Exporting String Classes Using CStringT

In the past, MFC developers have derived from CString to specialize their own string classes. In Microsoft Visual C++.NET (MFC 8.0), the CString class was superseded by a template class called CStringT. This provided several benefits:

  • It allowed the MFC CString class to be used in ATL projects without linking in the larger MFC static library or DLL.

  • With the new CStringT template class, you can customize CString behavior using template parameters that specify character traits, similar to the templates in the C++ Standard Library.

  • When you export your own string class from a DLL using CStringT, the compiler also automatically exports the CString base class. Since CString is itself a template class, it may be instantiated by the compiler when used, unless the compiler is aware that CString is imported from a DLL. If you have migrated projects from Visual C++ 6.0 to Visual C++.NET, you might have seen linker symbol errors for a multiply-defined CString because of the collision of the CString imported from a DLL and the locally instantiated version. The proper way to do this is described below.

The following scenario will cause the linker to produce symbol errors for multiply defined classes. Assume that you are exporting a CString-derived class (CMyString) from an MFC extension DLL:

// MyString.h
class AFX_EXT_CLASS CMyString : public CString
   // Your implementation code

The consumer code uses a mixture of CString and CMyString. "MyString.h" is not included in the precompiled header, and some usage of CString does not have CMyString visible.

Assume that you use the CString and CMyString classes in separate source files, Source1.cpp and Source2.cpp. In Source1.cpp, you use CMyString and #include MyString.h. In Source2.cpp, you use CString, but do not #include MyString.h. In this case, the linker will complain about CStringT being multiply defined. This is caused by CString being both imported from the DLL that exports CMyString, and instantiated locally by the compiler through the CStringT template.

To resolve this problem, do the following:

Export CStringA and CStringW (and the necessary base classes) from MFC90.DLL. Projects that include MFC will always use the MFC DLL exported CStringA and CStringW, as in previous MFC implementations.

Then create a exportable derived class using the CStringT template, as CStringT_Exported is below, for example:

#ifdef _AFXDLL
   #define AFX_EXT_CSTRING

template< typename BaseType, class StringTraits >
class AFX_EXT_CSTRING CStringT_Exported 
   : public CStringT< BaseType, StringTraits >
   // Reimplement all CStringT<> constructors and
   // forward to the base class implementation

In AfxStr.h, replace the previous CString, CStringA, and CStringW typedefs as follows:

typedef CStringT_Exported< wchar_t, 
      StrTraitMFC< wchar_t > > CStringW;

typedef CStringT_Exported< char,
      StrTraitMFC< char > > CStringA;

typedef CStringT_Exported< TCHAR,
      StrTraitMFC< TCHAR > > CString;

There are several caveats:

  • You should not export CStringT itself because this will cause ATL-only projects to export a specialized CStringT class.

  • Using an exportable derived class from CStringT minimizes having to re-implement CStringT functionality. Additional code is limited to forwarding constructors to the CStringT base class.

  • CString, CStringA, and CStringW should only be marked __declspec(dllexport/dllimport) when you are building with an MFC shared DLL. If linking with an MFC static library, you should not mark these classes as exported; otherwise, internal use of CString, CStringA, and CStringW inside user DLLs will mark CString as exported as well.

CStringT Class

See also

Using CStringT
Using CString