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Microsoft KB Archive/105305

From BetaArchive Wiki

INFO: Calling CRT Output Routines from a GUI Application


The information in this article applies to:

  • Microsoft Win32 Application Programming Interface (API), used with:
    • the operating system: Microsoft Windows NT, versions 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, 4.0
    • Microsoft Windows 95
    • the operating system: Microsoft Windows 2000


To use C Run-time output routines, such as printf(), from a GUI application, it is necessary to create a console. The Win32 application programming interface (API) AllocConsole() creates the console. The CRT routine setvbuf() removes buffering so that output is visible immediately.

This method works if the GUI application is run from the command line or from File Manager. However, this method does not work if the application is started from the Program Manager or via the "start" command. The following code shows how to work around this problem:

   int hCrt;
   FILE *hf;

   hCrt = _open_osfhandle(
             (long) GetStdHandle(STD_OUTPUT_HANDLE),
   hf = _fdopen( hCrt, "w" );
   *stdout = *hf;
   i = setvbuf( stdout, NULL, _IONBF, 0 ); 

This code opens up a new low-level CRT handle to the correct console output handle, associates a new stream with that low-level handle, and replaces stdout with that new stream. This process takes care of functions that use stdout, such as printf(), puts(), and so forth. Use the same procedure for stdin and stderr.

Note that this code does not correct problems with handles 0, 1, and 2. In fact, due to other complications, it is not possible to correct this, and therefore it is necessary to use stream I/O instead of low-level I/O.


When a GUI application is started with the "start" command, the three standard OS handles STD_INPUT_HANDLE, STD_OUTPUT_HANDLE, and STD_ERROR_HANDLE are all "zeroed out" by the console initialization routines. These three handles are replaced by valid values when the GUI application calls AllocConsole(). Therefore, once this is done, calling GetStdHandle() will always return valid handle values. The problem is that the CRT has already completed initialization before your application gets a chance to call AllocConsole(); the three low I/O handles 0, 1, and 2 have already been set up to use the original zeroed out OS handles, so all CRT I/O is sent to invalid OS handles and CRT output does not appear in the console. Use the workaround described above to eliminate this problem.

In the case of starting the GUI application from the command line without the "start" command, the standard OS handles are NOT correctly zeroed out, but are incorrectly inherited from CMD.EXE. When the application's CRT initializes, the three low I/O handles 0, 1, and 2 are initialized to use the three handle numbers that the application inherits from CMD.EXE. When the application calls AllocConsole(), the console initialization routines attempt to replace what the console initialization believes to be invalid standard OS handle values with valid handle values from the new console. By coincidence, because the console initialization routines tend to give out the same three values for the standard OS handles, the console initilization will replace the standard OS handle values with the same values that were there before--the ones inherited from CMD.EXE. Therefore, CRT I/O works in this case.

It is important to realize that the ability to use CRT routines from a GUI application run from the command line was not by design so this may not work in future versions of Windows NT or Windows. In a future version, you may need the workaround not just for applications started on the command line with "start <application name>", but also for applications started on the command line with "application name".

Additional query words: 3.10 3.50 CRT redirect std handles

Keywords : kbConsole kbKernBase kbOSWin2000 kbDSupport kbGrpDSKernBase
Issue type : kbinfo
Technology : kbAudDeveloper kbWin32sSearch kbWin32API

Last Reviewed: October 27, 2000
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