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Modules: Automating Internet Explorer 5

Dev Ashish

Microsoft Internet Explorer comes with a fairly comprehensive, although sparsely documented, Object Model.  If you've used the Web Browser control in Access, you are already familiar with the capabilities of IE's Object Model.  All of the functionality in IE's object model (not counting external support, like scripting support etc.) is provided by the following two dlls:

  • shdocvw.dll  (Microsoft Internet Controls)
  • mshtml.tlb (Microsoft HTML Object Library)

You can automate IE to save a HTML file locally (read the comments in the code), inspect all the elements, and parse out a particular item at runtime.

Here's some sample code that loops through all the IE windows currently open looking for a browser that has the string URL_TO_SEARCH in it's address bar. If it finds such a window, it prompts the user to save the HTML as a local file. Additionally, it will go through all the HTML elements in that page and try to find an anchor whose description is ANCHOR_DESC_TO_SEARCH. If it finds this element, it will print out the URL the anchor is pointing to in the debug window.

(Also look at the article API: Read-Set Internet Explorer URL from code for an API approach under a somewhat similar scenario.)

' ****** Code Start *********
'This code was originally written by Dev Ashish
'It is not to be altered or distributed,
'except as part of an application.
'You are free to use it in any application,
'provided the copyright notice is left unchanged.
'Code Courtesy of
'Dev Ashish
Sub sTestIEAutomation()
' Requires two references
'    shdocvw.dll - Microsoft Internet Controls
'    mshtml.tlb  - Microsoft HTML Object Library
On Error GoTo ErrHandler
Dim objShellWins As SHDocVw.ShellWindows
Dim objIE As SHDocVw.InternetExplorer
Dim objDoc As Object
Dim i As Integer
Dim strOut As String
Dim intFree As Integer
Dim clsDialog As CDialog  ' Wrapper around GetOpen/SaveFileName
Const URL_TO_SEARCH = "http://www.mvps.org/access"
Const ANCHOR_DESC_TO_SEARCH = "Comprehensive Links"

    ' Instantiate
    Set objShellWins = New SHDocVw.ShellWindows
    ' There might be multiple IE windows open
    For Each objIE In objShellWins
        With objIE
            ' Try to locate the browser with a specific address
            ' in it's AddressBar. You can also Navigate to a new
            ' address
            If (InStr(1, _
                    .LocationURL, _
                    URL_TO_SEARCH, vbTextCompare)) Then
                ' Get a reference to the HTMLDocument contained within
                ' the InternetExplorer instance
                Set objDoc = .Document
                If (TypeOf objDoc Is HTMLDocument) Then
                    ' Limitations of running the following command:
                    ' Call objIE.ExecWB( _
                        OLECMDID_SAVEAS, _
                    ' IE's "SaveAs" dialog doesn't allow you to
                    ' retrieve the filename the user typed in
                    ' so use our own code for the SaveAs dialog
                    ' The CDialog class is simply a wrapper around
                    ' the code listed at the following URL
                    '  http://www.mvps.org/access/api/api0001.htm
                    Set clsDialog = New CDialog
                    With clsDialog
                        .hWnd = hWndAccessApp
                        .StartDir = CurDir
                        .ModeOpen = False
                        .DefaultExtension = "htm"
                        .Title = "Please select a folder to save the file"
                        .Filter = "HTML Files (*.htm, *.html)|*.htm"
                        strOut = .Action
                    End With
                    If Len(strOut) Then
                        ' Now that we have a filename,
                        ' Save out the HTML as a persisted file
                        intFree = FreeFile
                        Open strOut For Output As #intFree
                        Write #intFree, objDoc.body.parentElement.innerHTML
                        Close #intFree
                        ' Alternatively, you could also just
                        ' inpect the HTM at runtime via the property
                        With objDoc.all
                            For i = 1 To .Length
                                If (TypeOf .Item(i) Is HTMLAnchorElement) Then
                                    If .Item(i).nodeName = "A" Then
                                        ' Only look for a link which has the description
                                        ' "Comprehensive Links" attached to it
                                        If (InStr(1, _
                                                .Item(i).innerText, _
                                                ANCHOR_DESC_TO_SEARCH, _
                                                vbTextCompare)) Then
                                            ' Print out the URL
                                            Debug.Print objDoc.all.Item(i).href
                                            ' Bail out
                                            Exit For
                                        End If
                                    End If
                                End If
                        End With
                    End If
                End If
                Exit For
            End If
        End With
    On Error Resume Next
    Close #intFree
    Set clsDialog = Nothing
    Set objDoc = Nothing
    Set objIE = Nothing
    Set objShellWins = Nothing
    Exit Sub
    With Err
        MsgBox "Error: " & .Number & vbCrLf & .Description, _
            vbCritical Or vbOKOnly, .Source
    End With
    Resume ExitHere
End Sub
' ****** Code End *********

1998-2010, Dev Ashish & Arvin Meyer, All rights reserved. Optimized for Microsoft Internet Explorer