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Three Types of Applications: What s the Difference
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Simple text (also called ASCII characters) is the usual output of a console application, but some console applications use ASCII graphic characters. (ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.) An ASCII code is the numerical representation of a character (such as 0 or #) or an action of some sort. Pressing Enter in a word processor to move a line of text is an action represented by an ASCII character, for instance. The ASCII graphic character set, also called extended ASCII characters, includes vertical lines, vertical double lines, corners, and much more. ASCII characters are sometimes used to create boxes around text in console applications. Unicode characters are similar to ASCII but are not encoded in the same way. They are more extensive and can represent different locales.
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In this chapter, you ll create two versions of the same application: a console application and a Microsoft Windows application. You might wonder why you even have to worry about the type of application when you re creating a program. Often the type of application you create depends on the purpose of the application and how users will interact with it. Sometimes your application doesn t need to have a graphical interface. For instance, some applications need to be executed in a script or a batch file, or they don t need a graphical interface because no user usually interacts with the application except for launching it. This type of application is called a console application because everything is displayed in a system console window. You might have heard these types of windows referred to by many different names: a DOS window, a command prompt window, or simply the command window. The most common output in a console application is simple text. Figure 3-1 shows the result of the famous Hello, World application as a console application.
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Please note that console applications are still executed in Windows but in the console.
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Figure 3-1 Console application
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Console applications can be written in many different programming languages (C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, and so on) and scripting languages (Perl, Python, or JScript).
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Console applications can be much more complex than the Hello, World example shown here. In fact, they can have as rich a set of features as Windows applications. The only difference is that they don t have a graphical interface. For example, in corporate data centers, many applications execute all day and night, producing a large amount of data. It would be time-consuming and problematic to rely on people to verify the data. So, data centers are usually highly automated to facilitate this job; they use console applications that produce, manipulate, and verify the data in scripts or batch files.
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In contrast to a console application, a Windows application has a graphical interface, as shown in Figure 3-2. (This type of application is also called a Windows Forms application in .NET.) These applications are usually accessible from the Windows Start menu, and by default they share some common characteristics, such as a Close button, a Maximize button, and a Minimize button, as shown here.
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A Windows service is a type of Windows application that runs on Windows in the background it doesn t have a user interface, doesn t produce any visual output, starts when Windows starts, and doesn t even require a user to be logged in to start executing. Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and the Windows Vista operating system come with roughly four dozen Windows services. For example, one built-in Windows service validates your user name and password at start-up.
Another type of application a WPF application also Figure 3-2 Windows application has a graphical interface and looks similar to a Windows application; however, it uses a completely different set of libraries to generate the executable. For our work in this chapter, it is enough to say that WPF applications can provide a richer experience and are using a different approach for their design. Figure 3-3 shows a WPF application in action, and I will explain them much more fully in 6, Modifying Your Web Browser. The overall effect with this application is not that different from a normal Windows application even though it is much more powerful. In 6, you ll be able to see applications that have been designed by professionals, and you ll be able to see for yourself what richer means.
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