Let the battle begin: WinForms vs. WPF

When it comes to Windows development, the one question usually appears – WPF of WinForms? Usually experienced developers, as well as newbies, are in doubts: if they know WinForms well enough, do they actually have to improve knowledge in WPF? What for? In this article we’d like to describe main pros and cons of each technology. Let’s move forward to clear awareness and understanding!

Probably, the most popular delusion about these two technologies is that WPF was created to replace WinForms. But, actually, WPF is not intended to replace Windows Forms. WinForms is still alive! Also, Microsoft is going to support WinForms. The technology is still popular among developers – it’s needed and irreplaceable. So, let’s begin our modest investigation with WinForms. Let’s find out why do we need it and in what cases this technology can be really useful.

WinForms is a platform for Microsoft Windows application development. Actually, it’s a graphical class library which provides a minimal functionality of a user interface element. It works with color, size, text and font, location, etc. Also, it can be applied for some actions like click and drag/drop. This platform is great for client applications development for desktop, laptop, and tablet PCs. In general, WinForms is simply a layer on a top of standard Windows controls. Applications made with this technology are usually used in development of desktop applications, when a programmer wants the entire processing burden to be rested on the client’s machine. Such approach comes from graphics applications drawing for data-entry and point-of-sale systems. In this case it’s really important to understand that designing your unique interface in WinForms requires a lot of work needed to be done. Also, you should pay an extra cost to buy third party controls. Actually, this is the moment when WPF comes out on top.

So, what is meant with the acronym WPF? It stands for Windows Presentation Foundation – a system for building Windows client applications. It was created by Microsoft to use it for rendering user interfaces in Windows-based applications. That’s why one of the purposes of WPF is to implement the functionality which responds to user interactions such as clicking on a menu or moving through the tool bar. WPF includes a vector-based and resolution-independent rendering engine. And that is the reason why WPF can build user interfaces with common media elements – vector and raster images, audios, videos, etc. Also, it’s important to understand that WPF is an approach to a GUI framework. And you may know that GUI framework creates thousands of opportunities for a developer who wants to create an application with labels, textboxes and other GUI elements.

What is the difference
So, if everything is so obvious and understandable, what technology should you use? Let’s talk about milestones of these systems. All the points are extracted from a feedback given by experienced developers. If to compare WinForms and WPF, one of the most important differences is that while WinForms is just a layer on top of the standard Windows controls, WPF doesn’t rely on standard Windows controls in almost all situations. In a result, it has a huge impact on a systems’ flexibility – WPF is definitely a flexible one! But you have to pay for everything. That’s why this flexibility has an obvious drawback – you’ll have to work harder to achiev those things which could be done easily with WinForms. Among other WPF’s advantages are ability to make rich and interactive UIs, inherent scalability, powerfull styling and skinning structure, ability to reuse existing code, as well as highly advanced databinding possible.

Obviously, there are some cons of Windows Presentation Foundation, where WinForms comes out on top. Mostly, it’s about WPF’s in-box control suite. Actually, it’s more limited than that one in WinForms. Also, WPF can’t run on Windows 2000 or lower. And when it comes to examples, it’s not easy to find some for the WPF. And in this case it’s time to come the advantages of WinForms. One of them is a plenty of examples. WinForms is widely used among developers, and it’s much older than WPF. Actually, it even supports WPF – huge advantage for those who’re on a way of learning WPF and already feel free with WinForms.

As you may see, there are a lot of pros and cons of WPF, as well as WinForms. But somehow each of them has it’s own fans. Anyway, the chose is up to your experience and expectations. But don’t forget to share with us your experiences. We’ll really appreciate it!