Automation servers are applications (typically large ones such as Word or Visual Studio) that expose some or all of their functionality to applications through interfaces.
In unmanaged code, use the #import directive to simplify access to the COM interfaces exposed by the Automation server.
The OLE/COM object viewer can be used to find interfaces, methods , parameter lists, and coclasses in a COM type library, object library, or DLL.
In managed code, add a reference on the COM tab and Visual Studio will automatically use the Primary Interop Assembly, if it is in the GAC.
The Object Browser can be used to find interfaces, methods, parameter lists, and associated COM classes in an interop assembly.
The similarities between the managed and unmanaged approaches to using COM automation servers are more numerous than the differences.