Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Whatever happened to Win32 Programming?

I was trying to locate a copy of Charles Petzold's Programming Windows, and I had to look at 4 bookstores before finally finding a copy.  And that copy was used - at Powell's Technical Books, a good sized bookstore with ~50% of it's inventory IT related.

Apparently, one of the definitive Windows texts is selling so little that no one's keeping it in stock.  Has good old-fashioned Windows programming really fallen by the wayside?

Nick Hebb
Saturday, July 13, 2002

My local bookshops just seem to be overrun with books on the  .Net framework and languages, very little C++, Win32, etc. I haven't even seen anything for ATL7 yet.

Still if this is all people are buying perhaps it leaves more opportunity for me in my arena.

TonyE
Saturday, July 13, 2002

> Has good old-fashioned Windows programming really fallen by the wayside?

Clearly not, but many people know it already and the MS Platform Help etc is excelent.

Christopher Wells
Saturday, July 13, 2002

Not to mention Google searching for relavent newsgroup posts. Between google groups and msdn.microsoft.com I don't think I'll ever need to buy a paper Win32 book again.

I own Petzold, and found it a good read, but I never consult it any more. It's far easier to use the online help or the web.

For what it's worth, I did a quick Amazon search, and Petzold's Win32 programming book is currently ranked 6,084

His C# programming book is ranked 1,578

The O'Rielly Perl book is ranked 761

(This isn't scientific survey or anything. You could argue that Perl needs a manual more than the others, or that there are fewer Perl books than .NET books. And we don't know the absolute sales figures. We could be talking about a 3% difference in sales.)

I think book sales are an indication of where people's interests lie. Win32 programming is a solved problem, and there's little that's "cool" about it any more.

John Palevich
Saturday, July 13, 2002

The 'how many shelves of books there are in a bookshop' is a good metric for something, not necessarily jobs of course. Disturbingly the 2 technologies (chosing a deliberately vague word) that occupy the most shelves in the local Borders are
1) Java - not surprising really, I have always seen it as a publishing bandwaggon that something used for production software
2) Flash

I found (2) quite astonishing

Number 3 is C++ which I would have expected to be number 2.

I have bought the Petzold on C Octothorpe book, which looks very well written as usual but I cannot quite bring myself to suckle at the teat of the Great Satan so it is currently sitting unread on the coffee table.  I found it interesting that he said he didn't do an MFC version because he didn't like MFC.

Harvey Pengwyn
Sunday, July 14, 2002

Whoops, I meant 'rather than' not 'that'

Harvey Pengwyn
Sunday, July 14, 2002

I'm curious if anyone really did much of it to start with once MFC had critical mass in the book stores. Most folks I knew that started Win32 programming bought the Petzold book because they were told it was the correct first book to buy, and choked on the "difficulty", and moved to MFC instead. I've never understood how MFC was supposedly easier than Win32. This doesn't count the VB'ers, of course.

Troy King
Sunday, July 14, 2002

[On topic]  As new Microsoft technologies come down the | old ones are moved away from rapidly.  The mind share moves to the newest stuff quickly in the MS technologies, faster I think than it does in the Unix camp.  I mean hardly anybody would admit to running NT 3.5, yet many people are 2 versions back on Solaris and perfectly happy.  Microsoft seems to be masters at making you think the old stuff they sold you is crap and must be replace with the new stuff  (which by the way will be crap too when the even newer stuff comes out....)

[Off topic]

My local B&N computer section looks like it is owned by Microsoft.  As soon as .net hit, about a 15 foot wide section became the Microsoft shrine, while other books were cramed into the remaining space by displaying only the spines.  Many of the .Net books are prominately displayed front on.  I imagine it looks like the Microsoft campus bookstore.

There used to be a Java shrine too, but that has shrunk a little.  (are ya listening, Scott?)  And Larry, where are you?  There is no Oracle shrine.

BTW, BarnesandNoble.com runs Win2k and IIS.  Whattaya bet licensing fees eased a bit for B&N as .Net rolled out.

ryan
Sunday, July 14, 2002

Regarding Flash books I would guess there are several reasons behind this:

(1) Macromedia is pushing accessibility and usability. I've noticed a book called "Skip Intro" which is a guide to creating usabe Flash sites.

(2a) Flash is very familiar to non-technical people (many of whom still assume the tech industry is running at full steam) - they like those "neat Flash movie things" and are interested in learning how to make them themselves (after trying/giving up C++, Visual Basic, Java, HTML, etc).

(2b) Those who have been working as HTML jockeys are probably looking to branch out into either Flash or CSS/DOM/SVG too - Macromedia wants these people too.

(3) The whole Macromedia/Allaire suite is merging and topics like ActionScript (an ECMAscript variant) is being recognised as more important by existing Flash users.

(4) Eye candy. A lot of general design books are pure eye candy, there have always been "1,000 Mind-blowing (but painfully slow, hard to use, etc) Web Sites!!! WOW!" books and there are now books like "100 Flash Web-sites to Revoultionise The New Cyber Infobahn of the 21st Century and Beyond!!!'

Walter Rumsby
Sunday, July 14, 2002

And those are relatively practical books and thus easier to come by. If you want theoretical computer books, you are in for an adventure. I recently had to order a book about computational geometry that took 2 months (!!!) to arrive, and it's relatively well known and quite successful comercially.

Beka Pantone
Sunday, July 14, 2002

I didn't expect Win 32 to be at the top of the charts near .NET, Flash, Java, etc.  In fact, I didn't expect it to be even in the middle of the charts.  My surprise was that it had seemed to drop of the charts completely.

Even if it's a well understood technology, there will always be new programmers learning to program C/C++ for Windows, so I would have expected more to be interested in what's going on under the hood.

Nick Hebb
Monday, July 15, 2002

As  Harvey Pengwyn says, bookstore shelf space is a good metric of "something."  It's just  not clear what that is.  In the case of Flash, my bet is that  the Flash developer community is dominated by designers who are still in love with print.  They eagerly trade their expertise with the tool into an opportunity to be published.  Also, they probably all buy each other's books to check out the designs.

Scott Gamon
Monday, July 15, 2002

Nick, you said: . . . I would have expected more to be interested in what's going on under the hood.

Since when? Think of the programmers you've worked with, and how many of them care about "under the hood." If they're like the majority of programmers I've known, they're happy to just to get a clean compile, or find a good copy/paste source for the latest MS library.

Troy King
Monday, July 15, 2002

not to start a war or anything, but I can see very few circumstances when it would be better to do Win32 programming vs. using C# + dotnet.  Unless your writting some low-level stuff, I'd assume that  dotnet is a perfect fit for most windows applications.  If i'm mistaken, please let me know. I'm interested in knowing what "Win32 programmers" are up to. ;-)

Vincent Marquez
Monday, July 15, 2002

Vincent, you said: . . . I can see very few circumstances when it would be better to do Win32 programming vs. using C# + dotnet.

I want my application to have as few dependencies, as little memory use, as small an install, and make as few system changes as possible. If I code Win32, this is far easier to accomplish. In my opinion, it's (almost) as quick and easy as doing it some other way, and then you get all the little bonuses I shoot for above. I think Joel refers to people like me as "neat freaks."

Troy King
Monday, July 15, 2002

It is on the bookshelf right next to the XLib books.

Sometimes I think we put so many layers upon layers, that we forgot what we were originally trying to simplify.

Oh well.

adam
Monday, July 15, 2002

Win32 programming isn't new and interesting so few people will buy a book just to see what it's like. Most people who do win32 programming already have all the books they need.

C#/.NET is new and interesting so a lot of people will buy a book just to see what it's like. Nobody who needs to do C#/.NET programming has a book so everyone will buy one.

John
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

I bought Petzold just the other day - and am enjoying it thouroughly!
Why Win32? I want to learn C. After reading K&R (several times) and loads of source code, I want to actually know how to write something usefull in C, something that will run on my PC. That's why.

Daren Thomas
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home