Friday, 6 June 2014

Running Windows Forms on Linux with Mono

Although WinForms may be “dead”, it does have one trick up its sleeve that WPF doesn’t, and that is you can run WinForms apps on mono. Here’s a simple guide to running a Windows Forms application on Ubuntu

Step 1 - Install Mono

Open a terminal window, and make sure everything is up to date with the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Now you can install mono with the following command:

sudo apt-get install mono-complete

Step 2 - Create an Application

Now we need to create our C# source file. You can use any text editor you like, but if like me you aren’t familiar with Linux text editors like vi or emacs, gedit is a simple notepad-like application which is easy to use. Launch it with the following command: (the ampersand at the end tells the terminal not to wait for gedit to close before letting us continue)

gedit wf.cs &

Now let’s create a very simple application:

using System;
using System.Windows.Forms;

public class Program
    public static void Main()
        var f = new Form();
        f.Text = "Hello World";

Step 3 - Compile and Run

Now we’re ready to compile. The C# compiler in mono is gmcs. We’ll need to tell it we’re referencing the Windows Forms DLL:

gmcs wf.cs –r:System.Windows.Forms.dll

To run the application, simply call mono, passing in the executable:

mono wf.exe

And that’s all there is to it! We have a WinForms app running on Linux.


Although mono doesn’t support everything in WinForms, you can use most standard controls, so you can easily add further UI elements:


Taking it Further

Obviously writing applications by hand like this is a bit cumbersome, but there is an IDE you can use for Linux called monodevelop. You install it like this:

sudo-apt-get install monodevelop

This then gives you a nice editing environment, allowing you to debug, and manage project references (you’d usually add System.Windows.Forms and System.Drawing). Unfortunately it doesn’t offer a WinForms designer – for desktop apps it prefers you to use GTK#. Nevertheless, it’s a nice free IDE allowing you to experiment with getting your existing Windows Forms applications working cross-platform on Linux. (It seems this will also work on OS X with mono installed but I don’t have a Mac so I haven’t tried it out)


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