Update UI from background worker thread without explicit marshalling

It is possible to update the UI thread from a background worker thread without the need to explicitly marshal the call across to the UI thread. An example follows.

A separate blog entry details how to update a UI using explicit marshalling.

The background worker member is used to perform potentially long lasting non-UI activities:

    private BackgroundWorker m_bw = new BackgroundWorker();

When starting the background worker (e.g. in the instance constructor after InitializeComponents for a WPF application) set the flag to indicate that the worker reports progress and add a ProgressChangedEventHandler:

    m_bw.DoWork += bw_DoWork;
    m_bw.WorkerReportsProgress = true;
    m_bw.ProgressChanged += bw_ProgressChanged;

In the background worker activity when you want to update the UI call the ProgressChanged method on the background worker using the overload to pass a state object:

    int progress = 50;
    var state = new KeyValuePair<string, string>("Status", "Still working");
    m_bw.ReportProgress(progress, state);

The event that this call raises is raised on the thread that created the background worker – so in this case the UI thread – which means that implicit marshalling has occurred. In the ReportProgressEventHandler you can then directly update the UI controls:

    void bw_ProgressChanged(object sender, ProgressChangedEventArgs e)

        var state = (KeyValuePair<string, string>) e.UserState;
        m_xamlProgress.Text = e.ProgressPercentage + "%";
        m_xamlStatus.Text = "Status: " + state.Value;


This approach separates the creation of the update data from the activity of updating the controls – providing an implicit interface between the worker thread and the UI thread.

In more complex scenarios where threads that have not been created by the UI thread need to update controls the mechanism of Control.InvokeRequired followed by use of Invoke / Dispatcher can be used.


One Response to Update UI from background worker thread without explicit marshalling

  1. Pingback: Use explicit marshalling to update a WPF UI from a non-UI thread « Visions of Software

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