Copy Path Shell Extension


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Environment: Windows NT 4 SPT, Visual C++ 6

As a Windows programmer, one of the big headaches for me has been referencing fully qualified file paths. A file buried deep within the filesystem becomes a bear to deal with, as neither I nor any other programmers I know want to manually type the following (not including line breaks) time after time.

This annoyance sent me on my initial foray into the land of context menu extensions, in the summer of 1997. I initially implemented this context menu extension as a MFC Dll, which got the job done, but it certainly wasn't pretty. Later, in May of '99, in the process of trying to familiarize myself with the ATL and the STL, I realized that I could make a much cleaner and more efficient version using ATL. So that's just what I did.

This extension may seem to be derivative of Glenn Carr's recent article Shell Extension to Copy Full Filename Path , but was developed independently (aside from some last-minute changes to GetCommandString to correctly deal with Unicode). Mine is simply another way to do pretty much the same thing, with some extras. I decided to post this alternative because it adds a few programmer-friendly features. There has also been a PowerToy in existence for quite a while that adds an option to the "Send To" menu allowing you to do basically the same thing, but once again, I thought that this implementation adds enough to make it worth posting.

One hassle when dealing with file paths in C or C++ (or other similar languages, such as Perl) is the way that these languages deal with literal strings. They treat the backslash character as an escape sequence to insert special characters into the string (e.g "\n" for newline). In order to insert a single backslash into a literal string, two backslashes must be included in the code (e.g. "C:\\config.sys"). One can imagine how this would be a headache when dealing with a file that resides deep within a jumble of subdirectories. Another problem when dealing with file paths arises when dealing with legacy applications that don't take too kindly to long filenames or filenames with spaces.

In addition to simply copying a file path to the clipboard, this extension offers functionality to remedy the above problems. By simply holding down the Control key while selecting the menu item, the "C-Friendly" path will be copied to the clipboard (e.g. "C:\\Windows\\System32\\user32.dll"). Holding down the Shift key will copy the short "DOS-Friendly" path (e.g. "C:\Progra~1\Multim~1\sound.wav"). And should the desire strike you, you can even hold down both with predictable results. The extension also sports multiple selection capability, file and/or directory selections, as well as anti-lock brakes and a no-scratch finish. Also, as Glenn Carr mentions in his article, with no programming effort on my part, running the extension on a shortcut copies the shortcut's target path to the clipboard.


The code consists of an ATL DLL project with a single class, CCopyPathContextMenu. Like all context menus, it implements the IContextMenu and IShellExtInit interfaces. It also supports the IContextMenu2 and IContextMenu3 interfaces, but does not use their added functionality.

  • IShellExtInit::Initialize - Culls the selected file and directory names from the OLE data object and adds them to a STL list of basic strings.
  • IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu - Adds the new menu item to the context menu.
  • IContextMenu::GetCommandString - Provides help text for Explorer to display on the status bar.
  • IContextMenu::InvokeCommand - Called when the user selects our menu item, copying the directory and file names from the STL list filled in the Initialize function to the clipboard.

Build Versions and Registering

There are several build configurations you need to consider in the project:
  • bin\ReleaseUMinDependency\ - Unicode
  • bin\DebugU\ - Unicode
  • bin\ReleaseMinDependency\
  • bin\ReleaseMinSize\
  • bin\Debug\
  • bin\ReleaseUMinSize\ - Unicode

To register the file, simply select the appropriate version of the DLL (remember that Unicode builds will not work correctly on Win95/98), copy it to an appropriate location (Windows System Directory recommended), and run "RegSvr32 CopyPathExt.dll" from the command line. The item "Copy Path to Clipboard" will now appear when you right-click on files or directories!


Download source - 260 Kb


  • Uninstall

    Posted by Legacy on 05/02/2001 07:00am

    Originally posted by: Martin

    How do I uninstall CopyPathExt?

    - Martin

  • What about IE

    Posted by Legacy on 08/25/2000 07:00am

    Originally posted by: Nathan

    How can i make this work in IE?

  • Great Tool! Thanks a lot!

    Posted by Legacy on 02/09/2000 08:00am

    Originally posted by: Emmanuel KARTMANN

    This is really, really, really a great tool.

    I've been doing the same thing as Rodolfo to copy paths (right-click, Properties, copy file path, and then type the file name). Many people were amazed when I showed then this little trick (they were still typing the whole filename, mispelling it all the time...).

    But this tool... it's great. Should be integrated in W2K (or IE6, or whatever).

    Thanks a lot Nick.


  • SendTo power toy?

    Posted by Legacy on 02/05/2000 08:00am

    Originally posted by: lac

    Isn't this what the SendTo power toy does?

  • CopyPathExt

    Posted by Legacy on 02/04/2000 08:00am

    Originally posted by: Rodolfo

    It is a nice tool but, you could have achived this by right-clicking the file you are interested to bring up the property dialog for the file and double click the path for the location and do: Ctr+c and voila'. That's right the static text which shows the path location is selectable.
    Currently I work in Wnt&W95 and that's the way I do it, don't know about W98|W2k




    Posted by Legacy on 02/04/2000 08:00am

    Originally posted by: Glenn Carr

    Nice job, Nick. Too bad you didn't submit the article
    earlier so I could have saved some time ;)

    I like the use of Ctrl and Shift to modify the commands,
    but what would really be nice is to be able to change
    the command name when holding down on the shift key like the shell does ('Open with...' always appears when shift
    key is down). I.e., I think I'd like to be able to
    implement CMF_EXTENDEDVERBS with
    IContextMenu::QueryContextMenu. Any ideas about this?


  • How to use this lib with VC5.0

    Posted by Legacy on 02/03/2000 08:00am

    Originally posted by: C-Addicted

    The code should be changed to use under VC5 because of some differences between class templates or something.

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