Reading and Writing Blocks of Characters and Attributes


This document describes console platform functionality that is no longer a part of our ecosystem roadmap. We do not recommend using this content in new products, but we will continue to support existing usages for the indefinite future. Our preferred modern solution focuses on virtual terminal sequences for maximum compatibility in cross-platform scenarios. You can find more information about this design decision in our classic console vs. virtual terminal document.

The ReadConsoleOutput function copies a rectangular block of character and color attribute data from a console screen buffer into a destination buffer. The function treats the destination buffer as a two-dimensional array of CHAR_INFO structures. Similarly, the WriteConsoleOutput function copies a rectangular block of character and color attribute data from a source buffer to a console screen buffer. For more information about reading from or writing to rectangular blocks of screen buffer cells, see Input and Output Methods.

The following example uses the CreateConsoleScreenBuffer function to create a new screen buffer. After the SetConsoleActiveScreenBuffer function makes this the active screen buffer, a block of characters and color attributes is copied from the top two rows of the STDOUT screen buffer into a temporary buffer. The data is then copied from the temporary buffer into the new active screen buffer. When the application is finished using the new screen buffer, it calls SetConsoleActiveScreenBuffer to restore the original STDOUT screen buffer.

#include <windows.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(void)
    HANDLE hStdout, hNewScreenBuffer;
    SMALL_RECT srctReadRect;
    SMALL_RECT srctWriteRect;
    CHAR_INFO chiBuffer[160]; // [2][80];
    COORD coordBufSize;
    COORD coordBufCoord;
    BOOL fSuccess;

    // Get a handle to the STDOUT screen buffer to copy from and
    // create a new screen buffer to copy to.

    hStdout = GetStdHandle(STD_OUTPUT_HANDLE);
    hNewScreenBuffer = CreateConsoleScreenBuffer(
       GENERIC_READ |           // read/write access
       FILE_SHARE_WRITE,        // shared
       NULL,                    // default security attributes
       NULL);                   // reserved; must be NULL
    if (hStdout == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE ||
            hNewScreenBuffer == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE)
        printf("CreateConsoleScreenBuffer failed - (%d)\n", GetLastError());
        return 1;

    // Make the new screen buffer the active screen buffer.

    if (! SetConsoleActiveScreenBuffer(hNewScreenBuffer) )
        printf("SetConsoleActiveScreenBuffer failed - (%d)\n", GetLastError());
        return 1;

    // Set the source rectangle.

    srctReadRect.Top = 0;    // top left: row 0, col 0
    srctReadRect.Left = 0;
    srctReadRect.Bottom = 1; // bot. right: row 1, col 79
    srctReadRect.Right = 79;

    // The temporary buffer size is 2 rows x 80 columns.

    coordBufSize.Y = 2;
    coordBufSize.X = 80;

    // The top left destination cell of the temporary buffer is
    // row 0, col 0.

    coordBufCoord.X = 0;
    coordBufCoord.Y = 0;

    // Copy the block from the screen buffer to the temp. buffer.

    fSuccess = ReadConsoleOutput(
       hStdout,        // screen buffer to read from
       chiBuffer,      // buffer to copy into
       coordBufSize,   // col-row size of chiBuffer
       coordBufCoord,  // top left dest. cell in chiBuffer
       &srctReadRect); // screen buffer source rectangle
    if (! fSuccess)
        printf("ReadConsoleOutput failed - (%d)\n", GetLastError());
        return 1;

    // Set the destination rectangle.

    srctWriteRect.Top = 10;    // top lt: row 10, col 0
    srctWriteRect.Left = 0;
    srctWriteRect.Bottom = 11; // bot. rt: row 11, col 79
    srctWriteRect.Right = 79;

    // Copy from the temporary buffer to the new screen buffer.

    fSuccess = WriteConsoleOutput(
        hNewScreenBuffer, // screen buffer to write to
        chiBuffer,        // buffer to copy from
        coordBufSize,     // col-row size of chiBuffer
        coordBufCoord,    // top left src cell in chiBuffer
        &srctWriteRect);  // dest. screen buffer rectangle
    if (! fSuccess)
        printf("WriteConsoleOutput failed - (%d)\n", GetLastError());
        return 1;

    // Restore the original active screen buffer.

    if (! SetConsoleActiveScreenBuffer(hStdout))
        printf("SetConsoleActiveScreenBuffer failed - (%d)\n", GetLastError());
        return 1;

    return 0;