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Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11

Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11

Using truly great IDE software really empowers software developers. RAD Studio is so much more than just Delphi – which I think is the easiest professional modern programming language you can pick – it also brings along a whole bunch of great things not the least of which is a rich selection of professionally designed graphical program styles to make your apps look like you have the financial resources of a deep-pocketed Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Add to that the huge number of third-party libraries and offerings not to mention the already generous selection of built-in visual and non-visual components and we’re totally spoiled for choice. This is especially important when we’re trying to keep our apps looking modern and relevant on the latest versions of the operating systems such as the fast-moving target of visual design on Windows 11.

Should I really care about Windows 11 if some machines can’t even run it?

Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11 Windows palette

Yes, it’s true, the requirements for Windows 11 mean that while it looks beautiful and has lots of new features there are a substantial number of older computers which cannot and will never be able to run it. But thanks to Moore’s Law (the cost of computers halves every eighteen months while their power doubles), which is still true today, those PCs which can’t run Windows 11 will in any case become obsolete and get replaced in 2 – 3 years’ time. The hardware manufacturers all moved very quickly to include Windows 11 mandatory features like the necessary Trusted Platform Module (TPM) into their product lines. For them, making your hardware capable of running Windows 11 is a matter of survival – unless they wish to dip their toes into the shark-infested waters of Linux desktops or race-to-the-bottom price wars of Chromebooks.

It’s worth noting too that a VCL-styled Windows 11 style app is going to run just fine also on Windows 10. Differently from when you use Microsoft’s latest UI kits (like Win UI 3) which will not be able to work correctly on older versions of Windows. Older apps written in Delphi have an excellent level of backwards compatibility with Windows 10, and even Windows 7 or 8 should you encounter customers who still cling to them like a technological safety-blanket.

My personal policy is if Microsoft doesn’t support a particular version of Windows, then I can’t guarantee my apps will work on that version either. In truth I do have a small gaggle of well-written legacy apps which could still run on the long-since obsolete and completely unsafe Windows XP and yet be absolutely able to run normally on Windows 11. That’s why I pick Delphi, of course; rock-solid reliability, easy yet powerful programming language to use, and backward compatibility in a runtime which also leverages all the most modern of features of the latest versions of the operating system and hardware.

In short though, if you’re a developer who wishes to continue to write desktop apps that run on Windows then you need to adopt Windows 11. When you do that, you also need to tweak your apps to blend in with the principles of visual design on Windows 11 to ensure your user interface and the overall look of your products appears modern and relevant.

Why should I care about the visual design of Windows 11?

Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11 old style glyphs

If your user interface is still a ‘slab of gray’ from the days of Windows Vista or {shudder} the dark wilderness times of before that then you’re fighting against a perception that your perfectly working and functionally adequate bug free app is… out of date. If your app does have bugs (I specialize in creating bugs, don’t you?) then users, I’m afraid, might believe that the app’s quality is worse than it really is if all your buttons are still living proudly in the late 1990s.

Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11 Delphi logo

It’s a harsh reality that users conflate the idea that apps with great visual design are newer with the perception that that also means they have fewer bugs. Users will hang on to familiar interfaces though, often long after they should. A case in point; there’s nothing wrong with venerable versions of IDE software like Delphi 7. Except, in these times of multi-screen, 32inch 4K 120hz refresh computer displays your app created with Delphi 7 is now using technology from twenty years ago. The fact Delphi 7 was a thing of joy to use back in 2002 (and still is) doesn’t mean it is really fit to keep on creating apps for Windows 11 (or Windows 8 or 10 for that matter).

Times have changed, the capabilities of the Delphi VCL have evolved to keep pace with the latest and greatest advances that Microsoft’s hugely expensive marketing and design team can offer. And that’s ignoring the advances in the actual language (hello, Unicode on Delphi 7?…no) and all the many cool features and modernizations which have gone into the whole Delphi language and IDE experience itself.

If you’re still languishing on a beloved but slightly creaking older version of Delphi or RAD Studio why not at least download a free trial of RAD Studio 11.2 and see for yourself?

What’s the quickest, cheapest way to make your older apps look like they have the visual design of Windows 11?

Styles are only one of the variety of ways in which RAD Studio with Delphi has kept pace with modern versions of operating systems and language advances, but it’s also so simple to do there’s almost no excuse not to!

In RAD Studio click on the tools menu option, and then GetIt Package Manager

Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11 GetIt package manager

Now click on Styles in the left-hand categories menu and then type “Windows11” in the search box.

…and you should see a selection of gorgeous professionally designed Windows 11 style themes which are ready to use in your apps with just a few clicks. I actually show you how to do this towards the end of the webinar replay.

What else can I do to improve my app’s visual design on Windows 11?

Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11 App store provisioning

Well, the webinar goes through a few different things as well as some really cost-effective third-party controls to add that much sought-after semi-transparent ‘acrylic’ look and feel. I cover a lot of other things too – RAD Studio is packed with features, RTL capabilities and components to give you absolutely the best native experience on Windows as well as macOS, Android and iOS.

In fact, compared to even a few years ago the things we can do as software developers and designers using Delphi and C++ programmers are leaps and bounds ahead.

An hour-long webinar is only really enough time to scratch the surface of any subject.

Watch the webinar to see just some of the things we can do.

Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11 Fluent UI controls
Use the rich ecosystem of built in and third party controls

Where can I find the full webinar replay for the Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11?

Here is the replay of the “Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11” live stream. I must try to work on not saying “um” quite so much but in my defense the webinar was completely live, and I was reading and answering questions at the same time as presenting and sometimes my brain freezes a little while my mouth rushes to catch up with my thoughts. I am a working programmer and despite copious amounts of coffee “um” is often the most my little gray cells can muster.

For those that asked, fifteen minutes before the webinar I had been juggling the intricacies of pumping 50 million transactions of encrypted data around the world between a parallel set of connected cloud servers in a fault tolerant way – and yes OF COURSE all the code is written in Delphi.

Enjoy the webinar.

Where can I see more on visual design using RAD Studio with Delphi?

I did a shorter pre-recorded webinar last week and it also has a blog post about it. The replay for that webinar is also embedded in the post too.

Where can I find the slides for the Secrets of Visual Design on Windows 11 webinar?

You can download the slides directly from here: https://github.com/checkdigits/w11_gui_webinar. They are also copied below as a slide show. Click the arrows to advance from one slide to the next, there are 18 slides altogether.

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  • Slides from the Secrets of visual design on Windows 11 webinar by Ian Barker
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About author

Ian is the Embarcadero Developer Advocate, a professional writer, presenter, and host. He is a prolific software developer, voice actor, designer and poet. Ian is British American, born in London, now living in Dallas, Texas. "I get up early every day and write code".

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