A UI framework is an important software tool for creating software programs. For years, people have been using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to create desktop client applications. Despite receiving multiple updates since its launch, based on our research, WPF seems to attract search engine queries if it still good for software development on Windows and even asking is WPF dead. Let’s find out – is WPF dead and what is the best alternative for WPF?
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Is WPF Dead?
As the great writer Mark Twain said in a letter to The New York Journal “the report of my death was an exaggeration” . WPF is definitely not dead. The WPF project was open sourced by Microsoft and published on GitHub . There is even a public roadmap for WPF with target dates for 2022. That said, WPF does represent a technology stack that in 2006 was very much cutting edge but in recent years Microsoft have very heavily pushed toward newer offerings which especially include Win UI 3 and .Net MAUI.
It seems that this diversification of offerings and the mid ’00s attempts to unify a UI framework for Microsoft’s beloved but ultimately unsuccessful foray into mobile phones managed to sow a little confusion about where things were ultimately going to end up. That said, even with WPF still being very much alive and kicking there are better alternatives, both for native Windows app development and cross-platform development which targets Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux too.
WPF: What Is The Windows Presentation Foundation?
Windows Presentation Foundation or WPF is a UI framework that helps people build desktop applications for the Windows desktop. The WPF framework was initially launched in 2006 and has undergone multiple upgrades. The most recent version of WPF was released in February 2022.
The WPF framework supports a vast variety of application development features. It efficiently develops:
- Application model
- Application controls and resources
- Main layout
You can use WPF to improve the data binding and security of your software. WPF also supports multiple programming languages such as C#, C, C + +, DirectX, etc. The WPF software tool is used with the .NET framework to develop and run applications on Windows.
The primary reason for using WPF is that it simplifies software and its feature development on Windows.
WPF uses XAML to isolate and view source code from HTML. Its data binding feature allows software developers to not write glue code or manage data templates. So, if you are creating an application, you don’t have to code multiple times to generate the collection of basic app features and controls.
You can use WPF with any Windows. NET Framework and .NET Core 3+. However, WPF is only compatible with Windows Desktop. This means you cannot use it to create software for iOS, Android, and Linux systems.
Advantages of WPF
WPF has been the primary UI software developer tool due to its several advantages, which are:
- WPF comes with a mature ecosystem that is suitable for many articles and StackOverflow posts.
- It also has various excellent community libraries.
- By using the WPF software development tool, you can flexibly customize your app and its features just the way you want.
Disadvantages of WPF
As WPF has multiple advantages, it comes with some drawbacks as well. You need to work around these while using WPF.
- It is only applicable for creating Windows-related software and applications. To develop apps for Android and iOS, you must acquire a new UI framework.
- The XAML designer for creating the visual interface of XAML-based apps needs improvement.
- The WPF tool comes with steep learning curves and the inability to adapt quickly results in major pitfalls.
Is WPF still around?
WPF is alive since anyone can still download it and use it in app development for Windows. Yet, despite being operational, there are better UI framework tools than WPF that are providing software development services. Most of these new tools are compatible with Windows, Android, iOS, and other desktop systems.
What is the best alternative for WPF?
It’s the VCL. VCL – an abbreviation of Visual Component Library – is a set of visual tools effective for the rapid development of Windows applications. It uses the easy to learn yet modern, powerful Delphi language for the program code and to drive the applications. The VCL is also available for C++ programmers and there is also a version for those people coding in Python. In this article we refer to Delphi’s use of the VCL but much of what we discuss applies also to C++ and, to a lesser degree, the Python version.
Using the VCL, you can create visual, non-visual, and utility classes for different apps, such as:
- Windows desktop applications
- Database applications
- Console applications
Delphi’s modern object Pascal foundation means the VCL uses, among others, a base class type
TObject which provides default behavior and protocol for all classes and objects. The
TObject class is responsible for introducing methods that are essential for implementing fundamental behaviors of an application. For example, construction, destruction, and message handling inside applications.
Using Delphi with the VCL offers better protection of Enterprise source code protection than WPF and Electron – a fact we explore in depth in another article. Note also that the VCL is very ‘close to the metal’, by this we mean it is interacting at the lowest possible level of abstraction from the operating system. The VCL targets Microsoft Windows and as a result of this focus offers an almost unparalleled level of speed, quality and reliability.
An application based on the VCL framework ‘talks’ directly to the Windows APIs and SDKs and doesn’t require you to download additional elements like the .NET frameworks. Delphi VCL apps also have an awe-inspiring backward compatibility and robustness where many application developers report decades of productive development and deployment experience in a wide variety of customer scenarios.
Assuming you’re not using any Windows version-specific features a Delphi VCL app will typically need zero changes to go from running on Windows 8.1 to Windows 11 – this is absolutely NOT true of almost any other application development technology including the majority of WPF-based apps.
Exciting Components of Delphi VCL
The major components of Delphi VCL are a subset of the component library which is Delphi’s way of offering ready-to-use encapsulated functionality in elements which can be dragged and dropped on an application’s forms in the RAD Studio IDE’s visual form designer. The little nuggets of ready-cooked code can also be instantiated/created in code too although it’s much easier to design screens visually.
The parameters and event-driven behavior can be set and controlled using the ‘object inspector’ which makes it as easy as a couple of clicks to set much of the required items. The raw speed of creating your application’s screens this way and reusing nicely encapsulated pre-written code is what helps RAD Studio justify the fact that “RAD” stands for Rapid Application Development. No need to create wireframes or mock-ups – the visual form designer is absolutely what you see is what you get.
Using the component library, you can use any form or data module feature and even manipulate them on design time. Delphi VCL also has an object inspector that is useful for assigning property values without coding.
Delphi VCL provides both visual and non-visual components, depending on the run time. Example visual components include
TForm – an abstract of one of the application’s forms, and
TTreeView – the type of control you’ve seen hundreds of times in the Windows Explorer, Microsoft apps and others.
Meanwhile, the non-visual components apply to a variety of tasks. You can use
TDataSource components of a form to connect the dataset with the controls of an application. This feature is extremely helpful in connecting apps with the main database.
The VCL even uses icons to show non-visual components. Therefore, you can easily visually manipulate non-visual components’ properties and events. On Delphi VCL, using non-visual components is as easy as operating visual ones.
Uses of RAD Studio with Delphi VCL
You can use Delphi VCL to create and design different stages of app development. Delphi VCL provides you with:
- New and exciting VCL styles even for menu styling. You can use these styles to develop modern-looking apps for Windows.
- The new app tethering components allow you to extend Windows desktop applications with mobile companion apps.
- You can also add GPS, gyroscope, and accelerometer features to your Windows apps.
- FireDAC is a Universal Data Access library that is highly useful for app development on Windows. it directly connects you with enterprise databases and provides high-speed access without compromising the performance levels.
- Use the new Taskbar component to insert interactive taskbar previews during the app development process.
- Object inspector helps you edit published properties by displaying them on a form at design time.
- RAD Studio with Delphi also supports live bindings so that you can produce low-code or zero-code apps where you ‘wire’ the data sources to the visual screen elements and let the Delphi runtime do all the hard work for you without needing to write the reams of ‘CRUD’ create, read, update, delete code by hand.
How To Build Amazing Windows Apps With Delphi VCL?
Windows Presentation Foundation is alive, but we think you can do better. Comparing it with new and latest alternatives, it produces good results but with less efficiency. Therefore, you should use Delphi VCL to build applications. It uses modern and up to date features that simplify the development process and take it from app development to rapid application development. No additional runtimes or “DLL hell” versioning problems. A Delphi VCL app is a sound, robust choice and even sets you up with easily transferrable skills for you to use to create cross-platform apps using its companion UI framework – FireMonkey FMX so you can target not just Windows but also macOS, iOS, Android and Linux too, a future-proofing smart choice.
Want to try Delphi VCL for your next Windows application? Get a free 30-day license to try the RAD Studio and Delphi VCL to build modern Windows apps.