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This chapter is from the book

Using Objects with VBScript

To use objects in VBScript, you first need to create an instance of an object and store its reference in a VBScript variable. Then, the methods and properties of the object can be accessed using variable . propertyname or variable . methodname . This is easier to demonstrate than explain, so here's an example. This short script tells you whether your C: drive has a folder named \windows:

   set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
   if fso.FolderExists("c:\windows") then
       WScript.echo "There is a folder named c:\windows"
   end if

In the first line of the script, we create an instance of a Scripting.FileSystemObject. This is an object class provided with WSH that has handy properties and methods you can use when examining and manipulating disks and files.

Except for the word set, this looks just like a typical call to a function with the returned value being assigned to a variable. That's just what it is. CreateObject is a function that creates a new object instance. What's new is the word set, which VBScript requires you to use to indicate that an object reference is being stored rather than a regular value.

In general, the syntax to create an object instance in VBScript is

set variablename = CreateObject(" objectname")

where variablename is the variable you want to use to hold the object reference and objectname is the type of object you want to create.

In the second line of the example, we use the FolderExists method to find out whether a specified folder exists. Remember that methods and properties are just like regular functions and subroutines; they just happen to "live" in a separate program that provides the object class. The presence of fso. before FolderExists tells VBScript that the FolderExists function is part of the object class to which fso refers, which in this example is Scripting.FileSystemObject.

Some properties and methods take arguments, as you saw with FolderExists. When they do, you have to use parentheses in the same way you would with any other VBScript function or subroutine call. If the method or property returns a function value, you must use parentheses:

   variable = object.property("arguments", "in", "parens")

If a method doesn't return a value, you can omit the parentheses:

   object.method "arguments", "without", "parens"

Does this look familiar? We used objects all through the VBScript tutorial in Chapter 2 in statements such as this:

   WScript.echo "Today's date is", date

Now, you should recognize that WScript is an object reference and that echo is one of its methods. We never needed to use CreateObject to get WScript set up, though, because VBScript provides it automatically. The WScript object has several other handy methods and properties that I discuss later in this chapter.

As mentioned earlier, some properties and methods return another object as their values. For example, Scripting.FileSystemObject has a GetFile method that returns a File object. The File object can then be used to examine and manipulate the file. Here's a sample script that gives the size and creation date of the program file \windows\notepad.exe:

   set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
   set file = fso.GetFile("c:\windows\notepad.exe")
   WScript.echo "Notepad.exe was created on", file.DateCreated
   WScript.echo "and is", file.Size, "bytes long"

The first line is the same as in the previous script, and it creates an instance of the helpful Scripting.FileSystemObject.

The second line asks the FileSystemObject to return a File object representing the file c:\windows\notepad.exe. Because I want to use this object several times, I saved it in the variable file, using the set keyword. (Although file is a reserved word in Visual Basic, it's not in VBScript, so it's available for use as a variable name.)

The next two lines use the File object's DateCreated and Size properties. Because these functions don't need arguments, there are no parentheses. The returned date/time and numeric values are printed by the WScript.echo method. On my computer, this prints the following:

   Notepad.exe was created on 2/11/2008 6:56:09 PM
   and is 151040 bytes long

Automation and Document Files

The GetObject function might be used to obtain an object that represents some already existing document file through a process Microsoft calls Automation. The GetObject function uses the name of the document file to find the appropriate object class server through the Windows standard file type/application association mechanism. You can see file type/associations on Windows XP in Windows Explorer by clicking Tools, Folder Options, File Types. On Windows 7 and Vista, you get there from Control Panel, Programs, Make a File Type Always Open in a Specific Program.

The following sample script uses the GetObject function to create a Word document object representing an existing file and print it:

   set obj = GetObject("C:\docs\userlist.doc")  ' get object for existing document
   obj.Printout                                 ' print the document
   set obj = Nothing                            ' release the object

GetObject can also obtain a reference to an already existing object that was created by some other program, through a name called a moniker. Several preexisting objects can be used to manage networking, Windows, and Active Directory user accounts. We cover these in Chapter 7, "Windows Management Instrumentation," and Chapter 8, "Active Directory Scripting Interface."

The Difference Between Properties and Methods

I don't know about you, but for a long time I found the distinction between properties and methods to be confusing. Now, it's not crucially important to understand the difference, but if you're curious, I tell you how I finally came to an understanding of sorts.

If you look back in the preceding section, you see I mentioned the FolderExists method that is part of the object FileSystemObject. Why is FolderExists a method and not a property? It comes down to these main points:

  • Properties relate directly to aspects of the object or, more precisely, of the thing the object represents.
  • Properties act like variables: You just refer to them by their name.
  • Every property returns a value of some sort. Retrieving a property's value doesn't change anything about the object or whatever it represents.
  • Some properties let you assign new values to them. This changes the attribute of the object and the underlying thing it represents.
  • Methods are the things the object's program can do for you.
  • Methods act like functions and subroutines; they can have arguments passed to them.
  • Methods don't have to return a value, but some do.
  • Invoking a method can change something about the object or the real-world thing it represents.

Therefore, FolderExists is a method because it takes an argument (the name of the file it is to look up). Properties don't need arguments because they are intrinsic attributes of the object itself. As such, they don't need any additional information to return a value.

There is something else I should mention about properties: In many cases, you can both evaluate them (examine their values) and assign new values to them. They work just like variables in this regard. The difference is that when you assign a new value to a property, the object software makes a corresponding change in the actual thing the object represents. For example, assigning a new value to a File object's Name property changes the actual file's name, as shown here:

   WScript.echo file.Name         ' evaluate the property
   file.Name = "newname"          ' assign a new value to the property

Keep in mind, however, that some objects don't let you change a property's value. In this case, the object's documentation calls it a read-only property. And, a few specialized objects are designed so that changing the object's properties doesn't immediately change the underlying thing the object represents, until you use a special method that "commits" the change. Again, the object's documentation discusses this, and I point out a few objects of this sort in later chapters.

Nested Objects

One other thing I want to point out is that you don't necessarily need to save every object reference in a variable. In the previous example that displayed information about Notepad.exe, if I only wanted to see the creation date, I could have skipped the step of storing the File object in variable file and could have used these statements:

   set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
   WScript.echo "Notepad.exe was created on",_
       fso.GetFile("c:\windows\notepad.exe").DateCreated

In this case, VBScript refers to fso to call the GetFile method, and the returned object is used to fetch the DateCreated property. It's not unusual to see several levels of objects this way; this is called a nested object reference.

When you're working with Microsoft Word objects, this is common. In scripts or Word macros, you might often see statements like these:

   ActiveDocument.PageSetup.Orientation = wdOrientLandscape
   ActiveDocument.PageSetup.TopMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
   ActiveDocument.PageSetup.BottomMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
   ActiveDocument.PageSetup.PageWidth = InchesToPoints(11)

In this example, the ActiveDocument object returns a PageSetup object, which has orientation and margin properties you can set. You could save yourself some extra keystrokes in creating this script by saving a reference to the PageSetup object, as follows:

   set ps = ActiveDocument.PageSetup
   ps.Orientation = wdOrientLandscape
   ps.TopMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
   ps.BottomMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)

   ps.PageWidth = InchesToPoints(11)

However, VBScript has a special program construct called the With statement that makes this even easier. The previous example could be rewritten this way:

   with ActiveDocument.PageSetup
       .Orientation = wdOrientLandscape
       .TopMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
       .BottomMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
       .PageWidth = InchesToPoints(11)
   end with

The With statement lets you specify an object reference that is taken as the "default" object between With and End With. Inside the With statement, you can refer to the default object's methods and properties by preceding them with a period but no variable name. Not only can this save you a lot of typing, but it's easier to read, and it lessens the workload on VBScript, thus speeding up your script.

Releasing Objects

When you create an object, Windows activates the object's class server program to manage the object for you. In the case of Scripting.FileSystemObject, you usually create one of these objects at the beginning of your script and use it throughout. When your script completes, Windows releases the object you've created. The class server program takes care of freeing up its memory and other housekeeping chores. You don't have to worry about it at all.

However, if you use a script to create multiple objects, you might find that it's appropriate to explicitly release them when you are through using them. For instance, a script that creates multiple Word documents should tell Word to close each document when you're finished with it; then, the script should release the document object, lest you end up with hundreds of documents open at once.

You can explicitly tell an object you're finished with it by setting the variable that holds the object reference to the value Nothing. Later in this book, there are examples of this in some of the sample scripts.

Working with Collections

If you ask Scripting.FileSystemObject for the files or subfolders contained in a folder or drive, it might need to return multiple File or Folder objects. To manage this, it actually returns a single collection object that contains all the File or Folder objects inside it. You can then examine the contents of the collection to look at the individual items.

A collection object has a Count property that tells how many items are inside and an Item method that returns a specific item from the collection. This would lead you to expect that you could write a script like this to print the names of the files of the root folder on your hard drive:

   set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
   set files = fso.GetFolder("c:\").Files
   for i = 1 to files.Count
       WScript.echo files.Item(i).Name
   next

However, this script doesn't work. With a folder collection, Item doesn't allow you to retrieve items by number. It requires you to specify the name of the particular object you want, and if you don't yet know the names, this isn't very useful.

To scan through collection objects that can't be referenced by number, each scripting language provides a way to scan through collections without knowing what they contain. VBScript, for example, provides a special version of the For loop called For Each.

The For Each loop runs through the statements once for each object in collection , and the variable objectvar is made to refer to each of the individual objects in turn. Using For Each, and using a variable named file to hold the individual file objects, our folder-listing script now works:

   set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
   set files = fso.GetFolder("c:\").Files
   for each file in files
       WScript.echo file.Name
   next

You could even use the following shorter version:

   set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
   for each file in fso.GetFolder("c:\").Files
       WScript.echo file.Name
   next

Now, if you don't plan on writing scripts in any other languages, skip ahead to the section titled "Using the WScript Object" on p. 111 of this chapter for more information about the built-in WScript object.

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