WinForms is the name given to the graphical application programming interface (API) included as a part of Microsoft .NET Framework, providing access to native Microsoft Windows interface elements by wrapping the extant Windows API in managed code.While it is seen as a replacement for the earlier and more complex C++ based Microsoft Foundation Class Library, it does not offer a paradigm comparable to Model–View–Controller. Some after-market and third party libraries have been created to provide this functionality. The most widely used of these is the User Interface Process Application Block, which is released by the Microsoft patterns & practices group as a free download that includes the source code for quick start examples.
History & future
Just like Abstract Window Toolkit (AWT), the equivalent Java API, Windows Forms was an early and easy way to provide graphical user interface components to the .NET Framework. Windows Forms is built on the extant Windows API and some controls merely wrap underlying Windows components. Windows Forms provides a cross-platform way to design graphical user interfaces. However Windows Forms is mainly a wrapper around the Windows API, and some of the methods allow direct access to Win32 callbacks, which are not available in non-Windows platforms. With the release of .NET 3.0, Microsoft released a second API for rendering GUIs: Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), together with a GUI declarative language called XAML. However, even though both Windows Forms and WPF offer comparable functionality, Windows Forms has not necessarily been superseded by WPF, but is simply another tool for Windows desktop application that will continue to exist parallel to WPF.
A Windows Forms application is an event-driven application supported by Microsoft's .NET Framework. Unlike a batch program, it spends most of its time simply waiting for the user to do something, such as fill in a text box or click a button.
Mono is a project led by Xamarin (formerly by Ximian, then Novell) to create an Ecma standard compliant .NET compatible set of tools. Mono's support for System.Windows.Forms as of .NET 2.0 is announced as complete; also System.Windows.Forms 2.0 works natively on Mac OS X. However, Windows.Forms is not actively developed on Mono, and full compatibility with .NET is not achieved and is not possible, because Windows Forms is mainly a wrapper around the Windows API, and some of the methods allow direct access to Win32 callbacks, which are not available in other platforms than Windows.