Building Vista Style Interfaces with Classic Windows Forms
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Published: 24 Aug 2007
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This is a whitepaper provided by one of our AspAlliance sponsors. These whitepapers are intended to provide you with information on products and services that we consider useful and of value to developers.

With the release of Windows Vista®, users are expecting applications that match the "clear and confident" interfaces of their operating system. Traditional GDI-based experiences that have been "good enough" for years, now look strangely out of place and dated. This whitepaper shows developers how they can easily meet these expectations without learning new technology or using the WPF runtime.
by Telerik
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Building Vista Style Interfaces with Classic Windows Forms
Previously impossible UI is now reality with Telerik RadControls for WinForms.


or more than twenty years, the foundations that have underpinned Windows® development have remained stable. From the original GDI introduced with Windows 1.0 in 1985 to the latest GDI+ refresh in 2005, a generation of users and developers has become accustomed to the relatively simple interfaces that can be built for Windows. In the rapidly evolving world of software, few frameworks have proven their value and withstood the test of time like GDI.

As developers, this stability has allowed us to amass a wealth of resources and expertise that enable us to build powerful Windows applications with relative ease. The applications may not be the most visually stunning (especially if the use of less accessible styling methods, such as using bitmaps for buttons, is avoided), but they reliably get the job done. We have learned to accept the limits of Windows Forms like:

No overlapping objects

Limited transparency support

Limited object transformations

Difficult styling and control customization

“Good enough” is not
enough anymore

Times are changing, though. With the introduction of WPF, users are beginning to expect applications that match the “clear and confident” interfaces of their operating system. Traditional GDI-based experiences that have been “good enough” for years now look strangely out of place and dated. As developers, we must update our tools and skills to meet these expectations or watch as our applications get lost in a growing sea of visually impressive interfaces.

There are several ways developers can respond to this changing environment:

1.       Do nothing, deny reality

The easiest response is to deny the importance of these new user experiences and insist that the current Windows Forms styling is still good enough. Burying your head in the sand won’t change the fact that your application looks dull, though, and your users will quickly perceive your application as hard to use and behind the times.

2.       Ditch WinForms and adopt WPF

Alternatively, developers can embrace Microsoft’s new Windows development platform, WPF. WPF, introduced with Windows Vista, has so far seen very slow adoption because it radically changes the way applications are written for Windows. To use WPF requires learning entirely new programming languages and tools, like XAML and Blend. Adopting WPF today means wasting years of Windows Forms experience and starting over with a whole new development platform- a platform that still has a very weak visual IDE. Add to that the very specific .Net Framework version required to run WPF applications and you’re facing some serious hurdles to clear if you choose to adopt the young WPF platform.

3.       Deliver stunning visuals with Window Forms

Fortunately, there is a better alternative that blends the visual styling of WPF with the familiar Windows Forms development environment:

Telerik RadControls for WinForms

With RadControls for WinForms, you can leverage all of your existing Windows Forms knowledge to build applications that deliver the visually stunning experiences native to Vista. Build modern applications that run on all versions of Windows- from 2000 to Vista- without using the WPF runtime.

Telerik Presentation Framework

The Telerik Presentation Framework (TPF), like Windows Forms, runs on GDI+, but it uses advanced techniques to unlock the full power of GDI. A simple API and one of a kind design tools give developers easy access to these techniques without requiring any advanced knowledge of GDI. Without TPF, developers would need a strong grasp of the GDI+ APIs to achieve similar visual effects in WinForms.

Telerik’s Presentation Framework is a highly efficient and powerful visual rendering engine inspired by WPF best practices. It bridges the gap between Windows Forms and WPF, enabling you to deliver previously impossible visualizations with unique characteristics:

Scaling, zooming, and rotation – You can manually achieve these effects with GDI+, but by default they are unaware of their surroundings. If a form is scaled, your custom GDI element does not change, resulting in awkward- often unusable- user interfaces. TPF is aware of its surroundings, though, and automatically handles these situations by intelligently updating elements and delivering better user experiences.

Alpha-blending and transparency support – While visually blending two objects is possible with GDI+, it is impossible to control the transparency of nested Windows controls. RadControls solves the problem, delivering transparency through alpha-blending and transparency of nested items. Easily control the transparency of any RadItem via an Opacity property that affects text, border, fill, and even SubItems.

Animations – Unique to Telerik’s Presentation Framework, the RadControls animation engine allows any property of type number, color, size, or rectangle on any TPF control to be animated. Combined with Flash®-like easings, TPF can deliver smooth animations and transitions between control states that look much like WPF.

Shapes – the Shape Editor allows you to easily draw any custom shape that you can imagine and apply that shape to any RadControl UI element. It even supports Bezier curves for complete control over your objects.

Application level skinning and themes – Unlike WPF, the RadControls for WinForms includes a powerful Visual Style Builder tool to help you maximize the visual impact of your applications. Run from within Visual Studio® or as a standalone utility, the Visual Style Builder allows developers and designers to completely customize control appearance and behavior without writing any code. Customizations are saved in CSS-like XML files for easy re-use throughout a project. RadControls for WinForms brings another innovative theming feature to the Win- Forms world – the ability to style entire applications with a single click by blending the colors of existing themes with matching colors.

Unlimited UI element nesting – Put a RadButton in a RadMenu in a RadListBox. With the flexible and primitivesbased TPF rendering engine, you can combine controls in ways previously unthinkable in Windows Forms.

The RadControls suite includes over 50 unique tools that take full advantage of these powerful UI features. From the Office 2007 inspired RadRibbonBar to mainstays like RadTreeView, RadGridView, RadScheduler, RadMenu, and RadListBox to simple UI controls like buttons, textboxes, and scrollbars, the suite includes everything you need to quickly build WPF-like applications.

In no time you’ll have the slick WPF interface you never thought possible- with the performance you still demand, implemented in your Windows Forms application running on all modern versions of Windows.

The future has arrived: WPF-style controls for Windows Forms.

With the RadControls for WinForms you get most of the benefits of WPF in the familiar Windows Forms environment. You get a toolbox full of TPF controls, including the high-performance RadGridView for WinForms. You get powerfully easy configuration tools like the Visual Style Builder and Shape Editor. You get to stop wishing you could build visually stunning applications and you get to start building them.

Test drive RadControls for WinForms today for free and see for yourself how easy it is to give your application the WPF-like interface you know it needs.

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