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Posted 23 Jul 2004

Microsoft Cabinet Templates

, 23 Jul 2004
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This article shows a set of templates created around the Microsoft Cabinet library. With these templates, you can extract cabinet files and cabinets stored in the resource section of a module. It can be easily extended to allow extraction through other means.


Have you ever been busy finding a good compression library for one of your projects? Have you ever considered that starting at Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft provides a very good compression library for free? In fact, it's even usable in earlier versions if you don't mind redistributing a DLL. I am talking about the Microsoft Cabinet SDK which is freely downloadable.

Microsoft Cabinet SDK

At the moment I am typing this article, the SDK can be downloaded here. The SDK consists of a couple of things:

  • Several binaries that work with cabinet files.
  • Source code and header files to work with the library.
  • Samples on how to use the source code and headers.
  • Documentation on:
    • How to use the binaries
    • The file formats
    • How to use the API
    • The algorithms

This article is just about the API. Currently, I have only created classes for extracting cabinet files, but I might extend the classes in future to support existing and new cabinet files as well.


First of all, let me tell you why I decided to create these classes. The API provided by Microsoft is very powerful, but it is written in C and quite hard to use. It needs a lot of repetitive tasks which are quite common when working with cabinet files. That led me to the idea of creating wrappers that implement these common tasks so I don't have to write the same code all over again. There already are a couple of articles around that provide excellent classes to work with cabinet files, but unfortunately, they don't meet my needs. I want a wrapper with the following properties:

  • It has to be a lightweight and fast wrapper
  • It has to take all repetitive tasks out of your hands
  • It has to be easy to use
  • It has to be easily extendable so it can handle extractions through other means than files (for instance, through resources or pipes)

It is the last property that none of the implementations I found so far provide. After all, it is very bothersome and inefficient to have to store a cabinet on disk so you can extract it and delete the file again while you could have done the same in memory. With these templates, it will be relatively easy to extract a cabinet through any electronic medium you desire.

The base template: CCabinetT

I have chosen to use templates for their efficiency, because I don't need virtual functions this way (which is not even possible on static functions, while it is with templates, as you can see in the source code). Another advantage of 'virtual' functions through templates instead of normal virtual functions is compile time linking instead of runtime linking, meaning the compiler can make optimizations. However, this is no article about templates, but about cabinet files, so I'll try to stay focused.

The base template, CCabinetT, does most of the work, and wraps the Cabinet API. Using it is fairly easy. It cannot be instantiated directly, so you will have to write a subclass on it. There is an empty subclass CCabinet, but I do not recommend to use that one, because the only thing it can do is to extract every file in the cabinet (the default behavior from CCabinetT). For this article, I will define a new class named CCabinetTutorial. For now, I will declare it like this:

class CCabinetTutorial: public CCabinetT<CCabinetTutorial> { };

Is that all, you wonder? Yes, that is all. This is exactly how CCabinet is defined. CCabinetT provides all functionality to extract files from a cabinet file. So, let's take a look on how it should be used. The following fragment shows how to extract all files from file to the directory Extract:

CCabinetTutorial cabTutorial;

// Create the FDI context
if (!cabTutorial.CreateFDIContext())

// Verify if it is a real cabinet
if (!cabTutorial.IsCabinet(""))

// Extract the files
cabTutorial.Copy("", "Extract");

// Destroy the FDI context, this is also done in the
// constructor, but it is never wrong to do this yourself.

Those of you who have worked before with the Cabinet API will immediately recognize the four functions that get shown here. Those who don't will probably wonder what on earth an FDI context is. Let me try to explain this to you. The Cabinet API consists of two parts; the FCI and FDI. The FCI (File Compression Interface) is responsible for creating and compressing cabinet files, and the FDI (File Decompression Interface) is responsible for decompressing. The FCI and FDI each need their own context to function. As these templates are only capable of decompressing cabinet files, we will only use the FDI. If you would like to know more about the workings of the FCI and FDI, I refer you to the documentation of the Cabinet SDK.

Apart from the FDI context, this small example should be pretty self-explanatory. It creates the context, checks if the target file is a valid cabinet file, and extracts to the specified folder. After that, it cleans up the resources we used. But wait a minute! What if we don't want to extract all files from a cabinet? Simple, we only have to override some functions. CCabinetT allows the subclasses to overwrite the following functions (as if they are virtual):

  • OnCabinetInfo
  • OnCopyFile
  • OnCopyFileComplete
  • OnNextCabinet
  • Alloc
  • Free
  • Open
  • Read
  • Write
  • Close
  • Seek

I will start with explaining the functions marked bold. The OnCabinetInfo function gets called when a new cabinet file gets opened. The parameters contain some basic information about the contents of the cabinet. OnCopyFile gets called when a file is about to be copied, and you can allow or disallow the file to be copied with the return value. OnCopyFileComplete gets called when a file is extracted, and OnNextCabinet is called when the contents of the cabinet span over multiple cabinet files. You will have to make sure the next cabinet file is accessible before returning, for instance, by providing the user the chance to insert another disk. So, let's redo CCabinetToturial to implement these functions.

class CCabinetTutorial : public CCabinetT<CCabinetTutorial>
    void OnCabinetInfo(CABINETINFO& ci, LPVOID)
        printf("Cabinet Info\n"
               " next cabinet: %s\n"
               " next disk: %s\n"
               " cabinet path: %s\n"
               " cabinet set ID: %d\n"
               " cabinet # in set: %d\n\n",

    bool OnCopyFile(CABINETFILEINFO& cfi, LPCSTR szPath, LPVOID)
        printf("Extracting '%s' to '%s'...", cfi.szFile, szPath);
        // Return false to cancel the extraction
        return true;

    void OnCopyFileComplete(LPCSTR, LPVOID)

    void OnNextCabinet(CABINETINFO& ci, FDIERROR, LPVOID)
        printf("\n\nPlease insert the disk containing '%s' before "
               "pressing a button to continue\n", ci.szNextCabinet);
    // Baseclass has to access private members
    friend class CCabinetT<CCABINETTUTORIAL>;

It's as simple as that! For more information on these overridables, I refer you to the documentation of the Cabinet SDK. I will now discuss the next two overridables:

  • OnCabinetInfo
  • OnCopyFile
  • OnCopyFileComplete
  • OnNextCabinet
  • Alloc
  • Free
  • Open
  • Read
  • Write
  • Close
  • Seek

As you might have already guessed, these two functions provide memory management. The default implementation just calls the standard C++ new and delete operators. You can override them like this:

class CCabinetTutorial : public CCabinetT<CCabinetTutorial>
    static void * Alloc(size_t size)
        return malloc(size);

    static void Free(void * memblock)
    // Baseclass has to access private members
    friend class CCabinetT<CCABINETTUTORIAL>;

Notice that these two functions are static. Aren't templates beauties to allow 'virtual' static functions :) ? Anyway, these functions are pretty self-explanatory and boring, so let's move on to the real deal!

The extension class: CCabinetExT

You are probably wondering if I forgot telling you about the other overridables. Well, I didn't, because this template is all about them. The default implementations of those overridables simply wrap the CRT I/O functions which are likewise named. You can read up on them in the MSDN. You can override the CCabinetT class if you just wish to make use of another I/O API than the standard CRT. However, to make most use out of overriding these functions, you'll want to use CCabinetExT. This class provides everything you need to change from a file based medium to a different medium. You want to access cabinets in pipes? No problem! Just derive a class from this template and fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

How does it work? By overriding the remaining overridables. The problem is that the Cabinet library expects these functions to handle files, so I had to find a way to use these functions on both files and user defined methods. I achieved this in the following way. The first parameter of Open is a string. Usually, this is a string containing a filename. However, by starting this name with a specific marker to the extension, I can separate file requests from user defined requests. Say, I make a marker '//Resources\\'. Now, every time I do a Copy request starting with the marker '//Resources\\', it will call the user defined functions instead of the file I/O functions. To achieve this, the template provides the following overridables:

  • GetIdentifier
  • OpenEx
  • ReadEx
  • WriteEx
  • CloseEx
  • SeekEx

The function GetIdentifier merely returns a pointer to a string containing the marker. This has to be overridden for the extension to work correctly. The '~Ex' functions should be overridden to provide an implementation for different cabinet handling. The functions should act the same as the CRT I/O functions, so I advise you to take a good look at the MSDN and the CResourceCabinetT template.

Other functions

There are a couple of functions I have not yet discussed, but they are important nonetheless. This section is dedicated to those functions. For CCabinetT, these functions are:

  • AbortOperation
  • GetLastError

The function AbortOperation can be called from any of the notification functions (OnCabinetInfo, OnCopyFile, OnCopyFileComplete, and OnNextCabinet). It will immediately abort the Copy operation, all files not extracted will not be extracted anymore and the already extracted files will remain extracted. The GetLastError function can be used to check the internal error structure. Look at the Cabinet SDK documentation for more information on that. It is possible that a function fails, yet GetLastError will not return an error. In that case, try using the Win32 GetLastError function. If that doesn't give a valid error, either chances are big that you have incorrectly used the class or an out of memory situation occurred. For the CCabinetExT template, there is one function to describe:

  • BuildExName

This function guarantees you will get a string which can be passed to the Copy function so it will detect your extension. The function is straightforward in its use and you can look at the comments on how to use it if you don't get it.

Last but not least: CResourceCabinetT

This template is based on the CCabinetExT template. It provides the means to extract cabinet files directly from the resource section of a module. It's very simple to use it:

class CTutorialCabinet : public CResourceCabinetT<CTutorialCabinet> { };

That should look familiar! The usage is exactly identical to the CTutorialCabinet class I described above. In fact, the mentioned implementation for the CTutorialCabinet would compile as well for this class! However, to make it a little easier to program and to take away the need to build the Copy strings, there are three helper functions that do this for you:

  • BuildResourceName
  • CopyFromResource
  • IsResourceCabinet

The BuildResourceName function builds you a compatible Copy string from a resource identifier and a resource type. The CopyFromResource and IsResourceCabinet functions take this job event away from you by automating building the compatible Copy string. The demo project provides a working sample and executable which make use of the CResourceCabinetT template.

Final notes

  • To compile the demo project, you will need to download the Cabinet SDK from the provided link at the top of this article. The demo project will not be compilable unless you link the project with the Cabinet SDK or include the source files. I have not included them intentionally, because I do not know if I'm allowed to redistribute them.
  • This implementation makes use of the stdext::<CODE>hash_set class. If you don't have Visual Studio .NET 2003, you can fairly easily change the implementation of CCabinetExT to make use of std::set instead.
  • These classes are not thread safe. However, each thread can have its own context. As every class uses a context of its own, it is perfectly safe to use one instance of the class for each separate thread. Just make sure you don't cross use the instances.
  • These templates are freely usable by everyone who wishes to use them, even in commercial applications. Please note though that there still might be some bugs. If you come across any bugs, please let me know and I'll try to fix it as fast as possible.

Revision history

  • 25-07-2004: Initial release.


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

Luuk Weltevreden
Web Developer
Netherlands Netherlands
No Biography provided

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralA better solution Pin
Elmue31-Aug-06 0:21
memberElmue31-Aug-06 0:21 
GeneralRe: A better solution Pin
toxcct24-Oct-06 7:40
membertoxcct24-Oct-06 7:40 
Generalenhancements Pin
Ellery Pierce8-Aug-06 12:44
memberEllery Pierce8-Aug-06 12:44 
GeneralRe: enhancements Pin
Elmue31-Aug-06 0:27
memberElmue31-Aug-06 0:27 
GeneralUnicode and a couple of other small issues Pin
_Buddy_14-Mar-05 6:15
member_Buddy_14-Mar-05 6:15 
GeneralRe: Unicode and a couple of other small issues Pin
Elmue31-Aug-06 0:23
memberElmue31-Aug-06 0:23 
Generalerror LNK2001 Pin
rk_leonhart1-Oct-04 18:53
memberrk_leonhart1-Oct-04 18:53 
GeneralRe: error LNK2001 Pin
Luuk Weltevreden4-Oct-04 4:24
memberLuuk Weltevreden4-Oct-04 4:24 
GeneralRe: error LNK2001 Pin
Elmue26-Jul-06 5:19
memberElmue26-Jul-06 5:19 
QuestionAnother API ? Pin
Elmue6-Aug-04 10:16
memberElmue6-Aug-04 10:16 
AnswerRe: Another API ? Pin
Luuk Weltevreden6-Aug-04 13:26
memberLuuk Weltevreden6-Aug-04 13:26 
AnswerRe: Another API ? Pin
Jason De Arte22-Sep-04 14:13
memberJason De Arte22-Sep-04 14:13 
GeneralTaskManager Pin
doctrane24-Jul-04 23:55
memberdoctrane24-Jul-04 23:55 
GeneralRe: TaskManager Pin
Luuk Weltevreden25-Jul-04 0:32
memberLuuk Weltevreden25-Jul-04 0:32 
GeneralRe: TaskManager Pin
doctrane25-Jul-04 0:46
memberdoctrane25-Jul-04 0:46 
GeneralRe: TaskManager Pin
Luuk Weltevreden25-Jul-04 0:55
memberLuuk Weltevreden25-Jul-04 0:55 
GeneralRe: TaskManager Pin
Elmue26-Jul-06 22:29
memberElmue26-Jul-06 22:29 

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