WPF: Access Keys Scoping


Within the WPF framework access keys are always scoped to the active window, regardless of what settings you may have set. This can cause problems when multiple elements exist within the window hierarchy. The WPF framework will likely choose the incorrect target element. What you need is to scope the access keys to the currently focused element, and unfortunately the WPF framework contains a internal bug that prevents this functionality.


To solve this problem requires the knowledge of the bug that prevents access keys scoping. A detailed description of the solution can be found within the code snippet below. I recommend keeping the remarks within the code file because looking at the code alone may leave developers confused. This is because we are working around an existing internal bug and using the bug itself to resolve it externally.

I recommend setting this attached property to true on every window element where you want access keys to be scoped. It may be possible to set it on a nested element within the window, but I have not tested the results in that case.

using System.Windows.Media;

namespace System.Windows.Input
    /// <summary>
    /// Contains attached dependency properties to correct the scoping of access keys
    /// within the WPF framework.
    /// </summary>
    public static class AccessKeysManagerScoping
        /// <summary>
        /// Attached dependency property to enable or disable scoping of access keys.
        /// </summary>
        public static readonly DependencyProperty IsEnabledProperty
            = DependencyProperty.RegisterAttached("IsEnabled", typeof(bool),
            typeof(AccessKeysManagerScoping), new PropertyMetadata(false, OnIsEnabledChanged));

        /// <summary>
        /// Gets the value of the <see cref="F:IsEnabledProperty"/> attached
        /// dependency property for a given dependency object.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="d">The dependency object.</param>
        /// <returns>Returns the attached dependency property value.</returns>
        public static bool GetIsEnabled(DependencyObject d)
            return (bool)d.GetValue(IsEnabledProperty);

        /// <summary>
        /// Sets the value of the <see cref="F:IsEnabledProperty"/> attached
        /// dependency property for a given dependency object.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="d">The dependency object.</param>
        /// <param name="value">The value.</param>
        public static void SetIsEnabled(DependencyObject d, bool value)
            d.SetValue(IsEnabledProperty, value);

        private static void OnIsEnabledChanged(DependencyObject d, DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e)
            if (d == null)

            if ((bool)e.NewValue)
                AccessKeyManager.AddAccessKeyPressedHandler(d, new AccessKeyPressedEventHandler(HandleAccessKeyPressed));
                AccessKeyManager.RemoveAccessKeyPressedHandler(d, new AccessKeyPressedEventHandler(HandleAccessKeyPressed));

        /// <summary>
        /// Fixes access key scoping bug within the WPF framework.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="sender">Potential target of the current access keys.</param>
        /// <param name="e">
        /// Info object for the current access keys and proxy to effect it's confirmation.
        /// </param>
        /// <remarks>
        /// The problem is that all access key presses are scoped to the active window,
        /// regardless of what properties, handlers, scope etc. you may have set. Targets
        /// are objects that have potential to be the target of the access keys in effect.
        /// If you happen to have a current object focused and you press the access keys
        /// of one of it's child's targets it will execute the child target. But, if you
        /// also have a ancestor target, the ancestor target will be executed instead.
        /// That goes against intuition and standard Windows behavior.

        /// The root of this logic (bug) is within the HwndSource.OnMnemonicCore method.
        /// If the scope is set to anything but the active window's HwndSource, the
        /// target will not be executed and the handler for the next target in the chain
        /// will be called.

        /// This handler gets called for every target within the scope, which because
        /// of the bug is always at the window level of the active window. If you set
        /// e.Handled to true, no further handlers in the chain will be executed. However
        /// because setting the scope to anything other than active window's HwndSource
        /// causes the target not to be acted on, we can use it to not act on the target
        /// while not canceling the chain either, thereby allowing us to skip to the next
        /// target's handler. Note that if a handler does act on the target it will
        /// inheritably break the chain because the menu will lose focus and the next
        /// handlers won't apply anymore; because a target has already been confirmed.

        /// We will use this knowledge to resolve the issue.
        /// We will set the scope to something other than the active window's HwndSource,
        /// if we find that the incorrect element is being targeted for the access keys
        /// (because the target is out of scope). This will cause the target to be
        /// skipped and the next target's handler will be called.

        /// If we detect the target is correct, we'll just leave everything alone so the
        /// target will be confirmed.
        /// NOTE: Do not call AccessKeyManager.IsKeyRegistered as it will cause a
        /// <see cref="T:System.StackOverflowException"/> to be thrown. The key is
        /// registered otherwise this handler wouldn't be called for it, therefore
        /// there is no need to call it.
        /// </remarks>
        private static void HandleAccessKeyPressed(object sender, AccessKeyPressedEventArgs e)
            FrameworkElement focusedElement = Keyboard.FocusedElement as FrameworkElement;
            if (focusedElement == null)
                return; // No focused element.

            if (sender == focusedElement)
                return; // This is the correct target.

            // Look through descendants tree to see if this target is a descendant of
            // the focused element. We will stop looking at either the end of the tree
            // or if a object with multiple children is encountered that this target
            // isn't a descendant of.

            // If no valid target is found, we'll set the scope to the sender which
            // results in skipping to the next target handler in the chain
            // (due to the bug).

            DependencyObject obj = focusedElement as DependencyObject;
            while (obj != null)
                int childCount = VisualTreeHelper.GetChildrenCount(obj);
                for (int i = 0; i < childCount; i++)
                    if (VisualTreeHelper.GetChild(obj, i) == sender)
                        return; // Found correct target; let it execute.

                if (childCount > 1)
                    // This target isn't a direct descendant and there are multiple
                    // direct descendants; skip this target.
                    e.Scope = sender;
                else if (childCount == 1)
                    // This target isn't a direct descendant, but we'll keep looking
                    // down the descendants chain to see if it's a descendant of the
                    // direct descendant.
                    obj = VisualTreeHelper.GetChild(obj, 0) as DependencyObject;
                    // End of the line; skip this target.
                    e.Scope = sender;

, , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by Haacked on September 24, 2012 - 8:05 pm

    This is a great fix! Do you have a specific license that you’re licensing this code under?

    • #2 by Tim Valentine on September 24, 2012 - 8:18 pm

      Been meaning to attach a specific license for code displayed on this website.. but I haven’t got my things together yet.. use it anywhere you want, just put a link back here if you display it publicly. thanks, glad it helped you out

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: