Press releases

"Extensions to the Windows Shell Can be Written in Visual Basic" says O'Reilly Author

Press release: August 4, 2000

Sebastopol, CA--"I read an article on browser helper objects by Scott Roberts in Microsoft Interactive Developer. My first thought was 'I wonder if I could pull that off in VB?' (It seems I'm always trying to pull something off in VB.) Well, I pulled it off. After that, I just couldn't get enough of the shell," says J.P. Hamilton, author of the just-released book Visual Basic Shell Programming (O'Reilly, $29.95). "Most of the time, we hear about what Visual Basic can't do. Critics argue that while you can create applications quickly in VB, these applications can't be tightly integrated with the Windows shell, since shell extensions can only be written in C++. Like many VB programmers, I accepted that contention for a long time. But it is simply not true. This book shows that VB is a great tool for creating COM components of all kinds. In order to accomplish some things in my book, you have to take some very, very sneaky steps. But that's what makes VB so much fun."

Windows Explorer, the shell in all versions of Microsoft's 32-bit family of operating systems, offers an interface with which millions of users are familiar. Visual Basic, although it excels at creating standalone applications and components, appears to offer absolutely no support for integrating them with the Windows shell. In Visual Basic Shell Programming, Hamilton shows you how to develop shell extensions that allow you to integrate your application with the Windows operating system.

In the past, VB programmers faced two major obstacles to developing shell extensions:

  • The assumption that extensions to the Windows shell had to be written in C/C++
  • The state of the documentation, which confuses even experienced C++ programmers
O'Reilly's latest release, Visual Basic Shell Programming, pushes Visual Basic to its limits by showing that shell extensions can in fact be written using VB. It also provides the basic documentation both about the Component Object Model (COM) and about particular shell extensions that you need to develop your own extensions.

"Visual Basic Shell Programming is one of those rare books that pushes Visual Basic far beyond the basics without sacrificing the inner simplicity and ease of coding of this language. J. P. Hamilton does a great job in reinterpreting the somewhat cryptic shell documentation from the perspective of a VB programmer. The result is a book that unveils many intriguing details about Windows and COM and helps you to write more robust, high-quality VB applications that meet or exceed your customers' expectations. I highly recommend it to all Visual Basic developers, from novices to experts."
-Francesco Balena, Founder of, Visual Basic Programmer's Journal Contributing Editor
Online Resources

Visual Basic Shell Programming: Integrating Applications with the Windows Shell
By J. P. Hamilton
1st Edition August 2000
1-56592-670-6, 396 pages, $29.95

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