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Posted 4 Apr 2001

Extending WndTabs - The WndTabs SDK

, 4 Apr 2001
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Make the WndTabs tabs work for you - with this powerful API.

The new WndTabs 'Addons' menu with one addon loaded

The WTSDK_Samp Addon


The WndTabs SDK allows Visual C++ addins to interface with WndTabs, adding new capabilities to the WndTabs tabs.  Through the SDK, you can add new commands to the tabs, and also alter the way the tabs look.  Addins that enhance WndTabs through the SDK are called WndTabs addons.

The SDK is supported by version 3.0 of WndTabs (get it here).  

If you aren't familiar with the WndTabs addin, you can learn more about it here and here.

Creating a WndTabs Addon

WndTabs addons must be registered with the AddInComm library, as WndTabs uses the AddInComm's dynamic discovery and messaging facilities to communicate with the addons.  After registering with AddInComm, the InitWndTabsIntegration function is used to initialize the SDK.  Both procedures should be performed in your addin's


STDMETHODIMP CDSAddIn::OnConnection(IApplication* pApp, VARIANT_BOOL bFirstTime, 
                                    long dwCookie, VARIANT_BOOL* OnConnection)
    // Register with AddInComm
    m_hAddin = AICRegisterAddIn("MyAddon", 1, 0, 5, AddInCallback);

    // Register with WndTabs
    InitWndTabsIntegration("MyAddon", <a href="#OnTabUpdate">OnTabUpdate</a>, <a href="#OnWTCommand">OnWTCommand</a>, <a href="#OnWTCommandUpdateUI">OnWTCommandUpdateUI</a>, 
                           <a href="#Commands_For_WT">Commands_For_WT</a>, countof(Commands_For_WT), OnWTEvent, 
        WndTabs_Ev_WindowChanged | WndTabs_Ev_TabClicked);

The AICRegisterAddIn call adds your addin to AddInComm's active addin database.  In the above example, the add-in is registered with the name "MyAddon", with the version number 1.0.5.  The AddInCallback function is designated as the AddInComm message handler.

InitWndTabsIntegration initializes the WndTabs SDK.  It must know the AddInComm name your addin is using, as well as other information regarding specific SDK functionality, such as which commands your addon supports.  These parameters will be discussed in further detail below.

To clean up resources, and properly unregister from WndTabs and AddInComm, the following code should appear in an Addon's OnDisconnection method:

    EndWndTabsIntegration();      // Unregister from WndTabs
    AICUnregisterAddIn(m_hAddin); // Unregister from AddInComm

We're almost there - just one thing left to do:  The WndTabs SDK code has to be hooked into your AddInComm message handler, allowing it to intercept SDK related messages.  In the OnConnection function, we specified

as the callback function.   A skeleton for this function would be:

// callback for AddInComm
int AddInCallback(LPCTSTR pCmd)

    int iRetVal;    
    if ((iRetVal = WndTabsInt_Callback(pCmd)) != -1)  // call the SDK  
        return iRetVal;

    // do any other processing here

    return -1;  // -1 should be returned if you didn't handle the command

It is an AddInComm convention to return -1 if you don't handle the specified command.  For non-SDK commands, the WndTabsInt_Callback function returns just that.  This means that if your addin doesn't implement any AddInComm commands of its own, you can pass WndTabsInt_Callback directly to the AICRegisterAddIn function to save yourself the trouble of writing a callback function.

Adding New Commands To WndTabs

Commands for the WTSDK_Samp addon, as displayed in a tab context menu

Up to this point, we've seen how to create a skeleton addon that doesn't actually do anything.  It's time to add some functionality.

One of the things that addons can do is to add new commands to WndTabs.  These commands are displayed under the Addons sub-menu (which is available, by default, under both the tab context menu and the main WndTabs menu).

Declaring Your Commands And Command Handler

For each command you want to add, you must supply a WTSDK_CommandDef structure:

// from the SDK headers
struct WTSDK_CommandDef
    int     iCmd;       // the identifier for your command
    LPCSTR  pszName;    // the display name for your command
    int     idBmpRes;   // the resource id for the menu bitmap (or -1)
    WTSDK_UIUpadateFlags UIUpdateFlags;

// from WTSDK_Samp
WTSDK_CommandDef <a name="Commands_For_WT">Commands_For_WT</a>[] =
    { idCmdShowDialog,  "Show WTSDK_Samp Dialog", IDB_MAIN,     UI_AlwaysAvailable },
    { idCmdEnable,      "Enable Transforms",      -1,           UI_UseCallback     },
    { idCmdShowContext, "Show Command Context",   IDB_INFO,     UI_AlwaysAvailable },
    { idCmdFileInfo,    "Show File Information",  IDB_FILEINFO, UI_MustHaveFile    }

The pszName and idBmpRes fields are self explanatory.  The iCmd field should specify a unique identifier for each command.  This identifier is passed back to your command handler, just as Windows passes message identifiers to your program's message handler.  The UIUpdateFlags parameter specifies when the command should be enabled/disabled.  But we'll get into that in just a bit.

You also need to supply a command handler callback.  The handler looks like this:

void <a name="OnWTCommand">OnWTCommand</a>(int iCmd, const WTSDK_CommandContext *pCmdContext)
    switch (iCmd)
        case idCmdEnable :
            cfg_bEnabled = !cfg_bEnabled;

            // unknown command!

The Command Context

Before any WndTabs command (either internal or Addon supplied) is executed, WndTabs creates a command context object.  This object includes invaluable information about the tab/file that is associated with the command.  This is the tab that you right-clicked on (if you execute a command from the tab context menus), or the active tab (if you use a keyboard shortcut or a non-tab menu).  Note that it is still legal to use a keyboard shortcut when there are no windows at all!  The command will still be issued, but the command context will reflect the fact there is no associated tab/file.

struct WTSDK_CommandContext
   UINT    cbSize;     /* set to size of this structure */
   BOOL    bHasDoc;
   BOOL    bHasFile;
   BOOL    bIsTextWindow;
   BOOL    bIsActiveWindow;
   BOOL    bIsGroupOperation;
   HWND    hWnd;
   char    szFullPath[MAX_PATH];
   CComPtr<IGenericWindow>    pWindow;  // DevStudio automation
   CComPtr<IGenericDocument>  pDoc;

A WTSDK_Samp command context dialog for the AboutDlg.cpp file

Again, most of the WTSDK_CommandContext fields are self explanatory.  The following is a brief overview of a few of the contexts you can run into:


bHasFile True - This is a normal file window
False - This is a non file window (e.g. the "Disassembly" window)/a window of a file that hasn't been saved before/command issued with no open windows
bHasDoc True - This window has editable content (i.e. a text file or resource file)
False - This is a non editable window (e.g. the "Disassembly" window)/command issued with no open windows
bIsTextWindow True - A text window
False - A non text window, such as a resource file or a docked DevStudio window (i.e. "Disassembly", "Output", etc.)
bIsGroupOperation True - The user clicked on the shared part of a group tab (WndTabsExt only)
False - The user clicked on a non group tab or on a specific file within a group tab

UI Updates

The last piece in the puzzle is the UI update.  It is up to you to tell WndTabs when your command should be enabled or disabled.  For your convenience, the WndTabs SDK defines the WTSDK_UIUpadateFlags enumeration, which is passed in the command's WTSDK_CommandDef structure:

enum WTSDK_UIUpadateFlags 
    UI_AlwaysAvailable     = 0,
    UI_MustHaveFile        = 1,  // was already saved at least once, i.e. not a new text window 
    UI_MustHaveDoc         = 2,  // any editable window - windows such as "Disassembly" 
                                 //  don't have a doc 
    UI_MustHaveTextDoc     = 4,  // same as above, but must be a text document (for instance, 
                                 // not a resource) 
    UI_MustHaveOpenWindows = 8,  // at least one window must be open
    UI_MustBeActiveWindow  = 16, // command applies only to active windows

    UI_UseCallback         = 128 // call user-defined UI update callback

You can pass any combination of flags:

(UI_MustHaveDoc | UI_MustBeActiveWindow)      // enable only if has a document 
                                              //  and is the active window

(UI_MustHaveFile | UI_UseCallback)            // enable/disable based on file 
                                              //  availability, then call user callback

The user callback function for UI updates is an optional function that you can pass to the SDK while registering your addon.  This function is very similar to a function that you would write to handle MFC's <a href=""> ON_UPDATE_COMMAND_UI</a> message.  For example, this is the UI handler callback implemented by SDK sample:

// This is a sample of a custom UI handler (used only for the "Enable Transformation" command).
// The handler sets a checkmark for the command based on the current configuration settings.
void OnWTCommandUpdateUI(int iCmd, CCmdUI *pCmdUI, const WTSDK_CommandContext *pCmdContext)
    // only the idCmdEnable command requested UI notifications
    ASSERT(iCmd == idCmdEnable); 


Tab Morphing

Example of tab transformations   Example of tab transformations

The most interesting feature of the SDK, in my opinion, is the ability to transform the tabs themselves.  An SDK addon has access to the following tab attributes:

  • The Tab Text - You can change the text as well as the text color.
  • The Tab Icon - You can change/replace the icon.
  • The Tab Overlay Icon - The overlay icon is merged with the regular icon before the tab is drawn.  For example, the tab numbers are overlays.

! Note: Tab transformations require that the WndTabsExt component be enabled.

In the above pictures you can see a few of these transformations:

  Text Transform
Icon        Transform</font></td>
      <td align="center"><code>Overlay        Icon Transform
Left Picture The .cpp extension was changed to .cxx
The color was changed
A new icon for .cpp files
A red border for read-only files
Right Picture The asterisk was removed
The color was changed
A new icon for .cpp files The asterisk was added as an overlay

Note the use of an "overlay" for the asterisk icon (right picture).  Although you can change the actual icon, overlaying is usually achieved by modifying the overlay icon (which usually holds the tab number image).  Changing the overlay icon will ensure that the overlay is unaffected when other addons modify the actual icon.

Transformation are preformed in two stages:

  1. The change stage - In this stage, addons a expected to make any destructive changes, such as totally replacing the text or icon.
  2. The modify stage - In this stage, addons are expected to make modifications to the current text/icons.

Although the above guidelines cannot be enforced, all addons are expected to cooperate.

The Tab Modification Function

The tab modification callback (which was passed to the SDK during InitWndTabsIntegration call) looks like this:

void <a name="OnTabUpdate">OnTabUpdate</a>(WTSDK_TabUpdateInfo *pTabUpdateInfo, const WTSDK_CommandContext *pCmdContext)
    // find out some stuff about the tab's file
    const char * const pLastDot = strrchr(pCmdContext->szFullPath, '.');
    bool bIsCpp = (pLastDot  &&  (stricmp(pLastDot, ".cpp") == 0));


    if (pTabUpdateInfo->stage == WTSDK_TabUpdateInfo::change)
        // the "change" stage - perform any operation that totally replaces 
        // texts or icons
        // the "modify" stage - perform any operation that makes alterations 
        // to existing texts or icons

Like other callbacks, you have access to the command context.  However, the actual information about the tab is passed in the WTSDK_TabUpdateInfo structure:

struct WTSDK_TabUpdateInfo
    UINT cbSize; // Must be set to sizeof(WTSDK_TabUpdateInfo)

    enum { change, modify } stage;  // see explanation <a href="#stages">here</a>

    // == Text on Tab ==
    int iTabNumber;     // the number (0 based index) of the tab - notice,
                        //   however, that the text indexes shown to the
                        //   user start at 1 (i.e. TextIdx==iTabNumber + 1)

    char szPrefix[256]; // the text before the file name (i.e. tab number)
                        // <u>see picture</u>
    char szBase[512];   // the text that belongs to the tab's entire group 
                        // (the file name)  <u>see picture</u>
    char szSuffix[256]; // the text that is different for each tab in the group 
                        // (the extension) <u>see picture</u>

    // These are the texts without alterations - DO NOT CHANGE
    const char *pszOrigPrefix, *pszOrigBase, *pszOrigSuffix;

    // == Colors ==
    COLORREF    crTextColorSel;     // when tab is selected
    COLORREF    crTextColorNotSel;  // when tabs isn't selected

    // == Icons ==
    wt_auto_icon  hIcon;
    wt_auto_icon  hIconOverlay;

The text parts of a tab

In order to change the text, you may modify szPrefix, szBase and szSuffix.  The text color is defined by crTextColorSel and crTextColorNotSel.  The icons (regular and overlay) are accessed through the hIcon and hIconOverlay variables.

Keep in mind that the text in the tab info object might not correspond to the original file name.  For instance, for .cpp files, szSuffix should be ".cpp", however, any addon may change this text.  Even the pszOrigSuffix variable that holds the original value might not have ".cpp" as it's value, because the user might choose not to display extensions on the tabs!  If you need to access the file's name, use the command context object.

WndTabs Events

Another service provided by the SDK is WndTabs events.  To get access to event, you may optionally pass an event handler to the SDK initialization function.  This function will be called whenever one of the following events occurs:

WndTabs_Ev_WindowChanged Called whenever the active window is changed (or if the last window is closed).  The extra parameter to this event is the HWND of the new window (or NULL if there are no open windows).

NOTE: If the user changes/opens/closes windows very quickly (e.g. by using Close All Windows or opening many files at once), an event might not be generated for every single window activation/deactivation!
WndTabs_Ev_TabClicked Called whenever a user left-clicks on a tab. Note that this does not necessarily mean that a window change will occur.  The extra parameter to this event is the number of the tab that was clicked (or -1 if there are no open windows).


The SDK Sample Addon (WTSDK_Samp)

You know what they say: A sample's worth a thousand articles.  And I say that they're right!

The SDK comes with a sample addon - WTSDK_Samp.  The sample demonstrates everything you can do with an addon - text transformations, commands, and UI callbacks.  It also demonstrates proper AddInComm registration.  In short - it's a good place to start.

Tips For Writing Addons

If you're thinking about writing an addon, here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • The source code for WndTabs is available for download.  You can compile a debug build that will help you track bugs much more quickly.
  • Your addon is just another DevStudio addin.  For tips on debugging addins, check the WndTabs online help under the "Compiling and Debugging" topic.
  • If you mix Debug builds of addons with a Release build of WndTabs (or visa versa), your addon dialogs might not appear centered on the screen.  This is normal.  The problem will go away when create a release build.
  • Support is just an e-mail away! 


If you install and play around with the SDK and its sample, you will quickly realize that the sky is the limit!  Everything from unique icons to hooking the tabs into your favorite version control system is now possible...  Just write a WndTabs addon!


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Oz Solomon
Canada Canada
You may know Oz from his WndTabs days. Oz has long since left client side development to work on web technologies and to consult in the R&D management field.

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 1 Pin
ghh201215-Nov-10 21:42
memberghh201215-Nov-10 21:42 
GeneralThe Challange Pin
Oz Solomon5-Apr-01 4:07
memberOz Solomon5-Apr-01 4:07 

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