MFC Versus WinForms in VS .NET

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Some folks do need to build document-based applications, and even though WinForms isn't designed to support that as well as MFC is, it's not very hard to build complete documentbased applications if you're armed with the knowledge of what WinForms does and doesn't provide as compared with MFC Table A1 shows a feature-based summary focused on building document-based applications
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Table A1 MFC Versus WinForms/NET
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Feature Application Wizards IDE Integration Dialog, SDI, MDI Applications Multi-SDI Applications UI Layout Docking and Splitting Anchoring Toolbars and the like Printing, Preview, Setup OLE/Active Documents COM Control Hosting Automation F1 Help DDX/DDV Win32 Wrappers Data Binding Cross-Language Cross-Platform Cross-Bitness Web Deployment Third-Party Support Document-View Document Management Shell Integration Command Unification Four Yes Yes Yes Yes (dialogs only) Yes (simple) No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (simple) No No 16/32 No Yes (huge) Yes Yes Yes Yes MFC WinForms/NET Four Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes (no floating) Yes No Yes Yes (Remoting) Yes Yes (DDX not needed) Yes Yes Yes Yes 32/64 Yes Yes (growing) No No Yes (via installer) No
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UI Updating Command Routing Source Code Managed Environment
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Yes Yes Yes No
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No No No Yes
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The Differences
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Even the features shared by MFC and WinForms/NET are often implemented differently in the two worlds, so the following is a short discussion of each of the features
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Application Wizards
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VSNET 2003 provides MFC wizards to build applications, DLLs, COM controls, and Internet Server API (ISAPI) extensions VSNET 2003 provides WinForms wizards to build applications and controls for each of the four languages that are supported (C#, VBNET, C++, and J#) VSNET also gives you wizards for producing class library and ASPNET server-side applications and libraries 1: Hello, Windows Forms and 8: Controls discuss the WinForms wizards
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IDE Integration
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VSNET provides direct IDE integration for developing MFC and WinForms applications and controls The WinForms integration is more extensive, mainly because of the strong UI layout environment and data binding, which are discussed as appropriate throughout the book
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Dialog, SDI, and MDI Applications
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Both MFC and WinForms provide complete support for dialog-based, Single Document Interface (SDI), and Multiple Document Interface (MDI) applications However, although MFC comes with a wizard that provides a great deal of functionality to help you get started when you're building SDI and MDI applications, all the WinForms wizards produce empty forms , which can serve as dialogs or MFC-style view windows depending on how they're used This means that you must add all the standard UI and features every time you need an SDI or MDI application in WinForms Except for the document management features, most of the body of this book is about how to develop applications that include the kinds of features you'd expect to find in an MFC application, with the specifics of MDI applications in 2: Forms
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Multi-SDI applications applications that have a single instance but multiple top-level windows are fully supported in MFC Although WinForms doesn't come out of the box supporting multi-MDI applications, 11: Applications and Settings fully explains how to build them
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Drag-and-drop design and layout of user interface are supported in MFC only for dialogs Normal views must be laid out in code WinForms, on the other hand, treats all windows in a unified manner, so the same drag-and-drop Designer works for any kind of window What
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kind of window it is modal or modeless, dialog or view depends on how it's used, not on how it's designed Something else that's a bit different in WinForms is that the UI design environment reads and writes code instead of keeping control type and position information in a separate resource file That code is relegated to a single method, but it is definitely mixed in with the rest of the code of the window, and that is very different from the way MFC dialogs are built Each scheme has its pros and cons, but MFC programmers will notice the difference right away (and then may let it make them unhappy before letting it grow on them) The WinForms Designer is discussed as appropriate through the book
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