Tag Archives: Methods

ListBoxes and TreeListBoxes – “in-place” editing

One of the new features that was added to the ListBox and TreeListBox controls in version 10 was the ability to use “in-place” editing on the items in the same manner as the Windows Explorer when you press “F2” or double-click an item. If you’ve done any work with the OpenInsight Menu Designers you will have seen this capability in action.

In-place editing for an item

The READONLY property

Enabling in-place editing is as simple as setting the READONLY property to False – once you’ve done that the user can press “F2” while using the control and edit the text of the currently selected item.  Pressing “Enter” when editing will update the item text (as will losing focus or selecting another item), while pressing “Esc” will abandon the changes.  Obviously that’s a very simple take on the topic and hardly worth a blog post in and of itself, so next we’ll take a look at some of the properties, methods and events that you can use to tailor the editing process.

The EDITING property

This is a simple boolean property that returns TRUE$ if an item is being edited.


This property returns the HANDLE of the editor control if an item is being edited.

The EDITKEY property

By default, hitting “F2” on an item puts the control into “edit mode”, just like the Windows Explorer.  However, if you wish to change this then you may use the EDITKEY property to select another key instead. The edit key is a Windows virtual key code and constants for these codes can be found in the MSWIN_VIRTUALKEY_EQUATES insert record.

The EDITOPTIONS property

This property allows you to fine-tune some of the validation options for the editor:

  • TextCase – Specifies if the text entered is lower-case only, upper-case only or mixed (See the EDITLINE TEXTCASE property for more details).
  • ValidChars – Specifies which characters may be entered into the editor (See the EDITLINE VALIDCHARS property for more details).
  • MaxLimit – Specifies the maximum number of characters that may be entered into the editor (See the EDITLINE LIMIT property for more details).

At runtime this property is an @fm-delimited array – constants for use with this property can be found in the PS_LISTBOX_EQUATES insert record.


By default getting item text from the ListBox (e.g. via the LIST property) will include the text from an item currently being edited, even if that edited text has not yet been saved.  Setting this property to FALSE$ ensures that the returned item text ignores the value in the editor instead.

The BEGINEDIT method

This method allows you to programmatically put the ListBox into edit mode, as if the user had pressed “F2” (or whatever value the EDITKEY property is set to). You may specify the index of the item to edit, otherwise it will default to the current item.

RetVal = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "BEGINEDIT", itemIndex )

The ENDEDIT method

This method allows you to programmatically stop the item editing process, optionally allowing any changes to be accepted as if the “Enter” key had been pressed (the default is to reject any changes as if the “Esc” key had been pressed).

RetVal = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "ENDEDIT", bUpdate )


This event is raised when an item it put into edit mode, and passes the index of the item as a parameter:

bForward = ITEMEDITING( CtrlEntID, CtrlClassID, ItemIndex )


This event is raised when the item is updated via the editor, i.e. the user hit the “Enter” key, the control lost the focus, or the EDITEDIT method was used with the bUpdate parameter set to TRUE$. The event passes the index of the item that has changed as well as the old and new data:

bForward = ITEMCHANGED( CtrlEntID, CtrlClassID, ItemIndex, |
                                                NewData,   |
                                                PrevData )


This event is raised when an item leaves edit mode without being updated, i.e. the user hit the “Esc” key or the EDITEDIT method was used with the bUpdate parameter set to FALSE$. The event passes the index of the item that was being edited:

bForward = ITEMUNCHANGED( CtrlEntID, CtrlClassID, ItemIndex )

So that wraps up this short post on ListBox editing – we’re sure that you’ll find many useful ways of implementing this new feature when expanding your application’s functionality.

The HTTPSERVER control

OpenInsight 10.2 introduces a new control type called HTTPSERVER, which provides a lightweight HTTP web-server control for use in your applications.

Using the control is a simple process:

  • Drop a “HTTP Server” control onto a form
  • Set the port number to listen on via the PORT property
  • Use the START method to start the server, or set the STARTUPMODE property to “Automatic” if you want the server to start when the form is created.
  • Listen for requests via the HTTPREQUEST event and respond to them using methods such as the SETRESPONSECONTENT and SETRESPONSEFILE methods
  • Return the response using the SENDRESPONSE method

So, if you set up a HTTPSERVER on port 8089 and execute the form you can use a browser to communicate with it via a URL something like this:



As you can see, setting up the control is fairly easy, but the bulk of the work needs to be done in the HTTPREQUEST event where you examine the contents of the request and return the appropriate content.

The event has the following interface:

   bForward = HTTPREQUEST( CtrlEntID,     |
                           CtrlClassID,   |
                           RequestID,     |
                           RequestHeaders )

And the following parameters:

CtrlEntIDID of the HTTP Server control firing the event
CtlrClassIDType of control firing the event – this is always “HTTPSERVER”
RequestIDUnique identifier for returning a response to the client – this is used with the various “SETRESPONSE” methods that set response data.
RequestHeadersAn @FM delimited dynamic array of data that describes the request. The format is similar to the HTTPRequest argument used in OECGI programming. The full format is described in the PS_HTTPSERVER_EQUATES insert record.

As mentioned above, the RequestHeaders parameter describes the details of the request using a format similar to the format used in OECGI programming. There are some differences that are worth highlighting however:

  • For a GET request the query values are already parsed into their own fields (<37> and <38>) as an associated multi-value pair. They are not found unparsed in field <1> as per OECGI.
  • For a POST or PUT request the content is obtained using the GETREQUESTCONTENT method (see below) – it is not passed in the RequestHeaders variable.
  • Cookies are already parsed into their own fields (<39> and <40>) as an associated multi-value pair.
  • Headers are already parsed into their own fields (<35> and <36>) as an associated multi-value pair.

Note that out of the box we do not enforce any restrictions or framework on how you handle the request – compare this to classic OECGI programming where the “PathInfo” field is used to determine which “INET_” procedure is executed to fulfill it (via the RUN_INET_REQUEST stored procedure) There is no such requirement with the HTTPSERVER control, and you may create your own framework if you wish (although see the note on RTI_RUN_HTTPSERVER_REQUEST below).

Returning a response

There are several methods described below that you may use to process the content that you return to the client.


Note: With each of these you must use the unique RequestID parameter passed to you in the HTTPREQUEST event.

E.g. Returning HTML in the HTTPREQUEST event

ReposID = @AppID<1> : "*DOC*HTML*INDEX_PAGE" 
HTML = Repository( "ACCESS", ReposID )
Call Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETRESPONSECONTENT", RequestID, HTML )
Call Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SENDRESPONSE" )

E.g. Returning a file in the HTTPREQUEST event

ReposID = @AppID<1> : "*DOC*HTML*INDEX_PAGE" 
FilePath = Repository( "GETSUBKEY", ReposID )
Call Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETRESPONSEFILE", RequestID, FilePath )
Call Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SENDRESPONSE" )

The HTTPSERVER methods


Gets the raw content sent to the server by the client as part of a POST or PUT request.

 ReqContent = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "GETREQUESTCONTENT", RequestID )


Returns raw content for the response as set via a previous call to the SETRESPONSECONTENT method.

 RspContent= Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "GETRESPONSECONTENT", RequestID )


Returns details for a response cookie as set via a previous call to the SETRESPONSECOOKIE method (see below for the CookieVal format).

 CookieVal = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "GETRESPONSECOOKIE", RequestID, |
                                                          CookieName )


Returns the name and path of the response content file set with a previous call to the SETRESPONSEFILE method.

 RspFile = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "GETRESPONSEFILE", RequestID )


Returns the details for a response header as set via a previous call to the SETRESPONSEHEADER method.

 HeaderVal = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "GETRESPONSEHEADER", RequestID, |
                                                          HeaderName )


Returns the HTTP status code of the response (defaults to 200).

 RspStatus = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "GETRESPONSESTATUS", RequestID )


Returns TRUE$ if the specified port is in use on the local machine.

 InUse = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "ISPORTINUSE", Port, IPv6 )
  • Port – Identifies the port to check
  • IPv6 – if TRUE$ then check the IPv6 bindings, otherwise check the IPv4 bindings


Sends the response back to the client. This method should be called when you have finished setting the response details (Note that this is called by the promoted system HTTPREQUEST handler in case you forgot to do it in your own code!).

 RspSent = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SENDRESPONSE", RequestID )


Sets the content to return to the client, such as a string containing an HTML page.

 SetOK= Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETRESPONSECONTENT", RequestID, |
                                                      Content )


Sets a cookie that is returned to the client via the “Set-Cookie” header.

 SetOK = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETRESPONSECOOKIE", RequestID,  |
                                                      CookieName, |
                                                      CookieValue )

CookieValue is an @fm-delimited array formatted as follows:

    <1> Value
    <2> Path
    <3> Domain
    <4> Expires (internal date format)
    <5> Max Age (seconds)
    <6> Secure  (TRUE$/FALSE$)
    <7> HttpOnly (TRUE$/FALSE$)
    <8> SameSite


If you have a file that contains the content you wish to return then you should use this method to let the server read the file and return it to the client itself. This offers better performance than reading the contents via Basic+ and using the SETRESPONSECONTENT method as it avoids any unnecessary copying of data.

 SetOK = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETRESPONSEFILE", RequestID,  |
                                                    FileNamePath )


Sets a response header and value to be returned to the client.

 SetOK = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETRESPONSEHEADER", RequestID,  |
                                                      HeaderName, |
                                                      HeaderValue )


Sets the HTTP status code for the response (200, 404, 500 etc).

 SetOK = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETRESPONSESTATUS", RequestID, |
                                                      StatusCode )

Example HTTPREQUEST handler

As part of version 10.2 we have included a sample HTTPREQUEST event handler called RTI_RUN_HTTPSERVER_REQUEST which you can examine and copy for your own applications if you wish. It emulates the core behavior of the OECGI RUN_INET_REQUEST handler in that it uses the “PathInfo” field to determine the stored procedure to fulfill the request. In this case it looks for a matching procedure that has the prefix “HTTPSVR_” and we have included a couple of example “HTTPSVR_” procedures for you to review as well.


With the addition of the HTTPSERVER control it is now possible to provide HTML content directly from your application, and also provide a means of web-development directly from your desktop without necessarily needing to install a dedicated web-server like IIS.

It is also a good solution for when you want to provide local HTML content in your application’s user-interface via an embedded browser control, because it can avoid the usual security restrictions that browsers enforce for such scenarios.

The DIRWATCHER control

With the release of version 10.1 a new control type called DIRWATCHER (“Directory Watcher”) has been added to OpenInsight. This is a fairly simple control which allows you to monitor one or more directories on your system and then receive notifications when the contents are changed.

Using the control is very straightforward:

  • Use the WATCHDIR method to add a directory to monitor for changes.
  • Handle the CHANGED event to receive notifications of directory changes.
  • Use the STOP method to stop monitoring directories.

We’ll take a quick look at each of these methods and events below along with a couple of important properties:

The WATCHDIR method

This method allows you to specify a directory to monitor along with some optional flags. It may be called multiple times to watch more than one directory.

bSuccess = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "WATCHDIR", DirName, bSubtree, Flags )
DirName(required) Specifies the name of the directory to watch. It should be a fully qualified, non-relative directory path.
bSubtree(optional) Set to TRUE$ to monitor all sub-directories beneath DirName as well. Defaults to FALSE$.
Flags(optional) A bit-mask value containing a set of flags that denote the events to monitor in the directories. It defaults to the following flags:


The flag values are specified in the MSWIN_FILENOTIFY_EQUATES insert record,

This method returns TRUE$ if successful, or FALSE$ otherwise.

The STOP method

This method stops the control monitoring its specified directories.

bSuccess = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "STOP" )

This method returns TRUE$ if successful, or FALSE$ otherwise.

(Note – to resume directory monitoring after the STOP method has been called the WATCHDIR method(s) must be executed again).

The CHANGED event

This event is raised when changes have been detected in the monitored directories.

bForward = CHANGED( NewData )

This event passes a single parameter called NewData which contains an @vm-delimited list of changed items (i.e. notifications). Each item in the list comprises an “action code” and the name and path of the affected file, delimited by an @svm.

Action codes are defined in the MSWIN_FILENOTIFY_EQUATES insert record like so:

   equ FILE_ACTION_ADDED$               to 0x00000001   
   equ FILE_ACTION_REMOVED$             to 0x00000002   
   equ FILE_ACTION_MODIFIED$            to 0x00000003   
   equ FILE_ACTION_RENAMED_OLD_NAME$    to 0x00000004   
   equ FILE_ACTION_RENAMED_NEW_NAME$    to 0x00000005 


If a monitored directory experiences a high volume of changes (such as copying or removing thousands of files) it could generate a correspondingly high number of CHANGED events, which in turn could produce an adverse affect on your application and slow it down. In order to deal with this potential issue it is possible to “bundle up” multiple notifications with the NOTIFYTHRESHOLD property into a single CHANGED event so they may be processed more efficiently.


The NOTIFYTHRESHOLD property is an integer that specifies the maximum number of notifications that should be bundled before a CHANGED event is raised.

CurrVal = Get_Property( CtrlEntID, "NOTIFYTHRESHOLD" )
PrevVal = Set_Property( CtrlEntID, "NOTIFYTHRESHOLD", NewVal )

By default it is set to 100.

The NOTIFYTIMER property

The NOTIFYTIMER property is an integer that specifies the number of milliseconds before a CHANGED event is raised if the NOTIFYTHRESHOLD property value is not met.

CurrVal = Get_Property( CtrlEntID, "NOTIFYTIMER" )
PrevVal = Set_Property( CtrlEntID, "NOTIFYTIMER", NewVal )

By default it is set to 50 (ms).


If the NOTIFYTHRESHOLD property is set to a value greater than 1 then the control will try to bundle that number of notifications together before raising a CHANGED event. However, when this is set to a high value it is possible that the threshold may not be reached in a timely fashion and the CHANGED event not actually raised.

E.g. If the NOTIFYTHRESHOLD is set to 1000, and only 200 notifications are received then the CHANGED event would not be raised.

To prevent this problem the NOTIFYTIMER property may be used to specify the amount of time after receiving the last notification before a CHANGED event is raised even if the NOTIFYTHRESHOLD is not met.

E.g. in the example above, if the control had a NOTIFYTIMER of 50, then a CHANGED event would be raised 50ms after the last notification (200) was received, even though the NOTIFYTHRESHOLD of 1000 has not actually been met.

Developer Notes

The DIRWATCHER control is intended as a “non-visual” control and should probably be hidden at runtime in your own applications. However, it is actually derived from a normal STATIC control so all of the properties and methods that apply to a STATIC apply to the DIRWATCHER as well, and you may use them as normal if you wish.

Yield or Die!

When executing a long running process in a desktop environment, such as selecting records from a large table, it is important for the user to be able to interact with the application even though it is busy. A common example of this is displaying a dialog box that shows the progress of an operation and allowing the user to cancel it if they wish. Failure to provide this ability generally results in user frustration, or causes the dreaded “Window Ghosting” effect where Windows changes a form’s caption to “Not Responding” (this is never a good look, and usually ends in a quick visit to the Task Manager to kill the application).

In order to avoid this problem we have to allow the application to check for user interaction, a process usually referred to as “yielding” (hence the awful title of this post), and this time we’ll take a look at the various options available to accomplish this and the differences between them. Before we go any further however, here’s a little background information on how OpenInsight runs beneath the hood so that you can appreciate how messages and events are handled.

Under the hood

OpenInsight.exe (aka. the “Presentation Server”, or “PS”) has a main thread (the “UI thread”) with a Windows message loop that manages all of the forms and controls, and it also has an internal “event queue” for storing Basic+ events that need to be executed. The PS also creates an instance of the RevEngine virtual machine (“the engine”), which has its own thread (the “engine thread”) with a Windows message loop, and is responsible for executing Basic+ code.

When the PS needs to execute an event it passes it to the engine directly if possible, otherwise it adds the details to the event queue and then posts a message to itself so the queue can be checked and processed when the engine is not busy. When the engine receives the event data it is executed on the engine thread. Stored procedures such as Get_Property, Set_Property, and Exec_Method provide a way for the Basic+ event to communicate back to the PS to interact with the user interface controls and forms during its execution.

The key point to note here is that Basic+ event code runs in a different thread to the UI, so while the engine thread is processing the event, the UI thread is basically waiting for it to finish, and this means that it may or may not get chance to process it’s own message loop. This is where the problems can begin, and why the need for a yielding ability, because:

  1. The engine thread needs to be paused or interrupted in some fashion so that the UI thread can check and process its own Windows message queue for things like mouse, keyboard and paint messages. If this queue is not checked at least every 10 seconds then Windows assumes that the PS is hung and the “Not Responding” captions are shown on the application forms.
  2. While the engine is processing an event, the PS cannot pass it a new one, so it is added to the event queue. If we are waiting to process some Basic+ event code like a button CLICK to cancel the current operation, then we need some way for this to be retrieved and executed before the current event is finished.

So, now we know why “window ghosting” happens we can take a look at the various options to deal with it.

Options for yielding

MSWin_Sleep stored procedure

This is a direct call to the Windows API Sleep function, and it puts the engine thread to sleep for at least the specified number of milliseconds. However, while calling this will allow Windows to schedule another thread to run, there’s no guarantee that this would be the UI thread, so it’s not really a good solution.

WinYield stored procedure

This is a simple wrapper around the Windows API Sleep function, with a sleep-time of 10ms. This suffers from the same disadvantages discussed for MSWin_Sleep above (This function remains for backwards compatibility with early versions of of OI and Windows).

MSWin_SwitchToThread stored procedure

This is a direct call to the Windows API SwitchToThread function which forces Windows to schedule another thread for execution. Like MSWin_Sleep and WinYield there’s no guarantee that this would cause the UI thread to run, so again it’s not a great solution.

SYSTEM PROCESSEVENTS method (a.k.a Yield stored procedure)

This is a new method in version 10.1 that performs two tasks that solve the problem:

  1. It explicitly tells the UI thread to process its message queue (which will avoid the “ghosting” issue), and
  2. It allows the UI thread to process the event queue so waiting events can be executed as well.

One possible drawback here is that waiting events are also processed, and this might not be a desirable outcome depending on what you are doing. In this case there is another method called PROCESSWINMGS that should be used instead.

(FYI – The PROCESSEVENTS method is essentially a wrapper around the venerable Yield() stored procedure, but allows the same functionality to be called via the standard object-based method API rather than as a “flat” function. Yield() itself is still and will be fully supported in the product).


This is a new method in version 10.1 that tells the PS to process it’s Windows message queue but it does not process any Basic+ events, i.e. it prevents the “ghosting” effect but does not cause events to fire before your application is ready for them.


Version 10.1 has added more functionality to help you avoid the dreaded “Not Responding” message via the PROCESSWINMGS and PROCESSEVENTS methods, and hopefully, armed with the information above, this will help you to write better integrated desktop-applications.

PDF files and the FILEPREVIEW control

The next release of OpenInsight (version 10.1) includes a couple of updates to the FILEPREVIEW control as a result of using it extensively “out in the field”, and in this post we thought we’d look at these changes and why we made them in case you encounter the same issues yourself.

The Adobe problem

As mentioned in this previous post, the FILEPREVIEW control relies on third-party DLLs to provide “preview handlers” that OpenInsight uses to display the contents of files such as Word or PDF documents. However, what we found is that not all of these handlers are created equal and some can be quite problematic – in our case the Adobe PDF preview handler (supplied with the Adobe PDF Reader) proved to be one of these.

When the handler is loaded by OpenInsight one of the things that must be specified is the context in which it is created – this can be “in-process” (which means it runs in the same address space as OpenInsight) or “out-of-process” (which runs as a separate executable). This is done internally by a set of flags, and when you use the FILENAME property these flags are set to their default values which, until recently, had proved sufficient. However, extensive testing (by Martyn at RevSoft) found that the Adobe PDF preview handler had stopped working, and further investigation revealed that at some point recent versions of this had become sensitive to these context flags, so the first change we made was to provide a new SETFILENAME method, which allows you to set the flags yourself if need be:


RetVal = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETFILENAME", FileName, FileExtn, |
                      ContextFlags )
FileNameNoContains the name and path of the file to preview (can be null to remove the preview).
FileExtnNoSpecifies an explicit extension to use, overriding the extension passed in the FileName parameter.
ContextFlagsNoSpecifies a bit-mask of “CLSCTX_” flags used to create the preview handler. Defaults to:


(Equates for these flags can be found in the MSWIN_CLSCTX_EQUATES insert record)

If the returned value is 0 then the operation was successful, otherwise this is an error code reported from Windows and can be passed to the RTI_ErrorText stored procedure to get the details:


// Load the PDF in an out-of-process context
$Insert MSWin_ClsCtx_Equates

RetVal = Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SETFILENAME", "C:\Temp\Test.PDF", "",
                      CLSCTX_LOCAL_SERVER$ )
If RetVal Then
   // Problem...
   ErrorText = RTI_ErrorText( "WIN", RetVal )

Even with this you may still find problems, as the above code was fine for me, but not for Martyn, even though the PDF preview handler worked fine in Windows Explorer itself for both of us! So, we could only conclude that Adobe made sure that the handler worked with the Windows Explorer, but they were less concerned about third party applications (Per-monitor DPI settings are also not supported by the preview handler which is disappointing as well).

The Foxit solution

After some more testing we decided to switch to the Foxit PDF reader which worked as expected, so we would recommend using this for PDF previewing in future if needed.

Removing the FILENAME property at design-time

One other change we made was to remove the FILENAME property from the Form Designer so that it could not be set at design-time due to the following reasons:

  • We had reports that once it had been set it was very difficult to select the control again in the Form Designer, because it basically takes over mouse handling!
  • Document previewing is deemed to more of a run-time operation than a design-time operation.
  • The FILENAME property is deprecated in favor of the SETFILENAME method because the latter provides a more complete API. The FILENAME property is still supported however, and will be going forwards.


So, for v10.1 we have provided a new SETFILENAME method to provide a better interface for file-previewing which gives more feedback and more control, and you should use this in preference to the FILENAME property.

We have also found the Adobe PDF preview handler to be somewhat temperamental in use so would recommend the Foxit preview handler instead if you have problems with the former (Note however, that other preview handlers we use regularly, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint have all worked well without any issues so far).

The Saga of ShellExecute

One of the most popular “raw” Windows API functions that OpenInsight developers have used over the years is the ShellExecute function, which allows you to launch an application via its filename association, e.g. you can launch Word by using a document file name, or Excel using a spreadsheet filename and so on.

However, because it was never really made an “official” part of the product (it was normally passed on in forums), developers were left to create their own DLL Prototype definitions in order to use it – this gave rise to many variations over the years, many of which were not compatible with others. For example, some use LPCHAR as an argument type, some use LPSTR or LPASTR, whilst others use LPVOID with GetPointer(); some definitions use the “Wide” version of the function, some the “Ansi” version, and there are many different aliases, with or without the “A/W” suffix too. The list goes on.

For OpenInsight 10 we decided that we couldn’t move forward with this as we would run the risk of conflicting with established applications, so we moved all of the DLL Prototypes we used into a new namespace called “MSWIN_” and claimed it as our own. This left developers to bring forward their own DLL prototypes into version 10 as and when needed, and therefore we didn’t supply a “ShellExecute” function as such, though we did supply “MsWin_ShellExecute” instead (see below).

Another decision we took was to try and move away from the need for developers to use raw Windows API function calls as much as possible, as some of them can be complex and require knowledge of C/C++ programming, which is not necessarily a skill set that everyone has the time or desire to learn. Ergo, we moved a lot of functionality into the Presentation Server (PS) and created some Basic+ wrapper functions around others to shield developers from the sometimes gory internals.

(We also chose to use the “W” versions of functions rather than the “A” versions where possible, because these would translate better when in UTF8 mode and remove the need for an extra “A”->”W” conversion in Windows itself.)

So, coming back to ShellExecute, and in light of the above, we have three “official” and supported ways of calling it in OpenInsight 10 as detailed below:

  • The SYSTEM object SHELLEXEC method
  • The RTI_ShellExecuteEx stored procedure
  • The MSWin_ShellExecute DLL Prototype stored procedure

The SYSTEM object SHELLEXEC method

If your program is running in “Event Context”, (i.e. it is executing in response to an event originating from the PS) then you may use the SYSTEM SHELLEXEC method which invokes ShellExecuteW internally.

RetVal = Exec_Method( "SYSTEM", "SHELLEXEC", OwnerForm, Operation, File, |
                      Parameters, WorkingDir, ShowCmd )
OwnerFormNoName of a form to use as a parent for displaying UI messages.
OperationNoOperation to be performed; “open”, “edit”, “print” etc.
FileYesFile to perform the operation on.
ParametersNoIf File is an executable file this argument should specify the command line parameters to pass to it.
WorkingDirNoThe default working directory for the operation. If null the current working directory is used.
ShowCmdNoDetermines how an application is displayed when it is opened (as per the normal VISIBLE property).

The return value is the value returned by ShellExecuteW.

The RTI_ShellExecuteEx method

This stored procedure is a wrapper around the Windows API ShellExecuteExW function (which is used internally by ShellExecuteW itself), and may be used outside of event context – it can also return the handle to any new process it starts as a result of executing the document. As you can see it’s quite similar to the SHELLEXEC method:

RetVal = RTI_ShellExecuteEx( Hwnd, Verb, File, Parameters, |
                             Directory, nShow, hProcess )
HwndYesHandle of a window to use as a parent for displaying UI messages, or null (0) to use the desktop.
VerbNoOperation to be performed; “open”, “edit”, “print” etc.
FileYesFile to perform the operation on.
ParametersNoIf File is an executable file this argument should specify the command line parameters to pass to it.
DirectoryNoThe default working directory for the operation. If null the current working directory is used.
nShowNoDetermines how an application is displayed when it is opened (as per the normal VISIBLE property).
hProcessNoReturns the handle to the new process.

The return value is the value returned by ShellExecuteExW.

The MSWin_ShellExecute DLL Prototype stored procedure

This is the “raw” DLL function that is included with OI10, and the definition can be found in the MSWIN_SHELL32 DLLPROTOTYPE entity:


Because we’re using LPWSTR data types there is no need to null-terminate any of your variables so using it is quite simple:

RetVal = MsWin_ShellExecute( 0, "open", "stuff.docx", "", "c:\docs", 1 )

Migrating ShellExecute

Whilst you are free to use one of the methods outlined above, this may not be optimal if you are still sharing code between your existing version 9 application and your new version 10 one. In this case there are a couple of options you could use:

  • Define your preferred DLL prototype in v10.
  • Use a wrapper procedure and conditional compilation.

Defining your own prototype

This is probably the easiest option – you simply use the same prototype in v10 that you did in version 9, with the same alias (if any), and this way the code that uses it doesn’t need to be changed. The only downside to this if you’ve used any 32-bit specific data types instead of 32/64-bit safe types like HANDLE (this could happen if you have a really old prototype) – you must ensure that you use types that are 64-bit compliant.

Using conditional compilation

This is a technique we used when writing the initial parts of v10 in a v9 system so our stored procedures would run the correct code depending on the platform they were executing on (it was actually first used to share code between ARev and OI many years ago!).

The v10 Basic+ compiler defines a token called “REVENG64” which is not present in the v9 compiler – this means that you can check for this in your source code with “#ifdef/#ifndef” directives and write code for the different compiler versions.

For example, you could write your own wrapper procedure for ShellExecute that looks something like this:

Compile Function My_ShellExecute( hwnd, verb, file, params, dir, nShow )

#ifdef REVENG64
   // V10 Compiler - use RTI function
   Declare Function RTI_ShellExecuteEx
   RetVal = RTI_ShellExecuteEx( hwnd, verb, file, params, dir, nShow, "" )

#ifndef REVENG64
   // V9 Compiler - use existing "raw" prototype
   Declare Function ShellExecute
   RetVal = ShellExecute( hwnd, verb, file, params, dir, nShow )

Return RetVal

And then call My_ShellExecute from your own code.

So, there ends the Saga of ShellExecute … at least for now.

Methods, Events, and Documentation

In a recent post we provided a preview of the OpenInsight IMAGE API documentation for the upcoming release of version 10.1. As that proved quite popular we thought we’d provide some more, this time dealing with the Common GUI API (i.e. the basic interface that virtually every GUI object supports) and the WINDOW object API – two core areas of OI GUI programming.

Methods, not Events

One thing you may notice as you look through these documents is the addition of many new methods, such as SHOWOPTIONS or QBFCLOSESESSION – this is an attempt to tidy up the API into a more logical and coherent format that is a better fit for an object-based interface.

As we went through the product in order to document it, it became very apparent that there were many instances where events were being used to mimic methods, such as sending a WRITE event to save the data in a form, or sending a CLICK event to simulate a button click and so on. In object-based terminology this sort of operation would be performed by a method, which is a directive that performs an action – the event is a notification in response to that action. So, for example, you would call a “write” method to save your data and the system would raise a “write” event so you could deal with it.

Of course, this distinction will probably not bother many developers – just API purists like myself, but this does have another advantage if you like to use Object Notation Syntax (I do) – you can now perform actions such as reading and writing form data by using the”->” notation, whereas before you would have to use the Send_Event stored procedure which essentially breaks the object-based paradigm.

So instead of:

   Call Send_Event( @Window, "WRITE" )

you would use the form’s WRITEROW method instead:

   @@Window->WriteRow( "" )

which is a more natural fit for this style of programming.

(It is also easier to explain to new OI programmers who are used to other object-based languages and environments where everything is properties, methods and events).

Methods, not Stored Procedures

This brings us finally onto the topic of Stored Procedures and the object API, where several of these also fulfill the role of methods. For example, take the venerable Msg stored procedure used to display a message box for a parent form – a different way of treating this would be to have a SHOWMESSAGE method for the parent form rather than using a “raw” Msg call. Likewise for starting a new form: instead of using the raw Start_Window procedure, the SYSTEM and WINDOW objects now support a STARTFORM method instead.

Of course, none of this changes your existing code, nor is it enforced, it’s just something you can use if and when you wish to. However, even if my API pedantry hasn’t persuaded you to change your coding style, some of the new methods are worth investigating as they provide a better opportunity for us to extend the product’s functionality further – take a look at the WINDOW READROW and WRITEROW methods for an example of this – they support new features that we couldn’t do with just sending events.

In any case, here are the links – hopefully some light reading for your weekend!

Screenshots with the CAPTUREIMAGE method

Bitmap controls in OpenInsight 10 have a method called CAPTUREIMAGE, which allows you to “screenshot” the contents of another OI control or form into the Bitmap control’s IMAGE sub-object. As you can see, it has a very simple interface:

SuccessFlag = Exec_Method( BitMapCtrlID, "CAPTUREIMAGE", CaptureID )

Where “CaptureID” is the fully qualified name of the control to screenshot.


If we have a form called TEST_CAPTUREIMAGE, with a BITMAP control called BMP_SCREENSHOT, then we can screenshot the contents of the IDE into it like so:

                   "RTI_IDE" )
Shows a captured image of the OpenInsight IDE in a Bitmap control.

(N.B. The captured image you see displayed above is scaled – the screenshot is stored at full resolution in the control itself)

One obvious use for this is for support purposes, e.g:

  • Take a screen-shot with CAPTUREIMAGE.
  • Use The SAVETOFILE method in the IMAGE API to save it to a file.
  • Create an email message with the image file attached or embedded and send it to your support desk.

We’re sure you can think of more.

Bonus trivia:

  • CAPTUREIMAGE works with any object that supports the Windows WM_PRINTCLIENT message.
  • BITMAP controls are basically an alias for STATIC controls, so all STATIC controls support this method.


In the next release of OpenInsight we’ve added a new feature that allows you to quickly display runtime databinding information for the controls in your application – the aptly named SHOWDATABINDING method.

It’s a simple method that is supported by all controls, and can be invoked like so:

Call Exec_Method( CtrlEntID, "SHOWDATABINDING" )

If the control is bound to a database table then it displays a view-only dialog of data binding information for that control. The following example shows the information for a bound column in an EditTable control:

Dialog box showing an example of the databinding information displayed via the SHOWDATABINDING method.

The Description, Validation, Heading and Formula attributes all have their own sub-dialog boxes to display their full details.

If the control is not databound a simple message is displayed to inform the user of the fact.

This method can easily be added to menu or contextmenu QuickEvents in your own applications if you wish to expose this information to your users, or just for your own diagnostic purposes.

The IMAGE Object API (Redux)

Once upon a time, in a blog post far far away, we looked at a very early incarnation of the version 10 Image API which described how images were used with OpenInsight forms and controls. Since then the API has changed quite a bit, so this post gives you a PDF link to a preview of the API documentation which covers the capabilities in the next release, some of which hasn’t been described before.

An overview of the Image API

Many GUI types managed by the Presentation Server support images in one form or another; some have background images, some have glyphs, some have image lists and so on. However, many of these images have properties of their own, and in most cases these image properties are common to all.

Because of this most Presentation Server types that support images expose them as intrinsic “sub-objects”, thorough a model we refer to as the “Image Object API”. The image object’s lifetime is managed by the system and it cannot be programmatically destroyed from Basic+, but it can be manipulated by the Get/Set_Property and Exec_Method functions just like any other Presentation Server object.

The entire Image API is described in the linked PDF below but be aware that not all image objects support all of the API. For example, a PUSHBUTTON type does not support an “INDEX” property for its background image, and its SplitGlyph image doesn’t support an ALIGN property: All such exceptions are documented in the relevant sections that describe each object type.

Supported image types

The Presentation Server supports the following image types via the WIC (Windows Imaging Component) sub-sytem:

  • BMP
  • ICO
  • PNG
  • GIF
  • JPEG
  • TIFF

Image Object Properties

ALIGNSpecifies the horizontal and vertical alignment of the image
within its parent.
AUTOSCALESpecifies if the image should be scaled along with its parent
COLORKEYSpecifies the color in the image that should be treated as the
“transparent color”.
COUNTSpecifies the number of sub-images within an image file.
FILENAMEReturns the name of the image file being displayed.
FILENAMESSpecifies an array of DPI-specific image files to display.
FRAMECOUNTReturns the number of “frames” within an image.
FRAMEDELAYReturns the delay time in milliseconds for a multi-frame image.
FRAMEINDEXSpecifies the frame to display within a multi-frame image.
INDEXSpecifies the index of the sub-image to display within a multiimage file.
OFFSETSpecifies the point within the image (not the object) to begin
drawing from.
ORIGINSpecifies the point within the object (not the image) to begin
drawing from.
SIZEReturns the width and height of the image in pixels
STYLESpecifies how the image is drawn into an object (Tiled,
Stretched, Clipped or Scaled).
TRANSLUCENCYSpecifies the degree of transparency applied to an image when
it is drawn

Image Object Methods

SAVETOFILESaves the current image to a file.
SETHBITMAPLoads an image from a Windows BITMAP handle (HBITMAP).
SETIMAGELoads an image from an array of “raw” image bytes.
SETREPOSIMAGESpecifies the image file(s) using an OpenInsight repository
IMAGE entity.

Here’s the link to the Image Object API PDF – adding animated GIFs to your applications has never been so easy!