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Recently I did a project on online banking at NIIT, Bangalore. The project was coded mostly using VB with few ATL components thrown in, if only to teach us programming distributed applications. One middle tier component that I programmed was built with ATL and uses ADO to query the backend (SQL Server). Parts of that code appears here.

I assume the reader knows or at least has a fair idea about COM programming using ATL as well as ADO programming with VB.

What is ADO?

ADO stands for ActiveX Data Object. ADO provides an object-oriented programming interface for accessing a data source using the OLE DB data provider. It is the succesor to DAO and RDO object models and combines the best features DAO and RDO.

Programming OLE DB in C++ is easy. However, for languages like Visual Basic, that do not support pointers and other C++ features, implementing OLE DB is difficult.

This is where ADO really shines. ADO is an high level interface to OLE DB that is based on COM interfaces. Thus any application that supports COM can implement ADO.

ADO Features

  • Access to all types of data - Various data sources include e-mail, text files, RDBMSs, ISAM/VSAM databases and all ODBC data sources.

  • Supports free threading - ADO supports multiple client connections through multiple threads in such a way that these threads do not interfere with each other.

  • Supports asynchronous queries - This basically means that after an SQL query is submitted to the database server, the control returns immediately to the calling application, allowing the user to continue working while the query is being processed. On completion of the query, the results are sent to the client.

  • Supports client-side and server-side cursors - Cursor is a mechanism that allows access and navigation of data in a recordset. They are implemented as client-side or server-side. Traditionally, frequently updated recordsets are implemented as server-side while read-only recordsets are implemented as client-side.

  • Supports disconnected recordsets - After a recordset is returned on execution of a query, it is stored as a client-side cursor and the active connection is closed. After changes have been commited to the recordset, the connection is reestablished and all updates are sent in a batch to the data store. This helps in reducing network traffic to a great extent.

  • Supports Commands as connection methods - An unique feature of ADO is that when a command is executed, a connection is first established internally before that command gets submitted for execution. Compare this to traditional object models like DAO/RDO where a connection has to be established explicitly before a command can be submitted.

ADO Architecture

In the ADO model, we'll be using three main types of objects:

  • Connection
  • Command
  • Recordset

The Connection object sets up a connection to the data source. First, the data source name, its location, user ID, password etc is stored in a ConnectionString object, which is passed to the Connection establish a connection to the data source.

The Command object is used to execute SQL commands, queries and stored procedures.

When a query is executed, it returns results that are stored in the Recordset object. Data in a recordset can be manipulated and then updated to the database.

Using ADO

First, we'll be building an ATL DLL component. This component has a method that takes one input parameter (customer ID in the project) and returns a reference to the corresponding Recordset object to the VB client. The client then displays the data in a form.

To create the DLL, use the ATL COM AppWizard to generate the framework for the application. Name the project FindCust and choose the server type as Dynamic Link Library.Also choose the option to support MFC library.

Insert a New ATL Object of type Simple Object to the project. Use the name Search in the Short Name textbox of the ATL Object Wizard Properties and click OK to add the object.

In classview, right click the interface name and add a method. Name the method SearchCust and type the following in the Parameters textbox :

[in] BSTR bstrcustid,[out,retval] _Recordset **ptr

Click the OK button to add the method.

Since the SearchCust method returns a reference to a Recordset object, we need to import the ADO library. To do this, open the file, StdAfx.h and add the following code :

#import "C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\ADO\MSADO15.DLL" rename_namespace("ADOCust")
		 rename("EOF","EndOfFile") using namespace ADOCust;

This step will help the Visual C++ compiler to understand the ADO objects defined in the type library, MSADO15.DLL. The rename_namespace function renames the namespace into which the DLL has been imported to the specified name. The rename option has been used to rename the EOF keyword to EndOfFile, because EOF is already defined in the standard header files.

Also the .idl file contains the method SearchCust which returns a reference to a Recordset object. To make the MIDL compiler understand the ADO objects, import the type library in the .idl file using the importlib statement in the library section (after importlib "stdole2.tlb") like:

importlib("C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\ADO\MSADO15.DLL");

Also move the interface definition in the .idl file to just after the importlib statement to make the MIDL compiler.understand ADO objects.

To do that, cut the interface definition block and paste it after the importlib statement that was added. My interface definition block looks like:

helpstring("ISearch Interface"), 
interface ISearch : IDispatch 
 [id(1), helpstring("method SearchCust")] 
 HRESULT SearchCust([in] BSTR rcustid, 
 [out,retval] _Recordset **ptr);

Building the ATL Component

Now we are ready to code the SearchCust method to retrieve the corresponding information.What we need to do is:

  • Initialize the COM library
  • connect to the data source
  • execute the SQL commands
  • return the Recordset object
  • Uninitialize the COM library

Initialize the COM library:


To connect to a data source, first declare a Connection object pointer by passing the ID of the coclass.

_ConnectionPtr conptr(__uuidof(Connection));

Now call the Open function to establish a connection to the data source.

conptr->Open(_T("Provider=SQLOLEDB.1; Data Source=SQLServer;Initial Catalog=Customer"),

The Open function takes four parameters. The first one is the connection string, which contains the name of the provider and name of SQL Server for connection. The second and third parameters are the user name and the password to establish the connection. The fourth parameter is the type of cursor to be used. The _T macro ensures UNICODE compatibility of the strings.

Note that your connection string will be different than the one that I'm using here. You may need to use other providers as well as connect to a different datasource. Obviously, your username and password will be different.For SQL Server, the OLEDB provider is SQLOLEDB. You can use MSDASQL or Microsoft Jet.OLEDB provider to connect to a MS Access database (.mdb).

The Initial Catalog parameter defines the database table to be used.

To pass the SQL command, create a command object pointer by passing the CLSID of the Command object.

_CommandPtr cmd(__uuidof(Command));

Set the ActiveConnection property of the Command object to the open Connection object pointer


Now store the SQL statement to be executed in the CommandText property of the Command object.

cmd->CommandText="<Your SQL statement goes here>"

Create a Recordset object and specify the Command object as the source of the records as follows:

_RecordsetPtr rst(__uuidof(Recordset));

Now open the Recordset using the Open method of the Recordset object as:

_variant_v vNull;

The Open method takes five parameters. The first and the second parameter is the data source name and the active connection to use respectively.Since the data source has already been specified in the Connection object and the ActiveConnection property is also set in the Command object, the first and the second parameter is passed as NULL variant values. The third parameter specifies the cursor type to use followed by the locking parameter. The fifth parameter specifies how the database should evaluate the command being sent.

Now the Recordset object pointer created will have a reference to the records returned by the SQL statement. We need to return this recordset to the client. Use code like :

rst->QueryInterface(__uuidof(_Recordset),(void **) ptr);

The QueryInterface function takes the IID of the Recordset object and returns a reference to the records returned by the SQL statement. When the client calls SearchCust method, this pointer will be returned to the client.

Uninitialize the COM library:


Now build the component. This will register the DLL in the registry.

Building the Client

Open VB and create a new Standard EXE project. Set a reference to the Microsoft ActiveX Data Objects 2.1 Library and FindCust 1.0 Type Library through Project->References.

The following VB code can be used to test the DLL component:

'declare a variable of the Object type
Dim objCust as Object
'declare a variable of the type Recordset to store the value returned by the DLL
Dim rst as ADODB.Recordset
'create an instance of the DLL i.e. FindCust.Search
Set objCust = CreateObject("FindCust.Search")
'call the SearchCust method by passing the Customer ID
'Store the returned Recordset object
Set rst = objCust.SearchCust(1)
'display information from the recordset in a message box
MsgBox rst.Fields(1) & " " & rst.Fields(2)

Once you have got the Recordset object, you can manipulate and update the data it holds in any way that you want. For example, you can use MoveFirst , MoveNext, MovePrevious and MoveLast to navigate through the recordset and Update to update the data to the database.

Field Lookup

A recordset object consists of a collection of Field objects that form a Fields collection. Field objects are used to access fields of each record within a recordset. They contain information about the name, the type and the value of the fields in a table.

To illustrate a field lookup, let's consider the online banking scenerio where we have to generate a unique account number for each new customer. The database's Customer table has an account number field, iAccountNumber, which for the sake of simplicity, we'll consider as an integer datatype field.

The SQL command is:

select max(iAccountNumber)+1 from customer
Once this command is executed, we'll look up the value from the resultant recordset.

Add a new method GetMaxValue that has a single parameter [out,retval] VARIANT *Val. The implementation looks like:


...//same as code previuosly
...//presented in article


VARIANT index;

FieldsPtr fields;
FieldPtr field;
HRESULT hr=rst->get_Fields(&fields);

  hr=fields->get_Item (index,&field);
  hr=field->get_Value (Val);

This recordset has a single field (index value is 0) representing the max account number. This is the value that we are looking up and which is now stored in Val.

That's it, guys. Now you are on your way to ADO fame and fortune. :-)

Hope ya all find this article useful. (Currently, I'm looking for a job and any queries/offers regarding the same are most welcome.)

Happy programming!


Amit Dey

Mail Amit at [email protected]

Amit is a final sem student at a software institute(NIIT) at Bangalore,India. He's been into VC++/MFC programming for a 3 years and ATL/COM for about a year. He's also a self-taught guitarist/keyboard player and jams up with his buddies on weekends.
He would love to hear about some job oppurtunities.


  • NIIT Tech Reference
  • MSDN ADO sample

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