Getting an ITEMIDLIST For a Path

If you have ever used ShBrowseForFolder(), you’ve probably noticed the pidlRoot member of the BROWSEINFO structure. It can be used to set the “root” folder to browse from. It’s usually set to NULL, which means the “Desktop” folder.

Ever wanted to use another folder as the root for the “Browse For Folder” common dialog, but didn’t know how to create an ITEMIDLIST for a given path? Here’s a function that does it.

BOOL GetItemIdListFromPath (LPWSTR lpszPath, LPITEMIDLIST *lpItemIdList)
   HRESULT         hr;
   ULONG         chUsed;

   // Get desktop IShellFolder interface
   if (SHGetDesktopFolder (&pShellFolder) != NOERROR)
      return FALSE;     // failed

   // convert the path to an ITEMIDLIST
   hr = pShellFolder->ParseDisplayName (
                  NULL,           // owner window
                  NULL,           // reserved (must be NULL)
                  lpszPath,       // folder name
                  &chUsed,    // number of chars parsed
                  lpItemIdList,   // ITEMIDLIST
                  NULL            // attributes (can be NULL)

   if (FAILED(hr))
      *lpItemIdList = NULL;
      return FALSE;

   return TRUE;
} // GetItemIdListFromPath

It's written in C++, but converting it to plain C is just a matter of changing a couple of lines. To do it, change all interface calls like: pShellFolder->ParseDisplayName() to pShellFolder->lpVtbl->ParseDisplayName(pShellFolder, ...), and similar changes to other calls.

Two things: The function receives the path as a UNICODE (LPWSTR) string, so you'll have to convert ANSI strings to unicode using MultiByteToWideChar() before calling the function. Finally, remember that you should free the memory referenced by the pointer to the ITEMIDLIST you get from the function by calling the Free() method of the IMalloc interface, which you can get using SHGetMalloc().

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