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General Rules and Limitations

  • If you declare a function or object without the dllimport or dllexport attribute, the function or object is not considered part of the DLL interface. Therefore, the definition of the function or object must be present in that module or in another module of the same program. To make the function or object part of the DLL interface, you must declare the definition of the function or object in the other module as dllexport. Otherwise, a linker error is generated.

    If you declare a function or object with the dllexport attribute, its definition must appear in some module of the same program. Otherwise, a linker error is generated.

  • If a single module in your program contains both dllimport and dllexport declarations for the same function or object, the dllexport attribute takes precedence over the dllimport attribute. However, a compiler warning is generated. For example:

    __declspec( dllimport ) int i;
    __declspec( dllexport ) int i;   // Warning; inconsistent;
                                     // dllexport takes precedence.
    
  • In C++, you can initialize a globally declared or static local data pointer or with the address of a data object declared with the dllimport attribute, which generates an error in C. In addition, you can initialize a static local function pointer with the address of a function declared with the dllimport attribute. In C, such an assignment sets the pointer to the address of the DLL import thunk (a code stub that transfers control to the function) rather than the address of the function. In C++, it sets the pointer to the address of the function. For example:

    __declspec( dllimport ) void func1( void );
    __declspec( dllimport ) int i;
    
    int *pi = &i;                             // Error in C
    static void ( *pf )( void ) = &func1;     // Address of thunk in C,
                                              // function in C++
    
    void func2()
    {
       static int *pi = &i;                  // Error in C
       static void ( *pf )( void ) = &func1; // Address of thunk in C,
                                             // function in C++
    }
    

    However, because a program that includes the dllexport attribute in the declaration of an object must provide the definition for that object somewhere in the program, you can initialize a global or local static function pointer with the address of a dllexport function. Similarly, you can initialize a global or local static data pointer with the address of a dllexport data object. For example, the following code does not generate errors in C or C++:

    __declspec( dllexport ) void func1( void );
    __declspec( dllexport ) int i;
    
    int *pi = &i;                              // Okay
    static void ( *pf )( void ) = &func1;      // Okay
    
    void func2()
    {
        static int *pi = &i;                   // Okay
        static void ( *pf )( void ) = &func1;  // Okay
    }
    
  • Because of a change in behavior introduce in Visual C++ .NET to make the application of dllexport more consistent between regular classes and specializations of class templates, if you apply dllexport to a regular class that has a base class that is not marked as dllexport, the compiler will generate C4275.

    The compiler generates the same warning if the base class is a specialization of a class template. To work around this, mark the base-class with dllexport. The problem with a specialization of a class template is where to place the __declspec(dllexport); you are not allowed to mark the class template. Instead, explicitly instantiate the class template and mark this explicit instantiation with dllexport. For example:

    template class __declspec(dllexport) B<int>;
    class __declspec(dllexport) D : public B<int> {
    // ...
    

    This workaround fails if the template argument is the deriving class. For example:

    class __declspec(dllexport) D : public B<D> {
    // ...
    

    Because this is common pattern with templates, the compiler changed the semantics of dllexport when it is applied to a class that has one or more base-classes and when one or more of the base classes is a specialization of a class template. In this case, the compiler implicitly applies dllexport to the specializations of class templates. In Visual C++ .NET, a user can do the following and not get a warning:

    class __declspec(dllexport) D : public B<D> {
    // ...
    

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