Bringing a Windows Application to the Foreground using .net



It’s surprising that there’s very little information available about bringing another windows application to the foreground.

The SetForegroundWindow api call can be useful in this regard, but it can’t be used unless you know the windows handle of the main window of the application you’re activating.  If the application you’re activating has many child windows, simply using the “MainWindowHandle” property on the Process object is not enough.

The code fragment and sample will show how to find a process, enumerate it’s child windows, then send these the foreground.




using System.Diagnostics; 
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;


[DllImport("user32.dll")] public static extern bool SetForegroundWindow(IntPtr hWnd); 

public static extern IntPtr FindWindowEx(IntPtr hwndParent, IntPtr hwndChildAfter,

string windowClass, string windowTitle);

private void BringAppToForeground(string appName) 

           // Find Parent 
           IntPtr parenthWnd = GetProcessWindowHandle(appName); 
           if (parenthWnd == IntPtr.Zero) return; 
           // Get list of child windows 
           List<IntPtr> loChildWindows = GetChildWindowHandles(parenthWnd);

           // Bring Windows to Front 


private static IntPtr GetProcessWindowHandle(string processName) 
           IntPtr parenthWnd = IntPtr.Zero; 
           foreach (Process loProcess in Process.GetProcessesByName(processName)) 
               parenthWnd = loProcess.MainWindowHandle; 
               if (parenthWnd != IntPtr.Zero) break; 
           return parenthWnd; 

private static void BringWindowsToFront(IEnumerable<IntPtr> windows) 
           // Go through each and bring to front 
           foreach (IntPtr fronthWnd in windows) 

private static List<IntPtr> GetChildWindowHandles(IntPtr parenthWnd) 
           IntPtr hWnd = IntPtr.Zero; 
           List<IntPtr> loChildWindows = new List<IntPtr>(); 
               hWnd = FindWindowEx(parenthWnd, hWnd, null, null); 
               if (hWnd == IntPtr.Zero) break; 
           while (hWnd != IntPtr.Zero); 
           return loChildWindows; 

To understand how to use this in a winforms project, take a look at the sample project.

Download Sample Project

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