Harman Patil (Editor)

Active Template Library

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Developer(s)  Microsoft
Written in  C++
Type  Library or framework
Development status  Current
Operating system  Microsoft Windows
License  Proprietary
Active Template Library edndocesricomarcobjects90ArcGISDevHelpDevel

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The Active Template Library (ATL) is a set of template-based C++ classes developed by Microsoft, intended to simplify the programming of Component Object Model (COM) objects. The COM support in Microsoft Visual C++ allows developers to create a variety of COM objects, OLE Automation servers, and ActiveX controls. ATL includes an object wizard that sets up primary structure of the objects quickly with a minimum of hand coding. On the COM client side ATL provides smart pointers that deal with COM reference counting. The library makes heavy use of the Curiously recurring template pattern.


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COM objects can also be created with Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC), but this leads to larger binaries that require support DLLs. ATL, on the other hand, is a more lightweight alternative in situations where the graphical user interface parts of MFC are not required.

In ATL version 7 (Visual Studio 2003), which directly succeeded version 3 (Visual Studio 6.0), a number of MFC classes like CString were made available in ATL, or more precisely moved to an ATLMFC common layer which is shared by both libraries. ATL version 7 also introduced attributes in C++ in an attempt to provide something similar to CLI attributes, however these have not been particularly successful, and have been deemphasized in ATL version 8 (Visual Studio 2005); the various wizards no longer generate them by default. Version 7 also introduced new string conversion classes.

On July 28, 2009, Microsoft released a patch to ATL to fix a bug that could allow ActiveX controls created using ATL to be vulnerable to a remote code execution security flaw.

Since Visual Studio 2013, ATL code in Visual C++ 2013 is static, eliminating the DLL.

Support classes

ATL includes many RAII classes to simplify management of COM types. The most commonly used classes include:

  • CComPtr<T> general-purpose smart-pointer,
  • CComBSTR BSTR wrapper,
  • CComVariant VARIANT wrapper, and
  • CComSafeArray<T> SAFEARRAY wrapper.
  • Compiler COM support

    Although not formally part of ATL, Microsoft Visual C++ also includes additional C++ RAII classes to simplify management of COM types. These compiler COM support classes can be used as replacement for or in combination with ATL, and includes:

  • _com_ptr_t smart-pointer that decorates the COM interface name with a "Ptr" suffix,
  • _bstr_t BSTR wrapper,
  • _variant_t VARIANT wrapper, and
  • _com_error HRESULT wrapper.
  • Note that as of Visual Studio 2012, the compiler COM support classes does not include a SAFEARRAY wrapper.


    Active Template Library Wikipedia

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