Programming with COM on Windows®

This example shows how to program with Component Object Model (COM) on Windows®.

COM is a set of object-oriented technologies and tools that enable software developers to integrate application-specific components from different vendors into their own application solution.

COM helps in integrating significantly different features into one application in a relatively easy manner. For example, using COM, a developer may choose a database access component by one vendor, a business graph component by another, and integrate these into a mathematical analysis package produced by yet a third.

COM provides a framework for integrating reusable, binary software components into an application. Because components are implemented with compiled code, the source code may be written in any of the many programming languages that support COM. Upgrades to applications are simplified, as components can be simply swapped without the need to recompile the entire application. In addition, a component's location is transparent to the application, so components may be relocated to a separate process or even a remote system without having to modify the application.

Automation is a method of communication between COM clients and servers. It uses a single, standard COM interface called IDispatch. This interface enables the client to find out about, and invoke or access, methods and properties supported by a COM object. A client and server that communicate using IDispatch are known as an Automation client and Automation server. IDispatch is the only interface supported by MATLAB®. Custom and dual interfaces are not supported. MATLAB can communicate with both Automation servers and controls.

Example Requirements

This example runs on Windows® systems only. This example also requires Microsoft® Excel®.

The MWSamp2 object is already registered during MATLAB installation. However to get a better overview of how to work with COM components in general, it is assumed in this example that the user has to register the control. It is also assumed that regsvr32.exe is located on the DOS path. The following are the steps needed to register a component on your machine.

1. Run the command "regsvr32 < path >" where < path > indicates the full path to the ocx/dll file supplied with the component.

2. Restart MATLAB.

if ~ispc
   errordlg('COM Example is for PC only.')

cmd = sprintf('regsvr32 /s "%s"', ...

[s,c] = dos(cmd);

Creating COM Objects in MATLAB®

The following commands create an Automation control object and an Automation server object in MATLAB:

% Create an Automation control object and put it in a figure.
hf = figure;
title('ActiveX Sample Control')
ax = gca;
ax.XTick = [];
ax.YTick = [];
box on
fp = hf.Position;
mwsampPosition = [0.13 0.11 0.77 0.81].*fp([3 4 3 4]) ;
mwsamp = actxcontrol('MWSAMP.MwsampCtrl.2', mwsampPosition+1, hf)

% Create an Automation server object.
hExcel = actxserver('excel.application')

Displaying Properties of COM Objects

The properties of COM objects can be displayed to the MATLAB command window using the GET function, and are displayed graphically using the property inspector. To see how the property inspector works, take a look at the Graphical Interface section of this example.


Changing COM Object Properties

Properties of a COM object can be changed using the SET function.

% This makes the Excel(R) Automation server application visible.

The SET function returns a structure array if only the handle to the COM Object is passed as an argument.

out = set(mwsamp)

You can also use the SET function to simultaneously change multiple properties of COM objects.

set(mwsamp,'Label','Mathworks Sample Control','Radius',40)

Displaying and Changing Enumerated Property Types

You can display and change properties with enumerated values using the SET and GET functions.


The SET function can be used to display all possible enumerated values for a specific property.


The SET function also enables you to set enumerated values for properties that support enumerated types.


Creating Custom Properties for a COM Object

You can create custom properties for a COM object in MATLAB. For instance, you can make the handle to the Excel COM object a property of the MWSamp2 control and also make the handle to the MWSamp2 control a property of the Excel COM Object.


Custom properties that are created using the ADDPROPERTY function can also be removed.


Displaying Methods of COM Objects

You can display methods of COM objects in MATLAB by using the INVOKE, METHODS and METHODSVIEW functions. METHODSVIEW provides a way to view the methods to the COM objects graphically. To see how the METHODSVIEW function works, take a look at the Graphical Interface section of this example.


Calling methods of COM objects can be done in one of the following ways:

Using the INVOKE function

hExcelWorkbooks = get(hExcel,'Workbooks');
hExcelw = invoke(hExcelWorkbooks, 'Add');

Using the method name

hExcelRange = Range(hExcel,'A1:D4');

Passing Arguments by Reference

Certain COM Objects expose methods with arguments that are also used as output. This is referred to as by-reference argument passing. In MATLAB, this is achieved by sending the output as the return from calling the method.

The GetFullMatrix method of a MATLAB Automation server is an example of a COM method that accepts arguments by reference. This example illustrates how passing arguments by reference is achieved in MATLAB.

% Register MATLAB session as the automation server version.

hmatlab = actxserver('matlab.application.single')

Interact with the MATLAB running as an Automation server using the PutFullMatrix, Execute, and GetFullMatrix methods.

Execute(hmatlab,'B2 = round(100*rand(1+round(10*rand)))')

In the next step, you can determine the size of the array to get from the MATLAB Automation server without needing to check manually.

Execute(hmatlab,'[r,c] = size(B2); B2_size = [r,c];');
[B_size, z_none] = GetFullMatrix(hmatlab,'B2_size','base',[0 0],[0,0]);

Since the size has been determined, you can just get the B2 data using the GetFullMatrix method.

[B, z_none] = GetFullMatrix(hmatlab,'B2','base',zeros(B_size),[0,0])

Event Handling

Events associated with Automation controls can be registered with event handler routines, and also unregistered after the Automation control object has been created in MATLAB.


The following command registers five of the supported events for MWSamp2 to the event handler, e_handler.m.

dbtype e_handler.m 1:3
registerevent(mwsamp, {'Click' 'e_handler';...
   'DblClick' 'e_handler';...
   'MouseDown' 'e_handler';...
   'Event_Args' 'e_handler'})

Another way of doing this would be to first register all the events, and then unregister the events that are not needed. First, restore the Automation control to its original state before any events were registered.


Now register all the events that this COM object supports to the event handler, e_handler.m.


Next unregister any events you will not be needing.

unregisterevent(mwsamp,{'Event_Args' 'e_handler';...
   'MouseDown' 'e_handler'})

Error Handling

If there is an error when invoking a method, the error thrown shows the source, a description of the error, the source help file, and help context ID, if supported by the COM Object.

catch e

Destroying COM Objects

COM objects are destroyed in MATLAB when the handle to the object or the handle to one of the object's interfaces is passed to the DELETE function. The resources used by a particular object or interface are released when the handle of the object or interface is passed to the RELEASE function.

By displaying the contents of the MATLAB workspace using the WHOS command, you can observe the COM object and interface handles before and after using the RELEASE and DELETE functions.

whos mwsamp hExcel
whos mwsamp hExcel
whos mwsamp hExcel
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