Visual C++ ADO Programming

The ADO API Reference describes the functionality of the ADO application programming interface (API) using a syntax similar to Microsoft Visual Basic. Though the intended audience is all users, ADO programmers employ diverse languages such as Visual Basic, Visual C++ (with and without the #import directive), and Visual J++ (with the ADO/WFC class package).


Microsoft ended support for Visual J++ in 2004.

To accommodate this diversity, the ADO for Visual C++ Syntax Indexes provide Visual C++ language-specific syntax with links to common descriptions of functionality, parameters, exceptional behaviors, and so on, in the API Reference.

ADO is implemented with COM (Component Object Model) interfaces. However, it is easier for programmers to work with COM in certain programming languages than others. For example, nearly all the details of using COM are handled implicitly for Visual Basic programmers, whereas Visual C++ programmers must attend to those details themselves.

The following sections summarize details for C and C++ programmers using ADO and the #import directive. It focuses on data types specific to COM (Variant, BSTR, and SafeArray), and error handling (_com_error).

Using the #import Compiler Directive

The #import Visual C++ compiler directive simplifies working with the ADO methods and properties. The directive takes the name of a file containing a type library, such as the ADO .dll (Msado15.dll), and generates header files containing typedef declarations, smart pointers for interfaces, and enumerated constants. Each interface is encapsulated, or wrapped, in a class.

For each operation within a class (that is, a method or property call), there is a declaration to call the operation directly (that is, the "raw" form of the operation), and a declaration to call the raw operation and throw a COM error if the operation fails to execute successfully. If the operation is a property, there is usually a compiler directive that creates an alternative syntax for the operation that has syntax like Visual Basic.

Operations that retrieve the value of a property have names of the form, GetProperty. Operations that set the value of a property have names of the form, PutProperty. Operations that set the value of a property with a pointer to an ADO object have names of the form, PutRefProperty.

You can get or set a property with calls of these forms:

variable = objectPtr->GetProperty(); // get property value   
objectPtr->PutProperty(value);       // set property value  
objectPtr->PutRefProperty(&value);   // set property with object pointer  

Using Property Directives

The __declspec(property...) compiler directive is a Microsoft-specific C language extension that declares a function used as a property to have an alternative syntax. As a result, you can set or get values of a property in a way similar to Visual Basic. For example, you can set and get a property this way:

objectPtr->property = value;        // set property value  
variable = objectPtr->property;     // get property value  

Notice you do not have to code:

objectPtr->PutProperty(value);      // set property value  
variable = objectPtr->GetProperty;  // get property value  

The compiler will generate the appropriate Get-, Put-, or PutRefProperty call based on what alternative syntax is declared and whether the property is being read or written.

The __declspec(property...) compiler directive can only declare get, put, or get and put alternative syntax for a function. Read-only operations only have a get declaration; write-only operations only have a put declaration; operations that are both read and write have both get and put declarations.

Only two declarations are possible with this directive; however, each property may have three property functions: GetProperty, PutProperty, and PutRefProperty. In that case, only two forms of the property have the alternative syntax.

For example, the Command object ActiveConnection property is declared with an alternative syntax for GetActiveConnection and PutRefActiveConnection. The PutRef- syntax is a good choice because in practice, you will typically want to put an open Connection object (that is, a Connection object pointer) in this property. On the other hand, the Recordset object has Get-, Put-, and PutRefActiveConnection operations, but no alternative syntax.

Collections, the GetItem Method, and the Item Property

ADO defines several collections, including Fields, Parameters, Properties, and Errors. In Visual C++, the GetItem(index) method returns a member of the collection. Index is a Variant, the value of which is either a numeric index of the member in the collection, or a string containing the name of the member.

The __declspec(property...) compiler directive declares the Item property as an alternative syntax to each collection's fundamental GetItem() method. The alternative syntax uses square brackets and looks similar to an array reference. In general, the two forms look like the following:


For example, assign a value to a field of a Recordset object, named rs, derived from the authors table of the pubs database. Use the Item() property to access the third Field of the Recordset object Fields collection (collections are indexed from zero; assume the third field is named au_fname). Then call the Value() method on the Field object to assign a string value.

This can be expressed in Visual Basic in the following four ways (the last two forms are unique to Visual Basic; other languages do not have equivalents):

rs.Fields.Item(2).Value = "value"  
rs.Fields.Item("au_fname").Value = "value"  
rs(2) = "value"  
rs!au_fname = "value"  

The equivalent in Visual C++ to the first two forms above is:


-or- (the alternative syntax for the Value property is also shown)

rs->Fields->Item[long(2)]->Value = "value";  
rs->Fields->Item["au_fname"]->Value = "value";  

For examples of iterating through a collection, see the "ADO Collections" section of "ADO Reference".

COM-Specific Data Types

In general, any Visual Basic data type you find in the ADO API Reference has a Visual C++ equivalent. These include standard data types such as unsigned char for a Visual Basic Byte, short for Integer, and long for Long. Look in the Syntax Indexesto see exactly what is required for the operands of a given method or property.

The exceptions to this rule are the data types specific to COM: Variant, BSTR, and SafeArray.


A Variant is a structured data type that contains a value member and a data type member. A Variant may contain a wide range of other data types including another Variant, BSTR, Boolean, IDispatch or IUnknown pointer, currency, date, and so on. COM also provides methods that make it easy to convert one data type to another.

The _variant_t class encapsulates and manages the Variant data type.

When the ADO API Reference says a method or property operand takes a value, it usually means the value is passed in a _variant_t.

This rule is explicitly true when the Parameters section in the topics of the ADO API Reference says an operand is a Variant. One exception is when the documentation explicitly says the operand takes a standard data type, such as Long or Byte, or an enumeration. Another exception is when the operand takes a String.


A BSTR (Basic STRing) is a structured data type that contains a character string and the string's length. COM provides methods to allocate, manipulate, and free a BSTR.

The _bstr_t class encapsulates and manages the BSTR data type.

When the ADO API Reference says a method or property takes a String value, it means the value is in the form of a _bstr_t.

Casting _variant_t and _bstr_t Classes

Often it is not necessary to explicitly code a _variant_t or _bstr_t in an argument to an operation. If the _variant_t or _bstr_t class has a constructor that matches the data type of the argument, the compiler will generate the appropriate _variant_t or _bstr_t.

However, if the argument is ambiguous, that is, the argument's data type matches more than one constructor, you must cast the argument with the appropriate data type to invoke the correct constructor.

For example, the declaration for the Recordset::Open method is:

    HRESULT Open (  
        const _variant_t & Source,  
        const _variant_t & ActiveConnection,  
        enum CursorTypeEnum CursorType,  
        enum LockTypeEnum LockType,  
        long Options );  

The ActiveConnection argument takes a reference to a _variant_t, which you may code as a connection string or a pointer to an open Connection object.

The correct _variant_t will be constructed implicitly if you pass a string such as "DSN=pubs;uid=MyUserName;pwd=MyPassword;", or a pointer such as "(IDispatch *) pConn".


If you are connecting to a data source provider that supports Windows authentication, you should specify Trusted_Connection=yes or Integrated Security = SSPI instead of user ID and password information in the connection string.

Or you may explicitly code a _variant_t containing a pointer such as "_variant_t((IDispatch *) pConn, true)". The cast, (IDispatch *), resolves the ambiguity with another constructor that takes a pointer to an IUnknown interface.

It is a crucial, though seldom mentioned fact, that ADO is an IDispatch interface. Whenever a pointer to an ADO object must be passed as a Variant, that pointer must be cast as a pointer to an IDispatch interface.

The last case explicitly codes the second boolean argument of the constructor with its optional, default value of true. This argument causes the Variant constructor to call its AddRef() method, which compensates for ADO automatically calling the _variant_t::Release() method when the ADO method or property call completes.


A SafeArray is a structured data type that contains an array of other data types. A SafeArray is called safe because it contains information about the bounds of each array dimension, and limits access to array elements within those bounds.

When the ADO API Reference says a method or property takes or returns an array, it means the method or property takes or returns a SafeArray, not a native C/C++ array.

For example, the second parameter of the Connection object OpenSchema method requires an array of Variant values. Those Variant values must be passed as elements of a SafeArray, and that SafeArray must be set as the value of another Variant. It is that other Variant that is passed as the second argument of OpenSchema.

As further examples, the first argument of the Find method is a Variant whose value is a one-dimensional SafeArray; each of the optional first and second arguments of AddNew is a one-dimensional SafeArray; and the return value of the GetRows method is a Variant whose value is a two-dimensional SafeArray.

Missing and Default Parameters

Visual Basic allows missing parameters in methods. For example, the Recordset object Open method has five parameters, but you can skip intermediate parameters and leave off trailing parameters. A default BSTR or Variant will be substituted depending on the data type of the missing operand.

In C/C++, all operands must be specified. If you want to specify a missing parameter whose data type is a string, specify a _bstr_t containing a null string. If you want to specify a missing parameter whose data type is a Variant, specify a _variant_t with a value of DISP_E_PARAMNOTFOUND and a type of VT_ERROR. Alternatively, specify the equivalent _variant_t constant, vtMissing, which is supplied by the #import directive.

Three methods are exceptions to the typical use of vtMissing. These are the Execute methods of the Connection and Command objects, and the NextRecordset method of the Recordset object. The following are their signatures:

_RecordsetPtr <A HREF="mdmthcnnexecute.htm">Execute</A>( _bstr_t CommandText, VARIANT * RecordsAffected,   
        long Options );  // Connection  
_RecordsetPtr <A HREF="mdmthcmdexecute.htm">Execute</A>( VARIANT * RecordsAffected, VARIANT * Parameters,   
        long Options );  // Command  
_RecordsetPtr <A HREF="mdmthnextrec.htm">NextRecordset</A>( VARIANT * RecordsAffected );  // Recordset  

The parameters, RecordsAffected and Parameters, are pointers to a Variant. Parameters is an input parameter which specifies the address of a Variant containing a single parameter, or array of parameters, that will modify the command being executed. RecordsAffected is an output parameter that specifies the address of a Variant, where the number of rows affected by the method is returned.

In the Command object Execute method, indicate that no parameters are specified by setting Parameters to either &vtMissing (which is recommended) or to the null pointer (that is, NULL or zero (0)). If Parameters is set to the null pointer, the method internally substitutes the equivalent of vtMissing, and then completes the operation.

In all the methods, indicate that the number of records affected should not be returned by setting RecordsAffected to the null pointer. In this case, the null pointer is not so much a missing parameter as an indication that the method should discard the number of records affected.

Thus, for these three methods, it is valid to code something such as:

pConnection->Execute("commandText", NULL, adCmdText);   
pCommand->Execute(NULL, NULL, adCmdText);  

Error Handling

In COM, most operations return an HRESULT return code that indicates whether a function completed successfully. The #import directive generates wrapper code around each "raw" method or property and checks the returned HRESULT. If the HRESULT indicates failure, the wrapper code throws a COM error by calling _com_issue_errorex() with the HRESULT return code as an argument. COM error objects can be caught in a try-catch block. (For efficiency's sake, catch a reference to a _com_error object.)

Remember, these are ADO errors: they result from the ADO operation failing. Errors returned by the underlying provider appear as Error objects in the Connection object Errors collection.

The #import directive creates only error handling routines for methods and properties declared in the ADO .dll. However, you can take advantage of this same error handling mechanism by writing your own error checking macro or inline function. See the topic, Visual C++ Extensions, or the code in the following sections for examples.

Visual C++ Equivalents of Visual Basic Conventions

The following is a summary of several conventions in the ADO documentation, coded in Visual Basic, as well as their equivalents in Visual C++.

Declaring an ADO Object

In Visual Basic, an ADO object variable (in this case for a Recordset object) is declared as follows:

Dim rst As ADODB.Recordset  

The clause, "ADODB.Recordset", is the ProgID of the Recordset object as defined in the registry. A new instance of a Record object is declared as follows:

Dim rst As New ADODB.Recordset  


Dim rst As ADODB.Recordset  
Set rst = New ADODB.Recordset  

In Visual C++, the #import directive generates smart pointer-type declarations for all the ADO objects. For example, a variable that points to a _Recordset object is of type _RecordsetPtr, and is declared as follows:

_RecordsetPtr  rs;  

A variable that points to a new instance of a _Recordset object is declared as follows:

_RecordsetPtr  rs("ADODB.Recordset");  


_RecordsetPtr  rs;  


_RecordsetPtr  rs;  

After the CreateInstance method is called, the variable can be used as follows:


Notice that in one case, the "." operator is used as if the variable were an instance of a class (rs.CreateInstance), and in another case, the "->" operator is used as if the variable were a pointer to an interface (rs->Open).

One variable can be used in two ways because the "->" operator is overloaded to allow an instance of a class to behave like a pointer to an interface. A private class member of the instance variable contains a pointer to the _Recordset interface; the "->" operator returns that pointer; and the returned pointer accesses the members of the _Recordset object.

Coding a Missing Parameter - String

When you need to code a missing String operand in Visual Basic, you merely omit the operand. You must specify the operand in Visual C++. Code a _bstr_t that has an empty string as a value.

_bstr_t strMissing(L"");  

Coding a Missing Parameter - Variant

When you need to code a missing Variant operand in Visual Basic, you merely omit the operand. You must specify all operands in Visual C++. Code a missing Variant parameter with a _variant_t set to the special value, DISP_E_PARAMNOTFOUND, and type, VT_ERROR. Alternatively, specify vtMissing, which is an equivalent predefined constant supplied by the #import directive.

_variant_t  vtMissingYours(DISP_E_PARAMNOTFOUND, VT_ERROR);   

-or use -


Declaring a Variant

In Visual Basic, a Variant is declared with the Dim statement as follows:

Dim VariableName As Variant  

In Visual C++, declare a variable as type _variant_t. A few schematic _variant_t declarations are shown below.


These declarations merely give a rough idea of what you would code in your own program. For more information, see the examples below, and the Visual C++documentation.

_variant_t  VariableName(value);  
_variant_t  VariableName((data type cast) value);  
_variant_t  VariableName(value, VT_DATATYPE);  
_variant_t  VariableName(interface * value, bool fAddRef = true);  

Using Arrays of Variants

In Visual Basic, arrays of Variants can be coded with the Dim statement, or you may use the Array function, as demonstrated in the following example code:

Public Sub ArrayOfVariants  
Dim cn As ADODB.Connection  
Dim rs As ADODB.Recordset  
Dim fld As ADODB.Field  
    cn.Open "DSN=pubs"  
    rs = cn.OpenSchema(adSchemaColumns, _  
        Array(Empty, Empty, "authors", Empty))  
    For Each fld in rs.Fields  
        Debug.Print "Name = "; fld.Name  
    Next fld  
End Sub  

The following Visual C++ example demonstrates using a SafeArray used with a _variant_t.


The following notes correspond to commented sections in the code example.

  1. Once again, the TESTHR() inline function is defined to take advantage of the existing error-handling mechanism.

  2. You only need a one-dimensional array, so you can use SafeArrayCreateVector, instead of the general purpose SAFEARRAYBOUND declaration and SafeArrayCreate function. The following is what that code would look like using SafeArrayCreate:

       SAFEARRAYBOUND   sabound[1];  
       sabound[0].lLbound = 0;  
       sabound[0].cElements = 4;  
       pSa = SafeArrayCreate(VT_VARIANT, 1, sabound);  
  3. The schema identified by the enumerated constant, adSchemaColumns, is associated with four constraint columns: TABLE_CATALOG, TABLE_SCHEMA, TABLE_NAME, and COLUMN_NAME. Therefore, an array of Variant values with four elements is created. Then a constraint value that corresponds to the third column, TABLE_NAME, is specified.

    The Recordset that is returned consists of several columns, a subset of which is the constraint columns. The values of the constraint columns for each returned row must be the same as the corresponding constraint values.

  4. Those familiar with SafeArrays may be surprised that SafeArrayDestroy() is not called before the exit. In fact, calling SafeArrayDestroy() in this case will cause a run-time exception. The reason is that the destructor for vtCriteria will call VariantClear() when the _variant_t goes out of scope, which will free the SafeArray. Calling SafeArrayDestroy, without manually clearing the _variant_t, would cause the destructor to try to clear an invalid SafeArray pointer.

    If SafeArrayDestroy were called, the code would look like this:

       vtCriteria.vt = VT_EMPTY;  
          vtCriteria.parray = NULL;  

    However, it is much simpler to let the _variant_t manage the SafeArray.

// Visual_CPP_ADO_Prog_1.cpp  
// compile with: /EHsc  
#import "msado15.dll" no_namespace rename("EOF", "EndOfFile")  
// Note 1  
inline void TESTHR( HRESULT _hr ) {   
   if FAILED(_hr)   
int main() {  
   try {  
      _RecordsetPtr pRs("ADODB.Recordset");  
      _ConnectionPtr pCn("ADODB.Connection");  
      _variant_t vtTableName("authors"), vtCriteria;  
      long ix[1];  
      SAFEARRAY *pSa = NULL;  
      pCn->Provider = "sqloledb";  
      pCn->Open("Data Source='(local)';Initial Catalog='pubs';Integrated Security=SSPI", "", "", adConnectUnspecified);  
      // Note 2, Note 3  
      pSa = SafeArrayCreateVector(VT_VARIANT, 1, 4);  
      if (!pSa)   
      // Specify TABLE_NAME in the third array element (index of 2).   
      ix[0] = 2;        
      TESTHR(SafeArrayPutElement(pSa, ix, &vtTableName));  
      // There is no Variant constructor for a SafeArray, so manually set the   
      // type (SafeArray of Variant) and value (pointer to a SafeArray).  
      vtCriteria.vt = VT_ARRAY | VT_VARIANT;  
      vtCriteria.parray = pSa;  
      pRs = pCn->OpenSchema(adSchemaColumns, vtCriteria, vtMissing);  
      long limit = pRs->GetFields()->Count;  
      for ( long x = 0 ; x < limit ; x++ )  
         printf( "%d: %s\n", x + 1, ((char*) pRs->GetFields()->Item[x]->Name) );  
      // Note 4  
   catch (_com_error &e) {  
      printf("Code = %08lx\n", e.Error());  
      printf("Code meaning = %s\n", (char*) e.ErrorMessage());  
      printf("Source = %s\n", (char*) e.Source());  
      printf("Description = %s\n", (char*) e.Description());  

Using Property Get/Put/PutRef

In Visual Basic, the name of a property is not qualified by whether it is retrieved, assigned, or assigned a reference.

Public Sub GetPutPutRef  
Dim rs As New ADODB.Recordset  
Dim cn As New ADODB.Connection  
Dim sz as Integer  
cn.Open "Provider=sqloledb;Data Source=yourserver;" & _  
         "Initial Catalog=pubs;Integrated Security=SSPI;"  
rs.PageSize = 10  
sz = rs.PageSize  
rs.ActiveConnection = cn  
rs.Open "authors",,adOpenStatic  
' ...  
End Sub  

This Visual C++ example demonstrates the Get/Put/PutRefProperty.


The following notes correspond to commented sections in the code example.

  1. This example uses two forms of a missing string argument: an explicit constant, strMissing, and a string that the compiler will use to create a temporary _bstr_t that will exist for the scope of the Open method.

  2. It is not necessary to cast the operand of rs->PutRefActiveConnection(cn) to (IDispatch *) because the type of the operand is already (IDispatch *).

// Visual_CPP_ado_prog_2.cpp  
// compile with: /EHsc  
#import "msado15.dll" no_namespace rename("EOF", "EndOfFile")  
int main() {  
   try {  
      _ConnectionPtr cn("ADODB.Connection");  
      _RecordsetPtr rs("ADODB.Recordset");  
      _bstr_t strMissing(L"");  
      long oldPgSz = 0, newPgSz = 5;  
      // Note 1  
      cn->Provider = "sqloledb";  
      cn->Open("Data Source='(local)';Initial Catalog=pubs;Integrated Security=SSPI;", strMissing, "", adConnectUnspecified);  
      oldPgSz = rs->GetPageSize();  
      // -or-  
      // oldPgSz = rs->PageSize;  
      // -or-  
      // rs->PageSize = newPgSz;  
      // Note 2  
      rs->PutRefActiveConnection( cn );  
      rs->Open("authors", vtMissing, adOpenStatic, adLockReadOnly, adCmdTable);  
      printf("Original pagesize = %d, new pagesize = %d\n", oldPgSz, rs->GetPageSize());  
   catch (_com_error &e) {  
      printf("Description = %s\n", (char*) e.Description());  

Using GetItem(x) and Item[x]

This Visual Basic example demonstrates the standard and alternative syntax for Item().

Public Sub GetItemItem  
Dim rs As New ADODB.Recordset  
Dim name as String  
rs = rs.Open "authors", "DSN=pubs;", adOpenDynamic, _  
         adLockBatchOptimistic, adTable  
name = rs(0)  
' -or-  
name = rs.Fields.Item(0)  
rs(0) = "Test"  
' Restore name  
rs(0) = name  
End Sub  

This Visual C++ example demonstrates Item.


The following note corresponds to commented sections in the code example: When the collection is accessed with Item, the index, 2, must be cast to long so an appropriate constructor will be invoked.

// Visual_CPP_ado_prog_3.cpp  
// compile with: /EHsc  
#import "msado15.dll" no_namespace rename("EOF", "EndOfFile")  
void main() {  
   try {  
      _ConnectionPtr cn("ADODB.Connection");  
      _RecordsetPtr rs("ADODB.Recordset");  
      _variant_t vtFirstName;  
      cn->Provider = "sqloledb";  
      cn->Open("Data Source='(local)';Initial Catalog=pubs;Integrated Security=SSPI;", "", "", adConnectUnspecified);  
      rs->PutRefActiveConnection( cn );  
      rs->Open("authors", vtMissing, adOpenStatic, adLockOptimistic, adCmdTable);  
      // Note 1. Get a field.  
      vtFirstName = rs->Fields->GetItem((long)2)->GetValue();  
      // -or-  
      vtFirstName = rs->Fields->Item[(long)2]->Value;  
      printf( "First name = '%s'\n", (char*)( (_bstr_t)vtFirstName) );  
      rs->Fields->GetItem((long)2)->Value = L"TEST";  
      rs->Update(vtMissing, vtMissing);  
      // Restore name  
      // -or-  
      rs->Fields->GetItem((long)2)->Value = vtFirstName;  
      rs->Update(vtMissing, vtMissing);  
   catch (_com_error &e) {  
      printf("Description = '%s'\n", (char*) e.Description());  

Casting ADO object pointers with (IDispatch *)

The following Visual C++ example demonstrates using (IDispatch *) to cast ADO object pointers.


The following notes correspond to commented sections in the code example.

  1. Specify an open Connection object in an explicitly coded Variant. Cast it with (IDispatch *) so the correct constructor will be invoked. Also, explicitly set the second _variant_t parameter to the default value of true, so the object reference count will be correct when the Recordset::Open operation ends.

  2. The expression, (_bstr_t), is not a cast, but a _variant_t operator that extracts a _bstr_t string from the Variant returned by Value.

The expression, (char*), is not a cast, but a _bstr_t operator that extracts a pointer to the encapsulated string in a _bstr_t object.

This section of code demonstrates some of the useful behaviors of _variant_t and _bstr_t operators.

// Visual_CPP_ado_prog_4.cpp  
// compile with: /EHsc  
#import "msado15.dll" no_namespace rename("EOF", "EndOfFile")  
int main() {  
   try {  
      _ConnectionPtr pConn("ADODB.Connection");  
      _RecordsetPtr pRst("ADODB.Recordset");  
      pConn->Provider = "sqloledb";  
      pConn->Open("Data Source='(local)';Initial Catalog='pubs';Integrated Security=SSPI", "", "", adConnectUnspecified);  
      // Note 1.  
      pRst->Open("authors", _variant_t((IDispatch *) pConn, true), adOpenStatic, adLockReadOnly, adCmdTable);  
      // Note 2.  
      printf("Last name is '%s %s'\n",   
         (char*) ((_bstr_t) pRst->GetFields()->GetItem("au_fname")->GetValue()),  
         (char*) ((_bstr_t) pRst->Fields->Item["au_lname"]->Value));  
   catch (_com_error &e) {  
      printf("Description = '%s'\n", (char*) e.Description());