Simple things you can do with the ShellExecuteEx function

Raymond Chen


Here’s a tiny little program:

#include <windows.h>
#include <shellapi.h>

int __cdecl main(int argc, char **argv)
if (argc == 3) {
SHELLEXECUTEINFO sei = { sizeof(sei) };
sei.nShow = SW_SHOWNORMAL; // added 27 Nov
sei.lpVerb = argv[1];
sei.lpFile = argv[2];
return 0;

This is a little program that takes two parameters,
the first being the verb and the second the file upon which
to execute the verb. Notice that since we exit immediately,
we need to set the SEE_MASK_FLAG_DDEWAIT flag:
Normally, the ShellExecuteEx function assumes that there will
be a message pump running after it returns.
This allows it to return quickly and continue any necessary
DDE conversations as the responses arrive from the DDE server.
But if the thread is exiting or if the thread is not a GUI thread
(both of which are true here), you want to suppress this behavior
because there is no message pump around to complete the DDE
conversation. Setting the SEE_MASK_FLAG_DDEWAIT flag
indicates that the ShellExecuteEx function should finish its
DDE conversation before it returns.

Anyway, I wrote this little program to illustrate two of the

canonical verbs
that you can use.
It seems the people don’t realize that ShellExecuteEx can be
used to perform these actions, since it gets asked a lot…

  • shex find %windir%

    Opens the search window with a specified folder as the
    default “Search in” location.
  • shex openas C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT

    Displays the “Open with” dialog for a file.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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