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::GetWindowText/RichEdit Inconsistencies

I'm using VC++ 6.0/SP4 on Windows NT 2000/SP2. The problem I've discovered is inconsistencies in what ::GetWindowText() returns when it is passed a handle to a RICHEDIT control.

In the example below IDC_EDIT is a RICHEDIT control and there has been over 255 characters entered in the field.

CString str;

int nResult = ::GetWindowText(GetDlgItem(IDC_EDIT)->m_hWnd, str.GetBuffer(256), 256);    


CString strResult;

strResult.Format("::GetWindowText() returned: %d Value: \n%s", nResult, (LPCTSTR) str);


On my machine (NT2000) ::GetWindowText() returns 0 and str is empty. Calling ::GetLastError() returns 122 (ERROR_INSUFFICIENT_BUFFER). A true statement, but the documentation says:

int GetWindowText(
  HWND hWnd,        // handle to window or control
  LPTSTR lpString,  // text buffer
  int nMaxCount     // maximum number of characters to copy


[in] Handle to the window or control containing the text.

[out] Pointer to the buffer that will receive the text.

[in] Specifies the maximum number of characters to copy to the buffer, including the NULL character. If the text exceeds this limit, it is truncated.

On NT4/SP5 and on Windows 95 the function returns 255 and str is equal to the first 255 characters.

I'd have expected XP to act the same as NT 2000, and it does sort of. It returns 0, but str is set to the 1st 256 of data. This is alarming, because I first discovered this problem in the DDX_Text() processing. The AfxSetWindowText() utility function located in WINUTIL.CPP defines a buffer like so:

TCHAR szOld[256];

Then calls the API like so:

::GetWindowText(hWndCtrl, szOld, _countof(szOld))

I wonder if it returned the NULL also? If so, then the stack is messed up.

Has anyone seen this behavior before?

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1 Solution
Interesting problem.  I can verify your findings for Win2K but The only documentation I can find agrees with what you said "if it is too long, it will be truncated"

However, this is kinda subtle:  It doesn't say "it will be truncated to the specified length"  just "it will be truncated."  Thus, the documentation is correct, if misleading.

You probably already know the various workarounds, but in case you don't, I'll list a couple.  The simplest is:

CString str;
GetDlgItem(IDC_EDIT)->GetWindowText( str );

For some reason, you are mixing MFC and Win32 API, so I'll show you the pure Win32 version:

Win32 API:
int nLen= ::GetWindowTextLength( hWndOfEditCtrl );
char pszText= new char[nLen];
::GetWindowText( hWndOfEditCtrl, nLen );

In other words, do what MFC does:  Request the length, then provide a buffer that large.  You will always get the data.

-- Dan
Just a hunch, but I'll bet that this is a security-related issue.  Maybe there is a buffer overrun exploit possible if GetWindowText works as advertised.

-- Dan
SteveGTRAuthor Commented:
Maybe I didn't make it clear in my long spewing forth of information. I discovered this problem in the DDX_Text() processing. I was looking into a problem where a RICHEDIT control was not being reset to blank when the user requested a new record. The value of the control had been over 255 characters and was being set to 0 characters.

Here is the flow:

m_strMyRichEdit = _T("");

As you know in the DoDataExchange() function there will is the following:

DDX_Text(pDX, IDC_MYRICHEDIT, m_strMyRichEdit);

This function executes the DDX_Text() function in DLGDATA.CPP that calls AfxSetWindowText() in WINUTIL.CPP:

void AFXAPI AfxSetWindowText(HWND hWndCtrl, LPCTSTR lpszNew)
     int nNewLen = lstrlen(lpszNew);
     TCHAR szOld[256];
     // fast check to see if text really changes (reduces flash in controls)
     if (nNewLen > _countof(szOld) ||
          ::GetWindowText(hWndCtrl, szOld, _countof(szOld)) != nNewLen ||
          lstrcmp(szOld, lpszNew) != 0)
          // change it
          ::SetWindowText(hWndCtrl, lpszNew);

There is the reference to ::GetWindowText(). On NT 2000, 0 is returned and no data is placed in szOld. So the "if" statement resolves to FALSE. The result is the field does not get updated and remains equal to the previous value.

So all this is stock MFC processing.

Thanks for looking at this Dan. I really appreciate it.
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Wow!  I think you have uncovered a bonefide bug in MFC!  You should report this to Microsoft.

Here is how to solve it.  Write this function:

void AFXAPI DDX_RichText(CDataExchange* pDX, int nIDC, CString& value)
     HWND hWndCtrl = pDX->PrepareEditCtrl(nIDC);
     if (pDX->m_bSaveAndValidate) {
          int nLen = ::GetWindowTextLength(hWndCtrl);
          ::GetWindowText(hWndCtrl, value.GetBufferSetLength(nLen), nLen+1);
     else {
          ::SetWindowText(hWndCtrl, value);

Now modify your program as shown:

void CD03Dlg::DoDataExchange(CDataExchange* pDX)
     DDX_RichText(pDX, IDC_RICHEDIT1, m_sRichEd); // <---- MODIFIED!

There is no there way (other than forsaking the DDX mechanism and using SetWindowText manually rather than UpdateData).  

The undocumented AfxSetWindowText definately malfunctions under the circumstances you specify when running under Windows 2000.  Here is a full description, in case you want to inform Microsoft:

If the current contents of the Edit control -OR- RichEdit control are longer than 256, then it is possible that the the DDX_Text function will malfunction.  It might not update the control with the new text in the associated CString variable.

The reason: The MFC private function AfxSetWindowText might not set the text because it calls
 ::GetWindowText( hWnd, buf, 256 );
which can return 0 under Windows 2000 in the situation described.  

Furthermore, the AfxSetWindowText is quite dangerous because it can (and does) call lstrcmp against an UNINITIALIZED LOCAL BUFFER.

-- Dan
SteveGTRAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the verification Dan. I've submitted this as a bug to Microsoft.
In the thousands of Q's I've read here, I've seen dozens claiming the problem is a bug in MFC.  This is the first one that I could verify.  And this bug exists only because of an unexpected change to a Win32 API function that one would think was chiseled in granite.

The most significant thing is that the same error occurs for a regular old Edit control.  It might also exist for other controls, such as ListBoxes and ComboBoxes, and Popup Window titles etc. (though these will rarely be affected because >256 chars there would be unusual...)

If you ever hear back from MS, I'd be interested in what they have to say.  I have the latest MFC source code from DevStudio.NET at home.  I'll check it to see if this bug was quietly corrected 'inline'

-- Dan
SteveGTRAuthor Commented:

I believe that this is a bug in NT2000 and XP handling of RICHEDIT controls. It happens to surface in MFC code. The way XP handles the function really scares me.

Also, this problem does occur when dealing with EDIT controls. The ::GetWindowText() function will return 255 and truncate to the 1st 255 characters for EDIT controls. Having said that, I've only tested that on NT2000. It's Friday and I'm just too lazy to walk to the other end of the office to test it on XP :)

Have a great weekend.
SteveGTRAuthor Commented:
The Also sentence should have a "not" after does. As in, "Also, this problem does not occur when dealing with EDIT controls".

That's what I get for not proofing my messages...
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