Ever since the Windows operating system was created, developers have constantly been looking for new & innovative ways to improve native windows development. Back in 2002, the team behind Microsoft announced a new framework that changed the way Windows program development underwent at Microsoft – this was WinForms (short for Windows Forms). WinForms was a UI framework built as a part of the .NET Framework, and it allowed coders to develop Windows software with a drag & drop user interface. However, over 20 years have passed since WinForm’s first release, and it’s safe to say that the technology and trends in Windows development have gone a long way since then. This begs the question – is WinForms dead? In fact, according to our research, a LOT of people ask search engines exactly that question.
Now, in 2022, with increasing competition and the adoption of newer more modern technologies the popularity and usage of WinForms are at an all-time low. So, is the platform gone forever? Well, the honest answer is, despite Microsoft publicly announcing it was turning Winforms over to GitHub as a largely community-maintained codebase and stating at the same time they considered the project to be in “maintenance mode”  and that no new features would be added although bugs would be addressed where possible. Despite this WinForms continues to be chosen by a significant number of developers and it remains steadfastly undead for a variety of reasons.
During the years that have passed since its inception many new alternatives to WinForms have appeared, and some, like Delphi’s VCL (which actually launched years before WinForms), have proven to be significantly better. Now, let’s dive deeper into native Windows development with WinForms and the best alternatives to use.
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What Is WinForms? How Was It Used to Develop Windows Software?
As we mentioned previously, WinForms is a framework used for Windows development that has been around for 20 years. When it was initially released in 2002, WinForms was a fresh approach at Microsoft since it offered an event-driven framework. The framework has emerged as a GUI class library built for the Dot Net languages such as C# and Visual Basic. It works together with the .NET framework which, as fictional Detective Adrian Monk would say, was a blessing… and a curse.
There were many reasons why thousands of developers used WinForms – it was a decent framework for Windows development of its time. It made Windows development easy for Dot Net developers. Programmers could create functionally detailed apps that were relatively trouble-free to deploy and update as long as the target machine had the right supporting technologies installed, correctly configured, and kept up to date.
Does WinForms have declining usage?
As the years passed, Microsoft released other UI frameworks using different technologies that offered alternative methods of development. These began to impact on the popularity of WinForms. Not all these new frameworks from Microsoft were as well received as WinForms (which even to this day has a vocal cadre of enthusiastic supporters) and some of them such as UWP have already been deprecated.
In the meanwhile, the team behind Delphi continued to expand and improve the Delphi VCL (Visual Component Library) and it continues to provide better and more scalable features. Delphi’s VCL allows for rapid Windows development using the Object Pascal language, an object-oriented version of Pascal, with a variety of visual and utility classes that make developing robust Windows applications easier than ever.
In fact, even the team at Microsoft created an alternative to WinForms based on the .NET Framework called WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation). With the announcement in 2014 by a team of Microsoft developers that WinForms would remain in “maintenance mode,” meaning that no new features would be added it seems that choosing to use WinForms is potentially an unwise choice for a long term development strategy.
Is WinForms Dead?
As we mentioned above, WinForms is still available but the status of “maintenance mode” likely means it has no long term future. As time passed by, especially in the last 5-10 years, new tools continued to mature and rise in popularity, and each one of them offered many powerful features. Another recent development by Microsoft is WinUI 3.
Let’s take a look at the Delphi VCL, an alternative to WinForms which has recently announced bindings for WinUI 3.
What is the Delphi VCL (Visual Component Library)?
The team behind the Delphi programming language created its own Windows development framework called VCL (Visual Component Library) in 1995. Unlike most of the competition, the library has been constantly updated with new features and bug fixes, and, along with RAD Studio the IDE used to create applications using the Delphi language and design screens for it, it is one of the most powerful Windows app development tools.
With the rise of web and mobile app development, many believed that Windows development had taken a back seat. Despite this, the team behind Delphi has been continually working on the VCL, making it better, more powerful, and easier to use while constantly embracing the latest technologies. In fact, one of the main reasons why VCL is popular right now is its ease of use and massive productivity boost compared to many other competing technologies, allowing you, the developer, to develop Windows software more easily and more efficiently than ever.
For example, it is one of the easiest frameworks that allows developers to create custom controls and add them to the interface. Moreover, the scalability of VCL is significantly better than that of WinForms, WPF, and UWP as it allows for the development of large enterprise applications quickly & easily, combining a distillation of of the best methodologies and techniques such as live bindings, visual and non visual components (packets of ready-written functionality), a blindingly-fast best-in-class optimizing compiler, full-on industrial-strength enterprise database connectivity and a rock-solid runtime library which has a reputation for producing ultra-reliable programs which have no outside dependencies at all.
- Use Delphi’s award-winning VCL framework for Windows and the FireMonkey (FMX) visual framework for cross-platform responsive UIs
- Enjoy the new high-DPI compatible IDE on 4k+ screens
- Use ready-made professionally-designed VCL and FMX styles at design time so you know exactly what your app’s screens will look like when they run! Prototype stylish UIs even faster by seeing immediately at design-time how your styled forms and controls will look when running.
- FireMonkey design-time guidelines: Prototype faster with visual lines and enhanced margin and padding support
- Multi-monitor and multi-window improvements: design and edit code for the same form at the same time in multiple windows
- Rapidly design your master responsive UI layout once, then easily customize platform-and-device-specific views without duplicating design effort
- Use the visual design menu to easily drag and drop visual and non-visual components from the palette
- Connect user interface elements to data sources using the LiveBindings Designer
Are you ready To Take Windows Application Development To The Next Level With Delphi’s VCL?
If you want to develop Windows software quickly and easily, RAD Studio with Delphi’s VCL is the best framework for the job. WinForms was a decent solution when it was first released, but unfortunately, it started lagging behind its competition, and it quickly got overrun by the some of the best tools in the space both from Microsoft itself and independent third-parties like Delphi.
As a development framework, the Delphi VCL offers all the power and features of the other frameworks like WinForms, UWP, and WPF, yet we believe it’s much easier to use. Moreover, the team behind it is doing a great job of constantly updating it with new features and bug fixes, so you can be sure that your Windows software will always be up-to-date.
So, if you’re looking for the best option regarding Windows program development, Delphi’s VCL is the best way to go. If you want to develop Windows software, download a free trial of RAD Studio with Delphi and see if the VCL is the right choice for you.