Why doesn't the "Automatically move pointer to the default button in a dialog box" work for nonstandard dialog boxes, and how do I add it to my own nonstandard dialog boxes?

Raymond Chen


The Mouse control panel has a setting called
Automatically move pointer to the default button in a dialog box,
known informally as Snap to default button
or simply Snap To.
You may have discovered that it doesn’t work for all dialog boxes.
Why not?

The Snap To feature
is implemented by the dialog manager.
When the window is shown and the setting is enabled,
it will center the pointer on the default button.
If your application does not use the dialog manager
but instead creates its own custom dialog-like windows,
then naturally the code in the standard dialog manager will not run.

If you want your nonstandard dialog box to support the
Snap To feature,
you get to implement it yourself.

Here’s a Little Program that creates a window with a default pushbutton
inside it,
and which centers the mouse on the button when the window is shown.
Start with our

scratch program

and make these changes:

POINT GetRectCenter(LPCRECT prc)
  POINT pt = {
    prc->left + (prc->right - prc->left) / 2,
    prc->top + (prc->bottom - prc->top) / 2
  return pt;

Get­Rect­Center helper function
calculates center of a rectangle.

               TEXT("Button 1"),
               0, 0, 200, 50,
  return TRUE;

When our main window is created,
we put a default button inside it.

void OnShowWindow(HWND hwnd, BOOL fShow, UINT status)
  if (fShow && status == 0)
    PostMessage(hwnd, WM_CHECKSNAPDEFBUTTON, 0, 0);
void OnCheckSnapDefButton(HWND hwnd)
  BOOL fSnapToDefButton;
  if (SystemParametersInfo(SPI_GETSNAPTODEFBUTTON, 0,
                           &fSnapToDefButton, 0) &&
                           fSnapToDefButton &&
                           hwnd == GetForegroundWindow())
    RECT rcButton;
    GetWindowRect(GetDlgItem(hwnd, 1), &rcButton);
    POINT ptCenter = GetRectCenter(&rcButton);
    SetCursorPos(ptCenter.x, ptCenter.y);

When the window is shown, we post a message to check the
Snap To setting after things have settled down.
Once things settle down,
we check the Snap To setting,
and if it’s enabled,
and if our window is still the foreground window,
then we center the cursor on our button.

It’s important to check that our window is still the foreground
because it would be rude to move the cursor to our button
even if we opened in the background.

That’s why we need to post a message to perform the check later.
WM_SHOW­WINDOW message is sent
early in the Show­Window calculations,
before the activation actually changes.
If we performed the check then, the answer would always be,
“No, you’re not the foreground window,”
and we would always back off.

Naturally, we need to hook up our new messages.

  HANDLE_MSG(hwnd, WM_SHOWWINDOW, OnShowWindow);
  case WM_CHECKSNAPDEFBUTTON: OnCheckSnapDefButton(hwnd); break;

And there you have it,
a program that honors the
Automatically move pointer to the default button in a dialog box
setting in its custom nonstandard dialog.

What assumptions are made about the rectangle
by the Get­Rect­Center function?
How do they differ from the assumptions made by this
alternate version:

POINT GetRectCenter(LPCRECT prc)
  POINT pt = {
    (prc->left + prc->right) / 2,
    (prc->top + prc->bottom) / 2
  return pt;
Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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