Chapter 22. Windows Forms

Windows Forms offers a way to build Windows desktop applications using the .NET Framework. This may sound rather familiar if you’re reading the chapters in order—surely WPF does that? The two technologies do overlap, but they work very differently. Windows Forms is essentially a wrapper around the classic Win32-based UI: when you create a Windows Forms text box, you get an ordinary Windows text box with a .NET wrapper. That’s not true in WPF—in order to escape the limitations of the Win32 UI its controls are all rebuilt from scratch. So while they go to great lengths to look and behave like their Win32 counterparts, they’re not based on them. (And Silverlight can run on Mac OS X, so it’s clearly not dependent on any of the Windows common controls either.)

Since WPF rebuilds so much of the UI infrastructure from the ground up, it took awhile to emerge—it only appeared in .NET version 3.0, almost half a decade after .NET 1.0 shipped. Windows Forms was available from day one, presumably due in part to its less ambitious scope—since Windows provided the underpinnings it has less to do than WPF.

While this history explains how we ended up with two different technologies for building Windows desktop applications in C#, it leaves the question: why might you care about Windows Forms today? WPF was invented to get away from some limitations of the underlying Win32 UI system, so it’s more powerful than Windows Forms, but Windows Forms offers a couple of advantages. ...

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