The IStream interface supports reading and writing data to stream objects. Stream objects are elements nested within a storage object. They are similar to standard files. You use stream objects to store the data for your application.

The IStream interface provides methods similar to the MS-DOS FAT file functions. For example, each stream object has its own access rights and a seek pointer. The main difference between a stream object and a DOS file is that streams are not open using a file handle. Instead, you use the IStream interface pointer.

The methods in this interface present your object data as a contiguous sequence of bytes which you can read or write. There are also methods for committing and reverting changes on streams open in transacted mode and methods for restricting access to a range of bytes in the stream.

Streams can remain open for long periods of time without consuming file system resources. The IStream::Release method is similar to a close function on a file. Once released, the stream object is no longer valid and cannot be used.

When to Implement

OLE provides an implementation of the IStream interface that you can use for saving object data. The specification of IStream defines more functionality that the OLE implementation supports. For example, the IStream interface defines streams up to 2 (64) bytes in length requiring a 64-bit seek pointer. However, the OLE implementation only supports streams up to 2 (32) bytes in length and read and write operations are always limited to 2 (32) bytes at a time. The OLE implementation also does not support stream transactioning or region locking.

Container or object applications can implement their own stream objects instead of using the OLE-provided implementation.

When to Use

If you are writing an object application, you can use the IStream interface to store the data for your object.

Since stream objects can be marshaled to other processes, applications can share the data in storage objects without having to use global memory. For the OLE-provided implementation of stream objects, the custom marshaling facilities in OLE create a remote version of the original object in the new process when the two processes have shared memory access. Thus, the remote version does not need to communicate with the original process to carry out its functions.

The remote version of the stream object shares the same seek pointer as the original stream. If you do not want to share the seek pointer, you should use the IStream::Clone method to provide a copy of the stream object for the remote process.

Note If you are creating a stream object that is larger than the heap in your machine's memory and you are using an HGLOBAL, the stream object calls GlobalRealloc internally whenever it needs more memory. Because GlobalRealloc always copies data from the source to the destination, increasing a stream object from 20M to 25M, for example, consumes immense amounts of time. This is due to the size of the increments copied and is worsened if there is less than 45M of memory on the machine because of disk swapping.

The preferred solution is to implement an IStream that uses memory allocated by VirtualAlloc instead of GlobalAlloc. This can reserve a large chunk of virtual address space and then commit memory within that address space as required. No data copying occurs and memory is committed only as it is needed.

Another alternative is to call the IStream::SetSize method on the stream object to increase the memory allocation in advance. This is not, however, as efficient as using VirtualAlloc as described above.

Methods in Vtable Order

IUnknown Methods
Returns pointers to supported interfaces.
Increments the reference count.
Decrements the reference count.

IStream Methods
Reads a specified number of bytes from the stream object into memory starting at the current seek pointer.
Writes a specified number from bytes into the stream object starting at the current seek pointer.
Changes the seek pointer to a new location relative to the beginning of the stream, the end of the stream, or the current seek pointer.
Changes the size of the stream object.
Copies a specified number of bytes from the current seek pointer in the stream to the current seek pointer in another stream.
Ensures that any changes made to a stream object open in transacted mode are reflected in the parent storage object.
Discards all changes that have been made to a transacted stream since the last IStream::Commit call.
Restricts access to a specified range of bytes in the stream. Supporting this functionality is optional since some file systems do not provide it.
Removes the access restriction on a range of bytes previously restricted with IStream::LockRegion.
Retrieves the STATSTG structure for this stream.
Creates a new stream object that references the same bytes as the original stream but provides a separate seek pointer to those bytes.

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