Microsoft KB Archive/171583

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Article ID: 171583

Article Last Modified on 1/20/2007


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  • Microsoft Visual C++ 4.0 Standard Edition

This article was previously published under Q171583


This article provides sample DLL code in Microsoft Visual C++ 4.x that illustrates how to fill a 32-bit VBA array of a user-defined type (UDT) containing fixed-length strings with data. It also provides VBA code that defines the equivalent structure and how to pass the array to the DLL.


The Vb4dll.txt file that ships with Visual Basic 4.0 describes both passing a variable of UDT to a DLL and passing an array of String (SAFEARRAY of BSTR) to a DLL, but does not discuss passing an array of UDTs. This article provides an example of a Visual Basic program passing an array of UDTs to a C++ DLL and filling the array with data in the DLL.

NOTE: This article does not address:

  • Resizing the array.
  • UDTs that contain variable length strings, Objects, or Variants.
  • Multi-dimension arrays.


  1. When passing an array of UDTs with string elements, the strings are not converted from UNICODE to ANSI as when passing a variable of UDT.
  2. Elements of a UDT in Visual Basic use a 4-byte alignment. The default Visual C++ alignment is on 8-byte boundaries, so you have to explicitly set a smaller alignment.
  3. In Visual Basic, UNICODE strings are implemented as an array of bytes; in Visual C++, they are implemented as an array of unsigned short int. This means that Visual Basic aligns UNICODE characters on 1-byte boundaries and Visual C++ aligns them on 2-byte boundaries. Because of this, your Visual C++ code has to specify 1-byte alignment as opposed to 4-byte alignment if you have any fixed-length strings in your UDT. With the 1-byte alignment, you will have to add filler fields in your Visual C++ struct to fix the alignment of other types on a 4-byte boundary.
  4. Visual C++ mangles function names. You will need to build a .DEF file to make the names readable by Visual Basic.

Table of Visual Basic Structure Alignment in SAFEARRAYS:

Type         Alignment   Size

Byte          1 byte     1 byte
String * n    1 byte     2 bytes per UNICODE character
Integer       2 bytes    2 bytes
Boolean       2 bytes    2 bytes
String        4 bytes    4 byte pointer - UNICODE data not in structure
Long          4 bytes    4 bytes
Single        4 bytes    4 bytes
Double        4 bytes    8 bytes
Currency      4 bytes    8 bytes
Date          4 bytes    8 bytes
Variant       4 bytes    16 bytes - may point to data not in structure
Object        4 bytes    4 byte pointer - object not in structure

Visual Basic passes arrays as the OLE SAFEARRAY type. This type contains a header structure that contains the following information:

   unsigned short cDims;   // Count of dimensions
   unsigned short fFeatures;  // Flags
   unsigned long cbElements;  // Size of an element of the array
   unsigned long cLocks;   // Lock count
   void HUGEP* pvData;     // Pointer to the data
   SAFEARRAYBOUND rgsabound[n];  // One bound for each dimension

The SAFEARRAYBOUND type contains the following elements:

   unsigned long cElements;   // Number of elements in this dimension
   long lLbound;     // Lower bound

The Visual C++ code can read the SAFEARRAY structure and get a pointer to the data (pvData), which contains contiguous data items, and read the SAFEARRAYBOUND structure to determine the number of elements passed.

WARNING: ANY USE BY YOU OF THE CODE PROVIDED IN THIS ARTICLE IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. Microsoft provides this code "as is" without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose.

Step-by-Step Example

  1. Create a new Project Workspace of Dynamic-Link Library type and save as TestType.
  2. Create a Text file and save as TestType.DEF. Add the file to the project:

    LIBRARY   TestType
  3. Create a Text file and save as TestType.CPP. Add the file to the project:

          #include <windows.h>
          #include <ole2.h>
          #pragma pack(1)
          typedef struct
          short f1;
          short filler_1;
          long f2;
          BYTE f3;
          WCHAR f4;
          BYTE filler_2;
          float f5;
          } MyStruct;
          void _stdcall FillUDTVariable(MyStruct * ms)
          ms->f1 = 2001;
          ms->f2 = 20012001;
          ms->f3 = 255;
          ms->f4 = L'A';
          ms->f5 = 200.1f;
          void _stdcall FillUDTSafeArray(LPSAFEARRAY FAR * ppsa)
          MyStruct * pdata;
          unsigned int i;
          pdata = (MyStruct*)((*ppsa)->pvData);
          for (i=0;i<((*ppsa)->rgsabound->cElements);i++,pdata++)
  4. Build the DLL.
  5. In your VBA application, add a Module with the following code: (You will need to explicitly specify the path of the DLL or move the DLL to the system directory, application directory, or elsewhere on the path.)

       Option Explicit
          Type My_VarUDT
            F1 As Integer
            F2 As Long
            F3 As Byte
            F4(0 To 1) As Byte  ' to avoid UNICODE/ANSI conversion
            F5 As Single
          End Type
          Type My_ArrayUDT
            F1 As Integer
            F2 As Long
            F3 As Byte
            F4 As String * 1
            F5 As Single
          End Type
          Declare Sub FillUDTVariable Lib "TestType.DLL" (A As My_VarUDT)
          Declare Sub FillUDTSafeArray Lib "TestType.DLL" (A() As My_ArrayUDT)
          Sub Test()
          Dim A As Long, B As My_VarUDT, C As String, D(3) As My_ArrayUDT
            Debug.Print "---Variable of My_VarUDT-------"
            FillUDTVariable B
            With B
              C = .F4
              Debug.Print .F1, .F2, .F3, C; "("; .F4(0); .F4(1); ")", .F5
            End With
            Debug.Print "---Safe array of My_ArrayUDT-------"
            FillUDTSafeArray D()
            For A = 0 To 3
              With D(A)
                Debug.Print .F1, .F2, .F3, .F4; "("; AscB(MidB(.F4, 1, 1));
                Debug.Print AscB(MidB(.F4, 2, 1)); ")", .F5
              End With
            Next A
          End Sub
  6. Save your VBA project and test the code by typing Test in the Immediate Window. The output should appear as follows:

       ---Variable of My_VarUDT-------
        2001          20012001      255          A( 65  0 )     200.1
       ---Safe array of My_ArrayUDT-------
        2001          20012001      255          A( 65  0 )     200.1
        2001          20012001      255          A( 65  0 )     200.1
        2001          20012001      255          A( 65  0 )     200.1
        2001          20012001      255          A( 65  0 )     200.1

    NOTE: The My_VarUDT example is included to illustrate avoiding the normal UNICODE/ANSI conversion that happens when calling a DLL and passing a single variable. This conversion does not happen when passing the entire array, so can use STRING * 1 in the My_ArrayUDT as opposed to passing a byte array.


Microsoft Visual C++ Help on SAFEARRAY and related reading

Microsoft Visual Basic file: VB4DLL.TXT

Keywords: kbhowto kbinterop KB171583