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WPF vs WinForms: Windows Application Development Guide

uwpvswpfwindowsapplicationdevelopmentguide2

If you’re a developer who wants to create Windows-based applications, you have many development options. Two such options from Microsoft are WPF and WinForms. It can be confusing to choose the best UI library for your project. In this guide, we’ll compare and contrast the two WPF vs WinForms technologies for Windows application development and show you a better alternative.

WPF vs WinForms: What is the WPF Windows Presentation Foundation?

Windows Presentation Foundation was presented as a revolutionary new presentation framework for Microsoft Windows that would provide developers with capabilities to create what Microsoft believed to be compelling user experiences. It featured a managed code programming model called WinFX (Windows Framework). 

At the time of its release, WPF was an advancement in building desktop applications for developers using previous Microsoft toolchains such as WinForms. It allowed designers to create XAML-based user interfaces which were adopted by the later UWP Windows application development stack. UWP has now been deprecated.

While WPF has some advantages, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to use WPF for your development projects. One such downside is that WPF can be more difficult to learn and use than other UI frameworks. WPF also has a relatively steep learning curve, and it can be time-consuming to create custom controls and layouts. Additionally, WPF can be computationally expensive, particularly for complex applications with large amounts of data.

How does WPF relate to UWP?

 A quick comparison of all the information between the two technologies is listed here: 

  • WPF was launched in 2006 as part of .NET Framework 3.0 while UWP was released in 2015 with Windows 10. 
  • WPF was targeted at the long-prevailing Windows XP OS while UWP was meant for Windows 10 development.  
  • WPF provided support for PC, Notebook, and Tablet while UWP could support PC, Notebook, Tablet, and newer devices including Microsoft Phone, Xbox, IoT, and the Surface Hub. 
  • Application models for WPF included the classic Windows (Win32) application platform, for runtime the .NET framework was available and supported programming languages including C#, VB and F# On the other hand UWP was designed to run on various device types, supported the C# or VB languages, and for runtime it used WinRT. 
  • As far as the UI technology stack is concerned, WPF was built from scratch and had more than 80% managed code. XAML UI is the complete new native UI stack that comes with UWP. 
  • WPF rendering handled the vector graphics UI based on DirectX and UWP offered the same. 
  • Customization was very flexible and powerful for WPF to adapt and restyle UI controls, whereas UWP was familiar to WPF but not that powerful. 
  • With WPF adaptation of control behavior is possible with the .NET API and with UWP the adaptation of control behavior is done with WinRT API. 
  • WPF application distribution has no limitations. It does not depend on an App Store, while UWP only distributes to the Microsoft Store. 
  • The performance of WPF compared to managed code is slower than native code and needs more memory. In the case of UWP, apps written in C# or VB are compiled to .NET Native. This way the app resembles the high-performance of native apps. 
  • In terms of long-term support, WPF is supported as part of the .NET and UWP is supported as part of Windows but .NET Framework and UWP are both deprecated. 

WPF vs WinForms: What is Microsoft WinForms?

WinForms is a development framework for building Windows desktop applications. It’s been around since 2002. In this section, we’ll take a look at what WinForms is, and some of it’s features. We’ll also discuss some of the pros and cons of using WinForms, and how it compares to other frameworks like WPF and VCL. So if you’re interested in learning more about WinForms read on!

Microsoft WinForms is a solution for building Windows-based applications that predates solutions like WPF and UWP. WinForms gives you the ability to create forms and controls that are native to the Windows platform.

It provides access to native Microsoft Windows interface elements such as the taskbar, Start menu, and Notification Area. Microsoft WinForms could be used to develop desktop applications that require a graphical user interface (GUI). Microsoft WinForms includes support for touch-based interfaces and an event-driven programming model. The library also includes a set of controls, including buttons, labels, text boxes, and drop-down lists. Microsoft WinForms is compatible with Visual Studio and other development tools that support the .NET Framework. Microsoft WinForms is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

However, there are also some potential downsides to using Microsoft WinForms that developers should be aware of before deciding to use the library for their projects.

One downside of Microsoft WinForms is that it can be difficult to create high-quality user interfaces with the library. This is because the library does not provide built-in support for advanced GUI features such as animations and transparency. As a result, developers who want to create sophisticated user interfaces for their applications may need to use other libraries or frameworks in addition to Microsoft WinForms.

Another potential downside of Microsoft WinForms is that it is not well suited for developing applications that need to be deployed across multiple platforms. This is because the library is designed specifically for Windows-based systems. While it is possible to run Microsoft WinForms applications on other operating systems using emulation software, such as Mono, this can often lead to poor performance and reduced functionality.

WPF vs WinForms: Is there a better alternative for Windows application development?

WPF vs WinForms: Windows Application Development Guide - a screen showing the RAD Studio IDE

Windows 10 and Windows 11 (for those machines which can run it) are viable and expanding platforms for the creation of Windows desktop applications. Delphi VCL includes all the features a developer might possibly require to produce modern, reliable and stunningly fast apps for this platform, including comprehensive support for the Windows API, COM, WinRT, the APPX model, and even the newly-announced Win UI 3

Delphi apps are natively compiled which means they run at the maximum available speed of the computer or device on which they are running. Unlike WPF and WinForms there’s nothing extra the machine usually needs in order for the Delphi app to run. Installing the apps can be as simple as copying them to the target PC. In comparison, WPF and WinForms have several pre-requisites before the apps written with them can run, sometimes very onerous downloads. It’s not always the case, of course, but it’s very true to say that both WPF and WinForms can still sometimes suffer from a fragility brought about by the burgeoning framework which needs to be in place before apps written with them will run without error or requiring additional downloads or patches.

The Delphi Visual Component Library (VCL) is a great option for building native apps on Windows (and Linux, both on a Linux machine or in the WSL Windows subsystem for Linux). It completely avoids the need for the right versions of .NET and Windows frameworks to be present. Delphi has some significant advantages.

When you choose RAD Studio and Delphi as an alternative to Microsoft’s development platforms, you get the power to design robust desktop and mobile app UIs with far less coding effort. Delphi launched right from the start as a low-code application platform. You write fewer lines of code yet retain full control of the design and get unfettered access to the full power of the device on which your app is running. You need to compile your code once and deploy it to all major platforms. Additionally, the FireDAC database layer’s efficient direct-access power makes it easy to connect to over 20 databases including all the major players such as Oracle, MySQL, and SQL Server, in fact almost anything you can name. The modern user interface controls, Win-RT APIs, High-DPI support features and Windows app store support make it easy to develop modern applications. Finally, the powerful CData Enterprise Connectors give you access to 70+ data sources such as QuickBooks, Sage Accounts, ADP, and many more. All of these features make Delphi and RAD Studio the best alternative for developers to adopt for future Windows desktop app development.

Applications built using Delphi and C++Builder VCL are significantly more compatible with existing source code, and they can easily compete with (and in most cases surpass) Microsoft’s own UI frameworks and ecosystem for productivity

WPF vs WinForms: Windows Application Development Guide - an image of a smiling developer

Are you ready to get started with one of the best tools for Windows application development?

The future of the Windows developer platform is going to be changing over time. Microsoft wants you, as an application builder for their operating system – whether it’s PC or tablet-based, to get on board with developing across both platforms and help shape what they offer in terms of toolsets. But this is in no way a binding contract scenario as better alternatives exist that are equally powerful, efficient, and affordable.

Take advantage of Windows’ continued dominance in the home and workplace by building your application on top utilizing the power of the Delphi VCL and RAD Studio


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