Subclassing in VB6 ActiveX Tutorial


Using the switchboard method to handle VB subclassing

If you develop ActiveX controls and intend to subclass or hook a window, you'll very quickly discover a problem when you attempt to site multiple instances of your control. The subclassing, which worked fine with a single instance of your control, now no longer works and is, in fact, most likely is causing a GPF.

Why is this happening? The AddressOf operator requires you to place the callback routine in a module. This module is shared between all instances of your control and the variables and subroutines that the module provide are not unique to each instance. The easiest way to visualize the problem is to imagine a shared phoneline (or a partyline as we hicks call it) where multiple parties are trying to dial a number, talk, and hangup, all at the same time. What's needed is an operator, a routine that controls the dialing (hooking), the talking (the callback routine), and who routes information to the instance of the control that requested it.

The Switchboard subroutine (see below) and it's supporting code provides a method for subclassing from multiple instances of your ActiveX control. It is not memory intensive, nor is it slow. It's biggest weakness is that it is hardcoded to intercept particular messages (in this case, WM_SIZE, to trap resize events) and will require some minor modification on your part to use.

You will find references to myUC in the code below. Replace each instance of this with a reference to your user control.

It is very important that your code detect and respond to a subclassed window when it either closes (WM_CLOSE) or is destroyed (WM_DESTROY). When this message is received, you should immediately unhook the window in question. The example code provided here does this, but knowing why it does it will hopefully save you some grief.

Add this code to your control
' Place this code in the General Declarations area
Dim m_MyInstance as Integer

' Place this block of code in the user control's
    Dim Instance_Scan As Integer
        If Instances(Instance_Scan).in_use = False Then
            m_MyInstance = Instance_Scan
            Instances(Instance_Scan).in_use = True
            Instances(Instance_Scan).ClassAddr = ObjPtr(Me)
            Exit For
        End If
    Next Instance_Scan

' Note the Friend keyword.
' If you plan on modifying wMsg, pass it ByRef...
Friend Sub ParentResized(ByVal wMsg As Long)
    Static ParentWidth As Long
    Static ParentHeight As Long

    If wMsg = WM_CLOSE Then UnhookParent
    If ParentWidth <> Usercontrol.Parent.Width Or _
        ParentHeight <> Usercontrol.Parent.Height Then
        Debug.Print m_MyInstance & ": Resize event"
    End If
    ParentWidth = TrueParentWidth
    ParentHeight = TrueParentHeight

End Sub

Add a module and add this code to it:

Option Explicit

Public Const WM_SIZE = &H5
Public Const GWL_WNDPROC = (-4&)
Public Const GWL_USERDATA = (-21&)
Public Const WM_CLOSE = &H10
Public Const MIN_INSTANCES = 1
Public Const MAX_INSTANCES = 256

Type Instances
    in_use As Boolean       'This instance is alive
    ClassAddr As Long       'Pointer to self
    hwnd As Long            'hWnd being hooked
    PrevWndProc As Long     'Stored for unhooking
End Type

'Hooking Related Declares
Declare Function GetWindowLong& Lib "user32" Alias "GetWindowLongA" (ByVal _
        hwnd As Long, ByVal nIndex As Long)
Declare Function CallWindowProc& Lib "user32" Alias "CallWindowProcA" _
        (ByVal lpPrevWndFunc As Long, ByVal hwnd As Long, _
        ByVal MSG As Long, ByVal wParam As Long, ByVal lParam As Long)
Declare Function SetWindowLong& Lib "user32" Alias "SetWindowLongA" _
        (ByVal hwnd As Long, ByVal nIndex As Long, ByVal dwNewLong As Long)
Public Declare Sub CopyMemory Lib "kernel32" Alias "RtlMoveMemory" _
        (pDest As Any, pSource As Any, ByVal ByteLen As Long)

Global Instances(MIN_INSTANCES To MAX_INSTANCES) As Instances

Public Function SwitchBoard(ByVal hwnd As Long, ByVal MSG As Long, _
        ByVal wParam As Long, ByVal lParam As Long) As Long
    Dim instance_check As Integer
    Dim cMyUC As MyUC
    Dim PrevWndProc As Long
    'Do this early as we may unhook
    PrevWndProc = Is_Hooked(hwnd)
        For instance_check = MIN_INSTANCES To MAX_INSTANCES
            If Instances(instance_check).hwnd = hwnd Then
                On Error Resume Next
                CopyMemory cMyUC,  Instances(instance_check).ClassAddr, 4
                cMyUC.ParentResized MSG
                CopyMemory cMyUC, 0&, 4
            End If
        Next instance_check
    End If
    SwitchBoard = CallWindowProc(PrevWndProc, hwnd, MSG, wParam, lParam)
End Function

'Hooks a window or acts as if it does if the window is
'already hooked by a previous instance of myUC.
Public Sub Hook_Window(ByVal hwnd As Long, ByVal instance_ndx As Integer)
    Instances(instance_ndx).PrevWndProc = Is_Hooked(hwnd)
    If Instances(instance_ndx).PrevWndProc = 0& Then
        Instances(instance_ndx).PrevWndProc = SetWindowLong(hwnd, _
            GWL_WNDPROC, AddressOf SwitchBoard)
    End If
    Instances(instance_ndx).hwnd = hwnd
End Sub

' Unhooks only if no other instances need the hWnd
Public Sub UnHookWindow(ByVal instance_ndx As Integer)

    If TimesHooked(Instances(instance_ndx).hwnd) = 1 Then
        SetWindowLong Instances(instance_ndx).hwnd, GWL_WNDPROC, _
    End If
    Instances(instance_ndx).hwnd = 0&

End Sub

'Determine if we have already hooked a window,
'and returns the PrevWndProc if true, 0& if false
Private Function Is_Hooked(ByVal hwnd As Long) As Long
    Dim ndx As Integer
    Is_Hooked = 0&
        If Instances(ndx).hwnd = hwnd Then
            Is_Hooked = Instances(ndx).PrevWndProc
            Exit For
        End If
    Next ndx
End Function

'Returns a count of the number of times a given
'window has been hooked by instances of myUC.
Private Function TimesHooked(ByVal hwnd As Long) As Long
    Dim ndx As Integer
    Dim cnt As Integer
        If Instances(ndx).hwnd = hwnd Then
            cnt = cnt + 1
        End If
    Next ndx

    TimesHooked = cnt

End Function

Because this codes hooks into the windows messaging system, you should not use the IDE's STOP button to terminate the execution of your code. Closing the form normally is mandatory. Debugging will become difficult once you have subclassed a window, so I recommend adding instancing support after the bulk of your programming work has been completed. As with any serious API programming tasks, you should save your project before execution.

This is one of the more complex code examples that I have posted. It was basically derived from the single-instance subclassing method provided in the SysTray example provided on the VB5 CD (which is well looking into). Once I encountered instancing problems, it took me several days to figure out what was going on, and several more before I arrived at the idea of creating a switchboard.

As it turns out, this idea is hardly unique. The Visual Basic Programmer's Journal has published the source for an ActiveX control that provides basic subclassing services and handles the instancing problem while it does it. If you are a DevX member, full source for this ActiveX control can be had at The article describing the source code, by Jonathan Wood, appeared in the May 1997 issue of VBPJ and is well worth reviewing since there are notable differences in the way that each instance is referenced.

There are a few 'magic' methods used in the switchboard example. The first thing you may have noticed is the ObjPtr() function. This is an undocumented command (StrPtr, and VarPtr also exist), that returns a pointer to an object.

The API CopyMemory memory function takes the value returned by ObjPtr() and runs with it. It allows use to copy the address of the usercontrol into a newly created temporary instance. This allows the switchboard to reference the correct recepient of the windows message.

This example also makes use of the FRIEND keyword. Get to know it, you'll find it very useful for communications between instances. It would be very easy to go through each ClassAddr and call a FRIEND sub or function. This would effectively be a global event, something which you may find useful someday.

Originally written by Tim Kilgore.

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With a Smile

Your site is very good and very much to visit! Please add some photos of the outcome / result of the codes for faster understanding. Thanks man!

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Can you give some examples

Can you give some examples with CopyMemory when copying a value from a byte buffe to a string? i cant quite get it figured out. Please help!!!

Can you give some examples

Can you give some examples with CopyMemory when copying a value from a byte buffe to a string? i cant quite get it figured out. Please help!!!

looks like not easy, but,

looks like not easy, but, thanks