WinUI 3.0: The future of Windows controls

Microsoft’s new UI framework for Windows starts to come together, with an alpha release

WinUI 3.0: The future of Windows controls
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It’s hard to choose a Windows UI framework. After all, there are so many of them. Do you build an application using the familiar WinForms, the more modern Windows Presentation Framework, or Windows 10’s Universal Windows Platform?

Each has its benefits and drawbacks, with different sets of controls, design tooling, and supported versions of Windows. They support different design languages, with only Universal Windows Platform (UWP) controls offering support for the latest Fluent look and feel. Microsoft has been working to backport the new Windows 10 UWP controls to older frameworks, with tools like XAML Islands. They’re a good option but are limited to running on Windows 10.

A new approach to Windows UI

What’s really needed is a whole new approach to delivering Windows UI components and controls, one that’s separate from the underlying OS and able to deliver the same features on more than Windows 10, with versions for older versions and on other platforms, like the Web. Unsurprisingly it’s a project that’s been under way for some time, as part of the WinUI controls library. Earlier versions of the Windows UI library focused on UWP and on Fluent Design. The next big release, WinUI 3.0, will finally step outside the UWP framework, supporting the entire native Windows UI platform sometime in 2020.

Microsoft recently released an alpha of WinUI 3.0. It’s by no means complete, with many popular controls missing. However, it’s a good place to start with the new controls and with new ways of installing and using them. As alpha code it’s not ready for production, but it’s intended for you to try out and give feedback to the development team.

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