back to article Microsoft brings WinUI to desktop apps: It's a landmark for Windows development, but it has taken far too long

Microsoft has pushed out a preview of WinUI for desktop applications, making it possible for developers to adopt the look and feel of UWP (Universal Windows Platform) without having to adopt the UWP application model. WinUI is Microsoft’s GUI framework for Universal Windows Platform (UWP), and the big news at the recent …

  1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Devil

    Yay, just what we didn't want - yet another way to develop desktop apps with that fugly flat look that Microsoft will decide to delete and rewrite in a couple of years anyway.

    This is why people are getting wary of Google - that feeling of the rug being pulled underneath them every five minutes. It's getting to be the same from Micros~1.

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Getting to be the same? MS are the past masters of this. Remember Kin? And Windows Mobile? And Windows RT? And <maximum example depth reached>.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Longer ago than that ...

        "DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run." was coined in the DOS 1.X to 2.x transition when 123 was trouncing Multiplan ...

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      I'm not that bothered about the appearance, but the reason that people continue to write Win32 based software is that it works, it works on previous versions of Windows and if Microsoft stop supporting it in future, Windows will be dead anyway. There's really no point in writing a UWP app, it simply restricts the platforms on which it can run.

      And, as you say, there have been so many abandoned futures; the only survivor has been the past. Legacy has become Microsoft's USP.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        The day ReactOS is up to Win7 level is the day we can stick a fork in MS.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          W7 level?

          Win7 is really a service pack for Vista. Many might be happy with a secure ReactOS (32 bit and 64bit) with proper win32& Win16 support on 64 bits that runs anything Server 2003, XP and Win9x runs.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            I think many people would be happy with a Linux that includes DirectX.

            Because for all Borkzilla's faults, DirectX was a bloody miracle of performance. OpenGL is still not there.

            1. s2bu
        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Unhappy

          "The day ReactOS is up to Win7 level"

          Yeah ReactOS...unfortunately, without even BASIC NETWORKING functional, nor reliable hardware support, nor the ability to pretty much install anything that would run fine on Windows, it has no chance.

          I've been trying to work with ReactOS ever since I heard about it, but I can't even use it for anything except playing around. I could try downloading the newest, but did so a few months ago and haven't seen any visible progress worthy of an emotionless 'Yay', let alone addressing the 'basic usability' deficiency. And there are other projects I'd like to contribute too, first.

          So for now, at least, we're stuck with Micros~1.UWP and their attempts to cattle-prod the devs into using it via "new, shiny" WinUI. Wheee.

        3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          The day ReactOS is up to Win7 level is the day we can stick a fork in MS.

          Unfortunately, unless a lot of devs and backers step up and add the much needed support, that day is easily another 10 years off (likely more). At which point it would probably be a "retro gaming" platform.

          Don't get me wrong, I'd like to be able to use ReactOS for a few different uses right now (games or applications that can't be forced to work under Wine as an example), yet every time I try a new build it wails to perform as needed. The EOL of XP, Vista and now Win7 should have been the incentive for some serious corporate backing, but that's never going to be forthcoming.

        4. jake Silver badge

          I stuck a fork in Redmond over ten years ago. It CAN be done, and it's pretty painless ... especially when you balance the extreme lack of unnecessary maintenance of FOSS solutions versus the near constant headaches of admining Windows based kit (as reported here on ElReg on a weekly, sometimes daily basis).

          Even MeDearOldMum runs a cut-down version of Slackware that I built for her. Support calls over the last ten years from her are not even 5% of the calls from her back when she was running Windows. The silence in that department is blissful, and worth the price of admission all by itself.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The problem with every one of the "new" frameworks is that it has always been to serve some other agenda than productive development. Usually an attempt to extend Microsoft's reach, squeeze out a competitor, or force customers onto the latest MS platform.

        By the end of the article my head was spinning with the variety of MS frameworks casually mentioned along the way.

        AC because Microsoft is a customer...

      3. Mike 137 Silver badge

        "... it simply restricts the platforms on which it can run ..."

        And thereby guarantees the churn that keeps these behemoths in funds. If computing kit was durable and standards were stable, the market would have completely saturated at least a decade ago. None of this "innovation" is really for us users, which is why it now takes four 4 GHz cores and 8 GB memory to run your word processor.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "... it simply restricts the platforms on which it can run ..."

          Maybe it takes four 4 GHz cores and 8 GB memory to run your word processor, but mine certainly doesn't require anywhere near those kind of resources.

      4. veti Silver badge

        Clearly the next step is to put Win32 in a big sandbox of its own. All your legacy stuff will be fine, but isolated from everything newer.

        1. jake Silver badge

          "Clearly the next step is to put Win32 in a big sandbox of its own."

          The ultimate version of that would be Win2K in a VM.

    3. Filippo

      Yeah, it's not like web development based on all-open-source stacks is much better. The new shinies come and go even faster than MS's frameworks.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        re: new shinies

        There is "Nothing like a 'shiny' that is like an MS shiny." (with apologies to M&S)

        The PHB brigade will love this. "MS == Great, wonderful, do it today" in their eyes.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Agreed, although there isn't the element of coercion - the proliferation of open-source frameworks is entirely self-inflicted. Probably due to the classic developer weakness (that I also suffer from): "it would be quicker to rewrite this crummy old code than figure out how it works".

        1. Glen 1 Silver badge
          Trollface

          "isn't the element of coercion"

          Something Something systemd

          If you are applying for a job somewhere, you either have to already know, or pick up pretty quickly whatever toolchain/framework is in use. If you're not the one making those decisions, that seems a lot like coercion.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    And here was me thinking

    that there might be a time when every application on a W10 desktop would have the same look and feel, the same set of windows decorations, the same UI elements. And it might even look good.

    Er, sorry, was in a parallel universe for a moment there. Blame the painkillers.

  3. AMBxx Silver badge

    Sandbox

    Why do we always end up with a Sandbox? It's fine for games, but any serious business application soon needs access to more.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Sandbox

      Depends what the Sandbox allows access to. The average business application might need access to the network, as well as access to it's own resources, and any documents the user has created or has access to. It shouldn't need access to write to any part of any other application, or any system file/folder. OK, the installer might (for adding features to the OS).

    2. uksamo

      Re: Sandbox

      Sandbox is fine as long as we have proper simple to use controls over what it can access. Example: my screenshot app only ever needs access to my pictures\screenshots folder, it shouldn't be able to access my Financial folders etc.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Sandbox

        you really don't need a 'sandbox' to make that kind of access control happen. Having multiple logins helps a LOT. [but of course it's more difficult to do THAT with Win-10-nic, and you have to jump through hoops to avoid using a "Microsoft Login" for each one, especially when it's UWP 'apps' and 'The Store' yotta yotta]

        Yeah, I'm sticking with the 'Windows Classic' way of doing it, anyway. Only one 'admin level' login, NO 'microsoft cloudy' logins, and 1 or more "user level" logins that only have access to things I want them to have access to. Works for me.

        You have to wonder if _ANY_ value is added by ANYTHING that UWP claims to "improve" as far as security goes. Similarly, WinUI probably breaks the entire model anyway, so we're back to 'Windows Classic' methods.

        That's right - my DESKTOP and LAPTOP computers are _NOT_ _PHONES_ so *WHY* do I need a bunch of "phone apps" with Android-like app-level permissions anyway??? the things that I _REALLY_ use the computer with are DESKTOP applications, which need FULL access.

        (for anything that doesn't, log in as the 'games' user which would have no permissions except for game data)

        1. J27 Bronze badge

          Re: Sandbox

          A sandbox handles it in a way that all users can understand. Having to set permissions like that is very complex and requires a bunch of setup. It also doesn't restrict things like network access, camera acess, and mic access by app.

          Per-app sandboxing would greatly improve the security on Windows and current legacy permissions are not a substitute.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Sandbox

      Your standard user account is a sandbox. Running as admin is a Bad Thing, remember?

      The VM that your copy of Windows is running in is another sandbox.

      So is the processor mode that Intel, blessings be unto their firstborn, have deigned to allow you to run the VMM in.

      But yeah, one might reasonably ask why the sandboxes are nested so deeply.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: Sandbox

      "Why do we always end up with a Sandbox?"

      Because the telephones carried by TheGreatUnwashed each have more power than all the Super Computers in the world combined back in the 1970s. Sandboxing MeDearOldMum in her desktop protects her from herself. HOWEVER, she has the root password, just in case something happens to me. It's her choice to stay in the user account that I set up for her. See that word "choice"? It's kind of important ...

      The real question is why have we allowed corporations to sell us computers that we don't actually have full control of. Why are we allowing ourselves to live in sandboxes? A walled garden might look pretty, and be nice to visit occasionally ... but there is a great big world outside those walls, and I want to be able to access the entire planet, without restrictions.

      Who made the Corporate world the arbiter of what I can and can't do with hardware that I have purchased with my hard-won cash?

      1. Glen 1 Silver badge

        Re: Sandbox

        A) "Sandboxing MeDearOldMum in her desktop protects her from herself"

        B) "I want to be able to access the entire planet, without restrictions"

        The problem is where people in cat A think they are fine in cat B.

        *Avoiding* giving the user the CHOICE to click on that dodgy link/email/attachment, while still giving them enough access to do their job, is something IT departments have struggled with for decades.

        Add to that not all "MeDearOldMum"s have a tech on standby that can't bill by the hour when they do something particularly stupid, and you have a microcosm of why the internet is what it is.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Sandbox

          "The problem is where people in cat A think they are fine in cat B."

          Since when was it the Corporate World's job to make that decision for me? Or MeDearOldMum? Or for you, for that matter? I'm an adult, kindly hold my beer and get out of the way. If I fuck up, let Darwin greet me on the other side.

          Inside corporations it's a whole 'nuther kettle o' worms. Corporate computers, corporate rules.

          While technically I am on standby for MeDearOldMum, she has very, very rarely needed that support since I moved her to Slackware over ten years ago. My Windows using sibling, on the other hand, is constantly bitching about her computer. Which would you prefer? Choose wisely, Grasshopper.

          1. Glen 1 Silver badge

            Re: Sandbox

            "Since when was it the Corporate World's job to make that decision for me?"

            Since society starting blaming Corporations for people's own crappy decisions.

            See also: Blaming Microsoft for running as admin by default (I mean, its *your* machine right? Why *wouldn't* you be admin? Its *your* choice to run stuff. he says sarcastically). Blaming microsoft for *letting* MeDearOldMums run virus.exe. Blaming Microsoft for crappy third party drivers. Blaming Microsoft for Flash, Adobe Reader/acrobat and their associated attack surfaces. People complaining that FB knows too much as they upload another photo of their kids.

            Dawin takes you, and the rest of internet along with it. This why we can't have nice things. Thus my original comment.

            "since I moved her to Slackware"

            So MeDearOldMum hasn't used windows since XP (Vista?) and IE7 (6? *spits*), OK.

            Out of curiosity, why isn't the windows using sibling on Linux too? Choice?

  4. NiceCuppaTea

    Does this mean i will be able to access the integrated webcam from a win32 app without jumping through UWP hoops now? I hope it does because its PITA at the moment.

  5. uksamo

    Perhaps they could bring win32 and .net UI to UWP, then people may use it more!

  6. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Unhappy

    'Modernisation' - does not mean what you think it means

    From the article: "The new WinUI is in effect Microsoft surrendering to compatibility above modernisation."

    Yeah, about that... 'Modernisation' - I do not think that word means what they think it means. It has been my experience since the Windows 10 beta (and to some extent, Windows 8) that the term "modern" has been used more as a PEJORATIVE to GUILT us "old folks" (Read: 'The Metro' bandwagon resisters and defiers) into ACCEPTING something that is CLEARLY INFERIOR, by calling it "Modern".

    Now, after MOST of the software development world has been regularly REBELLING against Micros~1.CMT [aka 'Constantly Moving Target'], by sticking with Win32 for the obvious (and sensible) reasons, Micros~1 holds the proverbial Lucy van Pelt football for Charlie Brown, AGAIN, and says "No, really, this time for sure!" by making it "Easier™" to comply with their DEMANDS on what a UI should look and "feel" like. But a boar is still a boar, and lipstick isn't going to change that fact, even if the lipstick is on the end that goes "Oink".

  7. Maximum Delfango
    Paris Hilton

    What UI framework was used to develop Teams?

    Because whatever it was has lead to the clunkiest, choppy, laggy and downright ugly GUI I've ever seen. And I've seen Sharepoint too. And Lotus Notes come to think of it. But nothing is as bad as Teams. I'd rather Microsoft tried to foist the old Dos Wordperfect UI on us to be honest.

    Microsoft is to decent UIs is like Paris is to ... well, anything really.

    1. marc 9

      Re: What UI framework was used to develop Teams?

      I've wondered this. So awfully slow. Seeing as it's almost identical to the web application, I'm guessing it's HTML rendered in a pre-Chromium Edge container. There's no way it would be so consistent with the web app if it wasn't the same codebase.

    2. Def Silver badge

      Re: What UI framework was used to develop Teams?

      I don't know the framework it's using, but it comes as a 90MB executable (plus DLLs and resources). What the fuck they've contained in there I don't know, but I don't think I could make an executable that big even if I tried. All of my recent desktop applications are a couple of MB, if that.

      1. Obseedian

        Re: What UI framework was used to develop Teams?

        I see a reference to mscoree in the executable so I would assume some variant of .NET.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: What UI framework was used to develop Teams?

      It's Electron so it's guaranteed to bring your computer, whatever CPU it has, to a grinding halt.

    4. Sandgrounder

      Re: What UI framework was used to develop Teams?

      It is Electron.

      Take the existing website, wrap it up with a full browser and ship as an executable.

      Quick and easy for the devs. Nightmare on User Street as every app now ships with a full browser.

  8. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    developers to adopt the look and feel of UWP

    Gross. The UI designed for phones and poor there. The Worst Desktop Windows GUI since maybe Windows 2.x

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: developers to adopt the look and feel of UWP

      The Windows Phone UI worked extremely well. Much better than Android. (Which isn't a particularly high bar, I'll admit.)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is called "UI"........

    ......now I'm not a dinosaur, but the choices in the old command line days boiled down to one. Then Xerox Parc invented the GUI and the choices became....err....infinite.

    *

    And that's what we've got....endless "gurus" (Sinofsky, Larson-Green, Jobs and who knows who else)....and endless "toolkits" (see article, Qt, GTK, wxWindows, tkinter and who knows how many others).....and so it goes........

    *

    The sad part is that most users just want to get some work done.....and really could not care less as long as the GUI is fit for their purpose.....and doesn't need retraining every five minutes. I do wish the techno-geeks would get a grip on this USER reality....decide on a standard (what a concept!)....and leave me to get some work done!

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Re: The problem is called "UI"........

      I don't remember any time when there was just one command-line interface. Certainly typing ls or rm used to get me precisely nowhere on a VAX.

      Even on "unices", a lot depends on your shell. There's so many people who think "shell-script" and "bash-script" are the same... right until they try to use an embedded system that has dash or a similar actual Bourne-shell copy installed. (Someone experiencing the difference between "vim", the command that's soft-linked from "vi" on most Linux distros, and actual "vi", is also fun to watch)

      Command-line applications are a mishmash of good and bad UI. Some are an OS unto themselves (emacs, and that same vim these days), some are maddeningly inconsistent (the linux "ip" tool), and some are superb (anything that follows the ethos of the original core K&R command set of Unix: do one thing, do it right, don't be chatty).

      The real problem with graphical UI isn't the toolkit, it's the way the applications behave (much more important than just "look"). There are design guidelines for the major OS platforms (except Linux), that explain what users learn about interaction from using the built-in software, and how you can reproduce those same patterns in your own code. The problem is that different OS platforms have different and conflicting design patterns. Linux is in its own special hell, because with no agreed "platform" behaviours, and at least two warring factions for the desktop, every single graphical application goes its own way, which means you've got to learn everything from scratch, with no carryover of existing knowledge.

      (Don't get me wrong, I really like Linux. But I can't use any of its GUI shells without getting angry - the command-line shell is just so much quicker)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: The problem is called "UI"........

        "Certainly typing ls or rm used to get me precisely nowhere on a VAX."

        My vaxen always ran BSD ....even when I was at DEC. They still do (although I'll admit to having one that runs VMS ...)

        "There's so many people who think "shell-script" and "bash-script" are the same..."

        That's a wetware problem, not a UI problem.

        The difference between the various versions of vi are not all that great when it comes to day-to-day light editing tasks ... which is probably all that you are going to use it for if you are at the keys of an unfamiliar terminal.

        The choice of GUI is not all that important when about all you use it for is launching GUI applications, and popping up multiple terminal emulators. I've been pretty happy with the bone-stock KDE, as shipped with Slackware, these last 20 years or so. Try it, you might like it.

  10. JeffL99

    But is it usable?

    Based on the other comments, I'm likely singing to the choir here, but as a developer in charge of some important applications, I don't understand how these controls are usable in the business world.

    I have two types of users, those who put data into the system and those who use it. The data entry people want to be able to use the UI with the keyboard without having to grab the mouse constantly, and the users of the data want to be able to see as much as possible on the screen so they can easily get to what they need.

    WinUI, like the UWP components before them, fail in both of these respects. You don't have to take my word for it, open up one of Microsoft's own UWP apps like Mail or Microsoft To Do, and then try composing an email using only the keyboard. Or count how many lines/items on the screen you get on the screen at once, compared to this web page you're reading now.

    I and others have been "providing feedback" on this concern for years, and we get back nothing but radio silence. And then they wonder why we just keep using Win32 or building web apps instead.

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Re: But is it usable?

      You don't have to take my word for it, open up one of Microsoft's own UWP apps like Mail or Microsoft To Do, and then try composing an email using only the keyboard

      Okay,

      [Windows-key]mail[return][Control-N]subject[TAB]recipient[TAB][TAB][TAB]body[Control-return]

      So, twelve keystrokes more than the total needed to enter subject, recipient email address and message body. (I didn't take advantage of autocomplete)

      From app not running to message sent, that's actually one fewer keystroke that the old Unix "mail" tool, which needs 13, although I will concede that if your subject doesn't need to be shell-escaped, that overhead falls to 11 keystrokes. ( mail[space]recipient[space]-s[space][quote]subject[quote][return]body[ctrl-D] )

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: But is it usable?

        Arguably, the [windows key] is a pre-programmed macro key that takes the place of many keystrokes, some of which don't exist on a standard 101 key keyboard.

        Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  11. J27 Bronze badge

    What a mess. It would be nice to have sandboxed apps in Windows but Microsoft keeps confusing the matter over and over. Secondly they're not providing useful guidance for porting existing apps to their new UI either. I'm so glad I work with web apps, because while UI in web apps has it's issues, Microsoft seems dedicated to making UI on Windows the most confusing thing possible.

    1. J27 Bronze badge

      Not to mention the whole WinC++ thing that no one seems to want.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "WinUI 3.0 content can only be in one window per process or one ApplicationView per app"

    For some reason that made me think of Windows 2.

  13. David Lawton

    Microsoft can try all they want, people don't run Windows for enjoyment. They run it because either their business has software that is reliant on it or on the consumer side it's what they are familiar with from using it for 20 years or they game.

    Everything else has moved to mobile, so you need to program for iOS or Android not Windows. The rest who want a bigger screen but not the complications and hell of maintaining a Windows computer will just use a tablet, which again means you program for iOS or Android.

    If we go back to 2009 and look at what percentage of devices hitting websites were running its

    94.8% Windows

    3.6% MacOS

    and the rest are all well under 1%.

    Go forward just 1 decade to now and its

    39.1% Android

    33.1% Windows

    17.2% iOS

    8.2% MacOS

    Basically in just 10 years Windows usage has dropped by 2/3rds, even MacOS usage is 1/4 that of Windows usage now, which is not bad considering bar a few hackintoshes you only get that OS on the most expensive laptops and desktops out there, and they had a bad 4 year run with dodgy keyboards.

    Microsoft have not helped this situation at all, last decade they released the worst operating systems ever made, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. They are so bad they made me do something i thought i would never ever do, buy a Macbook i got so sick of the daily Windows experience and Windows 7 is now dead. Microsoft might tempt me back if they put the beautiful Windows 2000 GUI on the Windows 10 kernel so my eyes don't bleed, but we know that is not going to happen so i will just stick with MacOS. it's crisp, clean, consistent and at least designed to be driven by a mouse and keyboard and not that nasty duel personality GUI of Windows 10, if i want touch i will use my iPad not a laptop!

  14. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Is it just me that feels that the wheel is being reinvented, yet again?

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Is it just me that feels that the wheel is being reinvented, yet again?

      Alright, Mr. Wiseguy, if you're so clever, you tell us what colour it should be

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well,well, well.....lookee here..........

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/05/26/microsoft_roundup/

    *

    ......comment about Sinofsky.....

  16. Someone Else Silver badge
    Trollface

    WinUI...Meh...

    Qt FTW!

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