize()
        {
            var thread = new Thread(() =>
            {
                var form = new AccountInfoForm(this);

                _ = form.ShowDialog();
            });

            thread.SetApartmentState(ApartmentState.STA);

            thread.Start();
        }

        public override void Calculate(int index)
        {
        }
    }
}

When you add a new form, it will automatically use your indicator/cBot namespace (cAlgo). To avoid errors, change the namespace of your added form and then add it to your indicator/cBot source code file. In our case, WinForms_Test is the namespace designation.

After building the indicator and creating an instance, you should see the following form appear.

Image title

Accessing API Members From UI Thread

As we have explained before, you have to use a separate dedicated thread to run your WinForms. Only the code executing on this thread will be able to access the form controls and properties.

The same is true for cTrader Automate API members. As the API is not thread safe, you cannot access API members from the Form thread. Instead, you have to dispatch the work by using the BeginInvokeOnMainThread() method in your indicator/cBot code.

This may create complications if you want to exchange data between your indicator/cBot and a WinForm. To resolve this issue, you may create a 'proxy' class to manage the interactions between your cBot/indicator and Form threads.


Last update: December 8, 2022

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