Dependency property callbacks and validation (WPF .NET)

This article describes how to define a dependency property and implement dependency property callbacks. The callbacks support value validation, value coercion, and other logic that's needed when a property value changes.

Important

The Desktop Guide documentation for .NET 6 and .NET 5 (including .NET Core 3.1) is under construction.

Prerequisites

The article assumes a basic knowledge of dependency properties, and that you've read Dependency properties overview. To follow the examples in this article, it helps if you're familiar with Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) and know how to write WPF applications.

Validate-value callbacks

Validate-value callbacks provide a way for you to check whether a new dependency property value is valid before it's applied by the property system. This callback raises an exception if the value doesn't meet the validation criteria.

Validate-value callbacks can only be assigned to a dependency property once, during property registration. When registering a dependency property, you have the option to pass a ValidateValueCallback reference to the Register(String, Type, Type, PropertyMetadata, ValidateValueCallback) method. Validate-value callbacks aren't part of property metadata, and can't be overridden.

The effective value of a dependency property is its applied value. The effective value is determined through property value precedence when multiple property-based inputs exist. If a validate-value callback is registered for a dependency property, the property system will invoke its validate-value callback on value change, passing in the new value as an object. Within the callback, you can cast the value object back to the type registered with the property system, and then run your validation logic on it. The callback returns true if the value is valid for the property, otherwise false.

If a validate-value callback returns false, an exception is raised and the new value is not applied. Application writers must be prepared to handle these exceptions. A common use of validate-value callbacks is validating enumeration values, or constraining numeric values when they represent measurements that have limits. Validate-value callbacks are invoked by the property system in different scenarios, including:

  • Object initialization, which applies a default value at creation time.
  • Programmatic calls to SetValue.
  • Metadata overrides that specify a new default value.

Validate-value callbacks don't have a parameter that specifies the DependencyObject instance on which the new value is set. All instances of a DependencyObject share the same validate-value callback, so it can't be used to validate instance-specific scenarios. For more information, see ValidateValueCallback.

The following example shows how to prevent a property, typed as Double, being set to PositiveInfinity or NegativeInfinity.

public class Gauge1 : Control
{
    public Gauge1() : base() { }

    // Register a dependency property with the specified property name,
    // property type, owner type, property metadata, and callbacks.
    public static readonly DependencyProperty CurrentReadingProperty =
        DependencyProperty.Register(
            name: "CurrentReading",
            propertyType: typeof(double),
            ownerType: typeof(Gauge1),
            typeMetadata: new FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
                defaultValue: double.NaN,
                flags: FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure),
            validateValueCallback: new ValidateValueCallback(IsValidReading));

    // CLR wrapper with get/set accessors.
    public double CurrentReading
    {
        get => (double)GetValue(CurrentReadingProperty);
        set => SetValue(CurrentReadingProperty, value);
    }

    // Validate-value callback.
    public static bool IsValidReading(object value)
    {
        double val = (double)value;
        return !val.Equals(double.NegativeInfinity) && 
            !val.Equals(double.PositiveInfinity);
    }
}
Public Class Gauge1
    Inherits Control

    Public Sub New()
        MyBase.New()
    End Sub

    Public Shared ReadOnly CurrentReadingProperty As DependencyProperty =
        DependencyProperty.Register(
            name:="CurrentReading",
            propertyType:=GetType(Double),
            ownerType:=GetType(Gauge1),
            typeMetadata:=New FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
                defaultValue:=Double.NaN,
                flags:=FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure),
            validateValueCallback:=New ValidateValueCallback(AddressOf IsValidReading))

    Public Property CurrentReading As Double
        Get
            Return GetValue(CurrentReadingProperty)
        End Get
        Set(value As Double)
            SetValue(CurrentReadingProperty, value)
        End Set
    End Property

    Public Shared Function IsValidReading(value As Object) As Boolean
        Dim val As Double = value
        Return Not val.Equals(Double.NegativeInfinity) AndAlso
            Not val.Equals(Double.PositiveInfinity)
    End Function

End Class
public static void TestValidationBehavior()
{
    Gauge1 gauge = new();

    Debug.WriteLine($"Test value validation scenario:");

    // Set allowed value.
    gauge.CurrentReading = 5;
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: {gauge.CurrentReading}");

    try
    {
        // Set disallowed value.
        gauge.CurrentReading = double.PositiveInfinity;
    }
    catch (ArgumentException e)
    {
        Debug.WriteLine($"Exception thrown by ValidateValueCallback: {e.Message}");
    }

    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: {gauge.CurrentReading}");

    // Current reading: 5
    // Exception thrown by ValidateValueCallback: '∞' is not a valid value for property 'CurrentReading'.
    // Current reading: 5
}
Public Shared Sub TestValidationBehavior()
    Dim gauge As New Gauge1()

    Debug.WriteLine($"Test value validation scenario:")

    ' Set allowed value.
    gauge.CurrentReading = 5
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: {gauge.CurrentReading}")

    Try
        ' Set disallowed value.
        gauge.CurrentReading = Double.PositiveInfinity
    Catch e As ArgumentException
        Debug.WriteLine($"Exception thrown by ValidateValueCallback: {e.Message}")
    End Try

    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: {gauge.CurrentReading}")

    ' Current reading: 5
    ' Exception thrown by ValidateValueCallback: '∞' is not a valid value for property 'CurrentReading'.
    ' Current reading 5
End Sub

Property-changed callbacks

Property-changed callbacks notify you when the effective value of a dependency property has changed.

Property-changed callbacks are part of dependency property metadata. If you derive from a class that defines a dependency property, or add your class as an owner of a dependency property, you can override the metadata. When overriding metadata, you have the option to provide a new PropertyChangedCallback reference. Use a property-changed callback to run logic that's needed when a property value changes.

Unlike validate-value callbacks, property-changed callbacks have a parameter that specifies the DependencyObject instance on which the new value is set. The next example shows how a property-changed callback can use the DependencyObject instance reference to trigger coerce-value callbacks.

Coerce-value callbacks

Coerce-value callbacks provide a way for you to get notified when the effective value of a dependency property is about to change, so that you can adjust the new value before it's applied. In addition to being triggered by the property system, you can invoke coerce-value callbacks from your code.

Coerce-value callbacks are part of dependency property metadata. If you derive from a class that defines a dependency property, or add your class as an owner of a dependency property, you can override the metadata. When overriding the metadata, you have the option to provide a reference to a new CoerceValueCallback. Use a coerce-value callback to evaluate new values and coerce them when necessary. The callback returns the coerced value if coercion occurred, otherwise it returns the unaltered new value.

Similar to property-changed callbacks, coerce-value callbacks have a parameter that specifies the DependencyObject instance on which the new value is set. The next example shows how a coerce-value callback can use a DependencyObject instance reference to coerce property values.

Note

Default property values can't be coerced. A dependency property has its default value set on object initialization, or when you clear other values using ClearValue.

Coerce-value and property-changed callbacks in combination

You can create dependencies between properties on an element, by using coerce-value callbacks and property-changed callbacks in combination. For example, changes in one property force coercion or re-evaluation in another dependency property. The next example shows a common scenario: three dependency properties that respectively store the current value, minimum value, and maximum value of a UI element. If the maximum value changes so that it's less than the current value, the current value is then set to the new maximum value. And, if the minimum value changes so that it's greater than the current value, the current value is then set to the new minimum value. In the example, the PropertyChangedCallback for the current value explicitly invokes the CoerceValueCallback for the minimum and maximum values.

public class Gauge2 : Control
{
    public Gauge2() : base() { }

    // Register a dependency property with the specified property name,
    // property type, owner type, property metadata, and callbacks.
    public static readonly DependencyProperty CurrentReadingProperty =
        DependencyProperty.Register(
            name: "CurrentReading",
            propertyType: typeof(double),
            ownerType: typeof(Gauge2),
            typeMetadata: new FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
                defaultValue: double.NaN,
                flags: FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure,
                propertyChangedCallback: new PropertyChangedCallback(OnCurrentReadingChanged),
                coerceValueCallback: new CoerceValueCallback(CoerceCurrentReading)
            ),
            validateValueCallback: new ValidateValueCallback(IsValidReading)
        );

    // CLR wrapper with get/set accessors.
    public double CurrentReading
    {
        get => (double)GetValue(CurrentReadingProperty);
        set => SetValue(CurrentReadingProperty, value);
    }

    // Validate-value callback.
    public static bool IsValidReading(object value)
    {
        double val = (double)value;
        return !val.Equals(double.NegativeInfinity) && !val.Equals(double.PositiveInfinity);
    }

    // Property-changed callback.
    private static void OnCurrentReadingChanged(DependencyObject depObj, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e)
    {
        depObj.CoerceValue(MinReadingProperty);
        depObj.CoerceValue(MaxReadingProperty);
    }

    // Coerce-value callback.
    private static object CoerceCurrentReading(DependencyObject depObj, object value)
    {
        Gauge2 gauge = (Gauge2)depObj;
        double currentVal = (double)value;
        currentVal = currentVal < gauge.MinReading ? gauge.MinReading : currentVal;
        currentVal = currentVal > gauge.MaxReading ? gauge.MaxReading : currentVal;
        return currentVal;
    }

    // Register a dependency property with the specified property name,
    // property type, owner type, property metadata, and callbacks.
    public static readonly DependencyProperty MaxReadingProperty = DependencyProperty.Register(
        name: "MaxReading",
        propertyType: typeof(double),
        ownerType: typeof(Gauge2),
        typeMetadata: new FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
            defaultValue: double.NaN,
            flags: FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure,
            propertyChangedCallback: new PropertyChangedCallback(OnMaxReadingChanged),
            coerceValueCallback: new CoerceValueCallback(CoerceMaxReading)
        ),
        validateValueCallback: new ValidateValueCallback(IsValidReading)
    );

    // CLR wrapper with get/set accessors.
    public double MaxReading
    {
        get => (double)GetValue(MaxReadingProperty);
        set => SetValue(MaxReadingProperty, value);
    }

    // Property-changed callback.
    private static void OnMaxReadingChanged(DependencyObject depObj, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e)
    {
        depObj.CoerceValue(MinReadingProperty);
        depObj.CoerceValue(CurrentReadingProperty);
    }

    // Coerce-value callback.
    private static object CoerceMaxReading(DependencyObject depObj, object value)
    {
        Gauge2 gauge = (Gauge2)depObj;
        double maxVal = (double)value;
        return maxVal < gauge.MinReading ? gauge.MinReading : maxVal;
    }

    // Register a dependency property with the specified property name,
    // property type, owner type, property metadata, and callbacks.
    public static readonly DependencyProperty MinReadingProperty = DependencyProperty.Register(
    name: "MinReading",
    propertyType: typeof(double),
    ownerType: typeof(Gauge2),
    typeMetadata: new FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
        defaultValue: double.NaN,
        flags: FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure,
        propertyChangedCallback: new PropertyChangedCallback(OnMinReadingChanged),
        coerceValueCallback: new CoerceValueCallback(CoerceMinReading)
    ),
    validateValueCallback: new ValidateValueCallback(IsValidReading));

    // CLR wrapper with get/set accessors.
    public double MinReading
    {
        get => (double)GetValue(MinReadingProperty);
        set => SetValue(MinReadingProperty, value);
    }

    // Property-changed callback.
    private static void OnMinReadingChanged(DependencyObject depObj, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e)
    {
        depObj.CoerceValue(MaxReadingProperty);
        depObj.CoerceValue(CurrentReadingProperty);
    }

    // Coerce-value callback.
    private static object CoerceMinReading(DependencyObject depObj, object value)
    {
        Gauge2 gauge = (Gauge2)depObj;
        double minVal = (double)value;
        return minVal > gauge.MaxReading ? gauge.MaxReading : minVal;
    }
}
Public Class Gauge2
    Inherits Control

    Public Sub New()
        MyBase.New()
    End Sub

    ' Register a dependency property with the specified property name,
    ' property type, owner type, property metadata, And callbacks.
    Public Shared ReadOnly CurrentReadingProperty As DependencyProperty =
        DependencyProperty.Register(
            name:="CurrentReading",
            propertyType:=GetType(Double),
            ownerType:=GetType(Gauge2),
            typeMetadata:=New FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
                defaultValue:=Double.NaN,
                flags:=FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure,
                propertyChangedCallback:=New PropertyChangedCallback(AddressOf OnCurrentReadingChanged),
                coerceValueCallback:=New CoerceValueCallback(AddressOf CoerceCurrentReading)),
            validateValueCallback:=New ValidateValueCallback(AddressOf IsValidReading))

    ' CLR wrapper with get/set accessors.
    Public Property CurrentReading As Double
        Get
            Return GetValue(CurrentReadingProperty)
        End Get
        Set(value As Double)
            SetValue(CurrentReadingProperty, value)
        End Set
    End Property

    ' Validate-value callback.
    Public Shared Function IsValidReading(value As Object) As Boolean
        Dim val As Double = value
        Return Not val.Equals(Double.NegativeInfinity) AndAlso Not val.Equals(Double.PositiveInfinity)
    End Function

    ' Property-changed callback.
    Private Shared Sub OnCurrentReadingChanged(depObj As DependencyObject, e As DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs)
        depObj.CoerceValue(MinReadingProperty)
        depObj.CoerceValue(MaxReadingProperty)
    End Sub

    ' Coerce-value callback.
    Private Shared Function CoerceCurrentReading(depObj As DependencyObject, value As Object) As Object
        Dim gauge As Gauge2 = CType(depObj, Gauge2)
        Dim currentVal As Double = value
        currentVal = If(currentVal < gauge.MinReading, gauge.MinReading, currentVal)
        currentVal = If(currentVal > gauge.MaxReading, gauge.MaxReading, currentVal)
        Return currentVal
    End Function

    Public Shared ReadOnly MaxReadingProperty As DependencyProperty =
        DependencyProperty.Register(
        name:="MaxReading",
        propertyType:=GetType(Double),
        ownerType:=GetType(Gauge2),
        typeMetadata:=New FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
            defaultValue:=Double.NaN,
            flags:=FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure,
            propertyChangedCallback:=New PropertyChangedCallback(AddressOf OnMaxReadingChanged),
            coerceValueCallback:=New CoerceValueCallback(AddressOf CoerceMaxReading)),
        validateValueCallback:=New ValidateValueCallback(AddressOf IsValidReading))

    ' CLR wrapper with get/set accessors.
    Public Property MaxReading As Double
        Get
            Return GetValue(MaxReadingProperty)
        End Get
        Set(value As Double)
            SetValue(MaxReadingProperty, value)
        End Set
    End Property

    ' Property-changed callback.
    Private Shared Sub OnMaxReadingChanged(depObj As DependencyObject, e As DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs)
        depObj.CoerceValue(MinReadingProperty)
        depObj.CoerceValue(CurrentReadingProperty)
    End Sub

    ' Coerce-value callback.
    Private Shared Function CoerceMaxReading(depObj As DependencyObject, value As Object) As Object
        Dim gauge As Gauge2 = CType(depObj, Gauge2)
        Dim maxVal As Double = value
        Return If(maxVal < gauge.MinReading, gauge.MinReading, maxVal)
    End Function

    ' Register a dependency property with the specified property name,
    ' property type, owner type, property metadata, And callbacks.
    Public Shared ReadOnly MinReadingProperty As DependencyProperty =
        DependencyProperty.Register(
        name:="MinReading",
        propertyType:=GetType(Double),
        ownerType:=GetType(Gauge2),
        typeMetadata:=New FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
            defaultValue:=Double.NaN,
            flags:=FrameworkPropertyMetadataOptions.AffectsMeasure,
            propertyChangedCallback:=New PropertyChangedCallback(AddressOf OnMinReadingChanged),
            coerceValueCallback:=New CoerceValueCallback(AddressOf CoerceMinReading)),
        validateValueCallback:=New ValidateValueCallback(AddressOf IsValidReading))

    ' CLR wrapper with get/set accessors.
    Public Property MinReading As Double
        Get
            Return GetValue(MinReadingProperty)
        End Get
        Set(value As Double)
            SetValue(MinReadingProperty, value)
        End Set
    End Property

    ' Property-changed callback.
    Private Shared Sub OnMinReadingChanged(depObj As DependencyObject, e As DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs)
        depObj.CoerceValue(MaxReadingProperty)
        depObj.CoerceValue(CurrentReadingProperty)
    End Sub

    ' Coerce-value callback.
    Private Shared Function CoerceMinReading(depObj As DependencyObject, value As Object) As Object
        Dim gauge As Gauge2 = CType(depObj, Gauge2)
        Dim minVal As Double = value
        Return If(minVal > gauge.MaxReading, gauge.MaxReading, minVal)
    End Function

End Class

Advanced callback scenarios

Constraints and desired values

If a locally set value of a dependency property is changed through coercion, the unchanged locally set value is retained as the desired value. If the coercion is based on other property values, the property system will dynamically reevaluate the coercion whenever those other values change. Within the constraints of the coercion, the property system will apply a value that's closest to the desired value. Should the coercion condition no longer apply, the property system will restore the desired value—assuming no higher precedence value is active. The following example tests coercion in the current value, minimum value, and maximum value scenario.

public static void TestCoercionBehavior()
{
    Gauge2 gauge = new()
    {
        // Set initial values.
        MinReading = 0,
        MaxReading = 10,
        CurrentReading = 5
    };

    Debug.WriteLine($"Test current/min/max values scenario:");

    // Current reading is not coerced.
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " +
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min: {gauge.MinReading}, max: {gauge.MaxReading})");

    // Current reading is coerced to max value.
    gauge.MaxReading = 3;
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " +
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min: {gauge.MinReading}, max: {gauge.MaxReading})");

    // Current reading is coerced, but tracking back to the desired value.
    gauge.MaxReading = 4;
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " +
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min: {gauge.MinReading}, max: {gauge.MaxReading})");

    // Current reading reverts to the desired value.
    gauge.MaxReading = 10;
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " +
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min: {gauge.MinReading}, max: {gauge.MaxReading})");

    // Current reading remains at the desired value.
    gauge.MinReading = 5;
    gauge.MaxReading = 5;
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " +
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min: {gauge.MinReading}, max: {gauge.MaxReading})");

    // Current reading: 5 (min=0, max=10)
    // Current reading: 3 (min=0, max=3)
    // Current reading: 4 (min=0, max=4)
    // Current reading: 5 (min=0, max=10)
    // Current reading: 5 (min=5, max=5)
}
Public Shared Sub TestCoercionBehavior()

    ' Set initial values.
    Dim gauge As New Gauge2 With {
        .MinReading = 0,
        .MaxReading = 10,
        .CurrentReading = 5
    }

    Debug.WriteLine($"Test current/min/max values scenario:")

    ' Current reading is not coerced.
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " &
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min={gauge.MinReading}, max={gauge.MaxReading})")

    ' Current reading is coerced to max value.
    gauge.MaxReading = 3
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " &
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min={gauge.MinReading}, max={gauge.MaxReading})")

    ' Current reading is coerced, but tracking back to the desired value.
    gauge.MaxReading = 4
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " &
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min={gauge.MinReading}, max={gauge.MaxReading})")

    ' Current reading reverts to the desired value.
    gauge.MaxReading = 10
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " &
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min={gauge.MinReading}, max={gauge.MaxReading})")

    ' Current reading remains at the desired value.
    gauge.MinReading = 5
    gauge.MaxReading = 5
    Debug.WriteLine($"Current reading: " &
        $"{gauge.CurrentReading} (min={gauge.MinReading}, max={gauge.MaxReading})")

    ' Current reading: 5 (min=0, max=10)
    ' Current reading: 3 (min=0, max=3)
    ' Current reading: 4 (min=0, max=4)
    ' Current reading: 5 (min=0, max=10)
    ' Current reading: 5 (min=5, max=5)
End Sub

Fairly complex dependency scenarios can occur when you have multiple properties that are dependent on one another in a circular manner. Technically, there's nothing wrong with complex dependencies—except that a large number of re-evaluations can reduce performance. Also, complex dependencies that are exposed in the UI might confuse users. Treat PropertyChangedCallback and CoerceValueCallback as unambiguously as possible, and don't over-constrain.

Cancel value changes

By returning UnsetValue from a CoerceValueCallback, you can reject a property value change. This mechanism is useful when a property value change is initiated asynchronously, but when it's applied is no longer valid for the current object state. Another scenario might be to selectively suppress a value change based on where it originated. In the following example, the CoerceValueCallback calls the GetValueSource method, which returns a ValueSource structure with a BaseValueSource enumeration that identifies the source of the new value.

// Coerce-value callback.
private static object CoerceCurrentReading(DependencyObject depObj, object value)
{
    // Get value source.
    ValueSource valueSource = 
        DependencyPropertyHelper.GetValueSource(depObj, CurrentReadingProperty);

    // Reject any property value change that's a locally set value.
    return valueSource.BaseValueSource == BaseValueSource.Local ? 
        DependencyProperty.UnsetValue : value;
}
' Coerce-value callback.
Private Shared Function CoerceCurrentReading(depObj As DependencyObject, value As Object) As Object
    ' Get value source.
    Dim valueSource As ValueSource =
        DependencyPropertyHelper.GetValueSource(depObj, CurrentReadingProperty)

    ' Reject any property value that's a locally set value.
    Return If(valueSource.BaseValueSource = BaseValueSource.Local, DependencyProperty.UnsetValue, value)
End Function

See also