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What You Need To Know – A Beginner’s Guide To Windows UI Toolkits

abeginnersguidetowindowsuitoolkits

A control or component is a user interface (UI) element that displays content or enables interaction. Components are the building blocks of the user interface. A ‘pattern’ is a recipe for combining several controls to make something new. This article gives a guide for Windows UI development and design guidance for better UI development with modern Windows UI toolkits.

The Delphi VCL and FMX frameworks have dozens of built-in controls for you to use, ranging from various simple buttons to powerful data components like the list view grid view. Moreover, the form designer and the LiveBindings designer in RAD Studio provide a great environment to create a bold, scalable UI that looks great on all devices and screen sizes.

Delphi VCL & FMX

What You Need To Know - A Beginner's Guide To Windows UI Toolkits. RAD Studio visual.

Delphi’s RAD Studio IDE offers a WYSIWYG design experience with drag-and-drop components for visual GUI design. Let’s suppose you choose the FireMonkey (FMX) framework for building GUI apps? In that case, the designed GUI can be viewed using native Android, iOS, Windows, macOS styling, or custom styles and can simulate app appearances within mobile devices of varying screen sizes.

But we have another library called Visual Component Library that creates actual native Windows-based applications with direct access to the hardware. You can benefit from pure native device hardware performance. 

Delphi’s VCL has been in active development for more than two and a half decades. At least one application in your Windows device is built with Delphi and Visual Component Library. For instance, KMPlayer, WinRAR, MySQL Admin Tools, AIMP, BurnAware, Dev-C++, EarMaster, FL Studio, Nero Burning Rom, Ultra ISO, Total Commander, TeamSpeak, Hamachi (Gamers know it well), Age of Wonders, and many more applications

  • fl-studio-built-with-delphi-learn-delphi-programming-delphi-firemonkey-delphi-vcl-6326312
  • ear-master-built-with-delphi-learn-delphi-delphi-windows-development-2210048
  • dev-c-built-with-delphi-learn-delphi-windows-development-5040718
  • kmplayer-built-with-delphi-learn-delphi-development-6219971
  • nero-burning-rom-built-with-delphi-delphi-programming-delphi-windows-11-development-1407222
  • total-commander-built-with-delphi-learn-delphi-delphi-windows-development-8248178
What You Need To Know - A Beginner's Guide To Windows UI Toolkits. Example of the IDE and apps.

Applications built with Delphi VCL give an authentic, native experience with high performance. The VCL includes a robust OpenTools API and component model making it easy for others to extend the IDE and build reusable components and libraries. That’s why you can see a massive pool of 3rd party component markets. This creates a robust environment for developers to make any application.

Microsoft Windows has several design systems that you can follow to create GUI apps. For example, Windows Classic Design, Luna and Aero designs, Microsoft Metro, and the latest and most loved one is the Microsoft Fluent Design System.

Fluent Design is used as a guideline for all Windows 10/11 devices, and transition to Fluent is a gradual long-term project. The Fluent Design System preserves the clean look and feels with blurred translucency.

With Delphi VCL, you can turn your Windows Classic applications into Fluent Design using styles. Furthermore, it can alter any part of the UI element to something unique.

What You Need To Know - A Beginner's Guide To Windows UI Toolkits. Fluent UI demo screen.

Delphi VCL and FMX components can also be resized and have their properties adjusted in the Object Inspector without touching code, allowing rapid prototyping through visual development.

What You Need To Know - A Beginner's Guide To Windows UI Toolkits. Fluent UI demo screen, dark mode.

Microsoft GUI Development Tools

Windows UI or just WinUI is Microsoft Windows’ native layer. Most of the new Windows development tools are utilizing it to create an environment to build desktop apps with their technologies. WinUI contains controls and fluent design systems that designers and developers need to develop Windows applications.

WinUI is the latest GUI framework such as WinForms, WPF, and UWP. We can say that WinUI has improved over the years and got all the experiences from other frameworks like UWP XAML apps. For instance, WinUI 2 contains UI controls and styles for UWP XAML apps.

WinUI 3 contains the entire UWP XAML codebase plus all WinUI 2’s components and styles. It also has other powerful layers of Windows technology within the Window 10 visual layers, all wrapped up into a single UI framework.

What You Need To Know - A Beginner's Guide To Windows UI Toolkits. WinUI infographic.

What are the benefits of using WinUI 3 and the significant disadvantages?

Since the WinUI framework is under Microsoft itself, you can the latest Fluent Design updates like new controls or updated/improved visual elements. Moreover, unlike UWP, WinUI developers can utilize the newest UI controls without updating Windows. Additionally, WinUI 3 provides a state-of-the-art  UX framework for every Windows developer.

But, WinUI cannot run or be deployed on Windows 7 without the Uno Platform, while applications built with Delphi VCL and FMX frameworks can run without a need for any dependencies. Furthermore, compared to WinForms and Delphi VCL/FMX, WinUI has less popularity for rapid UI development. 

If you love the .NET ecosystem and XAML for building user interfaces, the WinUI 3 framework can be a good start.

But on the other side, Delphi’s RAD Studio provides the best rapid UI development with hundreds of visual and non-visual components. You can have your desired UI/UX for your apps by applying styles. 

Watch the workshop here:


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About author

Software Developer | CS(CyberSec) Undergrad at APU Malaysia | Delphi/C++ Builder Enthusiast | Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador | Microsoft Azure Certified
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