Microsoft toolkit out under open-source licence

Microsoft has released its Windows Template Library (WTL) technology under an open-source licence, marking the second time the...

Microsoft has released its Windows Template Library (WTL) technology under an open-source licence, marking the second time the company has turned one of its projects over to the development site.

WTL is a toolkit for developing lightweight Windows applications. It has always been a little-publicised and barely documented alternative to the Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC) toolkit.

Those programmers who use WTL tend to be enthusiastic about it, and it was their requests that led Microsoft to release WTL as an open-source project, according to Jason Matusow, the manager of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative.

"The last time WTL was released we had 90,000 downloads. We were hearing from the community that they really wanted the ability to get in and fix and improve WTL. They had expressed concern that we had not been putting forward the resources they would like to see attached to this technology."

Microsoft has been stepping up its Shared Source Initiative and taking cautious steps toward giving programmers more open access to code for its development tools. Last month, Microsoft turned to open-source project host for its release of a toolset called WiX, for building Windows installation packages.

WiX and WTL both were released under the Common Public Licence (CPL), a license developed by IBM that does not require derivative works to be freely released, as the GPL does.

Microsoft has, previously, released the WTL code. It first appeared several years ago on the Microsoft Developer Network, a subscription service for programmers offering content, code and product previews. This week's release marks the first time WTL code has been available with modification and redistribution rights.

One developer who has worked with WTL, independent consultant and author Scott Robert Ladd, said he recommends the toolkit and is happy to see it available more publicly.

"It has not been something that they've promoted in any way," he said. "It's been one of those things that, if you program Windows, you'd come across. It didn't have any real documentation, it was 'here's the code, take a look and figure it out.' It was very much like an open-source project, except not freely available."

Ladd said he prefers WTL as a smaller, faster alternative to MFC.

"MFC is a big, bloated library that's not well designed. WTL was developed internally for people at Microsoft. It's small and fast. If you're going to write pure C++ code, I recommend people go with WTL."

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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