The comtypes package

comtypes is a pure Python COM package based on the ctypes ffi foreign function library. ctypes is included in Python 2.5 and later, it is also available for Python 2.4 as separate download.

While the pywin32 package contains superior client side support for dispatch based COM interfaces, it is not possible to access custom COM interfaces unless they are wrapped in C++-code.

The comtypes package makes it easy to access and implement both custom and dispatch based COM interfaces.

This document describes comtypes version 0.4.1.

NEW: The beginning of the documentation for implementing COM servers in comtypes is here: comtypes_server

Contents

The comtypes.client package

The comtypes.client package implements the high-level comtypes functionality.

Creating and accessing COM objects

comtypes.client exposes three functions that allow to create or access COM objects.

CreateObject(progid, clsctx=None, machine=None, interface=None)

Create a COM object and return an interface pointer to it.

progid specifies which object to create. It can be a string like "InternetExplorer.Application" or "{2F7860A2-1473-4D75-827D-6C4E27600CAC}", a comtypes.GUID instance, or any object with a _clsid_ attribute that must be a comtypes.GUID instance or a GUID string.

clsctx specifies how to create the object, any combination of the comtypes.CLSCTX_... constants can be used. If nothing is passed, comtypes.CLSCTX_SERVER is used.

machine allows to specify that the object should be created on a different machine, it must be a string specifying the computer name or IP address. DCOM must be enabled for this to work.

interface specifies the interface class that should be returned, if not specified comtypes will determine a useful interface itself and return a pointer to that.

CoGetObject(displayname, interface=None)

Create a named COM object and returns an interface pointer to it. For the interpretation of displayname consult the Microsoft documentation for the Windows CoGetObject function. "winmgmts:", for example, is the displayname for WMI monikers:

wmi = CoGetObject("winmgmts:")

interface has the same meaning as in the CreateObject function.

GetActiveObject(progid, interface=None)

Returns a pointer to an already running object. progid specifies the active object from the OLE registration database.

The GetActiveObject function succeeds when the COM object is already running, and has registered itself in the COM running object table. Not all COM objects do this.

All the three functions mentioned above will create the typelib wrapper automatically if the object provides type information. If the type library is not exposed by the object itself, the wrapper can be created by calling the GetModule function.

Using COM objects

The COM interface pointer that is returned by one of the creation functions (CreateObject, CoGetObject, or GetActiveObject) exposes methods and properties of the interface.

Since comtypes uses early binding to COM interfaces (when type information is exposed by the COM object), the interface methods and properties are available for introspection. The Python builtin help function can be used to get an overview of them.

MSScriptControl.ScriptControl is the progid of the MS scripting engine; this is an interesting COM object that allows to execute JScript or VBScript programs. Here is the complete output of these commands:

>>> from comtypes.client import CreateObject
>>> engine = CreateObject("MSScriptControl.ScriptControl")
>>> help(engine)
.....
>>>

Calling methods

Calling COM methods is straightforward just like with other Python objects. They can be called with positional and named arguments.

Arguments marked [out] or [out, retval] in the IDL are returned from a sucessful method call, in a tuple if there is more than one. If no [out] or [out, retval] arguments are present, the HRESULT returned by the method call is returned. When [out] or [out, retval] arguments are returned from a sucessful call, the HRESULT value is lost.

If the COM method call fails, a COMError exception is raised, containing the HRESULT value.

Accessing properties

COM properties present some challenges. Properties can be read-write, read-only, or write-only. They may have zero, one, or more arguments; arguments may even be optional.

Properties without arguments can be accessed in the usual way. This example demonstrates the Visible property of Internet Explorer:

>>> ie = CreateObject("InternetExplorer.Application")
>>> print ie.Visible
False
>>> ie.Visible = True
>>>
Properties with arguments (named properties)

Properties with arguments can be accessed using index notation. The following example starts Excel, creates a new workbook, and accesses the contents of some cells in the xlRangeValueDefault format (this code has been tested with Office 2003):

>>> xl = CreateObject("Excel.Application")
>>> xl.Workbooks.Add()
>>> from comtypes.gen.Excel import xlRangeValueDefault
>>> xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[xlRangeValueDefault] = (10,"20",31.4)
>>> print xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[xlRangeValueDefault]
(10, "20", 31.4)
>>>
Properties with optional arguments

If you look into the Excel type library (or the generated comtypes.gen wrapper module) you will find that the parameter for the .Value property is optional, so it would be possible to get or set this property without the need to pass (or even know) the xlRangeValueDefault argument.

Unfortunately, Python does not allow indexing without arguments:

>>> xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[] = (10,"20",31.4)
  File "<stdin>", line 1
    xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[] = (10,"20",31.4)
                               ^
SyntaxError: invalid syntax
>>> print xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[]
  File "<stdin>", line 1
    print xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[]
                                     ^
SyntaxError: invalid syntax
>>>

So, comtypes must provide some ways to access these properties. To get a named property without passing any argument, you can call the property:

>>> print xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value()
(10, "20", 31.4)
>>>

It is also possible to index with an empty tuple:

>>> print xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[()]
(10, "20", 31.4)
>>>

To set a named property without passing any argument, you can also use the empty tuple index trick:

>>> xl.Range["A1", "C1"].Value[()] = (1, 2, 3)
>>>

The lcid parameter

Some COM methods or properties have an optional lcid parameter. This parameter is used to specify a langauge identifier. The generated modules always pass 0 (zero) for this parameter. If this is not what you want you have to edit the generated code.

Converting data types

comtypes usually converts arguments and results between COM and Python in just the way one would expect.

VARIANT parameters sometimes requires special care. A VARIANT can hold a lot of different types - simple ones like integers, floats, or strings, also more complicated ones like single dimensional or even multidimensional arrays. The value a VARIANT contains is specified by a typecode that comtypes automatically assigns.

When you pass simple sequences (lists or tuples) as VARIANT parameters, the COM server will receive a VARIANT containing a SAFEARRAY of VARIANTs with the typecode VT_ARRAY | VT_VARIANT.

Some COM server methods, however, do not accept such arrays, they require for example an array of shorT integers with the typecode VT_ARRAY | VT_I2, an array of integers with typecode VT_ARRAY | VT_INT, or an array a strings with typecode VT_ARRAY | VT_BSTR.

To create these variants you must pass an instance of the Python array.array with the correct Python typecode to the COM method. The mapping of the array.array typecode to the VARIANT typecode is defined in the comtypes.automation module by a dictionary:

_arraycode_to_vartype = {
    "b": VT_I1,
    "h": VT_I2,
    "i": VT_INT,
    "l": VT_I4,

    "B": VT_UI1,
    "H": VT_UI2,
    "I": VT_UINT,
    "L": VT_UI4,

    "f": VT_R4,
    "d": VT_R8,
}

AutoCAD, for example, is one of the COM servers that requires VARIANTs with the typecodes VT_ARRAY | VT_I2 or VT_ARRAY | VT_R8 for parameters. This code snippet was contributed by a user:

"""Sample to demonstrate how to use comtypes to automate AutoCAD:
adding a point and a line to the drawing; and attaching xdata of
different types to them. The objective is to actually show how to
create variants of different types using comtypes.  Such variants are
required by many methods in AutoCAD COM API. AutoCAD needs to be
running to test the following code."""

import array
import comtypes.client

#Get running instance of the AutoCAD application
app = comtypes.client.GetActiveObject("AutoCAD.Application")

#Get the ModelSpace object
ms = app.ActiveDocument.ModelSpace

#Add a POINT in ModelSpace
pt = array.array('d', [0,0,0])
point = ms.AddPoint(pt)

#Add a LINE in ModelSpace
pt1 = array.array('d', [1.0,1.0,0])
pt2 = array.array('d', [2.0,2.0,0])
line = ms.AddLine(pt1, pt2)

#Add an integer type xdata to the point.
point.SetXData(array.array("h", [1001, 1070]), ['Test_Application1', 600])

#Add a double type xdata to the line.
line.SetXData(array.array("h", [1001, 1040]), ['Test_Application2', 132.65])

#Add a string type xdata to the line.
line.SetXData(array.array("h", [1001, 1000]), ['Test_Application3', 'TestData'])

#Add a list type (a point coordinate in this case) xdata to the line.
line.SetXData(array.array("h", [1001, 1010]),
              ['Test_Application4', array.array('d', [2.0,0,0])])

print "Done."

COM events

Some COM objects support events, which allows them to notify the user of the object when something happens. The standard COM mechanism is based on so-called connection points.

Note: For the rules that you should observe when implementing event handlers you should read the implementing_COM_methods section in the comtypes server document.

GetEvents(source, sink, interface=None)

This functions connects an event sink to the COM object source.

Events will call methods on the sink object; the methods must be named interfacename_methodname or methodname. The methods will be called with a this parameter, plus any parameters that the event has.

interface is the outgoing interface of the source object; it must be supplied when comtypes cannot determine the outgoing interface of source.

GetEvents returns the advise connection; you should keep the connection alive as long as you want to receive events. To break the advise connection simply delete it.

ShowEvents(source, interface=None)

This function contructs an event sink and connects it to the source object for debugging. The event sink will first print out all event names that are found in the outgoing interface, and will later print out the events with their arguments as they occur. ShowEvents returns a connection object which must be kept alive as long as you want to receive events. When the object is deleted the connection to the source object is closed.

To actually receive events you may have to call the PumpEvents function so that COM works correctly.

PumpEvents(timeout)

This functions runs for a certain time in a way that is required for COM to work correctly. In a single-theaded apartment it runs a windows message loop, in a multithreaded apparment it simply waits. The timeout argument may be a floating point number to indicate a time of less than a second.

Pressing Control-C raises a KeyboardError exception and terminates the function immediately.

Examples

Here is an example which demonstrates how to find and receive events from Excel:

>>> from comtypes.client import CreateObject
>>> xl = CreateObject("Excel.Application")
>>> xl.Visible = True
>>> print xl
<POINTER(_Application) ptr=0x29073c at c156c0>
>>>

The ShowEvents function is a useful helper to get started with the events of an object in the interactive Python interpreter.

We call ShowEvents to connect to the events that Excel fires. ShowEvents first lists the events that are present on the _Application object:

>>> from comtypes.client import ShowEvents
>>> connection = ShowEvents(xl)
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookSync
# event found: AppEvents_WindowResize
# event found: AppEvents_WindowActivate
# event found: AppEvents_WindowDeactivate
# event found: AppEvents_SheetSelectionChange
# event found: AppEvents_SheetBeforeDoubleClick
# event found: AppEvents_SheetBeforeRightClick
# event found: AppEvents_SheetActivate
# event found: AppEvents_SheetDeactivate
# event found: AppEvents_SheetCalculate
# event found: AppEvents_SheetChange
# event found: AppEvents_NewWorkbook
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookOpen
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookActivate
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookDeactivate
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookBeforeClose
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookBeforeSave
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookBeforePrint
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookNewSheet
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookAddinInstall
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookAddinUninstall
# event found: AppEvents_SheetFollowHyperlink
# event found: AppEvents_SheetPivotTableUpdate
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookPivotTableCloseConnection
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookPivotTableOpenConnection
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookBeforeXmlImport
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookAfterXmlImport
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookBeforeXmlExport
# event found: AppEvents_WorkbookAfterXmlExport
>>> print connection
<comtypes.client._events._AdviseConnection object at 0x00C16AD0>
>>>

We have assigned the return value of the ShowEvents call to the variable connection, this variable keeps the connection to Excel alive and it will print events as they actually occur.

To receive COM events correctly, it is important to run a message loop; the PumpEvents() function will do that for a certain time. Here is what happens when we call this function and in the meantime interactively open an Excel worksheet. comtypes prints the events as they are fired with their parameters:

>>> from comtypes.client import PumpEvents
>>> PumpEvents(30)
Event AppEvents_WorkbookOpen(None, <POINTER(_Workbook) ptr=...>)
Event AppEvents_WorkbookActivate(None, <POINTER(_Workbook) ptr=...>)
Event AppEvents_WindowActivate(None, <POINTER(Window) ptr=...>, <POINTER(_Workbook) ptr=...>)
>>>

The first parameter is always the this pointer passed as None for comtypes-internal reasons, other parameters depend on the event. To terminate the connection we simply delete the connection variable; it may be required to call the Python garbage collector to terminate the connection immediately, and we will not receive any events from Excel anymore:

>>> del connection
>>> import gc; gc.collect()
123
>>>

If we want to process the events in our own code, we use the GetEvents() function in a very similar way. This function must be called with the COM object as the first argument, the second parameter is a Python object, the event sink, that will process the events. The event sink should have methods named like the events we want to process. It is only required to implement methods for those events that we want to process, other events are ignored.

The following code defines a class that processes the AppEvents_WorkbookOpen event, creates an instance of this class and passes it as second parameter to the GetEvents() function:

>>> from comtypes.client import GetEvents
>>> class EventSink(object):
...     def AppEvents_WorkbookOpen(self, this, workbook):
...         print "WorkbookOpened", workbook
...         # add your code here
...
>>> sink = EventSink()
>>> connection = GetEvents(xl, sink)
>>> PumpEvents(30)
WorkbookOpened <POINTER(_Workbook) ptr=0x291944 at 1853120>
>>>

Note that event handler methods support the same calling convention as COM method implementations in comtypes. So the remarks about implementing_COM_methods should be observed.

Typelibraries

Accessing type libraries

comtypes uses early binding even to custom COM interfaces. A Python class, derived from the comtypes.IUnknown class must be written. This class describes the interface methods and properties in a way that is somewhat similar to IDL notation.

It should be possible to write the interface classes manually, fortunately comtypes includes a code generator that does create modules containing the Python interface class (and more) automatically from COM typelibraries.

GetModule(tlib)

This function generates a Python wrapper for a COM typelibrary. When a COM object exposes its own typeinfo, this function is called automatically when the object is created.

tlib can be an ITypeLib COM pointer from a loaded typelibrary, the pathname of a file containing a type library (.tlb, .exe or .dll), a tuple or list containing the GUID of a typelibrary, a major and a minor version number, plus optionally a LCID, or any object that has a _reg_libid_ and _reg_version_ attributes specifying a type library.

GetModule(tlib) generates a Python module (if not already present) from the typelibrary, containing interface classes, coclasses, constants, and structures and returns the module object itself. The modules are generated inside the comtypes.gen package. The module name is derived from the typelibrary guid, version number and lcid. The module name is a valid Python module name, so it can be imported with an import statement. A second wrapper module is also created in the comtypes.gen package with a shorter name that is derived from the type library name itself, this does import everything from the real wrapper module but can be imported easier because the module name is easier to type.

For example, the typelibrary for Internet Explorer has the name SHDocVw (this is the name specified in the type library IDL file, it is not the filename), the guid is {EAB22AC0-30C1-11CF-A7EB-0000C05BAE0B}, and the version number 1.1. The name of the real typelib wrapper module is comtypes.gen._EAB22AC0_30C1_11CF_A7EB_0000C05BAE0B_0_1_1 and the name of the second wrapper is comtypes.gen.SHDocVw.

When you want to freeze your script with py2exe you can ensure that py2exe includes these typelib wrappers by writing:

import comtypes.gen.SHDocVw

somewhere.

gen_dir

This variable determines the directory where the typelib wrappers are written to. If it is None, modules are only generated in memory.

comtypes.client.gen_dir is calculated when the comtypes.client module is first imported. It is set to the directory of the comtypes.gen package when this is a valid file system path; otherwise it is set to None.

In a script frozen with py2exe the directory of comtypes.gen is somewhere in a zip-archive, gen_dir is None, and even if tyelib wrappers are created at runtime no attempt is made to write them to the file system. Instead, the modules are generated only in memory.

comtypes.client.gen_dir can also be set to None to prevent writing typelib wrappers to the file system. The downside is that for large type libraries the code generation can take some time.

Examples

Here are several ways to generate the typelib wrapper module for Internet Explorer with the GetModule function:

>>> from comtypes.client import GetModule
>>> GetModule("shdocvw.dll")
>>> GetModule(["{EAB22AC0-30C1-11CF-A7EB-0000C05BAE0B}", 1, 1)
>>>

This code snippet could be used to generate the typelib wrapper module for Internet Explorer automatically when your script is run, and would include the module into the exe-file when the script is frozen by py2exe:

>>> import sys
>>> if not hasattr(sys, "frozen"):
>>>     from comtypes.client import GetModule
>>>     GetModule("shdocvw.dll")
>>> import comtypes.gen.ShDocVw
>>>

Case sensitivity

In principle, COM is a case insensitive technology (probably because of Visual Basic). Type libraries generated from IDL files, however, do not always even preserve the case of identifiers; see for example http://support.microsoft.com/kb/220137.

Python (and C/C++) are case sensitive languages, so comtypes is also case sensitive. This means that you have to call obj.QueryInterface(...), it will not work to write obj.queryinterface(...).

To work around the problems that you get when the case of identifiers in the type library (and in the generated Python module for this library) is not the same as in the IDL file, comtypes allows to have case insensitive attribute access for methods and properties in COM interfaces. This behaviour is enabled by setting the _case_insensitive_ attribute of a Python COM interface to True. In case of derived COM interfaces, case sensitivity is enabled or disabled separately for each interface.

The code generated by the GetModule function sets this attribute to True. Case insensitive access has a small performance penalty, if you want to avoid this, you should edit the generated code and set the _case_insensitive_ attribute to False.

Threading

XXX mention single threaded apartments, multi threaded apartments. sys.coinit_flags, CoInitialize, CoUninitialize and so on. All this is pretty advanced stuff.

XXX mention threading issues, message loops

Other stuff

XXX describe logging, gen_dir, wrap, _manage (?)

Downloads

Releases can be downloaded in the sourceforge files section.

The comtypes project is hosted on sourceforge.


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