1.1. Writing C++ Application
You have tremendous flexibility in the types of applications and program components that you can develop with Visual C++ 2010. As noted earlier in this chapter, you have two basic options for Windows applications: You can write code that executes with the CLR, and you can also write code that compiles directly to machine code and thus executes natively. For window – based applications targeting the CLR, you use Windows Forms as the base for the GUI provided by the .NET Framework libraries. Using Windows Forms enables rapid GUI development because you assemble the GUI graphically from standard components and have the code generated completely automatically. You then just need to customize the code that has been generated to provide the functionality that you require. For natively executing code, you have several ways to go. One possibility is to use the Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC) for programming the graphical user interface for your Windows application. The MFC encapsulates the Windows operating system Application Programming Interface (API) for GUI creation and control and greatly eases the process of program development. The Windows API originated long before the C++ language arrived on the scene, so it has none of the object - oriented characteristics that would be expected if it were written today; however, you are not obliged to use the MFC. If you want the ultimate in performance, you can write your C++ code to access the Windows API directly. C++ code that executes with the CLR is described as managed C++ because data and code are managed by the CLR. In CLR programs, the release of memory that you have allocated dynamically for storing data is taken care of automatically, thus eliminating a common source of error in native C++ applications. C++ code that executes outside the CLR is sometimes described by Microsoft as unmanaged C++ because the CLR is not involved in its execution. With unmanaged C++ you must take care of all aspects of allocating and releasing memory during execution of your program yourself, and also forego the enhanced security provided by the CLR. You’ll also see unmanaged C++ referred to as native C++ because it compiles directly to native machine code.
Figure 1 - 1 is not the whole story. An application can consist partly of managed C++ and partly of native C++, so you are not obliged to stick to one environment or the other. Of course, you do lose out somewhat by mixing code, so you would choose to follow this approach only when necessary, such as when you want to convert an existing native C++ application to run with the CLR. You obviously won’t get the benefits inherent in managed C++ in the native C++ code, and there can also be appreciable overhead involved in communications between the managed and unmanaged code components. The ability to mix managed and unmanaged code can be invaluable, however, when you need to develop or extend existing unmanaged code but also want to obtain the advantages of using the CLR. Of course, for new applications you should decide at the outset whether you want to create a managed C++ application or a native C++ application.