This article will talk you through the best programming languages used for creating Desktop applications. But first, what are Desktop applications?
A desktop application is an application that runs stand-alone on a desktop or laptop computer. This is contrast with Web-based applications which require a Web browser to run. This is also in contrast with mobile applications which are designed to run on smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets. The act of creating desktop applications is known an desktop application development.
There are dozens of different languages out there which can be used for creating desktop applications. Each have their own unique quirks and different pros and cons. Below we have covered a few such languages, and explained why they are so effective when it comes to Desktop Application development.
Listed below are some of the many things one looks for when picking a programming language for desktop application development.
- Cross Platform portability
- Ease of learning
C# and VB.NET
Both of these are part of the .NET Framework so I didn’t see much point in discussing them separately.
Both are part of the .NET Framework which means they have a lot support, are well documented and have vast libraries to draw on. Since they were developed and are supported by Microsoft, we can be sure that they aren’t not going anywhere, any time soon.
These two languages are strong choices for Windows due to it’s connection to Microsoft and the .NET Framework. You can use .NET applications on other OS’s as well, but you might find that some features aren’t supported.
If you had to pick between one of these two, I would suggest you go with C#. The difference is slight, but still there. C# is part of the entire C family and incorporates many features from them too. Furthermore, VB.NET’s community and online support is rather low in comparison. I also believe that C#’s lifespan may be longer than Visual Basic as most .NET projects nowadays are being done in C#.
The main benefits of Python are that it has automatic memory management and dynamic features that make it suitable to be used in a variety of applications.
Python also has some great GUI libraries like Tkinter (Simple and easy to learn), PyQt (great, modern, steeper learning curve) and Kivy (Great for touch screen devices). These GUI libraries massively simplify the GUI making process, allowing us to focus more on the actual logic of the software.
For the various reasons mentioned below, Python is a great choice for new or beginner programmers to get into Desktop development. The only downside here is that due to it’s Python high abstraction level it’s slower when compared to languages like C and C++.
There are ways to improve this, like writing certain parts in C++, but it’s not something you have to worry about until you’re working on large scale projects.
C and C++
Both C and C++ are considered high-performance languages due to their significantly low abstraction from the details of the computer system. As such, they are widely used in developing applications where performance is a critical issue, such as client/server applications, commercial products etc.
As expected, due to a low abstraction, these languages are harder to learn (especially C). Many things that are handled automatically in other languages such as Python, you must take care of manually in these languages. For these reasons, I would avoid recommending any of these two languages to absolute beginners.
If I had to pick between one of them, I recommend C++. C++ is built upon C with concepts such as Object Oriented programming and is a more robust language in general. Furthermore, it’s also more widely used than C, although C is a bit easier to learn due to it’s smaller size.
(You can still start with C++ as your first language, just expect the journey to be a bit harder)
Java’s main benefits are it’s portability and security across so many devices and platforms. Java achieves with this with it’s use of Bytecode (intermediate code) and the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). I wrote an entire article specifically about Bytecode and the JVM, taking a detailed look at it’s inner workings and how it benefits Java so much. Due to these reasons Java is also known as W.O.R.A or Write Once Run Anywhere.
While not directly related to Desktop development, learning Java will also give you the benefit of being able to create mobile apps easily. Java is after all, one of the most popular languages for mobile development. This way if you ever want to develop a mobile app equivalent of your desktop application, you can easily do so.
Java’s main drawbacks are that it’s pretty verbose (word heavy) and not as easy to learn when compared to a language like Python. Furthermore, setting up Java and installing it’s libraries can also be a bit of a pain (as compared to python) If you can get past these issues though, the rest should be smooth sailing.
You can begin learning about JavaFX, one of Java’s best GUI libraries here on our site!
There are other great languages than the ones we just mentioned here. To keep things simple though, we stuck with only the few we considered best, and that work in a wide variety of situations.
It may seem like we threw alot of options at you out there, but you can sort through them to some degree, if you know exactly what you want and might need in the future.
Are you someone new to programming and development in general? Python is a very good option. Will your program be resource intensive and speed dependent? C++ (or C) will suit you best. If you’re thinking of a mobile app for your desktop application somewhere down the line and you want portability across all OS’s and platforms, go with Java.
C# and VB.NET are also strong alternatives for Windows based desktop applications. (Not all applications need to be portable across OS’s. It depends on your needs).
This marks the end of the Creating Desktop Applications Article. Suggestions or contributions for CodersLegacy are more than welcome. Any questions can be asked in the comments section below.