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An application framework is a software library that provides a fundamental structure to support the development of applications for a specific environment. An application framework acts as the skeletal support to build an application. The intention of designing application frameworks is to lessen the general issues faced during the development of applications. This is achieved through the use of code that can be shared across different modules of an application. Application frameworks are used not only in the graphical user interface (GUI) development, but also in other areas like web-based applications.
Application frameworks are not a recently emerged idea. Some of the old application frameworks that are still used today are the SmallTalk user interface framework, MacApp (for Macintosh), and Struts (for Web-based Java applications).
Due to the desire to create GUIs in applications with less development effort, application frameworks proved to be a good solution, by providing a standard framework with underlying pre-defined code structure. For example, MFC (Microsoft Foundation Classes) is an application framework used in the Windows environment to develop applications in the C++ language. MFC has all the tools for automatic code generation for GUI controls within the framework.
An application framework acts as a tool to supply the structure and templates for constructing an application. By using object-oriented techniques while implementing the framework, pre-existing classes can be used to build the applications easily. Advantages of using application frameworks are: