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Creating and consuming MFC DLLs for Beginners

By , 29 Jun 2002
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What is a DLL? DLL stands for Dynamic Link Library. Using DLL's offers several advantages as mentioned below:
  1. They simplify project management. If different groups work on different modules during the development process, the project is easier to manage.
  2. They help conserve memory. If two or more applications use the same DLL, the DLL has its pages in RAM once and the pages are shared by all of the applications. The C/C++ run-time library is a perfect example. Many applications use this library.
  3. They extend the features of an application. Since DLLs can be dynamically loaded into a process's address space, an application can determine at run time what actions to perform and then load the code to execute those actions on demand.
  4. They can be written in many programming languages. You can choose the best language for the job at hand. Perhaps your application's user interface is best programmed with Microsoft Visual Basic, but the business logic is better handled by C++.

Writing the application using a DLL

There are two parts to writing this application.
  1. Writing the DLL whose functions we are going to call
  2. Writing a test client for the DLL

Creating the DLL

  1. Fire up Visual C++ & choose the Project as MFC AppWizard(Dll) and type in Project name as MyDll
  2. Let the default selection for DLL type remain, i.e "Regular DLL using Shared MFC DLL"
  3. Click Finish and then Ok to get Visual Studio to generate the necessary files.
  4. Go to the class view, right click on “MyDll classes” and choose “New Class”.
  5. Now choose Class type as "Generic Class" .
  6. Type in the Class name CMyClass, the wizard automatically fills in the rest of the names.
  7. Go to the class view again
  8. Right click on the CMyClass and choose “Add Member Function”
  9. Type in the name of the function type as CString and fill in the function declaration as SayHello (CString strName). Choose Access type of the function as public. Note : CString is a MFC class that makes manipulation of strings very easy.
  10. Now go to file view and type in the following code into CMyClass.cpp as shown below in Code Snippet 2

  11. To be able to call the functions from an external application we have to prefix all function signatures with __declspec(dllexport) . This change is made in the CMyClass.h file as shown in Code Snippet 1

Compile the application and your DLL is ready

// CMyClass.h 
//{-----------     Code Snippet 1 --------------------------
class CMyClass  
	__declspec(dllexport)  CString SayHello (CString strName);
	__declspec(dllexport)  CMyClass();
	__declspec(dllexport)  virtual ~CMyClass();


//{-----------     Code Snippet 1 --------------------------

// CMyClass.cpp
//{-----------     Code Snippet 2 --------------------------

CString CMyClass::SayHello(CString strName)
	//Return the input string with a Hello prefixed 
	 return "Hello " + strName; 

//{-----------     Code Snippet 2 --------------------------

Creating the DLL Client

Now we write a 'Client' to test our DLL This is a MFC dialog based application with a edit box and two buttons.
  1. Select New MFC AppWizard(exe) from the project menu and type in the project name TestDLL
  2. Choose Dialog based application and click Finish
  3. You would now be looking at the application in the resource view. Add an edit box to the application by selecting the edit box, next click on the dialog box and drag.
  4. Also create a CString (value) variable associated with it, call this variable m_edit i.e Click on the edit box and press CTRL and W to bring up the class wizard. Choose the member variables tab and choose IDC_EDIT1 and click on “Add Variable”, of type "Value" and type m_edit
  5. Now a file called TestDLLDlg.cpp would have been generated .
  6. Double click the “Ok” button on the dialog, the wizard pops up a box asking a name for the function, choose the default name “OnOk” to go to the TestDLLDlg.cpp file
  7. Modify TestDLLdlg.cpp to look like the Code Snippet 1, the code entered has no effect and the project at this point will not compile. (Basically we are calling a method of a class object, this object has not been defined as yet.)
  8. Goto the file TestDLLDlg.h and include the header file for your class i.e MyClass.h .
  9. In the file TestDLLDlg.h declare an object of your class objMyClass present in the DLL
  10. After steps 8 & 9 the code looks as in Code Snippet 2
  11. We need to modify the project settings to compile the project, Click on "Project->Settings->Link" and in the "Object/Library Modules" enter the complete or relative path to the DLL's library file. i.e. A .lib file is generated in the same folder as your DLL, I have entered "..\MyDll\Debug\MyDll.lib" here.
  12. Compile the application and if it has compiled successfully. Run it. 

    Hey, Why are we getting this stupid box saying "Unable to located DLL" ? 
    Solution: Copy the MyDll.dll to the same folder as the TestDll.exe

Run the application, enter a name in the text box and click the okay button, this will show a message box containing the same text prefixed with a hello.

// ----------------- Code Snippet 1 ----------------------------
void CTestDLLDlg::OnOK() 
	CString strResult = objMyClass.SayHello(m_edit);
	AfxMessageBox (strResult);
// ----------------- Code Snippet 1 ----------------------------
// ----------------- Code Snippet 2 ----------------------------
// CTestDLLDlg dialog

 #include "..\MyDll\MyClass.h" 

class CTestDLLDlg : public CDialog
// Construction
	CTestDLLDlg(CWnd* pParent = NULL);	// standard constructor
	 CMyClass objMyClass; 

// Dialog Data

// ----------------- Code Snippet 2 ----------------------------


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About the Author

Imran Ebrahim
Product Manager
India India
Imran is a software professional with 9 years of development experience and has worked on JAVA, VB6, VC6, C# & some JavaScript.
He is interested in Hi-Performance code, OO Methodology, OS API's, Optimizing Windows, Tweaking IE.
For the last few years Imran has specialized in developing robust, hi-performance applications & GUI's (Swing) for MNC's.

Comments and Discussions

Discussions posted for the Published version of this article. Posting a message here will take you to the publicly available article in order to continue your conversation in public.
QuestionI have a Dll file of 3rd party, how to using it [modified] PinmemberMạnh Lê4-Nov-13 15:50 
GeneralGood "how" starting point, needs more "why" PinmemberVaclav_Sal30-Mar-13 6:59 
GeneralRe: Good "how" starting point, needs more "why" PinmemberImran Ebrahim30-Mar-13 7:34 
SuggestionWrong information [modified] PinmemberEdd_14-Aug-12 11:58 
GeneralRe: Wrong information PinmemberImran Ebrahim17-Aug-12 21:09 
QuestionWhat happens if shared MFC DLL is missing? Which are files linking to it? Pinmemberdjninjarocks26-Jul-12 23:10 
AnswerRe: What happens if shared MFC DLL is missing? Which are files linking to it? Pinmemberruiwng21-Aug-12 2:21 
QuestionPlease Build Step-BY-Step project to use open source DLL in VC++ 2010 MFC Application PinmemberSumit Makhe8-Mar-12 21:15 
GeneralMy vote of 1 Pinmembergoldenrose91-Mar-11 3:36 
QuestionNice, but how do you "debug" this DLL? Pinmemberrbid29-Jul-09 22:14 
AnswerRe: Nice, but how do you "debug" this DLL? PinmemberKarstenK19-Aug-09 21:23 
Questioncannot convert from 'const char [7]' to 'ATL::CStringT<BaseType,StringTraits>' PinmemberIgen19-Aug-06 22:04 
Generalcrash Pinmemberi_a_z9-Aug-06 0:44 
Generalgett errors on compile test app Pinmemberehauer19-Apr-06 8:41 
Generalit works excelent Pinmembernazg11-Mar-06 8:05 
GeneralRe: it works excelent Pinmemberstevan.t11-Jul-08 11:56 
GeneralLinker error PinmemberGrahamLuks29-Jan-06 14:33 
GeneralRe: Linker error .. wherein I answer my own question. PinmemberGrahamLuks29-Jan-06 15:31 
GeneralConverting Console Exe to DLL Pinmembersantosh.vispute15-Jan-06 20:44 
QuestionDLL entry point not found error PinmemberJaywant.Kulkarni26-Dec-05 2:27 
AnswerRe: DLL entry point not found error Pinmembercbm32cbm27-Sep-07 7:27 
AnswerRe: DLL entry point not found error Pinmembercbm32cbm27-Sep-07 7:27 
GeneralDLL using ODBC PinmemberarkopII8-Apr-05 14:26 
QuestionWhy "MFC in a static library" can not be used? PinmemberFrankie Deak2-Mar-05 2:02 
AnswerRe: Why "MFC in a static library" can not be used? PinmemberFrankie Deak7-Mar-05 1:10 

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