Watermark TextBox in Windows Store apps

A common request for WSAs is to add a “watermark” to TextBox entries so users get a hint as to what is expected in the TextBox. You can see this in many Search Charm implementations as it allows a search hint to be provided via the SearchPane.PlaceHolderText property.  However, the built-in TextBox in XAML doesn’t have this feature (HTML does!).

There are a few custom controls out there which allow for this, however, I’m a big fan of behaviors over custom controls – so when I needed this, I created a custom behavior to apply to any existing XAML TextBox to provide a watermark:

The behavior sets the text to the watermark and then watches for focus changes to add/remove the text when there is no existing text entered.  It has two forms of activation – either you can add it to the normal Interaction.Behaviors collection:

<TextBox ...>
      <i:WatermarkTextBehavior WatermarkColor="Red" WatermarkText="Search Keyword..." />

Here, the main advantage is you can set the watermark text color. The default is a gray color. Alternatively, you can use an attached property (Text) which will add a new behavior to the TextBox without needing the full syntax:

<TextBox ...
   i:WatermarkTextBehavior.Text="Search Keyword...">

The code is part of the latest MVVMHelpers library and is checked in at: WatermarkTextBoxBehavior.cs.   The plan is to include it in the next Nuget drop, until then you can download the source and use it in your project directly if desired!


About Mark Smith

Windows systems developer with low-level operating system, threading and .NET experience. For the past several years I have been involved with WPF/Silverlight and most recently iOS and Android. I have worked as an architect and designer for several companies and am particularly interested in client/server and graphical solutions. Specialties:.NET, WPF, Silverlight, Windows, iOS