It Just Works, Mixed-Mode, pInvoke, or COM?

dotnet, windows comments edit

I mentioned earlier that I’m trying to create a library to interface with the Windows “Send To” menu.

I’m not getting too far with it.

Here’s what I want:

Two classes - SendToMenu and SendToMenuItem. They implement the following public members, as noted:

  • SendToMenu
    • GetSendToMenu: Takes in no parameters and returns an array of SendToMenuItem objects representing the items in the Send To menu.
  • SendToMenuItem
    • DisplayName: A property that returns the display name of the Send To item
    • Icon: A property that returns the icon for the Send To item
    • ExecuteSendTo: If you pass in a file name, it mimics you “sending” the file to the item via the Explorer menu.

It shouldn’t be that hard. Right?

It seems I have four choices of how to get this done, none of which are easy.

  • It Just Works, or “IJW”: Supposedly you can intermingle managed and unmanaged C++ and it’s supposed to just work. I’ve messed around with this and it doesn’t just work.
  • Mixed-Mode: You can create a C++ DLL that implements both managed and unmanaged code but you have to do some special finagling to get it to work. I haven’t tried this yet, but I don’t understand it all, either.
  • Platform Invocation, or pInvoke: This allows you to directly import and use unmanaged methods from DLLs right in your managed code. Talking to the Send To menu touches a lot of these things - more than you’d imagine - and getting them all to work nicely together in a managed world is nigh unto impossible. I have hundreds of lines of pInvoke code trying to get this to work. It’s just not happening.
  • Component Object Model, or COM: This is the standard, unmanaged way of getting components out there. .NET knows how to deal with COM, so if I could get a COM object that does what I want, it could pretty easily hook up. Thing is, I don’t know how to write COM, and would rather not take that time for something I’ll only use this once.

So there it sits. I have to decide whether I need to do a mixed-mode DLL or COM. Or I need to find someone who knows how to do one of the other two methods and get them to help out. Or maybe I just farm it out. I’m tired of fighting it, though.