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  32-bit Windows GUI coding in C/C++
By Psion

Those of you who are already competent in C and/or C++ may be eager to get into making those impressive Windows 95/98/NT/2K/ME/whatever GUI applications that you use every day. There is really both good news and bad news regarding this. The good news is that there are plenty of free Windows development tools available on the net. The bad news is that making the "professional" applications with which you are familiar can be quite a bit more involved than making text mode, or even full-screen graphical, programs.

First, I'll try to dispell a few common misconceptions. One big one is that one must use C++ instead of C to code Windows programs. This is not true at all. The Windows API (application programming interface) is all C. Many developers these days choose to use MFC, Microsoft Foundation Classes, a C++ Windows API wrapper library created and widely distributed by Microsoft. MFC always ends up calling the WinAPI in the end, so many prefer to have more control over the functioning of their applications, or just like C better than C++, and use the WinAPI directly. On the other hand, if your programming experience is limited to things like Visual Basic, then you may want to use MFC to get into Windows GUI programming, as MFC coding methodology is more similar to VB's than using the WinAPI directly is.

If you don't already have a commercial development suite like Microsoft Visual C++ or Borland C++ Builder, then you'll probably want to grab one of the following free Win32 C/C++ compilers.
  • Cygwin32 - The most popular Windows gcc port, it also features libraries to let you use standard UNIX functions in Windows programs.

  • Borland C++ compiler - A relative of that famous Turbo C++ found in high school programming classes around the world, this version of Borland's compiler has been freely released and does C as well as C++, like all of the compilers listed here.

  • LCC-Win32 - Another choice for a free 32-bit Windows C compiler
Those of you who want to get right on the track to coding the most efficient C/C++ Windows apps possible should familiarize yourself with the WinAPI. Here are some resources to help you do so. For all of your general Windows programming questions, consult the latest MSDN CD library if you have it, or just stop by here:
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