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WPF and multithread: debugging with Console

You can download the sample here: http://www.mesta-automation.com/Downloads/multithread.rar

With WPF it’s almost a must to use multiple threads to keep the User Interface responsive, and debugging them can be a problem when they are complex.

Usually i debug the background threads with the Console, while keeping the Main Window visible, like in the figure:

To activate the Console with WPF application you can use 2 ways (as said here):

  1. Right click on the project, “Properties”, “Application” tab, change “Output Type” to “Console Application”, and then it will also have a console.
  2. Using this class (i prefere this one):
[SuppressUnmanagedCodeSecurity]
public static class ConsoleManager
{
    private const string Kernel32_DllName = "kernel32.dll";

    [DllImport(Kernel32_DllName)]
    private static extern bool AllocConsole();

    [DllImport(Kernel32_DllName)]
    private static extern bool FreeConsole();

    [DllImport(Kernel32_DllName)]
    private static extern IntPtr GetConsoleWindow();

    [DllImport(Kernel32_DllName)]
    private static extern int GetConsoleOutputCP();

    public static bool HasConsole
    {
        get { return GetConsoleWindow() != IntPtr.Zero; }
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Creates a new console instance if the process is not attached to a console already.
    /// </summary>
    public static void Show()
    {
        //#if DEBUG
        if (!HasConsole)
        {
            AllocConsole();
            InvalidateOutAndError();
        }
        //#endif
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// If the process has a console attached to it, it will be detached and no longer visible. Writing to the System.Console is still possible, but no output will be shown.
    /// </summary>
    public static void Hide()
    {
        //#if DEBUG
        if (HasConsole)
        {
            SetOutAndErrorNull();
            FreeConsole();
        }
        //#endif
    }

    public static void Toggle()
    {
        if (HasConsole)
        {
            Hide();
        }
        else
        {
            Show();
        }
    }

    static void InvalidateOutAndError()
    {
        Type type = typeof(System.Console);

        System.Reflection.FieldInfo _out = type.GetField("_out",
            System.Reflection.BindingFlags.Static | System.Reflection.BindingFlags.NonPublic);

        System.Reflection.FieldInfo _error = type.GetField("_error",
            System.Reflection.BindingFlags.Static | System.Reflection.BindingFlags.NonPublic);

        System.Reflection.MethodInfo _InitializeStdOutError = type.GetMethod("InitializeStdOutError",
            System.Reflection.BindingFlags.Static | System.Reflection.BindingFlags.NonPublic);

        Debug.Assert(_out != null);
        Debug.Assert(_error != null);

        Debug.Assert(_InitializeStdOutError != null);

        _out.SetValue(null, null);
        _error.SetValue(null, null);

        _InitializeStdOutError.Invoke(null, new object[] { true });
    }

    static void SetOutAndErrorNull()
    {
        Console.SetOut(TextWriter.Null);
        Console.SetError(TextWriter.Null);
    }
}

The sample application shows how to:

  • Create and start a thread
  • Show the console and log the actions of the thread
  • Check if the thread is alive or is ended
  • Shutdown a thread gracefully from outside
  • Joining a thread
  • Throw an exception to a thread and handle it

You can download it here: http://www.mesta-automation.com/Downloads/multithread.rar

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