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A Case for WinForms

by Jonathan Allen on Mar 05, 2011 |

When DevExpress released their roadmap for 2011, WinForms barely got a mention. As a ten year old technology that is basically abandoned by its creator this isn’t too surprising. But what it interesting the amount of negative feedback that it generated. A lot of DevExpress’s customers just don’t see WPF or Silverlight as a viable replacement for their major applications.

Seven years ago Avalon was announced. Now known as WPF and Silverlight, it represented a major evolution in the design and development of graphical user interfaces. Combining the declarative style of HTML programming with WinForm’s ability to create custom controls has proven to be very effective. With three major versions of WPF and four of Silverlight now in production, one would expect the technology to be pretty solid.

Unfortunately there continues to be serious performance concerns, both in terms of processor and memory usage. While very real on their own, these concerns are exaggerated by the steep learning curve. Even minor design flaws have a bad tendency to multiply the amount of resources needed for a given screen.

Comments on the DevExpress Roadmap and follow-up post.

Sigurd Decroos:

It is sad to see Winforms pushed back so much. WPF is still too slow on most computers for major apps and SL is not mature enough for a complete ERP app.

[…] what's the meaning of much faster graphs if my customers use Citrix and Terminal Services... This is where WPF and SilverLight fail to deliver and why we need further improvements on WinForms too.

Heiko Mueller:

Sorry guys, but with this roadmap I will not extend my subscription. I use only WinForms and ASP.NET and I'm not interested in WPF/Silverlight - WPF at this time for me is not suitable for my kind of applications (larger business Apps). Silverlight in my eyes is a dead technology - HTML5 is the future for rich internet applications.

Jens Necker:

I have to agree to the comments on WinForms.

SL and WPF are not ready for real business applications. WinForms is a robust and well understood platform and has broad support.

Garry Lowther:

WinForms is not going to be replaced by WPF or Silverlight or HTML 5 any time soon. WinForms apps work great with internet services on Amazon, Google and Microsoft Windows Azure. CUstomers love and expect responsive business applications which work as fast as Microsoft Office apps. For now, WinForms is still the best method of developing and delivering this.

Richard Choroszewski:

Our team came to DX some 2 years ago mainly because of the obviously superb winform tools, and winforms remains and will remain the main focus of our business for the forseeable future.

Experimenting with Silverlight, WPF etc., is good for us to keep an eye on what might become mainstream one day (or maybe not if Ms dev people find some new super toy to play with) but the technology is not yet mature enough to base our business on.

While this may certainly be just a case of the unhappy minority, they do represent real development shops that still don’t see WPF/Silverlight as mature enough for large scale applications.

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Just me? by Doug Ly

I have the same reason not to switch to WPF. Think about it. Have you seen MS use WPF anywhere in their flagship products? I'm talking about Office, or Windows. WPF editor is not so great, I can be wrong with the new release of VS2010. I think WinForm data binding is also something clearer to understand than WPF. No, I'm not going to switch.

Awful 'article', really... by Giorgio Galante

A lot of DevExpress’s customers just don’t see WPF or Silverlight as a viable replacement for their major applications.

A lot of developers don't want to learn WPF/Silverlight. I know many of them. Personally, I've been working on a large business application for a multi-national food services company and WPF is the least of our concerns - and our application's look & feel 1000x better than its WinForms predecessor. WPF was the right decision for us; yes there's a learning curve because it's completely different than WinForms. But it's not rocket science. There are many lazy developers out there who don't want to learn new tech, it's nothing new. You could easily replace the title with 'A Case for VB6' and you'll find many shops still unwilling to transition to .NET. That's not to say that there aren't legitimate business reasons to stick with whatever technology is being used (VB6, WinForms, straight Win32/C, etc.) But when it comes to to rewrite said apps, it's just penny-wise and pound foolish not to take the time really to learn SL/WPF.

With three major versions of WPF and four of Silverlight now in production, one would not expect the technology to be pretty solid.

Three/four major versions in production, which correspond with major .NET releases - has what to do with the SL/WPF stack being 'solid' or not? Does that make .NET a shoddy framework because it has 4+ major releases?

Heiko Mueller: WPF at this time for me is not suitable for my kind of applications (larger business Apps).

Does this guy back up his statements with some proof?

Jens Necker: ...SL and WPF are not ready for real business applications. WinForms is a robust and well understood platform and has broad support.

Based on what - his lack of experience with SL/WPF? WPF & Silverlight are robust, the real issue is some developers are scared/unwilling-to-learn of new technology.

As for 'broad support', it's obvious the commenter doesn't have a clue. All the major component vendors (Infragistics, Telerik, DevExpress, ComponentArt, etc.) have rich SL/WPF suites (and have had them for years.) So what 'broad support' is he talking about?

I would consider Microsoft's Expression product line to be as complex as any real-world business client application. It uses WPF through-out, and I haven't had a complaint about its performance (speed-wise anyway.)

Come on InfoQ, I expect more from you guys than this...

I don't see it by Rod Hughes

I worked on a major business application for my last employer where we used Workflow and web services with WPF for the client-side. I'll never use WinForms again. WPF is light years ahead. The data binding model alone makes it worth switching from WinForms. Oh, and Silverlight is hardly dead considering it's the rich-client technology stack for the Win Phone platform. I would expect it to play a bigger role in Win8 too (tablets anyone?).

Re: Awful 'article', really... by Jonathan Allen

While I personally think WinForms is a dead-end and wouldn't recommend it for new projects, as a reporter I cannot ignore a possibly large section of the community just because I don't agree with them.

Re: Awful 'article', really... by Giorgio Galante

Fair enough ;-)

Re: Just me? by Oleg Kudinov

Office does not use DevExpress and Winforms either.

Re: I don't see it by Cameron Purdy

> Oh, and Silverlight is hardly dead considering it's the rich-client technology stack for the Win Phone platform.

I couldn't have said it better, although I would have been sarcastic. ;-)

Re: Just me? by Tim Trout

Visal Studio 2010 itself was rewritten from the ground up using WPF, so at least they're eating their own dogfood. The WPF & Silverlight editors in VS2010 are vast improvements over what shipped with or was tacked onto VS2008.

WPF is doing very well, thanks by Paulo Quicoli

I'm using WPF since it appeared. We moved from a native platform (Delphi). We're used to see real speed in ours apps. Moving to WPF didn't cause any side affect, any substantial lose of speed and our clients are happy because we could, using WPF, build more attractive UI. But WPF is not only about UI.
It's also about new things for the developers. For example, my team loved binding mechanisms, all style things, MVVM and so on...

Sticking to WinForms is ok for business. by Marcel Sorger

For an application that isn't about it's graphics, like a business app, using WinForms is fine.
Businesses in general do not care about the interface and want an application as grey as possible. This might change however because of smart phones and tablets being used more and more by the business.
Starting a new business app with WinForms doesn't look like a good infestment and should at least be architectured in such a way that it's easy to change the interface.

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