Microsoft KB Archive/168751

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Article ID: 168751

Article Last Modified on 10/11/2006


  • Microsoft Visual Basic 5.0 Learning Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 5.0 Professional Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 5.0 Enterprise Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 4.0 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 4.0 Professional Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 4.0 Enterprise Edition
  • Microsoft Word 95 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Word 95a

This article was previously published under Q168751


Microsoft Word 95 does not appear in the Windows running objects table and does not use Visual Basic as its macro language. This makes Microsoft Word 95 difficult to detect from a Visual Basic application. This article illustrates a technique that involves looping through all Windows and checking for the "Microsoft Word" sub-string at the beginning of the title bar.


The recommended method for checking for an instance of a Microsoft Office application is to execute GetObject and trap for error 429, which will be returned if there is no running instance. Because Microsoft Word 95 has no application object, this approach fails and the error 429 will always be returned.

However, because Microsoft Word, exclusively, always begins its title bar text with the "Microsoft Word" sub-string, the GetWindowText API function can be applied to each running window to detect the presence of Microsoft Word 95. The following code demonstrates this procedure and works whether or not Microsoft Word is visible or has a document open. This technique can also be applied to any application that uses a top-level window that starts its title bar text with a known sub-string. The call syntax is demonstrated below:

   boolVariable = GetWordWindow(strTitleStart, hwnd)


  • boolVariable is set to true for success and false for failure (no window found).
  • GetWordWindow is the Visual Basic function that wraps the API function GetWindowText.
  • strTitleStart is the sub-string sought. If the title of any top level window begins with this sub-string, the handle of the first such instance will be returned. An empty string will be converted by the function to "Microsoft Word." The function is not case-sensitive.
  • hwnd is the window handle. The handle of the last top-level window is returned in case of failure.

Step-by-Step Example

The project in this example runs as a form containing no controls. Clicking on the form itself results in the display of a message box either stating, "I did not find MS Word," indicating that Microsoft Word is not running, or "I found MS Word and its handle is," and displaying the window handle. This example works for all versions of Word for Windows:

  1. Open a new Project. Form1 is created by default.
  2. From the Project menu (Insert menu in Visual Basic 4), insert a new Module (Module1).
  3. Copy the Form Code below to the General Declarations section of Form1.
  4. Copy the Module Code below to the General Declarations section of Module1. Be sure each API Declare Function statement is entered on a separate line (line-continuation underscore not allowed by Visual Basic).
  5. Take care to remove a duplicate entry of the 'Option Explicit' line for the case when your Tools/Option/Environment/Require Variable Declaration CheckBox has been selected.

        'FORM CODE     ***********************************************
        Option Explicit
        Private Sub Form_Click()
        Dim hwnd As Long
            Select Case getWordWindow("", hwnd) 'call getWordWindow
            Case True       'Word is running . . .
                MsgBox "I found MS Word and its handle is " & CStr(hwnd) & "."
            Case Else       'Word is not running
                MsgBox "I did not find MS Word."
            End Select
        End Sub
        'MODULE CODE   ***********************************************
        Option Explicit
        Option Compare Text
        Declare Function GetWindowText Lib "user32" Alias "GetWindowTextA" _
           (ByVal hwnd As Long, ByVal lpString As String, ByVal cch As Long) _
           As Long
        Declare Function GetWindow Lib "user32" (ByVal hwnd As Long, _
           ByVal wCmd As Long) As Long
        Declare Function GetTopWindow Lib "user32" (ByVal hwnd As Long) _
           As Long
        Public Const GW_HWNDNEXT = 2
        Function getWordWindow(appTitle As String, appHandle As Long) _
           As Boolean
        Dim dummyVariable As Long
        Dim lenTitle As Integer
        Dim winTitle As String * 256
            'initialize the function return as False
            getWordWindow = 0
            If appTitle = "" Then appTitle = "Microsoft Word"
            lenTitle = Len(appTitle)
            'Get the handle of the first child of the desktop window
            appHandle = GetTopWindow(0)
            'Loop through all top-level windows and search for the sub-string
            'in the Window title
            Do Until appHandle = 0
                dummyVariable = GetWindowText(appHandle, winTitle, 255)
                If Left(winTitle, lenTitle) = appTitle Then
                    getWordWindow = -1
                    Exit Function
                    appHandle = GetWindow(appHandle, GW_HWNDNEXT)
                End If
        End Function


Win32 Programmer's Reference Volume 3 (Microsoft Press)

For additional information, please see the following articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

72918 How VB Can Determine if a Specific Windows Program is running

147659 How to Get a Window Handle Without Specifying an Exact Title

Additional query words: GetWindowText;GetWindow;GetTopWindow

Keywords: kbhowto kbprogramming kbwndw KB168751