Microsoft Foundation Class Library


The Microsoft Foundation Class (MFC) Library is a collection of C++ classes, functions, and macros created by Microsoft to streamline the development process of Windows applications. The library provides a layer of abstraction over the Windows API, offering developers an object-oriented framework to build their applications more efficiently. With MFC, developers can focus on high-level features of their software without worrying as much about low-level Windows-specific details.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC) is a C++ library that simplifies the development of Windows applications by providing an application framework and a set of pre-built, reusable classes.
  2. MFC allows developers to create GUI-based applications with less code compared to using the Windows API directly, as it offers built-in support for various features such as window management, document-view architecture, and message handling.
  3. Although MFC is still in use today, it has largely been superseded by more modern frameworks and libraries such as .NET and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) for creating Windows applications.


The Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC) is a crucial technology term because it represents a collection of classes, functions, and macros created to simplify the development process for Windows applications.

As a part of Microsoft Visual Studio, MFC provides an object-oriented programming framework that masks the complexities of the underlying Windows API, making it easier for programmers to create graphical user interfaces, manage events and messages, and build complex applications with reduced effort and code.

This framework not only enhances developers’ productivity and application quality but also encourages consistency in the look and feel of the software, ensuring a better user experience across the Windows ecosystem.


The Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC) serves as a purposeful software development framework that simplifies the process of creating applications for the Windows operating system. The primary objective behind MFC is to provide a set of C++ object-oriented classes, which developers can utilize to create user-friendly, easily maintainable applications, with improved performance and reduced code complexity.

Built on top of the Win32 API, MFC offers classes and functions that encapsulate a wide range of functionalities, including user interface management, document-view architecture, file handling, and network connections. MFC is widely used by software developers who strive for faster application development, code reusability, and effective maintenance when working with the Windows operating system.

By leveraging MFC, developers can avoid repetitive, mundane tasks, spending more time on the core functionality and logic of their programs. Moreover, MFC’s mature and stable ecosystem offers a vast range of time-tested components and libraries, ensuring that developers can create sophisticated, feature-rich applications without having to reinvent the wheel.

MFC therefore remains an indispensable tool in the world of Windows programming, even with the advent of more modern frameworks, empowering developers to create amazing applications for the Windows platform.

Examples of Microsoft Foundation Class Library

The Microsoft Foundation Class (MFC) Library is a collection of classes, functions, and macros that help in building C++ applications for Windows. These libraries simplify the process of creating Windows-based applications with a collection of pre-written code that developers can use.Here are three real-world examples that use MFC Library:

Notepad++: Notepad++ is a popular open-source text and source code editor for Windows, which extensively uses MFC to provide a variety of features and a user-friendly interface. Notepad++ allows users to work with multiple files simultaneously, offers syntax highlighting, code folding, and numerous other functions that are helpful for developers.

SmartFTP:SmartFTP is a file transfer protocol (FTP) client that runs on the Windows operating system. It provides users with a powerful and easy-to-use graphical interface, allowing them to transfer files and folders between their local computers and servers over the internet. MFC is used in SmartFTP to build its user interface components and enable various features like drag and drop, multilingual support, and remote file editing.

WinMerge:WinMerge is a free, open-source file comparison and merging tool for Windows. It is designed to help developers compare, merge, and synchronize files or directories. The software’s graphical user interface, built using MFC, provides users with an intuitive way to compare and manage differences between files or folders. WinMerge is widely used in software development for comparing source code changes, tracking version history, and merging changes into a common codebase.

Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC) FAQ

What is the Microsoft Foundation Class Library?

The Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC) is a collection of classes that simplify the development of Windows applications by providing a framework that encapsulates core Windows API functionalities. MFC is mainly used with C++ programming language to create desktop applications for the Windows operating system.

What are the main features of MFC?

MFC provides a wide range of features to simplify Windows application development, such as:

  • Object-Oriented Framework: MFC encapsulates Windows API in classes, making it easier to work with in an object-oriented manner.
  • Window Creation and Management: MFC provides classes for creating and managing various types of windows, including frame windows, dialog boxes, and control windows.
  • Predefined Common Controls: MFC includes classes for common UI controls like buttons, list boxes, tree controls, and property sheets.
  • Document/View architecture support: MFC supports the Document/View architecture, which simplifies the separation of application data (the document) from its user interface (the view).
  • Windows API Wrapping: MFC maps Windows API calls to member functions of corresponding MFC classes. This simplifies the process of making Windows API calls in C++ applications.

What are the advantages of using MFC?

Some advantages of using MFC for Windows application development include:

  • Reduced development time: MFC provides a comprehensive set of classes, which eliminate the need for developers to implement common functionality from scratch.
  • Easier code maintenance: MFC’s object-oriented framework encourages the development of modular and reusable code, which can simplify code maintenance and updating.
  • Compatibility with Windows API: MFC is built on top of the Windows API, ensuring your application is compatible with the Windows operating system.
  • Familiar syntax for C++ developers: MFC is designed for use with C++, allowing developers familiar with the language to quickly adapt to the MFC framework.

What are the drawbacks of using MFC?

Some drawbacks to using MFC include:

  • Learning curve: MFC has a steep learning curve, particularly for developers who are not already familiar with C++ and object-oriented programming.
  • Older technology: MFC has been largely superseded by newer frameworks such as .NET, which offer a broader range of features and improved performance.
  • Limited to Windows platform: MFC applications are primarily designed for the Windows platform and may not be easily ported to other operating systems.

What are some alternatives to MFC?

There are several alternatives to MFC for developing Windows applications, including:

  • .NET Framework: A versatile and powerful framework that allows development in multiple languages, such as C#, VB.NET, and F#.
  • Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF): A modern UI framework for building Windows desktop applications with .NET.
  • Qt: A cross-platform application framework that can be used to develop applications for various platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.
  • Win32 API directly: Although more difficult and time-consuming, you can use the Win32 API directly to develop Windows applications without a framework like MFC.

Related Technology Terms


  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Application Framework
  • Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • Visual C++
  • Windows API (Win32)


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