Custom attached properties

[This article is for Windows 8.x and Windows Phone 8.x developers writing Windows Runtime apps. If you’re developing for Windows 10, see the latest documentation]

An attached property is a XAML concept. Attached properties are typically defined as a specialized form of dependency property. This topic explains how to implement an attached property as a dependency property and how to define the accessor convention that is necessary for your attached property to be usable in XAML.


We assume that you understand dependency properties from the perspective of a consumer of existing dependency properties, and that you have read the Dependency properties overview. You should also have read Attached properties overview. To follow the examples in this topic, you should also understand XAML and know how to write a basic Windows Runtime app using C++, C#, or Visual Basic.

Scenarios for attached properties

You might create an attached property when there is a reason to have a property-setting mechanism available for classes other than the defining class. The most common scenarios for this are layout and services support. Examples of existing layout properties are Canvas.ZIndex and Canvas.Top. In a layout scenario, elements that exist as child elements to layout-controlling elements can express layout requirements to their parent elements individually, each setting a property value that the parent defines as an attached property. An example of the services-support scenario in the Windows Runtime API is set of the attached properties of ScrollViewer, such as ScrollViewer.IsZoomChainingEnabled.

Caution  An existing limitation of the Windows Runtime XAML implementation is that you cannot animate your custom attached property.


Registering a custom attached property

If you are defining the attached property strictly for use on other types, the class where the property is registered does not have to derive from DependencyObject. But you do need to have the target parameter for accessors use DependencyObject if you follow the typical model of having your attached property also be a dependency property, so that you can use the backing property store.

Define your attached property as a dependency property by declaring a publicstaticreadonly property of type DependencyProperty. You define this property by using the return value of the RegisterAttached method. The property name must match the attached property name you specify as the RegisterAttachedname parameter, with the string "Property" added to the end. This is the established convention for naming the identifiers of dependency properties in relation to the properties that they represent.

The main area where defining a custom attached property differs from a custom dependency property is in how you define the accessors or wrappers. Instead of the using the wrapper technique described in Custom dependency properties, you must also provide static GetPropertyName and SetPropertyName methods as accessors for the attached property. The accessors are used mostly by the XAML parser, although any other caller can also use them to set values in non-XAML scenarios.

Important  If you don't define the accessors correctly, the XAML processor can't access your attached property and anyone who tries to use it will probably get a XAML parser error. Also, design and coding tools often rely on the "*Property" conventions for naming identifiers when they encounter a custom dependency property in a referenced assembly.



The signature for the GetPropertyName accessor must be this.

public static valueType GetPropertyName (DependencyObject target)

For Microsoft Visual Basic, it is this.

Public Shared Function GetPropertyName(ByVal target As DependencyObject) As valueType)

The target object can be of a more specific type in your implementation, but must derive from DependencyObject. The valueType return value can also be of a more specific type in your implementation. The basic Object type is acceptable, but often you'll want your attached property to enforce type safety. The use of typing in the getter and setter signatures is a recommended type-safety technique.

The signature for the SetPropertyName accessor must be this.

public static void SetPropertyName(DependencyObject target ,valueType value)

For Visual Basic, it is this.

Public Shared Sub SetPropertyName(ByVal target As DependencyObject, ByVal value AsvalueType)

The target object can be of a more specific type in your implementation, but must derive from DependencyObject. The value object and its valueType can be of a more specific type in your implementation. Remember that the value for this method is the input that comes from the XAML processor when it encounters your attached property in markup. There must be type conversion or existing markup extension support for the type you use, so that the appropriate type can be created from an attribute value (which is ultimately just a string). The basic Object type is acceptable, but often you'll want further type safety. To accomplish that, put type enforcement in the accessors.

Note  It's also possible to define an attached property where the intended usage is through property element syntax. In that case you don't need type conversion for the values, but you do need to assure that the values you intend can be constructed in XAML. VisualStateManager.VisualStateGroups is an example of an existing attached property that only supports property element usage.


Code example

This example shows the dependency property registration (using the RegisterAttached method), as well as the Get and Set accessors, for a custom attached property. In the example, the attached property name is IsMovable. Therefore, the accessors must be named GetIsMovable and SetIsMovable. The owner of the attached property is a service class named GameService that doesn't have a UI of its own; its purpose is only to provide the attached property services when the GameService.IsMovable attached property is used.

    public class GameService : DependencyObject
        public static readonly DependencyProperty IsMovableProperty = 
          new PropertyMetadata(false)
        public static void SetIsMovable(UIElement element, Boolean value)
            element.SetValue(IsMovableProperty, value);
        public static Boolean GetIsMovable(UIElement element)
            return (Boolean)element.GetValue(IsMovableProperty);
Public Class GameService
    Inherits DependencyObject

    Public Shared ReadOnly IsMovableProperty As DependencyProperty = 
        New PropertyMetadata(False))

    Public Shared Sub SetIsMovable(ByRef element As UIElement, value As Boolean)
        element.SetValue(IsMovableProperty, value)
    End Sub

    Public Shared Function GetIsMovable(ByRef element As UIElement) As Boolean
        GetIsMovable = CBool(element.GetValue(IsMovableProperty))
    End Function
End Class

Defining the attached property in C++ is a bit more complex. You have to decide how to factor between the header and code file. Also, you should expose the identifier as a property with only a get accessor, for reasons discussed in Custom dependency properties. In C++ you must define this property-field relationship explicitly rather than relying on .NET readonly keywording and implicit backing of simple properties. You also need to perform the registration of the attached property within a helper function that only gets run once, when the app first starts but before any XAML pages that need the attached property are loaded. The typical place to call your property registration helper functions for any and all dependency or attached properties is from within the App / Application constructor in the code for your app.xaml file.

// GameService.h
// Declaration of the GameService class.

#pragma once

#include "pch.h"
//namespace WUX = Windows::UI::Xaml;

namespace UserAndCustomControls {
    public ref class GameService sealed : public WUX::DependencyObject {
        static WUX::DependencyProperty^ _IsMovableProperty;
        void GameService::RegisterDependencyProperties();
        static property WUX::DependencyProperty^ IsMovableProperty
            WUX::DependencyProperty^ get() {
                return _IsMovableProperty;
        static bool GameService::GetIsMovable(WUX::UIElement^ element) {
            return (bool)element->GetValue(_IsMovableProperty);
        static void GameService::SetIsMovable(WUX::UIElement^ element, bool value) {
// GameService.cpp
// Implementation of the GameService class.

#include "pch.h"
#include "GameService.h"

using namespace UserAndCustomControls;

using namespace Platform;
using namespace Windows::Foundation;
using namespace Windows::Foundation::Collections;
using namespace Windows::UI::Xaml;
using namespace Windows::UI::Xaml::Controls;
using namespace Windows::UI::Xaml::Data;
using namespace Windows::UI::Xaml::Documents;
using namespace Windows::UI::Xaml::Input;
using namespace Windows::UI::Xaml::Interop;
using namespace Windows::UI::Xaml::Media;

GameService::GameService() {


GameService::RegisterDependencyProperties() {
    DependencyProperty^ GameService::_IsMovableProperty = DependencyProperty::RegisterAttached(
         "IsMovable", Platform::Boolean::typeid, GameService::typeid, ref new PropertyMetadata(false));

Using your custom attached property in XAML

After you have defined your attached property and included its support members as part of a custom type, you must then make the definitions available for XAML usage. To do this, you must map a XAML namespace that will reference the code namespace that contains the relevant class. In cases where you have defined the attached property as part of a library, you must include that library as part of the app package for the app.

An XML namespace mapping for XAML is typically placed in the root element of a XAML page. For example, for the class named GameService in the namespace UserAndCustomControls that contains the attached property definitions shown in preceding snippets, the mapping might look like this.


Using the mapping, you can set your GameService.IsMovable attached property on any element that matches your target definition, including an existing type that Windows Runtime defines.

<Image uc:GameService.IsMovable="true" .../>

If you are setting the property on an element that is also within the same mapped XML namespace, you still must include the prefix on the attached property name. This is because the prefix qualifies the owner type. The attached property's attribute cannot be assumed to be within the same XML namespace as the element where the attribute is included, even though, by normal XML rules, attributes can inherit namespace from elements. For example, if you are setting GameService.IsMovable on a custom type of ImageWithLabelControl (definition not shown), and even if both were defined in the same code namespace mapped to same prefix, the XAML would still be this.

<uc:ImageWithLabelControl uc:GameService.IsMovable="true" .../>

Note  If you are writing a XAML UI with C++, you must include the header for the custom type that defines the attached property, any time that a XAML page uses that type. Each XAML page has an associated .xaml.h code-behind header. This is where you should include (using #include) the header for the definition of the attached property's owner type.


Value type of a custom attached property

The type that is used as the value type of a custom attached property affects the usage, the definition, or both the usage and definition. The attached property's value type is declared in several places: in the signatures of both the Get and Set accessor methods, and also as the propertyType parameter of the RegisterAttached call.

The most common value type for attached properties (custom or otherwise) is a simple string. This is because attached properties are generally intended for XAML attribute usage, and using a string as the value type keeps the properties lightweight. Other primitives that have native conversion to string methods, such as integer, double, or an enumeration value, are also common as value types for attached properties. You can use other value types—ones that don't support native string conversion—as the attached property value. However, this entails making a choice about either the usage or the implementation:

  • You can leave the attached property as it is, but the attached property can support usage only where the attached property is a property element, and the value is declared as an object element. In this case, the property type does have to support XAML usage as an object element. For existing Windows Runtime reference classes, check the XAML syntax to make sure that the type supports XAML object element usage.
  • You can leave the attached property as it is, but use it only in an attribute usage through a XAML reference technique such as a Binding or StaticResource that can be expressed as a string.

More about the Canvas.Left example

In earlier examples of attached property usages we showed different ways to set the Canvas.Left attached property. But what does that change about how a Canvas interacts with your object, and when does that happen? We'll examine this particular example further, because if you implement an attached property, it's interesting to see what else a typical attached property owner class intends to do with its attached property values if it finds them on other objects.

The main function of a Canvas is to be an absolute-positioned layout container in UI. The children of a Canvas are stored in a base-class defined property Children. Of all the panels Canvas is the only one that uses absolute positioning. It would've bloated the object model of the common UIElement type to add properties that might only be of concern to Canvas and those particular UIElement cases where they are child elements of a UIElement. Defining the layout control properties of a Canvas to be attached properties that any UIElement can use keeps the object model cleaner.

In order to be a practical panel, Canvas has behavior that overrides the framework-level Measure and Arrange methods. This is where Canvas actually checks for attached property values on its children. Part of both the Measure and Arrange patterns is a loop that iterates over any content, and a panel has the Children property that makes it explicit what's supposed to be considered the child of a panel. So the Canvas layout behavior iterates through these children, and makes static Canvas.GetLeft and Canvas.GetTop calls on each child to see whether those attached properties contain a non-default value (default is 0). These values are then used to absolutely position each child in the Canvas available layout space according to the specific values provided by each child, and committed using Arrange.

The code looks something like this pseudocode:

    protected override Size ArrangeOverride(Size finalSize)
        foreach (UIElement child in Children)
            double x = (double) Canvas.GetLeft(child);
            double y = (double) Canvas.GetTop(child);
            child.Arrange(new Rect(new Point(x, y), child.DesiredSize));
        return base.ArrangeOverride(finalSize); 
        // real Canvas has more sophisticated sizing

Note  For more info on how panels work, see Custom panels overview.



Attached properties overview

Custom dependency properties

XAML overview