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Posted 2 Dec 1999


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Window Tabs (WndTabs) Add-In for DevStudio

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5.00/5 (37 votes)
11 Jul 2002
Window and File Management add-in for Visual C++

The latest versions of these downloads can be found at

WndTabs loaded into DevStudio


Most people know what WndTabs is by now.  If you don't, then I suggest you visit the overview page, which also highlights the new features in every release.

In general, WndTabs is an add-in for Visual C++ 5/6 and eVC 3 (and to some extent eVC4 *) which adds a much needed tab strip to the Visual Studio MDI workspace.  The tabs are much more than a window switching vehicle, exposing many useful file and window management functions.

A feature tour is also available online.  It is recommended for both new and experienced user!

Version 3.1 Blurbs

The WndTabs source base is quite large (almost 30,000 lines, not including the extension module) and is too big to cover in one article.  Instead, I would like to focus on the things that were added during the latest release.

The Installer

Though not a programmer topic per se, I wanted to share my experiences in the world of installation.

Versions 3.0x of WndTabs were shipped using an MSI installer I created with InstallShield.  As good or as bad as InstallShield is as a development platform, there is something that it cannot change, namely MSI, the underlying technology.  MSI, for those who don't know, is Microsoft's installer technology/installation platform.  It supports advanced features such as install on demand (as you see in Office) and auto-healing as well as the more trivial installation tasks.

I'll spare you the gorgy details, and go straight to the bottom line: For small, web based software products, MSI is unsuitable.  Here are some reasons why (in no particular order):

  • It's buggy.  There's no pretty way of saying it.  And it's cryptic.  A user can get an error such as "The system administrator has set policies to prevent the installation" when in fact there is no such policy.  The fix in this case is removing an even more cryptic registry entry (HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Installer\Products\A7AC1985CAF0BB64FB37E18FB2A89724 for WndTabs).  That's not good for either you or your users.

    Many other bugs exist, and I won't list them all here.  If you are curious, have a look at the installation FAQ (questions marked as "Versions 3.0x") for some more issues I frequently had to deal with.
  • Yet another brain dead feature of MSI is that the user is required to keep the source installation package in order to uninstall.  This is fine if your product ships on a CD (the installer asks you to pop in the CD, which is fine).  But if you downloaded the installer from the web, then deleted or moved it (which is a common thing users do), you will not be able to uninstall the software.  On a related note, this issue also affects "patch" installations.
  • Minor complaint - authoring anything but the simplest installers is a nightmare in MSI.  This, even with tools like InstallShield at your side.

As you can guess, the support nightmare eventually drove me to use a different installer, one which I am much more pleased with.  Again, MSI is not necessarily evil in general, but I suggest that if you choose it as your installation vehicle, make sure you do your homework and know what you're doing.

User Interface Localization - WndTabs in Multiple Languages

One of the biggest changes in WndTabs 3.10 involved the addition of localization capabilities.  This might not be a big feature for us English speakers (as end users at least).  However, with the increasingly global economy, many of us will find ourselves with requirements for a multi-lingual user interface. 

First off, I'd like to mention that WndTabs still supports Win9x, so it doesn't use Unicode (and yes, I know there's a version of Unicode for Win9x, but I really don't need another support nightmare).  A user downloading a language pack in his/her language would be required to use the appropriate code page for their language.  If your product is intended for the NT class of operating systems, Unicode is the way to go.

How It's Done

Localization is based mostly on a wonderful little MFC function called AfxSetResourceHandle().  MSDN is a little vague about the usefulness of this function, giving the following description:

    Use this function to set the HINSTANCE handle that determines where the default resources of the application are loaded.

In essence, AfxSetResourceHandle() lets you instruct MFC to grab all the resources from a place other than your main executable/DLL.  For instance, if you have a string table with the following entry:

IDS_WELCOME    "Welcome"

You can create a resource DLL (say French.dll) with the following string table entry

IDS_WELCOME    "Bienvenue"

You would then use AfxSetResourceHandle() to grab the French string as needed:

CString cStr;
cStr.LoadString(IDS_WELCOME);  // cStr is now "Welcome"

// make the French resources the default resources
cStr.LoadString(IDS_WELCOME);  // cStr is now "Bienvenue"

It Gets Better

As I said, MFC will use the specified resource DLL whenever it looks for a resource.  But at least for one resource (strings), it will automatically "fall-back" to your executable/DLL if it can't find something in the resource DLL.  In our previous example, assume that IDS_WELCOME wasn't defined in the French DLL.  In that case, the final LoadString() will result in cStr="Welcome" (MFC won't find IDS_WELCOME in the resource DLL, so it will just grab it from the main resources).  Don't expect this behavior for bitmaps or dialogs though.  This is unfortunate, because it means that (unless you want to spend a lot of time coding around this), you will need to include all your bitmaps in the language DLLs, even if they are the same as the bitmaps in the main resources.

Loading Resources Yourself

One last note.  If you want to load resources manually after using AfxSetResourceHandle(), you should use the AfxGetResourceHandle() function to get the pointer to the active resource DLL.

What Was (and Was Not) Translated

For this release, only the dialogs, menus and string tables were translated.  Any bitmap with English text will still be in English (though given time, those would be easy to address as well).

One large area that was not addressed was the help file.  Translating the help file would require tremendous effort from the translators.  These are people who volunteer to translate WndTabs into their native language for nothing more than a thank you (thanks guys!), and I didn't want to drown them in work.  Code changes would also have to be put in place, as I'd have to upgrade my HTML help subsystem to support multiple help files.  I decided that if the translation packs are a run-off success, that I'd invest time in localized help file in the next release.

Internet Keyboards

One nice new feature in v3.10 is support for Internet keyboards.  These keyboards feature extra keys such as back, forward, stop etc.  Diligent user Frank Fesevur suggested the feature and was kind enough to send me an MSDN link.  To sum up, these keyboard work through a new message call WM_APPCOMMAND.  An enhanced input device will send this message, with the LPARAM value holding information such which special key was pressed and from which device the message originated (see the note below).  Here is some sample code for handling this message:



LRESULT CMainFrame::OnAppCommand(WPARAM wParam, LPARAM lParam)
    // see which special button was pressed
    const int cmd = GET_APPCOMMAND_LPARAM(lParam);  

    switch (cmd)
            // do something
            return TRUE;  // return TRUE to indicate that we processed the button

            // ....

            // ....
    // This was a button we don't care about - return FALSE to indicate
    // that we didn't process the command
    return FALSE;

One final note - only talking about keyboards is half the truth.  Any device can issue WM_APPCOMMAND messages.  For example, I'm sure that the Microsoft Intellimouse is one of them. 

The WndTabs Source Code

WndTabs is provided with full source code.  Aside from the topics discussed above, the code also demonstrates the following techniques:
  • Writing DevStudio add-ins that handle events and export commands.
  • Interfacing with other add-ins using the AddInComm library.
  • "Stealing" events from other windows by using subclassing.
  • Installing and using system message hooks (SetWindowsHookEx).
  • Enumerating the shell namespace / full support for file context menus including the elusive "Send To..." menu.
  • Use of common controls (tabs, images, etc.)
  • Use of the MFC template based collections (CTypedPtrArray, CTypedPtrList, etc.).
  • Reusable components for HTML Help integration in MFC applications!
  • Use MFC to access Internet files.
  • Using language specific resource DLLs.  NEW!
  • Detect version updates over the net unobtrusively for both direct and dialup Internet users.
  • Small tricks of the trade:
    • Dialogs that change at runtime.
    • Storing your configuration in the registry.
  • And more...

What's New

Below I list the new features and fixes in this release (3.10) and the previous (3.05).  You can find a full list version history list here.

Entries marked with WndTabsExt relate to features of the WndTabs Extension Module.

Version 3.10 (June 17, 2002)

  • New Feature: Full support for localized menus and dialogs.
  • New Feature: Copy File Name (without path) command added to Clipboard commands.
  • New Feature: Support for Internet keyboards for tab cycling and other commands.
  • New Feature: The middle mouse button can now be mapped to any WndTabs command.
  • New Feature: Shift+Close button ("X") now does "Close All Except". WndTabsExt
  • New Feature: Right click on Close button displays a context menu. WndTabsExt
  • New Feature: Grouping of files from different directories can be constrained to just files from the same project.1 WndTabsExt
    1 The freeware Workspace Whiz! Interface package must be installed for this feature to work.
  • New Feature: Buttons on grouped tab can now be sorted. WndTabsExt
  • New Feature: Added new commands for cycling through windows in Tab Order.
  • Improvement: Grouping of files from different directories is more accurate. WndTabsExt
  • Improvement: Greatly reduced flickering while single-stepping in the debugger.
  • Bug Fixed: In rare conditions, some WndTabs commands could cause a crash if activated from a keyboard shortcut.
  • Bug Fixed: Close button would still work when disabled from options dialog. WndTabsExt
  • Bug Fixed: Closing a resource tab with the close button ("X") would close all resources. WndTabsExt
  • Bug Fixed: Better handling of files with an ampersand ("&") in their name.
  • Bug Fixed: The window limits functionality was broken with WndTabsExt enabled. WndTabsExt
  • Bug Fixed: Loading of workspaces could cause WndTabs to hang if a previously open file was deleted.
  • Other minor bug fixes.

Version 3.05 (June 19, 2001)

  • New Feature: Close ("X") button for tabs on the advanced tab control.  WndTabsExt
  • New Feature: Tabs without a group can now appear with a mini-toolbar, for consistent tab appearance.  WndTabsExt
  • Bug Fixed: The prefix/suffix trim characters could not be set through the options dialog.
  • Bug Fixed: Auto-row count feature caused problems when updating some tab styles in the options dialogs.
  • Bug Fixed: WndTabsExt registration wasn't working on some systems.  WndTabsExt

Previous releases...


Make sure to check out the WndTabs web site which is more likely to have updates and betas:


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

Written By
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.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionBeen using this for years... Pin
SonicMouse14-Jul-16 10:36
SonicMouse14-Jul-16 10:36 
QuestionIn case you get a Failed to load WndTabsExt.mod Error Pin
hologram3617-Apr-16 22:56
hologram3617-Apr-16 22:56 
GeneralWOW! Excellent tool for VC6! Pin
jimbowhy6-Jan-16 20:38
jimbowhy6-Jan-16 20:38 
QuestionJust wanted to thanks you Pin
Kochise10-Dec-15 10:13
Kochise10-Dec-15 10:13 
GeneralWindows CE Platform Builder 4.20 , 5.0 Pin
justnetbobo11-Jan-10 20:23
justnetbobo11-Jan-10 20:23 
QuestionWndTabs crashes Visual Studio Pin
ReorX1-May-07 21:52
ReorX1-May-07 21:52 
AnswerRe: WndTabs crashes Visual Studio Pin
Oz Solomon1-May-07 23:11
Oz Solomon1-May-07 23:11 
GeneralWebsite hacked Pin
Jonathan Schmidt29-Dec-06 11:02
Jonathan Schmidt29-Dec-06 11:02 
GeneralUnable to download WndTabs Pin
cpp_prgmer12-Mar-06 18:06
cpp_prgmer12-Mar-06 18:06 
GeneralRe: Unable to download WndTabs Pin
Oz Solomon13-Mar-06 0:36
Oz Solomon13-Mar-06 0:36 
GeneralRe: Unable to download WndTabs Pin
cpp_prgmer13-Mar-06 0:53
cpp_prgmer13-Mar-06 0:53 
GeneralRe: Unable to download WndTabs Pin
Oz Solomon13-Mar-06 3:30
Oz Solomon13-Mar-06 3:30 
GeneralRe: Unable to download WndTabs Pin
cpp_prgmer13-Mar-06 17:47
cpp_prgmer13-Mar-06 17:47 
GeneralProblem with Visual Assist 10 Pin
Jigar Mehta19-Apr-05 22:39
Jigar Mehta19-Apr-05 22:39 
GeneralNice Pin
Ilan Shapira26-Jun-04 5:27
Ilan Shapira26-Jun-04 5:27 
QuestionSupport for eVC4? Pin
Ward28-Apr-04 20:32
Ward28-Apr-04 20:32 
AnswerRe: Support for eVC4? Pin
Oz Solomon29-Apr-04 0:09
Oz Solomon29-Apr-04 0:09 
GeneralRe: Support for eVC4? Pin
Ward3-May-04 4:40
Ward3-May-04 4:40 
Generalfor Studio .NET Pin
mosquitooth25-Feb-04 7:04
mosquitooth25-Feb-04 7:04 
GeneralNice, but ... Pin
Rage17-Jun-03 0:41
professionalRage17-Jun-03 0:41 
GeneralDamned f*ing nice Pin
Metaphor3-Apr-03 11:57
Metaphor3-Apr-03 11:57 
GeneralSplash Screen for Addins Pin
Derek Lakin18-Dec-01 22:53
Derek Lakin18-Dec-01 22:53 
GeneralRe: Splash Screen for Addins Pin
Oz Solomon19-Dec-01 3:43
Oz Solomon19-Dec-01 3:43 
GeneralRe: Splash Screen for Addins Pin
Derek Lakin19-Dec-01 7:36
Derek Lakin19-Dec-01 7:36 
Thanks for the tip, Oz. I've ended up using Paul DiLascia's splash screen implementation from MSJ.

Is there anywhere more sensible to put it than in OnConnection?

Oz Solomonovich wrote:
You did not find the splash screen code in WndTabs because it was moved into the private library.

So why the secrecy? Does it do anything clever?

Derek Lakin.

I wish I was what I thought I was when I wished I was what I am.

Salamander Software Ltd.
GeneralRe: Splash Screen for Addins Pin
Oz Solomon19-Dec-01 7:51
Oz Solomon19-Dec-01 7:51 

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