Create Your Own Visual Basic Add-Ins

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Create Your Own Visual Basic Add-Ins
By S.S. Ahmed
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Introduction

Programmers like me create add-ins primarily because we feel short of features when working with Microsoft tools.I It seems at times that Microsoft hasn't yet developed the tool we need. In fact, Microsoft has done a wonderful job of adding new features to each release of its development tools. Obviously, Microsoft can't design features to fulfill the needs of each and every programmer so it made Visual Basic (VB) an extensible product, thereby providing the way for VB developers to create their own features.

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EOM Defined

EOM stands for Extensibility Object Model. You might ask what is extensibility? Extensibility is the capability to extend or stretch the functionality of different development tools, specifically the Microsoft Integrated Development Environment (IDE). IDE provides a programming interface known as the Extensibility Object Model, a set of powerful interfaces for customizing the environment. It allows you to hook into the IDE to create extensions known as add-ins. A good system is the one that can be extended without jeopardizing the primary functionality of the system.

To implement extensibility features, VB offers the powerful EOM. Through EOM, many core objects in VB itself are available to you at no extra charge. EOM is not that easy to learn, and this article will provide you only the basics of add-in creation. You will have to delve into this vast field yourself to explore the wonders you can do using the EOM.

EOM consists of six loosely coupled packages of objects with methods that implement key services of the VB development model. These are:

  • Core Objects
  • Form Manipulation
  • Event Response
  • Add-In Management
  • Project and Component Manipulation
  • Code Manipulation

Core Objects

This package is the main package used in the creation of add-ins. It has the following objects:

  • The Root object
  • The IDTExtensibility Interface object
  • The Visual Basic Instance variable

The Root Object

VBE is the Root object in Visual Basic. The VBE object is the base object for every extensibility object and collection in Visual Basic. Each object and collection owns a reference to the VBE property. The collections owned by the VBE object include the following:

  • VBProjects
  • Windows
  • CodePanes
  • CommandBars

THE VBPROJECTS COLLECTION

This collection enables you to access a set of VB properties. This feature can be helpful if your development environment has an established process for developing software. Some of the key properties and methods of this collection are:

  • Filename: Returns the full pathname of the group project file.
  • Startproject: Returns or sets the project that will start when users choose the Start menu from the Run menu, click the Run button, or press the F5 key.
  • AddFromFile: This is a method that enables the users to add or open a project or group object. Its only required argument is the string representing the path of the file you want to add.
  • AddFromTemplate: This method enables you to add project templates into the VBProjects collection. Its only required argument is the string representing the path of the file you want to use as a template.

THE WINDOWS COLLECTION

With the Windows collection, you can access windows, such as the project and properties windows. This collection enables you to access a group of all currently open code windows and designer windows.

The IDTExtensibility Interface Object

The IDTExtensibility Interface object exposes the public methods and properties of the extensibility model. By exposes, I mean that because you don't directly use the services, methods, and properties of the underlying extensibility model, you need to invoke the methods of the model's agent. You can think of interfaces as public agents for the private implementation of an extensibility model object you instantiate.

The Visual Basic Instance Variable

This is also known as the dynamic identification variable. It identifies a particular instance of your VB session. This instance identifier enables you to have separately identifiable running instances of VB in memory.

The instance variable is of the type VBIDE.VBE. To use this variable, declare it in a class module or general module.

Please refer to the Microsoft Web site (see http://www.microsoft.com) for complete details of these packages. Please understand that I cannot explain each and every detail of these packages in this short article.

Creating the Add-In

We will build a simple add-in that will count the number of lines of code for a given program component. To begin creating the add-in, start a new project. Choose the AddIn project type. The AddIn project type includes many components necessary for creating VB add-ins. There is a form that you can modify to provide a user interface for your add-in. There is also a designer module that contains the four methods that are needed for the add-in's interface to VB. Users may read more about this at the Microsoft site (see http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/vbcon98/html/vbconcreatingaddin.asp).

Remove the OK and Cancel buttons from the form, and add the following controls to the form:

Control Type

Property

Value

Form

Name

FrmAddIn

 

Caption

Code Line Counter

Label

Name

LblProject

 

Caption

Project

TextBox

Name

TxtProject

Label

Name

LblComponent

 

Caption

Component

TextBox

Name

TxtComponent

CommandButton

Name

cmdCountCodeLines

 

Caption

Count Code Lines

CommandButton

Name

cmdDone

 

Caption

Done

Label

Name

LblCodeLines

 

Caption

Code Lines

TextBox

Name

TxtCodeLines

The Code

Here is the code:

.......................................................


Public VBInstance As VBIDE.VBE
Public Connect As Connect

Option Explicit

Private Sub cmdCountCodeLines_Click()

Dim strVBProject As String
Dim strVBComponent As String
Dim objVBComponent As VBComponent

'Forms controls
strVBProject = txtProject.Text
strVBComponent = txtComponent.Text

'Set objVBComponent to the program component suggested by
'strVBProject and strVBComponent
Set objVBComponent = VBInstance.VBProjects.Item(strVBProject).VBComponents.Item(strVBComponent)

'Assign the number of lines of code (CountOfLines) of the component
'objVBComponent to the txtcodelines text box
txtCodeLines.Text = Str(objVBComponent.CodeModule.CountOfLines)



End Sub

Private Sub cmdDone_Click()

'Hide the AddIn window
Connect.Hide

End Sub

.......................................................

Let's see what's in the code. The cmdCountCodeLines_click() is triggered when the user clicks on the Count Code Lines button. It uses the project and component names that were typed into the form's text box controls to assign that component to the objVBComponent object. Note the hierarchy used to obtain a component item in the following line of code:


Set objVBComponent = VBInstance.VBProjects.Item(strVBProject).VBComponents.Item(strVBComponent)

First, the VBInstance object is referenced and then its VBProjects collection. The current project's VBComponents collection is accessed by using the strVBComponent string as a key argument for the collection's item method. This long sequence of referencing ultimately assigns the specified component that is part of the specified project (strVBProject) to the objVBComponent object.

The following line of code


txtCodeLines.Text = Str(objVBComponent.CodeModule.CountOfLines)

is used to access the CodeModule of the newly assigned objVBComponent object. The CountOfLines property of the CodeModule object contains the number of lines of code in that particular component. This number is assigned to the txtCodeLines text box so that the user can see the results.

The second event procedure that was added is the cmdDone_click() event. This contains only a single line of code that calls the Connect object's Hide method, hiding the add-in's user interface. The Connect object is an instance of the Connect class, which, as you might remember, is a part of the AddIn project. It is defined in the form's General Declarations section.

In Connect Designer, in the AddInInstance_OnConnection procedure, there is a line of code that looks like this:


Set mcbMenuCommandBar = AddToAddInCommandBar("My AddIn")

Change the "My AddIn" to "Code Line Counter".

Save the project and compile the add-in by choosing File | Make CodeLineCounter.dll from the menu. When the Make Project dialog box appears, be sure to specify that the executable file be placed in the same directory as VB. You want VB to have access to the add-in later.

Before you can use the add-in, you have to make a change to the VBADDIN.INI file so that VB will know that the add-in is available. You will find this file in the Window's directory. Add the following line in the end of the file:


CodeLineCounter.Connect=0

Save the file; then get back into VB. Open any project that you might happen to have handy. Then choose Add-In | Add-In Manager from the menu. You should see a list of add-ins. Select the codelinecounter, select the Load on startup and the Loaded/Unloaded check boxes, and then click OK.

Invoke the add-in by choosing it from that menu, and its user interface shows on screen. Enter the name of the project currently open and then the name of the component. For example, the open project's name is project1.vbp. Enter project1 in the project text box and the form's name is form1.frm. Enter form1 in the component text box and click the Count Code Lines button, and you will see the number of lines in the Code Lines text box.

About the Author

S.S. Ahmed is a senior software engineer in a software development company that specializes in Web application development. He can be reached with questions or comments at ss_ahmed1@hotmail.com.

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