Advantages and Disadvantages of Winforms?
Winforms is a free and open-source User Interface framework that developers use to build applications for Windows desktops, tablets and PCs. It has been around for more than 20 years, which means it has a huge community of developers who are already familiar with the apps. Winforms, short for Windows Forms, is an original project type in .NET. Winforms have been around for a very long time, and is meant to be a rapid application development environment for desktop applications.
In this article, we are going to discuss what Winforms is, what the best practices are, how to meet the challenges that it has, and when would be the best time to use this particular project type. Winforms can be used to develop only Windows Forms applications and not web applications. Interestingly, with the coming of WPF and other tools, you might feel that the success of Winforms has dimmed over the years, but no, it is still in good use.
Advantages of WinForms
Check out the different advantages of Winforms:
The development process becomes easy
Very easy to develop Windows desktop applications with WinForms. The development becomes easy, thanks to the drag-and-drop visual design tool known as the Windows Forms Designer. All you need to do is select the controls using your cursor and place them where you want to. The designer has tools like gridlines and snap lines so you don’t have to worry about aligning controls. Developers can not only create user interfaces easily, they can easily design layout forms, controls, components, etc., and ease the development process. Similarly, there are tools like TableLayoutPanel and SplitContainer controls to help with creating advanced form layouts quickly.
Easy to display and manipulate data
It is very easy to display and manipulate data from a database, web service XML, JSON file, or any such data source. The project type comes with a feature known as DataGridView that allows you to display data in a traditional tabular form, where every day has its cell.
Rich set of controls
There is a huge library of pre-built controls in WinForms. These controls can be customised to suit the particular application type, enabling developers to build feature-rich applications with an impressive range of functionalities, and the developers don’t have to build controls from the beginning.
Seamless integration with the .NET framework
The seamless integration feature of the .NET framework gives a robust foundation for building Windows applications. This way, the developers can leverage the multiple capabilities of the .NET platform to build robust and scalable applications.
Build high-performing apps
Since WinForm has a lower overhead when compared to other GUI frameworks, they are just perfect for building resource-intensive applications. Winforms can let you build high-performing apps with responsive user interfaces. The native Windows API enables faster execution as well.
Winforms works with a consistent look and feel on all Windows platforms. This gives your application a familiar user experience, making it easier for user adoption and user satisfaction. This consistency promotes professional appearance for Winforms applications.
Stable and mature
WinForms is known for its stable and mature technology, making it highly reliable for building Windows applications. The framework is highly dependable too given the fact that it has been tried and tested for years.
Is flexible and extensible
It is easy to customise Winforms because the technology is highly flexible and extensible. Developers can also extend the functionality of applications with the help of custom controls, third-party controls, etc.
Very easy to learn
WinForms is easy to learn if you know C# and Visual Basic .NET. Also, the developer support community is very strong, and you have plenty of resources online like tutorials and documentation.
Challenges with WinForms
There are some challenges that developers face with WinForms, so consider them too if you are planning to use the applications on other devices because this is purely a Windows-specific technology. So the applications built using this project type will run only on Windows platforms. If you are aiming for cross-platform compatibility, consider alternatives like WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation).
It’s a bit outdated
Since new technologies have come in many developers feel that Winforms applications are outdated, and the user interfaces built with modern technologies are more appealing.
Not an option when you need on-the-go apps
The limited mobility of Winforms is slowly making Winforms replaceable because it just doesn’t work on smartphones and tablets. If you want the applications to function on phones and tablets, you need to choose another option, a framework that offers cross-platform compatibility.
Not easy to debug
Winform applications are built atop complex stacks of technologies. So if the developer uses third-party controls, then it would be very difficult to debug.
Large memory footprint
Unfortunately, WinForms applications have a large memory footprint when compared to WPF applications. This difference could be because of the different kinds of rendering engines that they use.
Not very secure
One of the biggest drawbacks of Winforms is the security concerns because it interacts directly with Windows API. You need to ensure that the applications are secure from all kinds of hacks and vulnerabilities. This might not be possible with WinForms.
Limited future development
WinForms is still in use, but Microsoft is giving more attention and focus to other technologies like UWP (Universal Windows Platform) and WPF. So the updates on Winforms might be less in the future. This could cause problems with support and compatibility in the future.
Winforms might be old, but the project type is still going strong. If you are looking to develop a simple application without much-added functionalities, then Winforms is the way to go. Winforms has plenty of online resources, developer communities, and third-party controls so there will always be documentation and developer support. The project type has design-time experience in Visual Studio, making it easier to style and position the UI layer, even before the rest of the application. It is also possible to hire a WinForms developer without much trouble.
The author: Sascha Thattil works at Software-Developer-India.com which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT department.