Do you Wiki? Word2MediaWiki.NET first release is live!


I just wanted to let my faithful readers know that I have finally completed a beta version of the Word2MediaWiki.NET add-in for Microsoft Word 2003.

This’ll be useful to anyone that regularly contributes to Wikipedia, or those that have a bunch of Word documents that they’d like to share on Wikipedia.

It’s just as useful for any of the other hundreds of wikis that use the same server software as Wikipedia (known as MediaWiki), and it’ll be of interest to those folks who’ve used Word2MediaWikiPlus (from whose VBA source code I converted much of the basis of Word2MediaWiki.NET).

Grab a copy here:

And please, let me know about any issues or experiences you have with it by posting a Discussion item here:

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 12 (initialization continued…)

[Previous articles in this series: Prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11.]


Much of this function seems to repeat the actions taken in Word2MediaWikiPlus(), so it’s a bit weird to see it done here as well (since this function is called explicitly by the other).  While some of it can be immediately discarded, other bits have to be examined more closely – mostly because they’re poorly documented (at least at the point from which they’re being called):

  • Again we have an ImagePath enumeration and/or creation
    • There’s an interesting new function I haven’t seen before: IIf(x,y,z)
      • VBA For Dummies tells me it does “test for ‘x’; if true, do ‘y’; if false, do ‘z'”.  Fairly tidy little function there.
    • Looking deeper into what’s going on here, the macro is assigning the ImagePath setting to a folder named “wiki” under the user’s My Pictures folder
    • This doesn’t make a lot of sense for a folder of temporary files that are deleted at the end of the session (or before the beginning of the next)
    • Therefore I’m going to make two changes:
      • this folder will be created as a subfolder of the user’s %TEMP% location
      • this folder will not only be emptied at the beginning of a session, but (as a good citizen of the computer) it will also empty its contents once it has completed a conversion
  • Again we have an EditorPath enumeration
    • it appears that the only path being set is the Microsoft Photo Editor (which we’ve previously confirmed is no longer available)
    • Is there any way to actually perform the image manipulation to which so much code has been devoted?

The more I look at this image extraction code, the more complicated it gets.  At this point I’ve pretty much determined that, for all the effort it’ll cost to implement these image features, it’s just not worth the trouble in v1.  I’ll continue to add TODO: comments to the VSTO add-in to show where the image code will eventually go, but I’m not going to do any further work to understand the image code until the rest of the Add-in is working.

Finally, there are the control characters that are being assigned (^l, ^m, ^p, ^s).  They’re not documented in the code, and I’m having a hard time finding any documentation that discusses the use of these control characters.  It doesn’t help that Google and MSDN Search don’t seem to allow you to search on “^p” — it seems they treat this as either “p” or “<p".

I believe I could treat these as global constants in the Convert class, but what isn’t clear is whether these control characters are:

  1. special substitutions in Word, and will get converted to the native Word paragraph/new line/blank/page break code (in which case I should just use the native VSTO/VBA enumerations), or
  2. treated by Word as ASCII text and sent to the Wiki server, which converts them to HTML when displaying the resulting article (in which case I should probably make sure there isn’t a better way to represent these in MediaWiki format).

Aha!  After trying over & over, I finally came up with a search in Microsoft’s Knowledge Base that gave me an article talking about the “^p” (which it calls a “paragraph mark”):

WD2000: Text Converted to One-Row Table (Paragraph Marks Ignored)

These appear to be ancient character sequences (as early as Word 1.0), so I’m going to first try using the native Word enumerations for these character strings wherever possible.  If I have to go back to using these character sequences, then I’ll drop them back in to the Convert class as Constants.

Aside: today I stumbled on an invaluable reference: the Microsoft Word Visual Basic Reference online.  This implies it’s an authoritative reference for all VBA available in Microsoft Word.  Should prove useful.


From what I can tell by a single read through this routine’s code, this all appears to affect the ActiveDocument.  That means all this code can go into the InitializeActiveDocument() subroutine (which I’ve conveniently already defined).

  • MW_SetOptions_2003() is just caching the Application.Options.SmartParaSelection value and then returning it once conversion is complete.  This can be handled as with the other cached settings.
  • I don’t understand this code fragment at all:
        'Now, if we might have some problems, if we are in a table
        If Selection.Information(wdWithInTable) Then Selection.SplitTable

  • If a variable like convertPageHeaders was always False (as I can’t find anything that sets it True), then why would such a huge block of code be hidden inside this code block:
    If GetReg("convertPageHeaders")... EndIf
    It's just hard to guess what the programmer's intentions were with a never (rarely?) called piece of code.
  • Then there’s a lot of boring code conversion, where I’m just giving methods and variables more meaningful names, adding appropriate prefixes to all the Word enums being used, and just commenting the crap out of things where I don’t have a clue how to fix some weird or cryptic code routines.

Reference to a non-shared member requires an object reference

The most interesting thing I’ve had to research so far was the problem I created for myself by implementing the code into two classes (so far).  I finally got around to calling the Convert class’ public methods in the ThisAddin class’ uiConvert_Click() handler.  As the naive little programmer that I am, I of course first tried to just set the Imports statement at the top of the ThisAddin class, and then call the public methods “naked” like so:




Of course that didn’t work, but I didn’t know why at the time.  Instead, I scratched my head for quite a while over how to handle the compiler warning “Error 232: Reference to a non-shared member requires an object reference“.

I’ve run up against this before, and I’m pretty sure I was lured at the time down the path to hell: I started adding Shared declarations all over the place.  It’s really tempting — when the IDE implies you should try an easy fix like this, it’s hard to know why this should be bad.  “Didn’t the IDE’s developers know what they were doing?”  “Why would they lead morons like me astray?

Unfortunately, this is akin to tugging at that first loose strand of a nice wool sweater: pretty soon I’d added so many additional Shared declarations that I’m sure the code was wide open to all sorts of future, stealthy issues I have no idea about.

This time around, once I saw that one Shared begat yet another implied request to add another Shared declaration, I stopped and did some further digging around.  While I wasn’t able to find any articles or MSDN docs that really spelled it out for me, I think I figured out a worthy approach on my own.  [This forum thread was as good as any.]

I’ve published the following as Community Content to the “Error 232” page on MSDN.

Avoid adding the Shared keyword

While this error message tempts the inexperienced programmer with the “easy” solution of just adding the Shared keyword to the requested Method, I advise strongly against it.  Unfortunately there’s little documentation or advice out there aimed at the programmers like me who don’t really understand the problems they’ve created, nor the trade-offs in the possible solutions being (cryptically) recommended.  Hopefully this’ll help out other folks like myself avoid the really nasty mistake I’ve already made a few times.

The trouble with adding the Shared keyword to a second Class’ Method is that it rarely stops there.  Once you’ve shared a method, whether Public, Private or otherwise, many of that method’s members will also need adjustments.  At least in my experience, the first Shared keyword will work as well as cutting off the Hydra’s head: it usually leads to one or more instances of the error “Error 227: Cannot refer to an instance member of a class from within a shared method or shared member initializer without an explicit instance of the class.”  The first time I tried to kill this Hydra, I had tried to rewrite a bunch of code, and ended up with a rat’s nest of Shared keywords scattered everywhere.

A Better Approach than Adding the Shared Keyword

As the advice on this page (cryptically) recommends, try creating an instance of the class.  The big fear that initially scared me off was that I’d end up either (a) unknowingly creating and destroying tons of unnecessary instances of that Class as objects, or (b) not understanding when the object I’d created fell out of scope (and would creep up on me with unpredictable garbage collection-derived errors).

What I did to alleviate this issue was to declare a “class-level” variable in the calling class of the type of the class being called, and then use that variable as the root of all subsequent uses of the called class’ methods.

This example should illustrate:

Public Class BusinessLogic   ' This is the "called" class
    Public Sub PerformAction()
    End Sub
    Private Sub Action()
    End Sub
End Class

Public Class UserInterface   ' This is the "calling" class
  Imports BusinessLogic  ' Doesn't help with Error 232, and may not be necessary at all
    Dim documentLogic As New BusinessLogic ' class-level variable 
    Private Sub uiButton_Click(ByVal Ctrl As Microsoft.Office.Core.CommandBarButton, ByRef CancelDefault As Boolean) Handles uiButton.Click
        PerformAction()  ' Causes Error 232
        documentLogic.PerformAction() ' This call is OK
    End Sub
End Class

Y’know, sometimes I’m just documenting this stuff for myself, since I know that in a few weeks’ time I’ll have completely forgotten the solution and the logic behind it.  The rest of you happen to be benefiting from my lack of memory, and I wish I could say I was being completely selfless, but I’m getting too old to be lying to folks I never even met. 🙂

SharePoint Development resources

I’ve run across some great sets of resources for SharePoint developers, so I figured I’d share them rather than bookmark ’em and never remember them again:

I’m sure there’s lots of other great resources, but these were the ones I found today.  Enjoy.

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 11 (The Return)

[Previous articles in this series: Prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10.]

After a few weeks’ hiatus to work on some other projects (including a couple of releases of CacheMyWork — now with more filtering!), I decided to come back to the W2MWPP effort.  And my overwhelming feeling right now is: thank god I was blogging as I coded!  As it is, it took me probably a full hour to figure out where to focus my attention next:

  • while the Configuration dialog still isn’t finished, I’m going to set that aside for now — it should be pretty easy to figure out what I need to add, especially once I know better which functionality is or isn’t required.
  • I’m going to start into the fundamentals of the code that’ll be called when the “Convert to Wiki” button is clicked.  This code will be called by ThisAddIn.uiConvert_Click().
  • The code in question will be derived from the VBA project’s modWord2MediaWikiPlus.bas file, from the Public Sub Word2MediaWikiPlus() routine.

Sub Word2MediaWikiPlus(): Overview

There are many types of constructs in this library, many of which I’m sure will be called as part of the base Word2MediaWikiPlus() routine.  However, the routine itself is only about 150 lines of code, so in itself the routine shouldn’t be too difficult to implement.

However, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize myself with some of the constructs in this library:

  • There are three unmanaged code Functions — two for MessageBox construction, and one called SendMessage.  I’m sure I’ll understand what they’re supposed to be for once I see them in context, and likely I can use some very simple managed code Methods in their place.
  • There are Constants both private and public.  [Thankfully, most of these seem to have been reasonably well documented.]
    • Some, like WMPVersion, will be taken care of by Visual Studio.
    • Others, like WikiOpenPage, should be implemented as configuration settings not code constants.
    • The majority, such as NewParagraphWithBR, will likely be preserved as stylistic choices whose usage choices I may not personally agree with, but likely are things that have been requested over the years and which if I dropped them, would probably piss off a whole bunch of folks who’ve grown to know and love the VBA macro.
  • There are plenty of Variables as well of course, and while the usage of the majority will likely become self-evident, there are a few (e.g. Word97) that I can probably safely drop.
  • There are some constructs labelled as Types as well here — I’m not sure, but they resemble the use of Structures in managed VB, and I’ll likely see them in heavy use.

At this point, I’m going to implement these constructs as needed.  I’d rather not add all these up front, ’cause (1) it’ll be pretty confusing for me, and (2) there’s likely some code that is no longer needed (or even has been forgotten).

Sub Word2MediaWikiPlus(): Initialize ActiveDocument

Even before generating the first set of routines, I figured I should do what I could to setup the Class Library with a little forethought:

  • Added a new Class to the Word2MediaWiki++ project called “Convert.vb”
  • Wanted to add this class to a global W2MWPP namespace (see Part 4 for details)
  • I once tried to add a namespace designation to a project after I’d already started coding it, and it was a disaster — references broke everywhere, and I’m not sure I ever got it cleaned up
  • Not knowing enough about namespace and class naming, I flipped through a couple of the books I had on hand and determined that this should be trivial to do up front
  • I wrapped the Public Class…End Class statements with Namespace Word2MediaWikiPlusPlus…End Namespace statements, and proceeded onwards

The first sixty lines or so of code in Word2MediaWikiPlus() all have to do with acquiring a handle to an active document.  In the world of Document add-ins, I presume this can be very tricky, since the code itself starts from a single document’s context and has to navigate outwards from there.  However, when we’re working with VSTO Application add-ins, it seems fairly easy to me to get access to an active document.

In fact, for the purposes of this tool, I’m going to assume that the user wants to convert whichever Word document is the active document.  The only error condition I should need to check is that there is at least one document object open.  This leads to the following code:

            Dim App as Word.Application = Globals.ThisAddIn.Application
            Dim Doc as Word.Document = App.ActiveDocument

            If Doc Is Nothing
                'When there's no active document open just return back to Word
                Exit Sub
            End If

The only code left in the document initialization block is this:

    DocInfo.DocName = ActiveDocument.Name
    DocInfo.DocNameNoExt = DocInfo.DocName
    p = InStrRev(DocInfo.DocName, ".")
    If p > 0 Then DocInfo.DocNameNoExt = Left$(DocInfo.DocName, p - 1)

I was baffled by this, so a quick trip to MSDN Library cleared it up.  The macro appears to be trying to parse out the document Name without the file extension.  DocInfo itself is an instance of the DocInfoType Type, which is just a structure to store various properties of the document.  There’s no particular reason I can see so far to use a structure for the DocName & DocNameNoExt properties, and the other properties to me don’t seem particularly related to the document itself.  At this point, I’ll assume DocInfo isn’t needed.  [Certainly my searches of the modWord2MediaWikiPlus.bas source only found two references to the DocInfo.DocNameNoExt property: once to assist the MW_GetImagePath() function, and once to set DocInfo.Articlename.  Both should be doable without this Structure, since .NET provides a Path.GetFileNameWithoutExtension function.]

However, this leads to the MW_Initialize() function, which I would guess also should be part of the Convert class’ initialization code.  I’ll check that out soon.

The last of the code in this section is the call to MW_LanguageTexts().  This is a localization macro, that will set a series of Registry values and Msg_* variables depending on a language setting retrieved from the Registry.  All this can be managed quite well using Resource files, so there’s no need to mess with setting all this via code at the moment.

I’m interested in knowing whether all the Registry settings being used by this VBA project are for localization, so let’s enumerate them all…

Registry value Purpose
ClickChartText localization
EditorKeyLoadPic localization
EditorKeyPastePicAsNew localization
EditorKeySavePic localization
EditorPaletteKey localization
txt_Footnote localization
txt_PageFooter localization
txt_PageHeader localization
txt_TitlePage localization
UnableToConvertMarker localization
WikiCategoryKeyWord localization
WikiSearchTitle localization
WikiUploadTitle localization

Wow, what a…symphony of Registry settings here, only a handful of which are directly used for localization.  There’s quite a number of them used for various Image manipulation operations, and others for various application settings etc.  Generally, from what I can tell, there’s no reason these too can’t be stored in the project’s app.config file.

There’s the Msg_* variables as well – are all these devoted to localization as well?

Variable name Purpose
Msg_CloseAll localization
Msg_Finished localization
Msg_LoadDocument localization
Msg_NoDocumentLoaded localization
Msg_Upload_Info localization

Yes, that’s all of them.

Further Config and Init

The final bit of code I’ll deal with today is the “user dialog on config settings”.  It appears that this calls some additional initialization code:

  1. performs customization if never performed
    • opens the frmW2MWP_Config form
    • sets ImageExtractionPE Registry setting
    • sets the variables EditorPath, OptionHtml, OptionPhotoEditor, OptionPhotoEditor.Enabled
    • sets language settings
    • sets any configured customization settings from the Config form (aka the VSTO UI Config dialog)
  2. sets Article name
  3. sets convertImagesOnly = False
    • this variable is used in Word2MediaWikiPlus() to determine whether to convert the whole document or only the embedded images.
    • Since this is apparently never set to True, I’ll remove the references.
  4. checks Word version and sets some control characters
    • It doesn’t appear that we’ll need this, as VSTO only seems to support Word 2003 and above
  5. sets Image Path
  6. sets the image editor path
  7. caches the value of a couple of Word’s Tools, Options settings
    • I’ve commented in these commands in case they’re necessary later
    • However, I assume there are better ways of preserving Word’s initial configuration than caching before changes and then flushing after changes
    • That is, it should be possible to make per-session changes to such settings, without having to make sure that Word’s settings are explictly reconfigured after the session has completed


That’s enough for one sitting, eh?

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 5

[Note: I finally found this article in the Google search cache, so while it’s posted out of order, at least it’s finally available again.]
[This series has five previous articles: the prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.]

Code Kick-off

When you create an Office Add-in Project with VS2005 + VSTO, it automatically generates two Sub’s in the ThisAddIn class: ThisAddIn_Startup() and ThisAddIn_Shutdown(). Now I recall using these before for some basic background behaviour, but I have a feeling there are a few other Events in which it’s recommended to put the kind of code that’s usually used for setup, tear-down, opening persistent connections & closing them, etc.

However, the only unused Events that I can see when browsing the Method Name drop-down are New, Finalize, IsCached, StartCaching and StopCaching. Nothing really compelling so far, and none of those ring any bells. Onwards.

My plan is to work from the Word UI inwards, so that (a) if the AutoWikiBrowser folks aren’t able to grant redistribution rights for this project I’m less likely to be committed to links to their code, and (b) I’ll have more time to absorb the innards of the Word2MediaWikiPlus Macro.

Thus, I figure I’ll start with two easy tasks:

  1. Port any necessary code from ThisDocument.cls to ThisAddin.vb (since ThisDocument.cls is my best guess for the code closest to the Word UI)
  2. Drop in the code for instantiating the CommandBar, CommandBarButton(s) and any related bits o’ code.


  • cmdCopyModuls_Click(): as it says, it copies code to IIRC, VSTO Application Add-ins don’t need to link themselves into, so I’m going to skip this code for now.
  • CreateSymbol(): It’s not clear what they meant by “symbol” here. Do they mean “toolbar button”? Debug symbols? I suspect it refers to toolbar (aka CommandBar), as that’s what the code seems to suggest. However, before dismissing this entirely, I needed to understand what Application.OrganizerCopy does. It’s listed among the Word Interop methods, and in the Word 2003 VBA Language Reference it’s described as “Copies the specified AutoText entry, toolbar, style, or macro project item from the source document or template to the destination document or template.” It appears the Macro is copying the object from to the current document, so this Sub can safely be ignored.
  • CreateSymbol2(): This also instantiates the toolbar, but it’s closer to what I need in the Startup() method. I like the organization of buttons and text for the buttons so far, and there’s only three to create: Convert To Wiki, Upload Images and Configure Word2MediaWikiPlus. I’ll tuck that away for when I load in my CommandBar code.
  • CopyModulesToNormal(): once again there are references to NormalTemplate and Macros. It implements an “update” routine, to copy code to; in the VSTO application add-in world, however, this is unnecessary.
  • cmdSymbols_Click(): calls one method, CreateSymbol(). Since that routine is unneeded, this method (and the UI Button that calls it) can safely be skipped.
  • cmdUninstall_Click(): calls one method, Uninstall_Word2MediaWikiPlus(). Wherever that method is, it’s hardly necessary when this VSTO add-in will have its own installer and uninstall routine tied to Add/Remove Programs.

Wow, that was a little too easy. The rest of the “port” will get harder.

Creating the CommandBar

I already know that this code should be factored out of the Startup() method, but it’s easier to refactor than create the code and link it back. I suspected there’d be a Code Snippet for instantiating a CommandBar, so I started browsing through the Code Snippet hierarchy (Edit menu > Intellisense > Insert Snippet…) starting with Office Development > Office > Environment – Menus, Action Panes and chose “Create a Command Bar“.

It took me a while to figure out what the “CommandBarHost” replacement should be in

Dim commandBarsCollection1 As Office.CommandBars = DirectCast(commandBarHost.CommandBars, Office.CommandBars)

It kept telling me to “Replace with a reference to the Excel Application, Word Application or a Word Document.” I kept thinking I’d need to find some Object buried four levels deep in the namespaces, but it turns out all I needed was

Dim commandBarsCollection As Office.CommandBars = DirectCast(Application.CommandBars, Office.CommandBars)

[Someday I really hope I understand all this Cast nonsense – I’m sure there’s a very good reason why all this has to be done, but boy does it feel like a primitive hack on what is otherwise a pretty elegant language.]

Then the other lesson for the evening kicked in: I learned that my favoured variable naming convention – using “Word2MediaWiki++” as a common prefix wouldn’t work – Visual Studio at times tried to insert a “(” character before the plus signs, and otherwise told me that “Method arguments must be enclosed in parentheses”. Grrr, W2MWPP it is.

In trying to understand what the Set keyword was supposed to accomplish in VBA, I ran across a really strong article in MSDN that I’ve been looking for all weekend: Convert VBA Code to Visual Basic When Migrating to Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office. Among the many, many tips on resolving specific code conversion issues is an explanation that indicates the Set keyword can simply be removed, leaving the remaining VBA intact.

A few Dim keywords here & there, a few more WithEnd With statements, and some string substitution to update to the name of this add-in, and we’re almost done. One last thing: what is this DoEvents method that’s called just after the toolbar is made visible? I’ve searched through all the Macro code and see it repeated dozens of times throughout, but no definition for it. Is it a built-in VBA method? Back to the “Convert VBA Code…” article it seems.

Join us again… well, you know the drill by now…

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 10

Previous articles in this series: Prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9.]

CustomizationContext vs.

I just experienced another warning that was updated, and did I want to save it?  That tells me that the CustomizationContext is needed.  I’ve implemented a custom Word Template called “” and the minimal code that I believe should cover this requirement.  [This code was copied from a previous VSTO project of mine.]

Next code library: modW2MWP_FileDialog.bas

  • Function TestIt() calls the custom function ahtCommonFileOpenSave(), and according to the code comments TestIt() is there just as an example
  • Function ahtCommonFileOpenSave() calls either aht_apiGetOpenFileName() or aht_apiGetSaveFileName(), which both appear to just be performing string functions — nothing interesting there
  • Function GetOpenFile() calls ahtCommonFileOpenSave() as well
  • The functions ahtAddFilterItem(), TrimNull() and TrimTrailingNull() are all just minor string manipulations

The most interesting thing about this file’s code is that it defines a few FileOpen filters, for Access, dBASE, Text and All (*.*).  I don’t know why this application would open or save from these specific file types, which leads me to wonder if this code is even in use.  It’s possible it was left behind from some experiments.  In any case, I’ll keep an eye out for something calling this code, but I’ll likely just use native System.IO methods once I find the caller.

Next up: frmW2MWP_Config.frm

If I remember correctly, the typical way to add a dialog box to a VSTO add-in is using a Windows Form.  I added a Windows Form to the project and named it W2MWPP UI Config.vb.  However, trying to infer what controls were on the VBA version of this form isn’t as easy as I thought it’d be from the code.  However, I’ll see what I can do.

First up I added the New() function to the form’s code-behind using the drop-downs along the top of the editing panel in VS2005.  In the New() method I’m adding functionality currently contained in UserForm_Initialize().  From what I’m seeing in this function, and what I’ve seen in the “old” documentation page, there are:

  1. a Registry setting for the Editor path/ImageExtractionPE (which appears to be unused now since the MS Photo Editor is no longer supported)
  2. a Registry setting and combo box (cboLanguage) for a Language setting (stored in a languageArr() variable)
  3. a Registry setting and textbox (txtURLTest) for the “Wiki Address Root” used for testing
  4. a Registry setting and textbox (txtURLProd) for the “Wiki Address Root” used for ‘production’
  5. a Registry setting and textbox (txtImagePath) for the filesystem folder path used to store extracted images
  6. a Registry setting and textbox (txtTabtoFileName) — though a NumericUpDown control would be better — to count the number of Tab characters needed to edit the Filename when automatically uploading image files
    • There also is a “Simulate upload” function documented here
  7. some sort of option to enable/disable “allow articles without category” is documented, but doesn’t seem to have an initialization state
  8. some sort of control to link to the Project’s online help pages

I’ll add the necessary controls to the Config form for (2) through (7).  However, since the Word2WikiPlus VBA project doesn’t support the MS Photo Editor any longer, I’ll skip (1).  As well, I’ll try using tooltips & status bar messages to provide help on what to do with each configuration control.

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 9

Previous articles in this series: Prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.]

Final Feature from ThisDocument.cls: ?

One of the annoyances about VSTO development in Word is that Word always seems inclined to write settings into the file (Word’s default template).  I’ve never really looked into what these settings typically are, and I’m not sure in the case of this project either, but during the first few rounds of trying to get the CommandBar code working, I was getting asked every time whether I wanted to update the file (and having to create a workaround — see Part 8 for details — to avoid this).

I haven’t seen this come up in the last few days of coding, so I’m not sure if (a) I’ve gotten over whatever hurdle causes this because I’ve finally fixed a bug, or (b) I inadvertently slipped and let the get updated.  I’ll check it out in the near future, and I’m sure I’ll have to change something because of it, but for now it’s just not worth worrying about.

Button Click() Event

I was flipping through a copy of Visual Studio Tools for Office (by the two Eric’s — Lippert and Carter) and I happened to catch the section in Chapter 7 (Working with Word Events) entitled “Visual Studio Generation of Event Handlers”.  This little gem finally drilled home what the WithEvents keyword means: it allows me to select one of the controls for which I’ve tagged WithEvents in its declaration, then select any of the available Events, and VS2005 will automatically generate the Event Handler stub, complete with all those nasty parameter declarations that always give me heartburn.

So now I understand why I declared the ButtonControl, UploadControl and ConfigControl using WithEvents.  Now I can easily generate the Click() Event Handlers for each of these CommandBarButtons.

The more I look at them however, the less I like the names “ButtonControl” etc.  They’re not a whole lot better than “ButtonButton”, “UploadButton” and “ConfigButton” (which are obviously redundant, especially with an IDE that automatically describes each object’s type as you’re using it).  Further, they really aren’t easy to find when you’re looking for one of the buttons while you’re typing code.

Somewhere along the line I picked up an elegant convention, which is to prefix UI controls with the string “ui”, as in “uiButton”, “uiUpload”, “uiConfig”.  That way, any code you’re writing for UI controls will be easy to use Intellisense to narrow down to just those controls with the “ui” prefix.

I’m going to change “ButtonControl” to “uiConvert” as well.  I don’t know what the name “ButtonControl” was supposed to mean (other than the most generic way of addressing this first control), and it’ll be easier to remember when the Button label and the object Name are similar.

Issue: Word Macro Settings blocking the Click() event

I dropped a MessageBox.Show() call into each Event handler and Debug’d the application.  What’s odd isn’t that Word 2003 complained about Macro settings (“The macro cannot be found or has been disabled because of your Macro security settings”), but that the Configure button first displayed the MessageBox, and after I clicked OK, then it complained like the others.  There’s nothing different in the way I constructed the Event Handlers for these three buttons, and they all appear to be doing the same thing, but obviously there’s something happening differently with the uiConfig_Click() handler.

Once I set Breakpoints on all three of these handlers, I realized that only the uiConvert_Click() is actually executing the Sub, which is weird — this event handler is catching the Click event for the Configure button; the other two buttons are erroring before they even try to execute their code.

…Hmm, looks like I found the problem.  I’d originally started out with three separate blocks of near-identical code to generate the three CommandBarButtons and all their Properties.  Then, when I got the crazy idea to make my code more elegant, I collapse them into a single For Each loop.  This really made the code easier to follow, but I forgot to deal with the variable used to configure each of the buttons.

Right now, the loop performs all operations in each iteration on the variable uiConvert, which is typed a CommandBarButton.  What I actually need to do is have the For Each loop act on three separate variables (uiConvert, uiUpload and uiConfig) during its three iterations, so that the three buttons get configured properly. 

To try to fix this, I’ve tried adding a member to the Structure of type CommandBarButton that references the CommandBarButton variable for each button.  Then I use that Structure member in the For Each loop to assign all button Properties, thinking that it’d implicitly be configuring the referenced CommandBarButton variable.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to quite work that way.

This code fragment should explain where I’m currently at:

    Structure CommandBarButtonSettings
        Public ButtonVariable As Office.CommandBarButton
        Public Tag As String
        Public StyleProperty As Office.MsoButtonStyle
    End Structure

Dim buttonSettings As New CommandBarButtonSettings()
        Dim buttonsList As New ArrayList()

        buttonSettings.BeginGroupProperty = True
        buttonSettings.ButtonVariable = uiConvert
        buttonSettings.StyleProperty = Office.MsoButtonStyle.msoButtonIconAndCaption

        For Each _buttonSettings As CommandBarButtonSettings In buttonsList

            'Create the CommandBarButton if it doesn't exist
            If W2MWPPBar.FindControl(Tag:=_buttonSettings.Tag) Is Nothing Then
(*)                buttonSettings.ButtonVariable = CType(W2MWPPBar.Controls.Add(1), Office.CommandBarButton)
                ' If it already exists, do not create the CommandBarButton but just obtain a handle to it
(*)                buttonSettings.ButtonVariable = W2MWPPBar.FindControl(Tag:=_buttonSettings.Tag)
            End If

(*)                With buttonSettings.ButtonVariable
                    .BeginGroup = _buttonSettings.BeginGroupProperty
                    .Style = _buttonSettings.StyleProperty
                End With


            End Try


The problem is with the code marked with an (*), and I’m stumped on now to resolve this problem.

Aside: Update for VSTO SE available

If you’re using VSTO SE add-in for Visual Studio, then make sure you’ve installed the VSTO SE Update that Microsoft released a couple of months ago.  I didn’t know about this, and though it probably won’t affect my code, it’s never a bad thing to be sure.

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 8

Previous articles in this series: Prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 6, Part 7.]

Troubleshooting ThisAddIn.Startup() continued…

OK, once more and gently (as my dad always used to say): my best theory now is that my code needs to create an object that represents the W2MWPP toolbar, and create this object whether the toolbar exists or not.  Once I have that object, then I can finally get the toolbar buttons instantiated and get on with the Wiki functionality [yeah, famous last words].

I figure that the code should test whether it can find an existing instance of the toolbar.  If it can’t find it, then it should create it; if it can find it, then just assign it to a variable and we’re done.

BTW, I found a great idea in VSTO for Mere Mortals (McGrath, Stubbs): rather than continuously referring to “Word2Wiki Toolbar” as a string, I could define a CONST and then reference the CONST instead.  [This has the added advantage that I could change the string value very easily if “Word2Wiki Toolbar” was no longer suitable.]  Why didn’t I think of this myself?

Here’s the code I’ve finally come up with to instantiate the Word2Wiki toolbar:

' Create a new CommandBar instance, if it doesn't already exist
If commandBarsCollection.FindControl(Tag:=TOOLBAR_NAME) Is Nothing Then
W2MWPPBar = commandBarsCollection.Add(TOOLBAR_NAME, Microsoft.Office.Core.MsoBarPosition.msoBarTop, False, True)
W2MWPPBar = Application.CommandBars(TOOLBAR_NAME)
End If

Catch ex As System.ArgumentException
MessageBox.Show(TOOLBAR_NAME + "add-in's toolbar wasn't found - you won't be able to upload to the Wiki until you restart Word and/or reinstall the Add-in." + _
vbCrLf + vbCrLf + "Error: " + ex.Message, "Add-in Error", MessageBoxButtons.OK, MessageBoxIcon.Warning)
End Try

Note: I’m not sure, but I suspect it’ll still thrown an exception on the first try.  However, it may just “take” on the second try, so that might be good enough for now.

Aside: CommandBars vs. Ribbon UI in Office 2007

While researching the CommandBar methods, I found this statement: “The use of CommandBars in some Microsoft Office applications has been superseded by the new Ribbon user interface.”  Oops, that’s right – some of this functionality may have to be re-written for Office 2007.  I’ll try to ensure the CommandBar-specific code can be decoupled from the application functionality, so we can get maximum reuse out of these efforts.

Next Issue: Word Template (changes to

After instantiating the Toolbar successfully, Word 2003 at shutdown will ask me twice whether I want to save changes to  The first prompt only allows you to overwrite or cancel out of the shutdown of Word.

If I hit Cancel, then the second time I try to shut down Word, it prompts me with:

“Changes have been made that affect the global template,  Do you want to save those changes?”

This time, I can say “No” to saving the changes, which leaves in its original form and finally lets me close Word.  The help text for this second prompt says,

“This message can appear if you made changes to items, such as macros, toolbars, or AutoText, that are stored in a global template that is attached to your document. The most commonly used global template is, which comes with Word.”

Next Issue: CommandBarButton creation

In the code, I’m using a well-documented sample to add the CommandBarButton to the CommandBar, and yet I’m getting the error

************** Exception Text **************
System.ArgumentException: Value does not fall within the expected range.
   at Microsoft.Office.Core.CommandBarsClass.get_Item(Object Index)
   at Word2MediaWiki__.ThisAddIn.ThisAddIn_Startup(Object sender, EventArgs e) in \Word2MediaWiki++\ThisAddIn.vb:line 50
   at Microsoft.Office.Tools.AddIn.OnStartup()
   at Word2MediaWiki__.ThisAddIn.FinishInitialization() in \Word2MediaWiki++\ThisAddIn.Designer.vb:line 65

Now that I know how to read this exception (see Part 7 for that whole twisty maze), I’ll spend a whole lot less time deciphering it.  This time it seems clear to me that it’s a problem with allocating a handle to the toolbar.  However, because I know that the toolbar is being created properly, a second glance at the offending line of code gives me the answer:

            ConvertControl = CType(Application.CommandBars("W2MWPPBar").Controls.Add(1), Office.CommandBarButton)

This one is easy: I’m mistakenly calling “W2MWPPBar” rather than “Word2Wiki Toolbar”.  Let’s fix that: highlight the string, right-click, choose Refactor (or Refactor!), and find…nothing.  D’oh — that’s right, the VB.NET refactoring tools (even the Refactor! add-on for Visual Studio) don’t have the Rename function that I’ve gotten used to in the C# world.  Guess I’m just going to have to try Edit, Find and Replace, Replace in Files instead.

With the Const now properly in place, the CommandBar and its buttons fall neatly into place.  Wasn’t that easy? 😉

Enhancement: Creating the CommandBarButton if it doesn’t exist

There’s two improvements I’ll make to the code that creates each CommandBarButton:

  1. I’ll mirror the way I construct the CommandBar – test if each CommandBar button exists, and if not, create it; if so, leave it alone.  [McGrath’s code in VSTO for Mere Mortals will Delete the existing button and then create it — I don’t know why this should be necessary, so I’ll simplify this code for now.]
  2. Replace calls to Application.CommandBars(TOOLBAR_NAME) with an object for the toolbar itself (W2MWPPBar).

Here’s the current code:

        For Each control As Microsoft.Office.Core.CommandBarControl In commandBarControlsCollection
If control.Tag = "W2MWPP Convert" Then
ConvertControl = control
buttonExists = True
Exit For
End If

If buttonExists = False Then
'Create a new ControlButton
ConvertControl = CType(Application.CommandBars(TOOLBAR_NAME).Controls.Add(1), Office.CommandBarButton)
End If

And here’s my enhanced approach:

        If W2MWPPBar.FindControl(Tag:="W2MWPP Convert") Is Nothing Then
ConvertControl = CType(W2MWPPBar.Controls.Add(1), Office.CommandBarButton)
ConvertControl = W2MWPPBar.FindControl(Tag:="W2MWPP Convert")
End If

Enhancement: implement For Each loop for the CommandBarButtons

This code is creating three CommandBarButtons using the same Methods and Properties, but doing it three separate times.  I know I’ve done this too, but I’d prefer to fix this.  Unfortunately, there’s one slight challenge for me: there’s too many variables to pass into a Sub, and I’m not very good with multi-dimensional arrays, so I don’t know what to do with all the variable strings that need to be fed in.

However, I recall another kind of construct somewhat like a multi-dimensional array, and a little digging on the ‘net and in my books leads to Structures.  Further, a nice little post to the MSDN Forums turns me on to another suitable idea: Arraylist.  Combine these two, and I should be able to pass in an arraylist of structures to a InstantiateButtons() method, and I’ll be able to loop through them all in one go.

The only trick is, the articles I’m finding right now don’t seem to give me useable advice for creating a structure in VB — or perhaps it’s just that Visual Studio isn’t cooperating, because if I type “Private Structure CommandBarButtonSettings” or “Private Type CommandBarButtonSettings”, Visual Studio doesn’t seem to generate the automatic “End Structure” or “End Type” statements that appear to be necessary.

The book “The Visual Basic .NET Programming Language” (Vick) showed a very simple way to write the code for a Structure, and once I tried that VS started instructing me on what I needed to add/rearrange for this to work.  One thing that hadn’t been clear is that the Structure has to appear outside of any Method, so I’ve moved it up to just after the Public Class statement.

BTW, I just stumbled across the concept of “composite formatting“, which I’m going to try to use in my MessageBox.Show() calls here.  The code sample in the MSDN Forum post mentioned above, from which I borrowed, happened to use composite formatting in their Console.Writeline() call, which tipped me off to this elegant way of generating strings with dynamic content scattered throughout.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit tired of all the ” + variable.ToString() + “ nonsense that I have to embed so often in my apps.

Enhancement: implement String.Empty

I’m not even sure where I read this, but it was related to some of my research into the rules that good code should follow: where an application needs to set a String variable with an empty value, we should use String.Empty instead of “”.  Thus I’m making changes such as from this:

        buttonSettings.DescriptionTextProperty = ""

to this:

        buttonSettings.DescriptionTextProperty = String.Empty

Milestone: Toolbar works!

Well I suspect you’re all just *dying* to see this app working — “wow, a toolbar with buttons that do *nothing*?  What a wonder!”  I’m going to mark the occasion on this day by creating a CodePlex project for this Add-In and uploading the current Source Code so everyone can have a laugh. 😉

Please have a look here, and leave any Comments, Issues or Suggestions that come to mind.  Any and all such assistance is appreciated.  Browse to here:

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 6

[This series has six previous articles: the prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.] 

My First round of debugging

Figuring that it would be wise to debug the code so far before moving on to the next module, I fired up F5 and let ‘er rip:

Type mismatch. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80020005 (DISP_E_TYPEMISMATCH))

************** Exception Text **************
System.Runtime.InteropServices.COMException (0x80020005): Type mismatch. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80020005 (DISP_E_TYPEMISMATCH))
   at Microsoft.Office.Core.CommandBarsClass.get_Item(Object Index)
   at Word2MediaWiki__.ThisAddIn.ThisAddIn_Startup(Object sender, EventArgs e) in C:\Documents and Settings\msmithlo\My Documents\personal\VS2005 Projects\Word2MediaWiki++\Word2MediaWiki++\ThisAddIn.vb:line 11
   at Microsoft.Office.Tools.AddIn.OnStartup()
   at Word2MediaWiki__.ThisAddIn.FinishInitialization() in C:\Documents and Settings\msmithlo\My Documents\personal\VS2005 Projects\Word2MediaWiki++\Word2MediaWiki++\ThisAddIn.Designer.vb:line 65
   at Microsoft.VisualStudio.Tools.Applications.Runtime.AppDomainManagerInternal.ExecutePhase(String methodName)
   at Microsoft.VisualStudio.Tools.Applications.Runtime.AppDomainManagerInternal.ExecuteCustomizationStartupCode()
   at Microsoft.VisualStudio.Tools.Applications.Runtime.AppDomainManagerInternal.ExecuteEntryPointsHelper()
   at Microsoft.VisualStudio.Tools.Applications.Runtime.AppDomainManagerInternal.Microsoft.VisualStudio.Tools.Applications.Runtime.IExecuteCustomization2.ExecuteEntryPoints()

************** Loaded Assemblies **************

That sure didn’t take long.  .NET is barfing on the following statement:

Dim MyControl As Microsoft.Office.Core.CommandBarControl = Application.CommandBars(W2MWPPBar).FindControl(Microsoft.Office.Core.MsoControlType.msoControlButton, Tag:="W2MWPP Convert")

I’m not entirely sure where the “type mismatch” is coming from, but given that this is a command directly ported from VBA, it’s probably safe to assume there’s a different/better approach in VB.NET.  [If I had to guess, however, I’d think that the MyControl can’t be equated to Application.CommandBars() when it’s just been declared As Microsoft.Office.Core.CommandBarControl – there’s something about casting Application.CommandBars to Office.CommandBars that tells me “Application” and “Office” just can’t be equated like that.  I really wish I knew exactly why, but someday I’m sure I’ll look back and wonder why I didn’t “get” it.]

Based on my experience with a previous Word VSTO add-in, I tried  Office.CommandBarButton rather than CommandBarControl, and I think I’ll rework some of the logic to parallel the way that I’d made this same Bar + Button construction work in the past.

I’ve let this task sit for a few days while I debate with myself the merits of (a) making as little syntactic as well as functional changes to the code as humanly possible, (b) replacing whole swaths of code with stuff I know that “works” — even if I’m not convinced that the replacement code is any more “elegant” or performant than the stuff I’m replacing, or (c) bashing my head against a wall with a few attempts at [a] until I confirm that I won’t be able to figure it out easily, at which point I revert to [b].

I was originally inclined towards [a], so that I didn’t offend the original author and I didn’t act like some impatient arrogant twit who thinks that “they know better”.  However, the longer I stall on any piece of code for which I don’t have a clear idea which specific calls, variables or syntax is causing the incompatibility — though I feel I understand its overall function — the more I’m getting to the point that I’d rather put out something that works than spend another six months trying to be as surgically precise as possible in my upgrade.

I guess the most important thing is to document (a) what I’m replacing, (b) how I expect the replacement code should work/should accomplish the same thing, and (c) use as many of the same variable names as possible so that anyone familiar with the old code would have the best chance of understanding the new code as well.

So my thinking is, I’ll try to preserve the variable names, and as much of the overall logic as possible, but that I’ll replace any non-functioning code with whatever I know (or can find online) that works so that this project doesn’t get permanently stalled (which is a serious risk with me).

 Response to Redistribution Request for Wikifunctions.dll

The whole loosely organized nature of open source means that you might never get a straight answer to any question, but I did receive a response to my inquiry about whether it would be acceptable to redistribute the compiled binary of Wikifunctions.dll.  The response indicated,

“No problem if you include the binary you downloaded yourself. Don’t forget, it’s copyleft. Of course, you’ll have to honor GPL by mentioning that “this software includes parts from AWB developed by blah blah blah…”. Be advised though that WikiFunctions is designed primarily for AWB and thus has some limitations such as requirement for approval to be able to edit pages. Probably you will find something else more useful. For example, WikiAccess (with docs in Russian, hehe).” 


Join us again… well, you know the drill by now…

Porting Word2MediaWikiPlus to VB.NET: Part 4

[This series has four previous articles: the prologue, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.] 

Proposed Class Hierarchy

I’m trying to think through how this will be basically grouped and structured.  This is the basic class hierarchy I’m thinking of implementing:

  • W2MW++: functions to perform the basic setup & teardown, general functions
  • W2MW++.Format: functions for converting the formatting & layout
  • W2MW++.Image: functions for manipulating images embedded in the Word document
  • W2MW++.Text:
  • W2MW++.Table
  • W2MW++.Wiki
  • W2MW++.Wiki.Publish: functions for making the remote calls necessary to publish the translated document to the Wiki

Aside: Searching (D’oh!?)

It just occurred to me that I should probably dig through before diving into a headlong rush of code… it would really suck if I got halfway through, 40 hours into it and then found out that someone else had already developed a really robust Office add-in or set of libraries for MediaWiki upon which I could’ve built.  Although that would sure be in the spirit of the open source community… 😉

I went over to SF and searched on “wiki edit” and came up with very little, so I tried just “wiki” and came back with 60+ pages of results.  Filtering on Operating System = “All 32-bit Windows” reduces that list to 8 pages.  [It’s unfortunate that there’s no way to filter Programming Language = “{.NET languages}”, but so it goes in the land of SF – best I can do is re-run this three times, for C#, Visual Basic and Visual Basic.NET.]

Here’s some of the more interesting, potentially complementary codebases I’ve found so far:

  • WikiAccess Library: (C#, GPL)  Seems to have implemented a comprehensive set of methods and properties for accessing a MediaWiki-based site.  [This might just end up supplying the W2MW++.Wiki class I was thinking about.]
  • DotNetWikiBot Framework: (C#, MIT (X11) license) Seems to have a similarly-large set of methods & properties for accessing a MediaWiki-based site.
    • What’s even more coincidental is that the author (according to the embedded copyright) shares an almost-identical name (Vassiliev) with the author of WikiAccess Library (Vasiliev). 
    • I’m assuming it’s the same guy with two accounts, though I don’t know why he’d reimplement the same stuff over again.
    • However, I have to admit the CHM file documentation that’s included, as well as much greater amount of activity, makes me feel very good about importing the library as a foundation for this app.  [If I understand these licensing arrangements, I don’t have to worry about license conflict if I don’t re-use any of the source code, but only place a dependency on the compiled DLL.]
  • Wiki Word Importer: (VB.NET, GPL) An empty project.  Next!
  • Wiki Editing Suite: (VB.NET, GPL) A populated project, with completely barren source files.  Next!
  • wikiTech: (VB.NET, APL) Yet another empty project.  Next!
  • excel2Wiki: (Visual Basic, GPL) Empty project.  What a surprise – Next!
  • Wiki2HTML: (Visual Basic, LGPL) A VBScript that converts Wiki-formatted content to common HTML.
  • AutoWikiBrowser: (C#, GPL) A very well-staffed project with an amazing amount of code activity.  Has a page on Wikipedia as well, which describes the WikiFunctions.dll API library that they encourage others to use in their standalone projects.  Perhaps they’d be okay with including it here…?

Fascinating, just fascinating.  This is a real decision point for this project then:

  • Do we take a dependency on one or more external libraries?  If so, which one(s)?
  • If so, then how do we negotiate/maintain redistribution rights?  [Presumably it’d be a pain in the arse to force our users to go download and decompress the DLL(s) necessary from other packages.]
  • If not, do we import source code from one of these projects?  If so, do we only focus on GPL code, so that there won’t be any conflicts with the Word2MediaWikiPlus basis?

AutoWikiBrowser’s WikiFunctions Assembly

I’m pretty much decided on taking the dependency on AutoWikiBrowser’s WikiFunctions.dll (as it appears at this time to have the most robust support), so now it’s just a question of whether to add any others:

  • The AutoWikiBrowser talk archives from October 2006 indicate that DotNetWikiBot “…is significantly more advanced/complicated than WikiFunctions.Editor”.  I’ll see how much editing functionality is needed and only take the dependency on DotNetWikiBot if there are major functions that it has that we need.

I’ve left a note on the AutoWikiBrowser Talk page to inquire about redistribution rights, and on the assumption that I’ll be able to include this (or at least, that I’ll be able to find some way to minimize the pain of separately downloading the DLL), I’ll start working on this add-in now.


Join us again next time — same Bat time, same Bat channel!