Dispatch interfaces as connection point interfaces

Raymond Chen

Last time, we learned about how connection points work. One special case of this is where the connection interface is a dispatch interface.

Dispatch interfaces are, as the name suggests, COM interfaces based on IDispatch. The IDispatch interface is the base interface for OLE automation objects, and if you want your connection point interface to be usable from script, you probably should make it a dispatch interface.

I’m assuming you know how IDispatch works. The short version is that script that wants to invoke a method or property calls Get­IDs­Of­Names to get the dispatch ID for the method or property it wants to access, and it uses the type library to figure out things like the parameters and return value. Once the scripting engine figures out how the method or property expects to be called, it can call IDispatch::Invoke passing the dispatch ID and a DISPPARAMS structure that holds the parameters.

Nowadays, this sort of thing goes by the fancy name of reflection, but back in the OLE Automation days, it was simply all in a day’s work. You kids think you invented everything.

Just like as with regular connection point interfaces, a dispatch interface used as a connection point interface consists of events which are formally implemented as methods.

dispinterface DWidgetEvents
 HRESULT Renamed([in] BSTR oldName, [in] BSTR newName);

You declare that your object is a source of events for this interface by noting it in your object declaration. (Thanks, Medinoc for noting the error in the original version of this article.)

coclass Widget
 [default] interface IWidget;
 [default, source] dispinterface DWidgetEvents;

A client registers with the connection point with the DIID_DWidget­Events interface. By convention, dispatch interfaces usually end with the word Events and are often prefixed with the letter D, and the interface ID symbol begins with DIID rather than simply IID. These conventions are not universally adhered-to, so don’t freak out if you see people who don’t follow them. (If you declare your dispatch interface in an IDL file, then the MIDL compiler will generate the dispatch interface ID with the DIID prefix for you.)

Now, formally, when the connection point wants to invoke the Renamed method, it calls Get­IDs­Of­Names to get the ID for the method called L”Renamed”, and asks for the type library to figure out what the parameters are. But this is frequently just pointless busy-work: The connection point often already knows the answer, since the connection point already knows what interface it is talking to. It doesn’t need to do any “reflection” since the connection point already knows what the IDs and calling conventions are. In the same way, your C# code doesn’t need to use reflection to call a method on an object whose assembly you already have referenced in your project. (The Get­IDs­Of­Names exists not for connection points, but rather to assist dynamically-typed languages, where you can try to invoke any method on any object, and the method is looked up at run time.)

In other words, the connection point already knows that the ID for the method Rename is WDISPID_RENAMED, and that it takes two BSTR parameters, because that was part of the contract for registering with the connection point in the first place.

This means that in practice, the only method on the client that is ever called is IDispatch::Invoke.

Here is a template base class that I use for my connection point interface implementations of dispatch interfaces. We’ll discuss the pieces afterwards:

template<typename DispInterface>
class CDispInterfaceBase : public DispInterface
 CDispInterfaceBase() : m_cRef(1), m_dwCookie(0) { }

/* IUnknown */ IFACEMETHODIMP QueryInterface(REFIID riid, void **ppv) { *ppv = nullptr; HRESULT hr = E_NOINTERFACE; if (riid == IID_IUnknown || riid == IID_IDispatch || riid == __uuidof(DispInterface)) { *ppv = static_cast<DispInterface *> (static_cast<IDispatch*>(this)); AddRef(); hr = S_OK; } return hr; }

IFACEMETHODIMP_(ULONG) AddRef() { return InterlockedIncrement(&m_cRef); }

IFACEMETHODIMP_(ULONG) Release() { LONG cRef = InterlockedDecrement(&m_cRef); if (cRef == 0) delete this; return cRef; }

// *** IDispatch *** IFACEMETHODIMP GetTypeInfoCount(UINT *pctinfo) { *pctinfo = 0; return E_NOTIMPL; }

IFACEMETHODIMP GetTypeInfo(UINT iTInfo, LCID lcid, ITypeInfo **ppTInfo) { *ppTInfo = nullptr; return E_NOTIMPL; }

IFACEMETHODIMP GetIDsOfNames(REFIID, LPOLESTR *rgszNames, UINT cNames, LCID lcid, DISPID *rgDispId) { return E_NOTIMPL; }

IFACEMETHODIMP Invoke( DISPID dispid, REFIID riid, LCID lcid, WORD wFlags, DISPPARAMS *pdispparams, VARIANT *pvarResult, EXCEPINFO *pexcepinfo, UINT *puArgErr) { if (pvarResult) VariantInit(pvarResult); return SimpleInvoke(dispid, pdispparams, pvarResult); }

// Derived class must implement SimpleInvoke virtual HRESULT SimpleInvoke(DISPID dispid, DISPPARAMS *pdispparams, VARIANT *pvarResult) = 0;

public: HRESULT Connect(IUnknown *punk) { HRESULT hr = S_OK; CComPtr<IConnectionPointContainer> spcpc; if (SUCCEEDED(hr)) { hr = punk->QueryInterface(IID_PPV_ARGS(&spcpc)); } if (SUCCEEDED(hr)) { hr = spcpc->FindConnectionPoint(__uuidof(DispInterface), &m_spcp); } if (SUCCEEDED(hr)) { hr = m_spcp->Advise(this, &m_dwCookie); } return hr; }

void Disconnect() { if (m_dwCookie) { m_spcp->Unadvise(m_dwCookie); m_spcp.Release(); m_dwCookie = 0; } }

private: LONG m_cRef; CComPtr<IConnectionPoint> m_spcp; DWORD m_dwCookie; };

First, a distraction: Our Query­Interface implementation performs a double-cast of this to IDispatch, then to the templated interface. This ensures that the templated interface pointer and IDispatch are compatible. It would be bad if somebody tried to use this Query­Interface implementation with something unrelated to IDispatch. (Yes, I could’ve used std::is_base_of, but I’m an old-timer who grew up before TR1.)

The bulk of the class merely stubs out all the methods of IDispatch, save for IDispatch::Invoke, which does a little grunt work (initializing the result VARIANT) and then leaves the derived class to do the heavy lifting.

Finally, there are two public methods Connect and Disconnect. These perform the Advise and Unadvise calls we saw yesterday. To simplify things for our caller, we save the IConnection­Pointer we registered against so that the caller doesn’t have to pass it back in when disconnecting.

Exercise: Is the m_spcp.Release() call in Disconnect really necessary? (Assuming that Connect is called at most once.)

This helper template class makes writing dispatch interface connection point clients really simple, since all you have to do is implement Simple­Invoke in the form of a switch statement on the dispatch IDs you care about:

class CWidgetClient : public CDispInterfaceBase
 CWidgetClient() { }

HRESULT SimpleInvoke( DISPID dispid, DISPPARAMS *pdispparams, VARIANT *pvarResult) { switch (dispid) { case WDISPID_RENAMED: HeyLookItGotRenamed(pdispparams->rgvarg[0].bstrVal, pdispparams->rgvarg[1].bstrVal); break; } return S_OK; };

In the Simple­Invoke method, we switch on the dispatch ID, and if we see one we like, we extract the parameters from the pdispparams.

Update: Commenter parkrrr points out a huge gotcha with the DISP­PARAMS structure: The parameters are passed in reverse order. I don’t know why. They just are.

Next time, we’ll start hooking up events to our Little Program so it can update when the user navigates an Explorer or Internet Explorer window.

Warning! Managed code! The CLR understands the connection point/dispatch interface convention and exposes a dispatch event to managed code in the form of a CLR event and corresponding delegate. For example, our Renamed event is exposed as an event called Renamed, with delegate type DWidget­Events_Renamed­Event­Handler. You can listen on the event the way you listen to any other CLR event: widget.Renamed += this.OnRenamed;.

Note: I completely ignored the subject of dual interfaces. You can read about those if you like, but we won’t need to know about them for the job at hand.


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