The notification area is a portion of the taskbar that provides a temporary source for notifications and status. It can also be used to display icons for system and program features that have no presence on the desktop, such as battery level, volume control, and network status. The notification area has been known historically as the system tray or status area.
This topic contains the following sections:
Notification and Notification Area Guidelines
See the Notifications and Notification Area sections of the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines for best practices in the use of notifications and the notification area. The goal is to provide user benefit through appropriate use of notifications, without being annoying or distracting.
The notification area is not for critical information that must be acted on immediately. It is also not intended for quick program or command access. As of Windows 7, much of that functionality is best accomplished through an application's taskbar button.
Windows 7 allows a user to suppress all notifications from an application if they choose, so thoughtful notification design and use will incline the user to allow your application to continue to display them. Notifications are an interruption; ensure that they are worth it.
Windows 7 introduces the concept of "quiet time". Quiet time is defined as the first hour after a new user logs into his or her account either for the first time or for the first time after an operating system upgrade or clean installation. This time is set aside to allow the user to explore and familiarize themselves with the new environment without the distraction of notifications. During this time, most notifications should not be sent or shown. Exceptions include feedback that the user would expect to see in response to a user action, such as when he or she plugs in a USB device or prints a document. API specifics of regarding quiet time are discussed later in this topic.
Creating and Displaying a Notification
The remaining sections in this topic outline the basic procedure to follow to display a notification from your application to the user.
Add a Notification Icon
To display a notification, you must have an icon in the notification area. In certain cases, such as Microsoft Communicator or battery level, that icon will already be present. In many other cases, however, you will add an icon to the notification area only as long as is needed to show the notification. In either case, this is accomplished using the Shell_NotifyIcon function. Shell_NotifyIcon allows you to add, modify, or delete an icon in the notification area.
When an icon is added to the notification area on Windows 7, it is added to the overflow section of the notification area by default. This area contains notification area icons that are active, but not visible in the notification area. Only the user can promote an icon from the overflow to the notification area, although in certain circumstances the system can temporarily promote an icon into the notification area as a short preview (under one minute).
The user should have the final say on which icons they want to see in their notification area. Before installing a non-transient icon in the notification area, the user should be asked for permission. They should also be given the option (normally though its shortcut menu) to remove the icon from the notification area.
The NOTIFYICONDATA structure sent in the call to Shell_NotifyIcon contains information that specifies both the notification area icon and the notification itself. The following are those items specific to the notification area icon itself that can be set through NOTIFYICONDATA.
- The resource from which the icon is taken.
- A unique identifier for the icon.
- The style of the icon's tooltip.
- The icon's state (hidden, shared, or both) in the notification area.
- The handle of an application window associated with the icon.
- A callback message identifier that allows the icon to communicate events that occur within the icon's bounding rectangle and balloon notification with the associated application window. The icon's bounding rectangle can be retrieved through Shell_NotifyIconGetRect .
Each icon in the notification area can be identified in two ways:
- The GUID with which the icon is declared in the registry. This is the preferred method on Windows 7 and later.
- The handle of a window associated with the notification area icon, plus an application-defined icon identifier. This method is used on Windows Vista and earlier.
Icons in the notification area can have a tooltip. The tooltip can be either a standard tooltip (preferred) or an application-drawn, pop-up UI. While a tooltip is not required, it is recommended.
Notification area icons should be high-DPI aware. An application should provide both a 16x16 pixel icon and a 32x32 icon in its resource file, and then use LoadIconMetric to ensure that the correct icon is loaded and scaled appropriately.
The application responsible for the notification area icon should handle a mouse click for that icon. When a user right-clicks the icon, it should bring up a normal shortcut menu. However, the result of a single click with the left mouse button will vary with the function of the icon. It should display what the user would expect to see in the form best suited to that content—a popup window, a dialog box or the program window itself. For instance, it could show status text for a status icon, or a slider for the volume control.
The placement of a popup window or dialog box that results from the click should be placed near the coordinate of the click in the notification area. Use the CalculatePopupWindowPosition to determine its location.
The icon can be added to the notification area without displaying a notification by defining only the icon-specific members of NOTIFYICONDATA (discussed above) and calling Shell_NotifyIcon as shown here:
You can also add the icon to the notification area and display a notification all in one call to Shell_NotifyIcon . To do so, continue with the instructions in this topic.
Define the NOTIFYICONDATA Version