Sharing Menu Items between ToolStrips on a Windows Form

Written by Troy Howard

14 February 2008

So, you may have found yourself building a nice user-friendly, somewhat complicated Windows Forms application, that had lots of drop-down menus and right click context menus, and what not.. You may have naively assumed that you could share your menu items, so that you have a consistent set of options, icons, and more importantly event handlers for a particular menu item or set of menu items.

Well, I did… I had a Tools drop-down menu with some basic functions that I wanted to also be accessible from a right-click content menu on a TreeView. Redundant? Sure… Convenient? Definitely.

There's a little annoying detail that says that a ToolStripMenuItem can't be "owned" by more than one ToolStrip. In other words, it can only be in one place at a time. So, when you do something like this:


The menu item in question suddenly disappears from the tools menu, and appears in the content menu… Hmm…

So, in order to share the menu item, I came up with this hackish solution….I handled the Opening event for the two menu strips and in each one, "took ownership" of the menu item. So, through sleight-of-hand it seems to exist in one place at a time. We can only get away with this because, ToolStrips, being modal, only show one at a time.

So, here's a simple sample:

private void treeNodeContextMenuStrip_Opening(object sender, CancelEventArgs e) {
   treeNodeContextMenuStrip.Items.Insert(3, myToolStripMenuItem); 
private void toolsToolStripMenuItem_DropDownOpening(object sender, EventArgs e) {
   this.toolsToolStripMenuItem.DropDownItems.Insert(5, this.myToolStripMenuItem);