This articles demonstrates the use of
IStorage interface in managed C# code based on a simple CHM (MSHelp 1.0) decompiler.
Decompiling CHM (help) files with C#
Recently I came across a very interesting problem related to
IStorage interface. I had to be able to manipulate
IStorage container from managed code. Since my knowledge of COM is limited, I thought I would simply find a snippet of code using Google. I did hope that the provided example would allow me to Read/Write files from compound storage structures. I discovered a couple of incomplete snippets posted in newsgroups but that was not enough. Not enough for me to be lazy and enjoy my favorite programming technique of CTRL+C, CTRL+V. I had to do some actual work on my own. I needed a wrapper what would allow me to easily access the internal structure of any compound storage object. By the way, for the latest version of this wrapper don't forget to visit here.
According to Microsoft,
IStorage interface supports the creation and management of structured storage objects. Structured storage allows hierarchical storage of information within a single file, and is often referred to as "a file system within a file". Yes, it does sound interesting but a bit complicated. How about a real life example?
Well, the most simple and powerful example of compound storage object would be good old CHM files. The compound file implementation of IStorage allows you to create and manage sub-storages and streams within a storage object residing in a compound file object. You can pack your entire collection of help documents, HTML files, images etc. into a single
IStorage object to save space and to provide your users with a standard file that can be viewed with your trusted help-viewer. Typically you would use tools provided by Microsoft such as HTML Help Workshop to manipulate a collection of help related information. You can also take a look at Microsoft HTML Help 1.4 SDK to get a complete picture of what is a CHM help file anyway and why you need it.
How about reversed process? HTML Help Workshop supports decompiling as well, but it is a standalone application after all and you can’t use it if you want to automate certain processes. Let's say you want to be able to access content from a CHM file in the managed code without the “hassle” of Microsoft UI. Naturally we need some kind of a wrapper that will simplify READ/WRITE operations for us.
Let’s try to access the content of
IStorage structure using standard COM interfaces provided to us by Microsoft. Microsoft did not provide us with managed classes to manipulate
IStorage objects directly, so we’ll have to rely on
System.Runtime.InteropServices to import interfaces that we’ll need in our managed code.
Just to give you an idea of what elements are present in our
IStorage solution, take a look at the snapshot of Visual Studio Project, above.
We’ll organize our collection of classes into a single
RelatedObjects.Storage namespace. We’ll create a
IBaseStorageWrapper class that will help us to enumerate all objects packed into an
Ideally we would like to be able to access any stream in a file separately, so we’ll create
ITStorageWrapper classes that will inherit from the
IBaseStorageWrapper. These classes will help us to handle different types of objects stored in the main compound storage object.
The only difference between
IStorageWrapper is the way they access internally stored objects.
IStorageWrapper is using the
StgOpenStorage interface available in Ole32.dll.
public class Ole32
public static extern int StgOpenStorage (
[MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.LPWStr)] string wcsName,
out IStorage storage
ITStorageWrapper is using the
ITStorage.StgOpenStorage available via the
ITStorage COM interface.
public interface ITStorage
MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.BStr)] string pwcsName,
IStorage StgCreateDocfileOnILockBytes(ILockBytes plkbyt,
int grfMode, int reserved);
MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.BStr)] string pwcsName);
int StgIsStorageILockBytes(ILockBytes plkbyt);
MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.BStr)] string pwcsName,
[In, MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.U4)] int grfMode,
[In, MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.U4)] int reserved);
IStorage StgOpenStorageOnILockBytes(ILockBytes plkbyt,
int StgSetTimes([In, MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.BStr)] string lpszName,
int SetControlData(ITS_Control_Data pControlData);
int DefaultControlData(ITS_Control_Data ppControlData);
int Compact([In, MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.BStr)] string pwcsName,
Let's look at the flow of our cute little wrapper by looking at the TEST application included in this project. Our goal in this example is to access content elements stored inside a CHM file. As I mentioned above, a CHM file is a compound storage archive that contains a collection of separate files. We will be using our RelatedObjects.Storage dll (compiled separately) to demonstrate how easy it is to access stream objects stored in
IStorage archive from managed code.
static void Main(string args)
ITStorageWrapper iw = new ITStorageWrapper(@"I:\apps\abslog.chm");
fileObject in iw.foCollection)
Console.WriteLine("Path: " + fileObject.FilePath);
Console.WriteLine("File: " + fileObject.FileName);
Console.WriteLine("Url: " + fileObject.FileUrl);
string fileString = fileObject.ReadFromFile();
Console.WriteLine("Text: " + fileString);
fileObject.Save(@"i:\apps\test1\" + fileObject.FileName);
StreamWriter sw = File.CreateText(@"i:\apps\" +
As you can see, this example demonstrates several useful internal file manipulation methods. I'm sure that you could use other methods as well. Our company will continue enhancing some of the functionality to make it even easier to manage
IStorage objects. You can visit our site to get latest and greatest version and download updated documentation here.
If you have any questions or need latest source code e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
Have a wonderful day!