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Posted 4 Feb 2002

Controlling console applications

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Run console applications and controll/use their input/output streams
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Console windows and application output

During a "simple" project I discovered the tedious task of capturing the output of a console window into a control of the application. The additional difficulty was to hide the console window, thus hiding the application.

As it was to be expected, things were not as easy as redirecting output into a file and reading that file back in.

So I started creating a wrapper class for this task and it proved harder than it seemed at first. The provided sample in the MSDN did not mention the most important things and leaves more questions then it solves.

Searching around on various code sites shed some more light on the topic. Finally I could assemble a working solution. (Although there are some minor wishes left)

The CSpawn Class

This class has a pretty simple interface. A constructor, an execute function, an output function and finally a test to see if it is still active. The execute function and the output function are available in various flavours.

For the feedback you must derive a class from CSpawnConsumer and overload the Consume() function.

Usually it looks like this:

class CSpawnConsumer1 : public CSpawnConsumer
    explicit CSpawnConsumer1(CMyEdit* pEdit)
                                   : m_pEdit(pEdit){}
    void Consume(TCHAR* p, DWORD dw)

    CMyEdit* m_pEdit;

This class is called from the thread reading the output of the console window.

You can use the CSpawn class in two ways:

  1. Using the constructor method CSpawn::CSpawn(CString& exe, CSpawnConsumer* sc)
  2. Or creating a CSpawn variable and calling Execute(CString& exe, CSpawnConsumer* sc)

The default implementation will spawn the executable by resolving the ComSpec environment variable (normally CMD.EXE or COMMAND.EXE) and passing parameters to the given application.

You can provide user input to a running application by calling SendInput().

The Sample

The included sample project shows a simple edit control where any text entered is passed to the standard command interpreter and returns the results into the same edit control.

It shows how to interface with the CSpawn class in the most common way.


CSpawn was tested under Windows 2000 and Windows XP in Unicode and MBCS (both included in demo project) using Visual C++ 6.0 SP5 and MFC 6. Its not tested with .NET and MFC 7.

Revision History

19 Jun 2002 - Initial Revision


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL)


About the Author

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralCaptureConsole.DLL - A universal Console Output Redirector for all Compilers Pin
Elmue3-Feb-09 7:10
memberElmue3-Feb-09 7:10 

This is a class for C++ programmers.
But for all other programming languages this is not a solution.

If you came here because you are searching an easy way to capture the output of a Console application there is an easier way for you:

Have a look at the article CaptureConsole.dll.

The main features are:
1.) The coding is much easier for you: You don't have to implement a receiving Pipe in your main application.
2.) With two lines of code you call a console application invisibly, wait until it exits and get all its output and the Exit Code.
3.) All the funcionality is in a DLL, so it can be used in ANY project independent of the compiler: VB6, C++, .NET, Java, Delphi....
4.) You get stdout and stderr separated (optional)
5.) The DLL is thread save
6.) Timeout (optional)
7.) Codepage conversion
8.) Clean error handling

GeneralLinewise reading data Pin
smzhaq26-Sep-07 23:24
membersmzhaq26-Sep-07 23:24 
QuestionHow to terminate early Pin
acjohnson557-Jul-06 10:25
memberacjohnson557-Jul-06 10:25 
QuestionError storing m_hSaveStdout ? Pin
John P. Curtis25-Feb-06 19:56
memberJohn P. Curtis25-Feb-06 19:56 
AnswerRe: Error storing m_hSaveStdout ? Pin
SaurweinAndreas26-Feb-06 5:20
memberSaurweinAndreas26-Feb-06 5:20 
GeneralI fixed a bug Pin
Junho Ryu27-Sep-05 3:17
memberJunho Ryu27-Sep-05 3:17 
GeneralRe: I fixed a bug Pin
acjohnson557-Jul-06 10:22
memberacjohnson557-Jul-06 10:22 
GeneralRe: I fixed a bug Pin
joeasnake21-Nov-07 16:32
memberjoeasnake21-Nov-07 16:32 
QuestionRe: I fixed a bug Pin
rl7477-May-08 6:46
memberrl7477-May-08 6:46 
GeneralInvalid Handle exception when creating several CSpawn classes Pin
johnpsquared1-Aug-04 14:26
memberjohnpsquared1-Aug-04 14:26 
Questionmultiline output? Pin
mikemurphy28-Feb-04 11:39
membermikemurphy28-Feb-04 11:39 
AnswerRe: multiline output? Pin
johnpsquared1-Aug-04 14:33
memberjohnpsquared1-Aug-04 14:33 
Questionhow to get all stdout during batch command mode Pin
Anonymous18-Dec-03 11:24
sussAnonymous18-Dec-03 11:24 
GeneralVC++ Newbie Help Pin
messy17-Oct-03 13:05
membermessy17-Oct-03 13:05 
GeneralSmall bug fix Pin
mschoneman23-Sep-03 15:13
membermschoneman23-Sep-03 15:13 
GeneralInvoking &quot;.cmd&quot; files Pin
dshah13-Jun-03 4:41
memberdshah13-Jun-03 4:41 
GeneralbRet = GetExitCodeProcess always true Pin
donaldw25-Apr-03 13:36
memberdonaldw25-Apr-03 13:36 
GeneralGetting stdout immediately Pin
Milhouse1006-Mar-03 1:49
memberMilhouse1006-Mar-03 1:49 
GeneralRe: Getting stdout immediately Pin
Andreas Saurwein6-Mar-03 2:19
memberAndreas Saurwein6-Mar-03 2:19 
GeneralRe: Getting stdout immediately Pin
Anonymous17-Mar-03 11:35
sussAnonymous17-Mar-03 11:35 
GeneralSendInput Question Pin
6R15U29-Sep-02 0:47
suss6R15U29-Sep-02 0:47 
GeneralRe: SendInput Question Pin
Andreas Saurwein4-Oct-02 1:24
memberAndreas Saurwein4-Oct-02 1:24 
GeneralHelp! with CSpawn class... Pin
johnpsquared1-Aug-04 14:29
memberjohnpsquared1-Aug-04 14:29 
GeneralQuestion when using with processes that spawn other processes Pin
Jim Crafton18-Sep-02 10:40
memberJim Crafton18-Sep-02 10:40 
GeneralRe: Question when using with processes that spawn other processes Pin
Andreas Saurwein23-Sep-02 2:06
memberAndreas Saurwein23-Sep-02 2:06 

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