How to Implement the IContextMenu Interface

IContextMenu is the most powerful but also the most complicated interface to implement. We strongly recommend that you implement a verb by using one of the static verb methods. For more information, see Choosing a Static or Dynamic Shortcut Menu Method. IContextMenu has three methods, GetCommandString, InvokeCommand, and QueryContextMenu, which are discussed here in detail.

What you need to know


  • C++


  • Static Verb
  • Shortcut Menu


IContextMenu::GetCommandString Method

The handler's IContextMenu::GetCommandString method is used to return the canonical name for a verb. This method is optional. In Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows, when Windows Explorer has a Status bar, this method is used to retrieve the help text that is displayed in the Status bar for a menu item.

The idCmd parameter holds the identifier offset of the command that was defined when IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu was called. If a help string is requested, uFlags will be set to GCS_HELPTEXTW. Copy the help string to the pszName buffer, casting it to a PWSTR. The verb string is requested by setting uFlags to GCS_VERBW. Copy the appropriate string to pszName, just as with the help string. The GCS_VALIDATEA and GCS_VALIDATEW flags are not used by shortcut menu handlers.

The following example shows a simple implementation of GetCommandString that corresponds to the QueryContextMenu example given in the IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu Method section of this topic. Because the handler adds only one menu item, there is only one set of strings that can be returned. The method tests whether idCmd is valid and, if it is, returns the requested string.

The StringCchCopy function is used to copy the requested string to pszName to ensure that the copied string does not exceed the size of the buffer specified by cchName. This example implements support only for the Unicode values of uFlags, because only those have been used in Windows Explorer since Windows 2000.

IFACEMETHODIMP CMenuExtension::GetCommandString(UINT idCommand, 
                                                UINT uFlags, 
                                                UINT *pReserved, 
                                                PSTR pszName, 
                                                UINT cchName)

    if (idCommand == IDM_DISPLAY)
        switch (uFlags)
            case GCS_HELPTEXTW:
                // Only useful for pre-Vista versions of Windows that 
                // have a Status bar.
                hr = StringCchCopyW(reinterpret_cast<PWSTR>(pszName), 
                                    L"Display File Name");

            case GCS_VERBW:
                // GCS_VERBW is an optional feature that enables a caller
                // to discover the canonical name for the verb that is passed in
                // through idCommand.
                hr = StringCchCopyW(reinterpret_cast<PWSTR>(pszName), 
    return hr;

IContextMenu::InvokeCommand Method

This method is called when a user clicks a menu item to tell the handler to run the associated command. The pici parameter points to a structure that contains the information required to run the command.

Although pici is declared in Shlobj.h as a CMINVOKECOMMANDINFO structure, in practice it often points to a CMINVOKECOMMANDINFOEX structure. This structure is an extended version of CMINVOKECOMMANDINFO and has several additional members that make it possible to pass Unicode strings.

Check the cbSize member of pici to determine which structure was passed in. If it is a CMINVOKECOMMANDINFOEX structure and the fMask member has the CMIC_MASK_UNICODE flag set, cast pici to CMINVOKECOMMANDINFOEX. This enables your application to use the Unicode information that is contained in the last five members of the structure.

The structure's lpVerb or lpVerbW member is used to identify the command to be executed. Commands are identified in one of the following two ways:

  • By the command's verb string
  • By the command's identifier offset

To distinguish between these two cases, check the high-order word of lpVerb for the ANSI case or lpVerbW for the Unicode case. If the high-order word is nonzero, lpVerb or lpVerbW holds a verb string. If the high-order word is zero, the command offset is in the low-order word of lpVerb.

The following example shows a simple implementation of IContextMenu::InvokeCommand that corresponds to the IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu and IContextMenu::GetCommandString examples given before and after this section. The method first determines which structure is being passed in. It then determines whether the command is identified by its offset or its verb. If lpVerb or lpVerbW holds a valid verb or offset, the method displays a message box.

    BOOL fEx = FALSE;
    BOOL fUnicode = FALSE;

    if(lpcmi->cbSize == sizeof(CMINVOKECOMMANDINFOEX))
        fEx = TRUE;
        if((lpcmi->fMask & CMIC_MASK_UNICODE))
            fUnicode = TRUE;

    if( !fUnicode && HIWORD(lpcmi->lpVerb))
        if(StrCmpIA(lpcmi->lpVerb, m_pszVerb))
            return E_FAIL;

    else if( fUnicode && HIWORD(((CMINVOKECOMMANDINFOEX *) lpcmi)->lpVerbW))
        if(StrCmpIW(((CMINVOKECOMMANDINFOEX *)lpcmi)->lpVerbW, m_pwszVerb))
            return E_FAIL;

    else if(LOWORD(lpcmi->lpVerb) != IDM_DISPLAY)
        return E_FAIL;

                   "The File Name",
                   "File Name",

    return S_OK;

IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu Method

The Shell calls IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu to enable the shortcut menu handler to add its menu items to the menu. It passes in the HMENU handle in the hmenu parameter. The indexMenu parameter is set to the index to be used for the first menu item that is to be added.

Any menu items that are added by the handler must have identifiers that fall between the values in the idCmdFirst and idCmdLast parameters. Typically, the first command identifier is set to idCmdFirst, which is incremented by one (1) for each additional command. This practice helps you to avoid exceeding idCmdLast and maximizes the number of available identifiers in case the Shell calls more than one handler.

An item identifier's command offset is the difference between the identifier and the value in idCmdFirst. Store the offset of each item that your handler adds to the shortcut menu, because the Shell might use the offset to identify the item if it subsequently calls IContextMenu::GetCommandString or IContextMenu::InvokeCommand.

You should also assign a verb to each command that you add. A verb is a string that can be used instead of the offset to identify the command when InvokeCommand is called. It is also used by functions such as ShellExecuteEx to execute shortcut menu commands.

There are three flags that can be passed in through the uFlags parameter that are relevant to shortcut menu handlers. They are described in the following table.

Flag Description
CMF_DEFAULTONLY The user has selected the default command, usually by double-clicking the object. IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu should return control to the Shell without modifying the menu.
CMF_NODEFAULT No item in the menu should be the default item. The method should add its commands to the menu.
CMF_NORMAL The shortcut menu will be displayed normally. The method should add its commands to the menu.


Use either InsertMenu or InsertMenuItem to add menu items to the list. Then return an HRESULT value with the severity set to SEVERITY_SUCCESS. Set the code value to the offset of the largest command identifier that was assigned, plus one (1). For example, assume that idCmdFirst is set to 5 and you add three items to the menu with command identifiers of 5, 7, and 8. The return value should be MAKE_HRESULT(SEVERITY_SUCCESS, 0, 8 + 1).

The following example shows a simple implementation of QueryContextMenu that inserts a single command. The identifier offset for the command is IDM_DISPLAY, which is set to zero. The m_pszVerb and m_pwszVerb variables are private variables that are used to store the associated language-independent verb string in both ANSI and Unicode formats.

#define IDM_DISPLAY 0

STDMETHODIMP CMenuExtension::QueryContextMenu(HMENU hMenu,
                                              UINT indexMenu,
                                              UINT idCmdFirst,
                                              UINT idCmdLast,
                                              UINT uFlags)
    HRESULT hr;
    if(!(CMF_DEFAULTONLY & uFlags))
                   MF_STRING | MF_BYPOSITION, 
                   idCmdFirst + IDM_DISPLAY, 
                   "&Display File Name");

        hr = StringCbCopyA(m_pszVerb, sizeof(m_pszVerb), "display");
        hr = StringCbCopyW(m_pwszVerb, sizeof(m_pwszVerb), L"display");




For other verb implementation tasks, see Creating Shortcut Menu Handlers.