[MonoDevelop] Forms Designer in MonoDevelop

jmalcolm malcolm.justin at gmail.com
Wed Jan 20 14:22:05 EST 2010

Mike, thank you for clarifying that the real work is in building in the
designer classes to Mono's Windows Forms support rather than on the forms
designer itself.  I have a question about this though.

The MonoDevelop binaries distributed for Windows run on top of Microsoft's
.NET 3.5 implementation.  Mono is not required to be installed and I do not
believe that MonoDevelop would not use it even if it was.  The
multi-targeting ability of MonoDevelop means that applications can be
developed on top of Mono using MonoDevelop of course but MonoDevelop itself
does not rely on Mono unless you go to the effort of explicitly building it
on Mono from source.

So, these designer classes that we are talking about are available to
MonoDevelop on Windows today.  MonoDevelop is running on top of the same
implementation that powers the SharpDevelop forms designer and I assume the
Visual Studio one as well.

How much work would it be to port the SharpDevelop designer to MonoDevelop
if it was a Windows only feature?  Alternatively, how well would the
existing stand-alone designer work on the real .NET and how much work would
it be to integrate it into MonoDevelop?  Would this be a better route than
porting from SharpDevelop?

Are people against the idea of a Windows only feature in MonoDevelop?* Are
we worried about somehow undermining GTK#?

It seems common to see questions like "I started my project on Visual Studio
and would like to move to MonoDevelop.  How do I get the forms designer to
work?"  My intuition is that many Windows developers interested in Mono or a
cross-platform future start off this way.  Many seem to misunderstand that
the lack of a forms designer does not mean that their projects will not
build or run on Mono.  I suspect that many would-be MonoDevelop/Mono users
go away with the impression that MonoDevelop or Mono are just too immature
to use at this point.

Perhaps the lack of a forms designer is interfering more than we suspect
with the goal of attracting Windows developers to Mono, MonoDevelop, or even
ultimately to Linux.

Perhaps a working forms designer on Windows would create more interest in
advancing the state of the designer classes in Mono itself and bringing the
forms designer to Linux, Solaris, and Mac.  These contributors might even be
those that Mono/MonoDevelop fails to attract today.

Perhaps not of course.

I am certainly not questioning the priorities of the MonoDevelop project**. 
I respect that there may be bigger fish to fry.  That said, I do believe
that a forms designer in MonoDevelop would be  a great boon and wonder how
big a project it would be if finishing the designer support classes in Mono
itself was not a prerequisite.

Long post I know.  My apologies for that.  And kudos to everyone working on
MonoDevelop.  I really enjoy and appreciate your efforts.


* The debugger options in the Windows version of MonoDevelop are already
different I believe.

** For what it is worth... The majority of my work in MonoDevelop is ASP.NET
deployed to Linux servers so I appreciate that there are other priorities. 
Also, I wrote my first GTK apps for Linux before I ever made a GUI app for
Windows and I do like GTK#.  Interestingly though, the first app I ever
tried to write in MonoDevelop used Windows Forms.  I really wanted to have a
single cross-platform executable with no installer so GTK# was not an
option.  I ended up discovering SharpDevelop and installed Windows on a
laptop just to use it.  I tried to come back to MonoDevelop but after a
while I found myself using SharpDevelop almost exclusively (even for my
ASP.NET and console projects).  My preference for Linux eventually brought
me back to MonoDevelop and now I use it even when in Windows.  I still have
to keep SharpDevelop around just to design the odd form (and TurtleSVN too). 
I would rather stick with MonoDevelop with Subversion built-in.  I find that
doing GTK# GUI in code is not so bad but I would never do a Windows Forms
layout without a designer.

Mike Krüger wrote:
> Hi
>> That's sad...sorry for the ignorance, but how much work it is to 
>> integrate the current mwf-designer stand alone app?, beside as far as I 
>> know, sharpdevelop it have one, I know that it probably use .Net 
>> services and clases that don't exist in mono or are not complete, but 
>> each mono release is more feature compatible with .Net, so may be is not 
>> to much. I also know that if you think in a really feature complete, 
>> stable, etc mwf-designer comparable with the VS.NET one is probably a 
>> big task, but may be is more doable to think in a "basic" one, that it 
>> can be even unstable (sorry, but we are all use to have unstable 
>> "features" in MD, come on, what feature in MD it wait to be really 
>> mature to be included?). That can bring the attention and jump from 
>> there...I can even offer my help if some of the MD gurus and hopefully 
>> the mwf-designer developer can give me a hand...
> Ok, my 2 cents (btw. I wrote the SharpDevelop forms designer):
> The SharpDevelop forms designer uses the windows.forms built-in forms
> designer infrastructure - that said it's not possible to translate it
> 1:1 to mono - even if the mono windows forms implementation is good -
> the designer infrastructure is something different. 
> Doing a forms designer from "outside" without the help of the framework
> is almost not possible (we've tried that with sharpdevelop first) ... so
> implementing a forms designer for monodevelop would require much work on
> the mono windows forms implementation first (lluis already mentioned
> that). And believe me - this is *MUCH* work (but it's doable :)).
> I understand the need for a windows forms designer and I hope that we
> get one contributed by someone who has the time & patience to implement
> it. It's an open source project - we would like more people contributing
> to it.
> Personally I would like to see some improvements in stetic. Stetic could
> really need some love. Our current shedule for the next release doesn't
> include badly needed stetic improvements :( 
> Regards
> Mike
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