March 2, 2021
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VB6 Programmer's Introduction to COM

  • By James Limm
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In response to the Internet storming the beaches of computing, Microsoft marketing went into an elevated state of naming in the early part 1996 and decided that their Internet technologies would fall under the name ActiveX. At the same time, Microsoft came out with a new specification for OLE controls, otherwise known as OCXs (because the files containing them have the extension .ocx). These replaced VBXs: they were based upon COM technology, and they were easier to create, too. In fact, creating them was made even easier when Microsoft allowed Visual Basic developers to create their own controls with Visual Basic 5. A final name change gave OLE controls the title by which we know them today: ActiveX controls.

The reason for "ActiveX" being added to the name harks back to the first part of the previous paragraph. Microsoft enabled Internet surfers who were using their Internet Explorer browser to view web pages that had OLE controls embedded in them, but because OLE controls had suddenly become a part of the Internet strategy, their name had to change! ActiveX controls were designed to be very functional and fast, as well as lightweight in terms of size compared to their VBX precursors, since (as now) bandwidth was at a premium.

With Visual Basic, it's now possible to create ActiveX controls, ActiveX DLLs and ActiveX EXEs. ActiveX DLLs and ActiveX EXEs are similar to ActiveX controls, but they do not have the user interface attached to them that one would normally associate with ActiveX controls. In fact, the DLLs and EXEs are more typical of the COM-enabled software components that we will be writing in this book, and we will of course be discussing them further in forthcoming chapters.

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This article was originally published on November 20, 2002

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