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Graphics Still the Hot Topic in Open Source .NET

Graphics Still the Hot Topic in Open Source .NET

Graphics and GUI (System.Drawing, System.Windows.Forms [SWF]) continue to be a couple of the most worked-on areas in both Mono and Portable.NET. Other areas under heavy development include cryptography, Web services, coverage and build tools for Mono, dependency charts for Portable.NET, and lots of bug fixes for both.

Mono and Portable.NET Do GUI Differently
In a project the size of .NET, choices often need to be made between options of nearly equal technical merit. Having more than one project (Portable.NET and Mono) can allow more than one choice to be made. The GUI code (SystemWindows.Forms and System.Drawing) is one area where the advantages of having multiple choices are apparent. The main Mono implementation of SWF uses Wine/Winelib, but there is also a side project using Gtk# (C# bindings for GTK) as the base for SWF (using Gtk# for SWF is separate from Gtk# itself, which is a significant part of Mono). There has also been talk from time to time of doing a Mac version of SWF using Cocoa, but no code has ever been committed.

Portable.Net is using X11 (XWindows) directly for both SWF and System.Drawing. Mono is using Xr: X11, an X11-based graphics library for System.Drawing. It is likely that Mono will also support the Wine/Winelib libraries for System.Drawing, as they do now for SWF.

Independent projects have also written C# wrappers for Qt (Qt#) and SDL (SDL#) for use on .NET. SDL is an open source graphics library for games. Although originally written for Windows, it now runs on Portable.NET (to see a screen shot, visit www.gnu.org/projects/dotgnu/screenshot8.html), and should also run on Mono. The project to write .NET bindings for Qt# has produced some nice screen shots (see http://qtcsharp.sourceforge.net/screenshots.html), but seems to have been idle since April. Finally, Portable.NET is also implementing their own extension to .NET, the System.Windows.Forms.Themes namespace.

That's a lot of graphics! I'm glad that several groups are working to implement them. In the near future I expect we will see Mono and Portable.NET running some increasingly complex applications.

It is important to mention that Mono and Portable.NET often do cooperate; as noted last month, a major effort to share many class libraries (such as the database classes) is under way. Mono and Portable.NET are also starting to work together on implementing WSDL (Web Services Description Language).

The DotGNU group is busy working toward the 0.1 release, which should be out by the time you read this. As a key part of this, version 0.5.10 of Portable.NET has just been released. This is the first release candidate for the 0.6 version that will be included in the DotGNU release. Portable.NET is also likely to have a second release candidate, version 0.5.12. GUIs and bug fixes will be the main thrust for Portable.NET between now and the 0.6 release. This is reflected in the 0.5.10 release, in which the main new features are the 29 SWF controls that are being actively worked on, and the newly impemented threading classes, which now work. There were also nearly 100 improvements and fixes in other areas of Portable.NET, such as compiler optimizations and changes to make porting to other processors easier. For a full list, see http://dotgnu.org/pipermail/developers/2003-July/011079.html. To see a screen shot of a selection of controls running on a Mac, see www.gnu.org/projects/dotgnu/screenshot9.html.

In addition to graphics, some areas of Mono that have also seen major improvements include cryptographies, Web services, the core runtime, and the build system. Web services now support .asmx files (ASP.NET Web pages meant for XML [SOAP] use instead of browsing), SOAP headers, and extensions. Web services still lack the ability to make asynchronous calls, and also a Web services documentation page. The latter is waiting for WSDL, which is in progress.

The core runtime and C# compiler continue to receive perfor- mance improvements, bug fixes, and advanced implementations of .NET version 2.0 features like iterators and generics. Mono has moved away from using the Ant build tool on Windows, and now uses make files on both Windows and Linux. For developers, builds keep getting easier to make, but can still be tricky (especially if the Wine links are included for SWF). One of the additions to the Portable.NET version 0.5.10 release is a group of changes to the Portable.NET build system to make it more similar to the Mono build system; this is another example of cooperation between Mono and Portable.NET.

More Stories By Dennis Hayes

Dennis Hayes is a programmer at Georgia Tech in Atlanta Georgia where he writes software for the Adult Cognition Lab in the Psychology Department. He has been involved with the Mono project for over six years, and has been writing the Monkey Business column for over five years.

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