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What Is a Component Object Model?

By Troy Holmes
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computer frameworks are reusable templates that improve the reliability and productivity of software programming. The component object model (COM) is a computer framework that integrates components with Microsoft® programming languages. This framework was first introduced in the early 1990s for visual basic software but is widely used in most Microsoft® programming languages today.

Modular design is an architecture approach that is based on building small, simple software components. Each module is built for a specific purpose and can run independently from the application. A good example of this technique in practice is a printer attached to a computer that uses a printer driver for communication.

The component object model provides an elegant way to implement modular design into a software program. Each component within the COM framework is an independent service that can be used by non-related software programs. This allows programmers to reuse COM objects.

A Microsoft Word® document with an imbedded spreadsheet is another example of the component object model in practice. Anytime the spreadsheet updates, the Word® document is automatically updated with the changes. This model makes it possible for multiple documents to share the same spreadsheet and receive updates anytime the spreadsheet is changed.

The component object model belongs to a family of technologies used by Microsoft®. These technologies include Active X®, disturbed component object model (DCOM), and COM. Using this type of architecture makes it easy to transfer components onto other applications.

Microsoft® project is a powerful project management tool that gives managers the ability to track individual tasks needed to complete a project. This tool uses imbedded components, including calendars and task manager, that are also used in other Microsoft Office® products. These embedded components make it easy to learn new Microsoft® tools because the applications are similar in behavior, look, and feel.

Using this model adds flexibility to a software program. This is accomplished by creating a standards-based module that provides plug-and-play usage. A COM object is program agnostic, which makes it easier to use across multiple programming languages. A well-developed COM object can be added to any Windows® platform and works seamlessly.

Object oriented programming (OOP) is a software-coding system that allows programmers to create applications that are more flexible. The component object model is a Microsoft® implementation of OOP, which allows developers to reuse COM components without knowing their underlying software language of the COM object. These components are interchangeable with any Microsoft® programming language, which makes them reusable.

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