OLE-DB Simple Provider: A Data Binding API for MSHTML

MSHTML, introduced in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0, supports a very simple, easily-implemented API for exposing data to HTML pages. The API supports access to string and variant data types and is built using array-like structures to expose rows and columns. Third parties can use the OLE-DB Simple Provider API to implement their custom data source objects.

Introduction

OLE-DB Simple Provider (OSP) is an interface specification that hosts can implement to expose their tabular data to HTML elements in Internet Explorer 4.0/MSHTML. OSP specifies only simple, minimal functionality that requires only minimal effort on the part of control/applet authors to expose their data. OSP specifies methods for adding, deleting, and setting the value of columns, searching through the set of data, and receiving notifications on data events.

OLE-DB Simple Provider was formerly called Simple Tabular Data, or STD for short.

OLE-DB Simple Provider

OSP exposes a set of tabular data (data set) in an array-like structure. Elements of the data set are referenced by their row and column indexes.

Data References

Indexes begin with value 1 and increase. There are two special index values.

0 Reserved for label information in the case of a row, and header information in the case of a column.
-1 The wildcard value. Refers to an unknown value or all values. For example, Row=-1, Col=2 refers to the entire column 2.

OSP defines two distinct interfaces: OLEDBSimpleProvider and OLEDBSimpleProviderListener. As you would expect, OLEDBSimpleProvider implements the methods used for data access, and OLEDBSimpleProviderListener specifies the methods to be implemented by the host for receiving notification of data changes.

Interface ID

The OLEDBSimpleProvider interface is identified by the following IID:

{E0E270C0-C0BE-11d0-8FE4-00A0C90A6341}

The methods implemented by OLEDBSimpleProvider can be broken down into the following logical areas.

Schema functions

Three functions are provided for obtaining the schema for the underlying rows or columns.

Function Description
HRESULT getRowCount([out, retval] LONG *pcRows) Returns the number of rows in the data set.
HRESULT getColumnCount( [out,retval] LONG *pcColumns) Returns the number of columns in the data set.
HRESULT getRWStatus([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG iColumn, [out, retval] OSPRW *prwStatus) Returns the read/write status for the specified row and column. If one or both of iRow and iColumn have a value of -1, the read/write status is returned for the entire column, row, or complete data set.

OSPRW is an enumeration with the following values:

OSPRW_READONLY Cell, row, column, or data set is read-only.
OSPRW_READWRITE Cell, row, column, or data set can be modified.
OSPRW_MIXED Cell, row, column, or data set read-write status unknown or row, column, or data set mixed status.

Variant-oriented functions

Two functions are provided to allow retrieval and setting of variant values in the data set:

Function Description
HRESULT getVariant([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG iColumn, [in] OSPFORMAT fFormatted, [out, retval] VARIANT *pVar) Retrieves the value of the cell at the row and column indicated into the preallocated variant supplied in pVar. Based on the value specified in fFormatted, pVar will contain either a value with the type of the underlying column, a string that corresponds to the underlying type of the column, or an HTML fragment that corresponds to the underlying type of the column.
HRESULT setVariant([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG iColumn, [in] OSPFORMAT fFormatted, [in, retval] VARIANT Var) Sets the value of the cell at the row and column indicated to the value of the variant supplied in pVar in the type requested by the value of fFormatted.

OSPFORMAT is an enumeration with the following values:

OSPFORMAT_RAW The underlying type of the column should be used to either set the value or get the value.
OSPFORMAT_FORMATTED The underlying type of the column should be converted to a string and the string returned as a BSTR within the variant.
OSPFORMAT_HTML The underlying type of the column should be converted to an HTML string.

Notes

  • For both functions, as per the definition of VARIANT, references are not supported.
  • For setVariant with any of the formatting options, it is the provider's responsibility to perform the appropriate coercion to the underlying type of the column. In cases where the coercion cannot be successfully completed, an appropriate error return code should be returned.
  • For setVariant with OSPFORMAT_FORMATTED, the provider is free to interpret the input string however it sees fit. Alternatively, the provider may attempt to parse the input string and heuristically determine an appropriate data type and value to place into the cell—for example, when updating formatted spreadsheet cells.
  • When OSPFORMAT_HTML is requested, the provider may, at its option, return a plain string (unadorned with HTML tags and so on).
  • A database NULL is indicated by returning a variant of type VT_NULL for any of the fFormatted types.
  • Wildcard values (-1) are not valid for the iRow and iColumn attributes in setVariant or getVariant.

Deletion and Insertion

Functions are provided to insert and delete rows. For all functions, the row numbers provide the position within the data set to which the row will be inserted. That is, the row inserted will have the index specified.

Function Description
HRESULT deleteRows([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG cRows, [out, retval] LONG *pcRowsDeleted) Deletes cRows from the data set starting at row iRow. The number of rows successfully deleted is returned in pcRowsDeleted.
HRESULT insertRows([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG cRows, [out, retval] LONG *pcRowsInserted) Inserts cRows into the data set starting at row iRow. The number of rows successfully inserted is returned in pcRowsInserted.

Notes

  • In the case of an error, the provider may choose to insert/delete rows up to the point where the error occurred. In such a case, the [out] parameter specifies the number of rows actually inserted/deleted.
  • Values for the inserted rows are not specified. Use the setVariant function to set the value of the cells inserted.

Searching

A function is provided that supports some basic searching capability on the data set. The goal of this function is to be fairly easy for the provider to implement while providing the client with a meaningful set of functionality to perform complex searching.

Function Description
HRESULT find([in] LONG iRowStart, [in] LONG iColumn, [in] VARIANT varSval, [in] OSPFIND findFlags, [in] OSPCOMP compType, [out, retval] LONG *piRowFound) Searches for the values specified in varSval in column iColumn starting at row iRowStart. Upon successful completion, the row number with the matching value is returned in piRowFound.

Supported values for OSPFIND are:

OSPFIND_UP Specifies scan should be decreasing in row number.
OSPFIND_CASESENSITIVE Specifies that search should be case sensitive.

Supported values for OSPCOMP are:

OSPCOMP_LT Specifies the first value less than varSval is being searched for.
OSPCOMP_LE Specifies the first value less than or equal to varSval is being searched for.
OSPCOMP_GT Specifies the first value greater than varSval is being searched for.
OSPCOMP_GE Specifies the first value greater than or equal to varSval is being searched for.
OSPCOMP_EQ Specifies the first value equal to varSval is being searched for.
OSPCOMP_NE Specifies the first value not equal to varSval is being searched for.

Notes

  • Find does COMPares using the native type of the underlying column. Providers are encouraged to simply fail when the type of the varSval differs from the underlying type of the column.
  • COMParing string values always COMPares values as they would be returned from a call to GetVariant with OSPFORMAT_FORMATTED. Providers should not coerce values of varSval obtained from a previous call to GetVariant with OSPFORMAT_HTML.
  • If no corresponding match is found, Find should return the constant -1.

Asynchronous Data Population

The main function of an OSP is to provide data to an HTML page. In many cases, the data will need to be transported over high-latency, low-bandwidth networks, in most cases using a 28.8K modem. The OSP design accounts for making data available as expediently as possible while maintaining an architecture and interface specification that is easy to author.

All OSP authors are encouraged to implement support for populating (or retrieving) the data they expose asynchronously. This allows the host to continue processing during data transmission instead of blocking on a call to the OSP until the entire data set has been transmitted to the client.

The majority of the work required to support asynchronous data delivery does not involve the OSP interface specifically; it is a requirement on the mechanisms to retrieve data from their underlying storages. Accordingly, three methods are required in the OSP interface: one to indicate whether the provider supports asynchronous population; one to return the progress of the asynchronous population; and a third to stop the asynchronous transmission of data.

Two additional events are added to the OSP event notifications. One event indicates when additional data has become available for access through the interface, while the other signals that the asynchronous data population has completed.

Function Description
HRESULT isAsync( [out, retval] BOOL *pbAsynch) Returns a Boolean indicating whether data is being populated asynchronously.

Notes

The isAsynch event should never block; it should always return the appropriate state.

Function Description
HRESULT getEstimatedRows( [out, retval] LONG *piRows) Returns the estimated total number of rows in the data set. Callers can use this in conjunction with GetRowCount with an asynchronous provider to obtain an estimate of the percentage of data received.

Notes

  • When the number of rows in the data set cannot be estimated, the provider should return the special value -1.
  • Synchronous providers should not block on the call to GetEstimatedRows. They should either return -1 to indicate that they cannot provide an estimate, or the actual row count (same as would be obtained through GetRowCount).
  • Providers should not return the final row count from EstimatedRows prior to firing the Transfercomplete event (see below).
Function Description
HRESULT stopTransfer() Requests that the OSP discontinue asynchronous transfer of data.

Notes

  • Providers should make every effort to expose the data transferred prior to receiving this request. The provider must expose a valid, consistent OSP interface for such data—appropriate column/row count, read/write status, and so on.
  • Providers that cannot expose the data transferred prior to this request should discontinue the transfer of data and fail all subsequent calls to the OSP interface.

Internationalization

Implementers may have to consider cases where the consumer is running in a different locale from the source of the data. The provider is responsible for ensuring that data conversions are done in an appropriate fashion. In particular, be careful in cases where the string representation of many data types differs according to locale. For example, the float or double number 3.14 would be "3.14" in the US, and "3,14" in Germany. Date representations differ even more. For example, number (especially float, date) to string conversions done by GetVariant or SetVariant with the OSP_FORMATTED option specified should usually be done in the locale of the browser.

The Find method has more COMPlicated issues to deal with to implement its ordered COMParisons correctly across locale boundaries. These comparisons should, where possible, also be done in the locale of the browser, although this issue is not as clear cut. (For example, if the data consists of strings containing accented characters, it is not clear that a browser in the en-us locale has any preferred sorting order for these strings. The sorting order of the provider locale might be more useful.)

It is anticipated that there will be cases where the consumer will need to know the locale of the data in order to perform proper operations on that data. A method is provided for the provider to return this information.

Function Description
HRESULT getLocale([out,retval] BSTR *pbstrLocale) Returns a string in pbstrLocale that indicates the locale of the data returned by getLocale. This is used to perform the appropriate type conversions.

Notes

  • The getLocale event should simply return the empty string ("") when the provider does not support localization. This will allow the consuming entity to use the default from the operating system.
  • For all values of pbstrLocale, the category LC_ALL is assumed by the consumer.

Sinking Events

Methods are provided to attach and detach a unicast event handler for all events.

Function Description
HRESULT addOLEDBSimpleProviderListener([in] OLEDBSimpleProviderListener *posplListener) Registers the event handler interface specified by posplListener to receive notifications of changes to data.

Notes

  • If an event handler was specified previously, addOLEDBSimpleProviderListener releases the previous event handler prior to registering posplListener.
  • OSP events are unicast only. There can be only one listener.
Function Description
HRESULT removeOLEDBSimpleProviderListener([in] OLEDBSimpleProviderListener *posplListener) Unregisters the event handler interface specified by posplListener.

Notes

The removeOLEDBSimpleProviderListener event should always specify the posplListener previously registered. In the event that posplListener differs from the event handler registered, the call should fail.

OLE-DB Simple Provider Listener

OSP implementers fire notifications of changes to the underlying data through a single event handler. There are pre- and post-notifications for each event.

Interface ID

The OLEDBSimpleProviderListener interface can be identified by the following IID:

{E0E270C1-C0BE-11d0-8FE4-00A0C90A6341}

The event handler, registered through OLEDBSimpleProvider::addOLEDBSimpleProviderListener, should implement the following methods:

Function Description
HRESULT aboutToChangeCell([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG iColumn) Indicates that the cell indicated is about to change. This notification is fired when values are modified through SetVariant or internally by a provider. The AboutToChangeCell event should fire before any data values are changed.

Notes

  • Calls to GetVariant should return the original, unchanged value(s) prior to the return of control from firing the AboutToChangeCell event.
  • In AboutToChangeCell, the value -1 can be specified for iRow, iColumn, or both.
Function Description
HRESULT cellChanged([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG iColumn) Indicates that the specified cell was changed. This notification is fired when values are modified through the setVariant event or internally by a provider.

Notes

  • The cellChanged should be fired after the data value has changed. All subsequent calls to getVariant should return the new value(s).
  • In cellChanged(), the value -1 can be specified for iRow, iColumn, or both.
Function Description
HRESULT aboutToDeleteRows([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG cRows) Indicates that cRows beginning at row iRow are about to be deleted. This notification is fired just prior to the rows being deleted either from a call to deleteRows or internally by the provider.

Notes

Access to cells in the deleted rows should remain valid until control is returned from the aboutToDeleteRows function.

Function Description
HRESULT deletedRows([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG cRows) Indicates that cRows were deleted beginning at row iRow. This notification is fired when rows are deleted through deleteRows or internally by a provider.

Notes

The deletedRows event should be fired after the rows are deleted.

Function Description
HRESULT aboutToInsertRows([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG cRows) Indicates that cRows beginning at row iRow are about to be inserted. This notification is fired just prior to the rows being inserted either from a call to insertRows or internally by the provider.
HRESULT insertedRows([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG cRows) Indicates that cRows were inserted beginning at row iRow. This notification is fired when rows are inserted through insertRows or internally by a provider.
HRESULT rowsAvailable([in] LONG iRow, [in] LONG cRows) Indicates that cRows beginning at iRow are now available. This is useful for providers that obtain and expose their data asynchronously. The event notifies consumers that additional data is available.

Notes

OSP consumers expect periodic notifications when data is available since they will likely be displaying or processing the data as it arrives. Providers should weigh the advantages of code simplification by firing the event once for each row against the performance impact of doing so.

Function Description
HRESULT transferComplete([in] OSPXFER doneReason) All providers must fire this event to indicate that the data transfer is complete. The event should be fired after the entire data set exposed by the provider is available. The doneReason parameter indicates whether the population was completed successfully, or aborted, or stopped.

Supported values for OSPXFER are:

OSPXFER_COMPLETE Indicates that the data transmission is completed successfully.
OSPXFER_ABORT Indicates that the data transmission is completed due to a call to the Stop method.
OSPXFER_ERROR Indicates that the data transmission completed in an error state.

Notes

For providers that retrieve their data asynchronously, this event signifies that no additional RowsAvailable events will be called for this data set.

Notes for all events functions

The returned value is propagated back to the function that resulted in the notification. That is, if cellChanged returns E_BADVALUE, the SetVariant function will also return E_BADVALUE.

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