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VBScript Classes: Part 1 of N

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VBScript Classes: Part 2 of N
Advanced Server Side Script File Parsing
By:Jon M. Gohr

Hang onto your hats, boys and girls, things are going to start getting more interesting, complex and useful from this point forward! I've decided to take a bit of a diversion from the article ideas that I listed in part one. The reason for this, strangely enough, is the articles themselves. You will often encounter interesting new challenges when you least expect it, if you're like me the challenge demands resolution before being able to move on. The only bad part about coming up with an idea outside of the ones that I mentioned in the previous article was that I had not written so much as a single line of the code for this one. I'll try to let my thoughts and ideas just kind of flow so you can get an idea of the things that go through my head while in the design process. Hope you don't end up with nightmares!

In part one of this series I spent entirely too much time in Visual Interdev, cutting and pasting the example code and then setting font attributes. So in this article we're going to develop a class that can read an .asp file from the server and perform syntax highlighting as close to what I'm accustomed to seeing in Visual Interdev as possible (with one or two of my own additions, which you can change via class properties if you prefer). ASP 101 will hopefully stop using their script for viewing code online and start using mine! If they don't, well they're fools! ;-)

The essence of the programming problem is that we need to read a file from the server, search through it line by line, find VBScript language keywords and comments and then format them with HTML so that we can write them to the user's browser. Reading a file proves to be quite easy, we can use the Scripting.FileSystemObject. You can get reasonably complete documentation and example code for the FileSystemObject from the help file for the VBScript 5 script engine. If you don't have the latest html help files for the scripting engines head on over to Microsoft's Scripting Site  and download them now.

Searching the text for language keywords and comments proves to be the tricky part and we'll need to write all of the code for that operation ourselves. I approached the problem from several different directions before finally getting it to work the way I wanted it to. The script can read and parse as many code blocks as there are in the page with a few hopefully minor conditions.

  1. Scripts need to be delimited with this type of script tag: <%%>
  2. Scripts inside of this type of script tag are not parsed: <script language="vbscript" runat="server"></script>
  3. Scripts can be on a single line like this: <% option explicit %> or in multiple line script blocks.
  4. If you have multiple line script blocks you should place the script markers on their own lines.

The conditions listed above don't impact my style of coding at all so hopefully everyone else can live with them as well.

Let's get to work!

For those who have previously viewed this article you may notice that this section has been completely rewritten! The code in the article has undergone many stages of refinement and the addendum to the article was starting to get larger than the article itself. In hopes of alleviating confusion I decided it would best to just clean up the article text and get rid of the addendum completely. We'll start fresh and pretend that the 5 rounds of code revisions NEVER HAPPENED.


I decided to call the class that was developed for this article, cBuffer. It should probably have a name more inline with it's function. My original object model for performing the file reading and parsing had 4 classes, in that context the cBuffer name was more correct. By the time this article saw the light of day my object model had collapsed down to 2 classes and some of my name choices had begun to get a little out of context. Now, in the final revision of the article and the code, the 2 classes have been further compacted down to a single class. As stated in part one of this series ... you will mistakes!

One of the naming mistakes that I made along the way assumed that I would be storing language keywords in an array. To that end I had a subroutine called BuildKeywordArray, as soon as I switched over to using a Dictionary object for the keywords, the old subroutine name became confusing. Changing the subroutine to CreateKeywords doesn't imply any specific type of data structure while still giving a reasonable explanation of it's intended purpose. My point? Watch how you name methods and properties and don't explicitly give them type related names so they'll still make sense if you change the implementation.

cBuffer has one property that you must set and one primary method. The cBuffer.PathToFile property needs to be set to the file that you want to parse prior to calling the cBuffer.ParseFile method. If you attempt to call the ParseFile method prior to setting the PathToFile property an error of type 5, Invalid procedure call or argument, will be raised. ParseFile takes a true or false parameter to determine whether or not to output the HTML that is contained within the page as well as the script code. Pass the method true if you want the HTML output or false if you don't.

There are several other optional methods and properties that you can manipulate prior to calling the ParseFile method. They are: CodeColor, CommentColor, StringColor, TabSpaces, TableBGColor and AddKeyword. The CodeColor property holds the color for the vbscript language keywords, the default is Blue. CommentColor holds the color for comments, the default is Green. StringColor holds the color for quoted strings, the default is Gray. TabSpaces holds a string of spaces that will be used to replace all tab characters. TabSpaces by default holds 4 spaces, this gives us tighter code output. TableBGColor holds the color for the main table, White is the default color. AddKeyword is a public method that will allow you to add your own keywords to the Dictionary object contained in the cBuffer class. AddKeyword takes two string parameters, the first string is the keyword in lowercase and the second parameter is the replacement text and any other HTML formatting that you wish to apply. Check the comments in the various files for usage examples and other text explaining the finer points.

There are two miscellaneous properties that you can access AFTER calling the ParseFile method. Accessing these properties before calling ParseFile will return zero. They are: LineCount and ProcessingTime. LineCount is the number of lines that were in the file and ProcessingTime is how long, in seconds, it took to process the file.

The actual code is heavily commented as to it's operation so instead of rehashing what is already there I will just provided links to the cBuffer code as well as some example code showing the usage of cBuffer. All the code that you will view by following the next three links will use the cBuffer class for color syntax highlighting and output so you'll get to see the class in action!

Click HERE to see the cBuffer code. It will be output using an instance of the cBuffer class.

Click HERE to see some example code showing the usage of the cBuffer class.

Click HERE to see the output you receive when executing the example code.

Performance Notes: The cBuffer code consistently parses the token.asp file in 2 seconds on my Pentium II 333mHz development machine. This seems like acceptable performance on a reasonably complex source file so no further performance optimizations will be done. KeyMin and KeyMax are two very important private properties of the cBuffer class. They allow us the simple optimization of only checking keywords that fall within the length boundaries. If you add large keywords via the cBuffer.AddKeyword method, be aware that the code performance will likely worsen as the gap between KeyMin and KeyMax gets larger.

Getting the Code:Seems like you have two choices in the matter. You can either retype all of the code from the output or you can send me an email and let me know what you're going to use it for and I'll send it the original ASP include file.


NOTE: There is one anomaly with the cBuffer class that has to do with certain special characters within a quoted string. It will be dealt with in a future revision of the class ... see if you can find it! It didn't seem like a big enough issue to warrant holding up the article.  Oh yeah, one other thing ... if you use large comment blocks like I have in my code they come out with better formatting if you use spaces for alignment within the comment blocks instead of tabs.

Other Applications and Possible Enhanements.

It would be quite easy to adapt the concepts of the cBuffer class to use as a "dirty" word filter for a public/family oriented message board system or guest book. You could also pass in an index reference to the class so that it would only parse out a particular code block within an asp page, which could quite handy depending upon the context. Obviously a site like ASP 101 that presents ASP source code can make use of this type of script. Another good use might be a group of programmers working together on a project that might want to use the script or a modification of it for different languages as an online code repository. It would be a nice addition to the class to add an HTML tag parsing routine so that if you opted to have the HTML from the page output it would be formatted in an attractive manner. If anyone takes on that challenge, try to use the coloring that Visual Interdev 6 does as your model and please send me your results so that we can share it with everyone!

What's Next?

At this point I'm not sure ... I have many other classes written but each new day brings exciting new challenges! So either something interesting will come along and inspire me in some as yet unknown direction or I'll prepare an article around one of my previously written classes. Either way you can expect new articles to continue flowing into the ASP 101  site on a fairly regular basis. Peace ... and happy coding.

About the Author

Not much to tell ... I write code, usually, in exchange for money. ;-) I have my own company, NetTech Development Inc. (yes it's a real state registered corporation and not just some name I pulled from a hat), and work as an independent consultant in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. I have done work for MANY companies in my area, from the biggest to the smallest. The last four or five years I've been heavily involved in Internet, Intranet and E-Commerce projects but also have significant project experience in Visual Basic, C/C++, various database systems as well as multi-tier system architecture, analysis and data modeling. If you need some serious development work done feel free to contact me!

I welcome your feedback in regards to my articles, just send me an email and if I have the time you might even get a response. Don't hold your breath though!

Copyright Information

This code is free for non-commercial use as long as the copyright and author contact information contained within it is left intact. Commercial usage or duplication requires a licensing agreement from the author. The author assumes no responsibility for any damages incurred through the use and or execution of this code. Use at your own risk.


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