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The Top 5 Best WinForms UI Controls for Your Desktop Apps

We know a thing or two about WinForms controls since our ComponentOne .NET UI components have been around for 20 years! It all started with .NET 1.0 in 2002 when Microsoft launched this new framework to replace Visual Basic apps soon.

In this blog, we’ll share the five most popular WinForms controls according to real data we collected in 2022 and highlight what (we think) makes each of them so useful.

Top 5 WinForms Controls

  1. FlexGrid
  2. Ribbon
  3. DockingTab
  4. FlexChart
  5. TextBox and Button

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It may be no surprise for ComponentOne users that FlexGrid is the most popular control. It has twice the number of active developers using it compared to our number 2 control, and there’s a good reason. It’s one of the longest-running controls originating from the VSFlexGrid control during the VB6/ActiveX days. We even provide a FlexGridClassic control for .NET that shares a similar API to the VSFlexGrid for easier migration.

Best WinForms Controls Flexgrid

FlexGrid is a .NET datagrid control that every Windows desktop application needs. FlexGrid delivers features similar to Microsoft Excel, such as cell selection and editing, so your datagrids will be intuitive, and your end-users will be more productive.

Spotlight Feature: Subtotals

 We think the most useful feature of FlexGrid is the simple Subtotal method. This method groups the grid by any column and aggregates, or subtotals, that column to display the total in the group header row. Over the years, we’ve seen many applications using FlexGrid, and this feature was almost always present.


A WinForms Ribbon UI provides a complete toolbar and menu system for a Windows desktop app that wants to replicate the same UI from Microsoft Office.

WinForms Ribbon UI

The ComponentOne Ribbon library includes three components: the Ribbon, Backstage View, and Statusbar. When you combine all three, your application is completely framed and professionally styled with minimal work. The Ribbon provides organized toolbar functionality along the top, the Backstage View provides a file menu system for application settings and actions, and the Statusbar displays along the bottom for essential notifications or global commands like zooming.

Spotlight Feature: Collapsible Ribbon

One of the newest and most versatile features is the ability to collapse the ribbon into a condensed toolbar. This is a runtime feature that end-users can toggle for their preference.

Collapsible Ribbon WinForms Control


The DockingTab control provides WinForms floating panel behavior, where the whole control or individual panels (tabs) can be torn off and automatically docked to any other edge of the application or floated in a separate window.

WinForms DockingTab Control

The DockingTab control provides a customizable workspace framework, similar to complex designer applications like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere. If your application has TONS of windows, this is the perfect component so that you, as the developer, don’t have to necessarily figure out the best layout. You can let your users decide for themselves.

ComponentOne DockingTab supports the “docking diamond” as seen above, OR you can hide that and show the shaded drop zone regions for a cleaner look.

Spotlight Feature : Auto-Hide/Sliding Panels

 Like Visual Studio, tabs and panels can also be minimized or slide to any edge of the application. This allows even more runtime customization as end-users can minimize panels that they may need at some point, but don’t always need visible.


Charts are consistently among the most popular third-party .NET UI controls because they are complex and difficult to write independently from scratch. ComponentOne FlexChart makes this list along with its family of specialized components: FlexPie, FlexRadar, Sunburst, Treemap, and FinancialChart.

WinForms FlexChart UI Control

Across these six controls, you can create over 80 different types of charts, including stacked and rotated variations of every plot type. FlexCharts also come packed with interactive features like scrolling, zooming, selection, and drill-down, and built-in data analysis features such as waterfall series, error bars, and trendlines.

Spotlight Feature: Direct2D Rendering

For the fastest performance, you want a chart that can draw with DirectX rendering. On Windows machines, DirectX means that the rendering is handled at a lower level closer to the hardware. Otherwise, the rendering is done with higher-level graphics libraries (GDI+), which come with overhead. FlexChart provides both rendering modes for optimal performance options - up to millions of data points loaded smoothly.

TextBox and Button

Yes, the C1TextBox and C1Button controls are really among the most popular controls, so we wanted to include both together. Of course, every application needs input controls, but you may be scratching your head wondering why a third-party input control as simple as a TextBox or Button make this list.

Input Theme WinForms UI Control

It’s because styling WinForms applications beyond the battleship-grey defaults can be a bit more difficult than a newer platform like WPF or Blazor.

Spotlight Feature: Themes

The C1TextBox and C1Button controls (as well as every ComponentOne Input control) support our application-wide theming with C1ThemeController. This means you can make all your textboxes and buttons blend seamlessly with your white, modern, dark, material, or whatever theme you have.

The only thing worse than having no theme is a mismatched theme where some controls don’t match! This is why we strive to ensure our controls match the default Microsoft controls style by default. And then, if you want to provide a theme - you can replace your basic input controls with advanced input libraries.

You can try all of these controls by downloading ComponentOne today!


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