Advantages and Disadvantages of WPF?
In an earlier article, we discussed the multiple benefits of Winforms, the old and mature UI framework for building Windows desktop applications. In that article, we also discussed the challenges of Winforms, and how WPF is slowly gaining ground. As a sequel to that article, we can discuss more about WPF here, and the benefits and challenges this wonderful desktop programming framework has.
WPF, short for Windows Presentation Foundation, is a graphical user interface framework that Microsoft developed to build rich and interactive Windows desktop applications. WPF was once called Avalon, and it was a part of the .NET 3.0 framework. It adopts XML-based language to work with different kinds of interface elements. Using WPF, developers can create a standalone application or an object downloaded into a website. You can call WPF a library, subsystem, framework, language, programming model, or set of controls – it is an assortment of objects that enables the developer to build amazing user interfaces. The features make it possible for developers to use this technology instead of Windows Forms controls sometimes.
Advantages of WPF
The user interface is simply amazing
With the visually stunning and highly interactive user interface, developers enjoy using WPF, and the extensive support of the technology through its multimedia, animations, data visualisation, vector graphics, etc. makes it possible for them to deliver an amazing level of visual richness.
Tight multimedia integration
The framework allows for impressive multimedia integration, making it possible for developers to use several independent technologies together.
Using XAML to define the user interface
WPF is known for using XAML or Extensible Application Markup Language to define the user interface, data binding, UI elements, and events. It gives the developers the freedom to create and design UI elements and enables successful developer-designer collaboration as well. It also makes the development process more streamlined. The declarative language, XAML, is easy to learn and use as well.
Facilitates a better relationship between the developer and the designer
If you could find a framework that unites the developer and the designer, then you are in luck. With WPF, you can change the appearance of the Windows Forms application quite easily, and without much rework for the designer. The developer can easily arrange the fundamental controls in any manner, and run the codes. The designer can come and rearrange the controls, add images, colours, and other features, and still keep the back-end code intact. The designer can design the styles and themes of the WPF application, and change the appearance of the app, but the programmer doesn’t have to recompile the code.
The easy separation between business logic and user interface
One of the aims of Microsoft was to flexibly couple business logic and user interfaces with the creation of WPF. The framework also makes it possible for you to leverage design patterns like MVVM (Model-View-View-Model) with WPF. While the developers isolate business logic from the user interface, they can also unit test every line of the code in the app easily.
Animation for business applications becomes a possibility
Simple animations are sometimes incorporated into business applications to make it easier for users or to drive home certain points. Animations are sometimes needed to direct the user’s attention, and also to make the applications user-friendly. With WPF this becomes a piece of cake. XAML makes it easier to describe motion, while you don’t have to write any traditional codes.
Great support from third parties and developer communities
WPF has a great programming community and impressive third-party suppliers. There are some interesting add-ons like WPF Toolkit and WPF Power Toys integrated with some excellent controls you can use to build awesome commercial apps. There are some interesting tools in the WPF Toolkit that developers can experiment with.
Extensive customisation and theming
WPF is well known for its customisation, flexibility, and theming possibilities for its user interfaces. You can define the styles, templates, and themes, making the app visually appealing to the end user. If the developer has really good skills, then they will be able to work with contemporary design ideas without much effort.
Challenges of using WPF
While WPF is a great tool and framework, there are some challenges to cross. So make sure the developers understand them before adopting them:
Steep learning curve
WPF has a steep learning curve, much steeper than other GUI frameworks. A new developer may take some time to understand the concepts and to wrap their head around the concepts, XML, and even MVVM.
While hardware acceleration is an advantage of WPF, and makes it possible to have smoother animations and improved responsiveness, there is a disadvantage too. This hardware acceleration can be resource-intensive, and take too much processing power and memory. This could be detrimental for older apps.
Does not allow for cross-platform compatibility
WPF’s documentation is not updated, and even the core principles are not changed. However, it is not easy to find updated guidance on advanced features or even issues that you might face. You might have to rely on the developer community for that.
Large-sized apps are deployed
WPF applications are considerably larger, and they can take a toll on the bandwidth and storage when downloading. And they could be slow performing on machines without graphic acceleration devices and lower-end machines. So unless you have hardware that can handle the size and performance of the WPF, they can be a negative choice. Additionally, WPF applications are heavily dependent on the .NET framework to be installed. If the user doesn’t have the framework installed on their computer, then that could be a problem.
WPF is indeed a powerful and versatile framework, and the desktop applications have rich and interactive user interfaces. And you can run the applications on multiple Windows versions. This compatibility makes it a good choice when you want to run the application on multiple Windows environments.
However, the developer should be fully aware of the challenges that accompany WPF and understand that the software development landscape is constantly evolving. If you still feel that WPF is suitable for the long-term viability of your application, then by all means go for it. You need to evaluate the extent of need for your applications, and the developments happening in the software development industry first. WPF does have so many advantages that will benefit your project. So weigh the pros and cons wisely.
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.