Console applications are fine for quick utilities and testing functionality, but Windows applications really shine when they present a graphical user interface (GUI) to the world. With the release of Visual Studio .NET 2003, Microsoft has ushered in the era of "easy-to-build" Managed C++ windows applications. It is effortless to drag and drop your complete user interface using the built-in design tool provided by Visual Studio .NET. Adding event handling to these GUI components is a breeze as well—all it requires is a double-click at design time on the component.
The available GUI options in the .NET Framework are quite staggering, and no one chapter can do them justice. As this is the case, I have broken up the topic into two parts. In this chapter I cover the more basic areas of .NET Framework Windows GUI development, better known as Windows Forms (or Win Forms). On completing this chapter, you should have a firm background on how to develop (albeit bland) Win Forms on your own. You will have to wait for the >next chapter to learn more of the bells and whistles.
In this chapter you will learn how to use the design tool, but that is not the only focus of the chapter. You will also learn how to build your Win Forms without the design tool. The reason I cover both approaches is that I feel the intimate knowledge of the Win Form components that you gain by manual development will allow you to build better interfaces. Once you know both methods, you can combine the two to create the optimal interface to your Windows application.