The beginning of the 21st century ushered in the start of the digital revolution. These were the years when the consumer technology industry saw a boom. While computers had existed for a few decades prior, this was the time when we were introduced to the concept of personal computers. These machines brought the power of processors and hardware to us for our everyday use, and one of their essential components was their operating system.
Microsoft’s Windows was among the earliest operating systems that made it possible for the general public to use computers to carry out various tasks using a graphical point-and-click user interface, avoiding the perceived complexities of remembering text-based commands. It has consistently been the most popular operating system globally. You can judge its popularity from the fact that almost all new laptops and desktops come preloaded with it, and any new desktop application hoping for broad public appeal has to cater to Windows users. Apple’s Mac devices are popular too, of course, and Linux is a creditable third place, but market penetration of the Windows operating system still continues to dwarf them.
Being the most preferred operating system on the planet, it is hardly surprising that having experience making applications for Windows as a developer is an almost mandatory skill. While it’s possible to create your Windows applications solely using the raw Microsoft SDK, rapid application development platforms like Delphi can potentially reduce the time and effort taken by a significant margin. Furthermore, such an alternative doesn’t have to mean compromising the quality of the application.
This article goes over the Windows SDK, what it provides, and discusses other popular methods for developing robust Windows applications with Windows App Development Tools.
What makes a successful Windows application?
No matter what development platform you choose, it is crucial that you understand what your Windows application needs to perform and deliver the best. Due to Windows’ popularity, there are many applications available which target a specific purpose or use-case, but not all of them receive the same recognition. How can you help make your application the best of its bunch?
Some of the main characteristics of chart-busting Windows applications that have a large and dedicated user base are as follows:
- Regular Update Cycle: Whatever your application may do, it is vital to keep it updated with newer features and upgrades. As Windows keeps updating every few years, your application needs to stay consistent with each update.
- Clean & Responsive UI: This may be one of the most crucial elements of a successful Windows application. To make your application’s UI a user favorite it needs to visually enhance the user’s comprehension of the program’s functionality and be as intuitive as possible.
- Least Interference With Windows’ Workings: Windows keeps an eye on all its applications and happenings through different security protocols like its firewall and established conventions on where and how to store or retrieve data . You need to ensure that your application adheres to conventions on storage and runtime behavior so that it behaves as expected and cooperates with the operating system to facilitate secure operation and data handling. By adhering to best practices you also help ensure you application doesn’t impinge on the performance and operation of other apps and functionality.
- Optimized Inner Workings: Your application needs to be dependable and aim to outperform, or at least equal the performance of competitors. With each upgrade, ensure that your application is optimized and ready to meet challenges which may have been introduced, deliberately or inadvertently, by changes in the way the operating system behaves.
While the above may not be an exhaustive list, it still paints a clear picture of the integral attributes your Windows application must have. When choosing your development platform, you need to select the one that enables you to build such capabilities into your application.
How does the Windows SDK help you develop Windows applications?
Microsoft offers the Windows SDK (Software Development Kit) as the official option with which to develop Windows applications. Historically, the Windows SDK provides you with libraries, metadata, and other tools for your application development needs such as creating and defining app Windows, controls, reading and writing files, security – in fact, almost anything you would expect an application to contain and be able to do.
Recently, Microsoft started offering the a new version of Windows SDK for programming applications, called, a little confusingly, “The Windows App SDK”. This gives you a group of APIs tuned to work specifically with and develop for Windows 11 and 10 and their eventual successors. The name is unhelpful since there is now a “Windows SDK” and a “Windows App SDK”. The rest of this article discusses the general purpose Windows SDK.
The Windows SDK gives you access to the API for application development and to the .NET framework as well. For example, it includes tools like Windows Performance Toolkit and Application Verifier for troubleshooting of Windows applications. It also contains the compilers, linkers, and debuggers needed for programming your Windows application. The SDK supports using C# for its GUI development and C/C++ for the logic programming underneath.
How can you develop a Windows application without the Windows SDK?
The Windows SDK is considered the official way to develop Windows applications, but its drawbacks often come up from time to time. While Microsoft regularly releases updates for the SDK, issues begin with using it for application development. For many users, several challenges come with the programmable nature of the SDK.
Some of the main challenges associated with application development with the SDK are as follows:
- Lack Of Visual Development: The SDK is a set of programming tools and doesn’t provide a visual aid during application development. When developing UI-intensive applications, developers can face difficulty ensuring a clean and intuitive UI which is vital for a satisfactory UX.
- Complex Codebases For Complex Applications: The SDK can be a favorable option if your application is relatively simple and has straightforward functionality. However, for more extensive and complex applications, you may be looking at having to manage multiple files and components.
- Installing & Maintaining The SDK And Its Prerequisites: The Windows SDK is not a ready-to-use framework for application development. It needs the .NET framework installed on the machine and other hardware requirements, which can be tedious to maintain along with the development process.
- Limited Add-ons & Extensions: While most of the SDK can be enough to develop basic applications, more complex applications may require additional components. Such components will have to come through imported add-ons, and the SDK may not necessarily support them.
- Code Quality Depends On Developer: The quality of your Windows application’s codebase depends on the developer. As the application grows complex, it will need better code arrangement and implementation to ensure optimized performance.
Enterprises and individual developers may find the above challenges troublesome and considerable impediments in their application development roadmap. Such issues can severely impact the development velocity, and using the SDK could lead your application into development hell. Hence, users choose intelligent development platforms that can ensure a quality Windows application, like Delphi, to avoid such struggles.
Why is Delphi a better choice for building Windows applications?
One of the leading Windows application development platforms currently available, Delphi tries to handle the more mundane tasks of creating an application. It also provides you with a ready-to-use environment and doesn’t need any setups or extra libraries to be installed. With most of the development struggles taken care of, you can create quality and dependable Windows applications that deliver.
The complexities of using the Windows SDK are abstracted and simplified so that any code you write and visual controls you use are as easy to do as possible. It’s this simplification, without compromising on the raw “close to the metal” power which means RAD Studio Delphi is notorious for being an extremely fast and comprehensive way to develop ‘proper’ Windows applications., very quickly and with minimal additional effort required by the developer. The “RAD” in RAD Studio Delphi stands for Rapid Application Development.
Among the many benefits that come with choosing Delphi for developing your Windows application, the main ones are discussed below:
- A Visually Rich Development Environment: With a visually driven development environment, you can easily drag-and-drop or choose functionalities from a list and know how it will look in real-time. You quite literally drop ready-made blocks on functionality called “components” on to the screens of your applications.
- Accessing Data Sources At Rapid Speeds: With Delphi, you don’t need to worry about integrating your data source in the most optimized manner. You can bring in data from any popular database or storage technology and get high-speed direct access. Data access and handling is a particular strength of Delphi. Delphi is used to access all sorts of database management systems including MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, SQLite, Oracle, PostgreSQL and many more including cloud data sources and “NoSQL” type database systems.
- Advancements In Productivity: With features like automatic code completion, error insight (automatically highlighting potential mistakes in the code) and easy integration of code versioning control technologies, your learning and development speed are given a huge boost.
- Implementing Cloud Functionalities: Make your Windows application harness the power of cloud computing by connecting it with popular cloud technologies from AWS and Azure through REST services.
Can I still access low-level Windows functionality in my programs?
All of this is achieved without you needing to drop to the level of the raw Windows API or complicated database and communication protocols. Yet, should you wish it, your applications still have access to the full raw SDK calls and functions. It’s power-assisted programming rather than power-prevented. That ease of use does not prevent you from doing things ‘the hard way’ should you choose to or because it might be necessary.
With Delphi as your primary Windows application development environment, you get to utilize modern application development features to aid the creation and maintenance of your programs.
Are you ready to build powerful Windows applications and enjoy a seamless development process? Click here to download your own copy of RAAD Studio Delphi and start creating Windows applications today.