Creating Visual Studio C++ Objects in Wine

2 December 2016 by Andrew EikumAndrew Eikum


Recently, one of our clients needed a Windows DLL implemented that exported C++ objects compatible with their existing application when run under Wine. While this was new to me, this is actually something we already do in Wine. We have implementations of Microsoft's Visual Studio C++ runtime objects, which are used by lots of applications. Applications which use those objects expect to get C++ objects from Windows DLLs like msvcp.

I've never worked with this code before, and I don't do a lot of assembly-level work, so it was a fun learning experience for me. Wine is a C-language project, but we export C++ objects that are compatible with applications built on Windows. We even support Visual Studio RTTI data, constructors, destructors, and so on. I actually got lucky: my project pretty much just needed C++ class function calls, no constructors or RTTI data, so I was able to skip a lot of the complication. The method we use to export Windows-style C++ objects from a C library built on a Unix system is pretty interesting. Here's how it works.

Let's start at the end. Here's the relevant code from Wine's <dlls/msvcrt/cxx.h>, slightly simplified:

#define THISCALL(func) __thiscall_ ## func
    extern void THISCALL(func)(void); \
    __ASM_GLOBAL_FUNC(__thiscall_ ## func, \
                      "popl %eax\n\t" \
                      "pushl %ecx\n\t" \
                      "pushl %eax\n\t" \
                      "jmp " #func )
A little git-fu shows it dates from 2003 and was written by Alexandre Julliard, the Wine project's leader and maintainer, with some improvements made later. Here's a trivial sample of how it's used:

typedef struct _MyCPPObject {
    vtable_ptr *vtable;
    int internal_data;
} MyCPPObject;
int __stdcall MyCPPObject_doSomething(MyCPPObject *_this, int a, int b)
    this->internal_data += a;
    return this->internal_data + b;
What's going on here? Let's talk about calling conventions.

When your code makes a call into a function, there must be some way to pass your call's arguments into that function. This is done through some combination of storing data on the stack and in the registers. There is no clearly best way to do this, so of course a few dozen different ways have been created over the past few decades, all of which are equally good. These are the calling conventions.

We're concerned here with just two conventions for the x86 architecture: thiscall, and the hilariously optimistically named stdcall. thiscall itself actually has two sub-conventions, one when built by GCC (and Clang?) and another when built by Visual Studio.

First let's discuss stdcall. This is the default convention used by Visual Studio when building plain C functions. stdcall stores its arguments entirely on the stack, in right-to-left order, followed by the instruction pointer to which the function should return:


The called function is allowed to clobber the data in registers EAX, ECX, and EDX, but must save and restore the data in all other registers so they contain the same data when the function exits. When the function returns, EAX stores the return value for use by the caller.

That makes sense. But what happens with a C++ call?

  MyCPPObject my_object;
  int r = my_object.doSomething(123, 456);
One way a C++ compiler could handle this is to treat the my_object pointer as a hidden parameter and pass it in to the MyCPPObject::doSomething function and then apply the normal calling convention for your platform:

  MyCPPObject::doSomething(my_object, 123, 456);
This is the GCC variant of thiscall. Since we're only dealing with application code built by Visual Studio, we don't care about the GCC variant here, but it will sound familiar in a moment.

Visual Studio does something different. The Visual Studio version of thiscall is the same as stdcall, discussed above, but stores the this-pointer in ECX instead of on the stack:


You can start to see where this is going. Let's take another look at the Wine-style, C language implementation of MyCPPObject::doSomething from earlier, after running it through the C preprocessor:

extern void __thiscall_MyCPPObject_doSomething(void);
    "popl %eax\n\t"
    "pushl %ecx\n\t"
    "pushl %eax\n\t"
    "jmp MyCPPObject_doSomething")
int __stdcall MyCPPObject_doSomething(MyCPPObject *_this, int a, int b)
    this->internal_data += a;
    return this->internal_data + b;
Don't worry about __ASM_GLOBAL_FUNC, it just contains the assembly language boilerplate to declare a new function. I also haven't gotten into how the vtable works or how the object is allocated, but know that __thiscall_MyCPPObject_doSomething is our entry point from the Windows application's code.

You can see from that snippet that __thiscall_MyCPPObject_doSomething first pops off the top of the stack, which contains the return address, into EAX, which we can clobber. Then it pushes the value of ECX and then EAX back onto the stack, then jumps to our real doSomething implementation, which is just below. Here's what happens to the stack before and after that transformation:


And now we've got a stdcall-compatible stack containing our this-pointer:


That's what it takes to convert a Visual Studio thiscall C++ call into a stdcall convention call that we can work with in a C language file, with no changes to the original C++ application.

Interested in learning more tips and tricks about Wine programming? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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About Andrew Eikum
Andrew has been a Wine developer at CodeWeavers since 2009. He works on all parts of Wine, but specifically supports Wine's audio. He's also a developer on many of CodeWeavers's software ports.

About CodeWeavers
Founded in 1996 as a general software consultancy, CodeWeavers focuses on the development of Wine – the core technology found in all of its CrossOver products. The company's goal is to bring expanded market opportunities for Windows software developers by making it easier, faster and more painless to port Windows software to Mac and Linux. CodeWeavers is recognized as a leader in open-source Windows porting technology, and maintains development offices in Minnesota, the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world. The company is privately held.

The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.

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Bertha Randall
Bertha Randall
Posted 2016-12-13 05:51
very good
I wonder...-:)
Julius Schwartzenberg
Julius Schwartzenberg
Posted 2016-12-13 14:05
This is really really nice. I hope there will be more of such technical posts on the CodeWeavers Blogs. I think it is very interesting for novice Wine developers.
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