WPF Base Elements Overview

A high percentage of classes in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) are derived from four classes which are commonly referred to in the SDK documentation as the base element classes.
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A high percentage of classes in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) are derived from four classes which are commonly referred to in the SDK documentation as the base element classes. These classes are UIElementFrameworkElementContentElement, and FrameworkContentElement. The DependencyObject class is also related, because it is a common base class of both UIElementand ContentElement

This article contains the following sections.

Both UIElement and ContentElement are derived from DependencyObject, through somewhat different pathways. The split at this level deals with how a UIElement or ContentElement are used in a user interface and what purpose they serve in an application. UIElement also has Visual in its class hierarchy, which is a class that exposes the lower-level graphics support underlying the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Visual provides a rendering framework by defining independent rectangular screen regions. In practice, UIElement is for elements that will support a larger object model, are intended to render and layout into regions that can be described as rectangular screen regions, and where the content model is deliberately more open, to allow different combinations of elements. ContentElement does not derive from Visual; its model is that aContentElement would be consumed by something else, such as a reader or viewer that would then interpret the elements and produce the complete Visual for Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to consume. Certain UIElement classes are intended to be content hosts: they provide the hosting and rendering for one or more ContentElement classes (DocumentViewer is an example of such a class). ContentElement is used as base class for elements with somewhat smaller object models and that more address the text, information, or document content that might be hosted within a UIElement.

Framework-Level and Core-Level

UIElement serves as the base class for FrameworkElement, and ContentElement serves as the base class for FrameworkContentElement. The reason for this next level of classes is to support a WPF core level that is separate from a WPF framework level, with this division also existing in how the APIs are divided between the PresentationCore and PresentationFramework assemblies. The WPF framework level presents a more complete solution for basic application needs, including the implementation of the layout manager for presentation. The WPF core level provides a way to use much of WPF without taking the overhead of the additional assembly. The distinction between these levels very rarely matters for most typical application development scenarios, and in general you should think of the WPF APIs as a whole and not concern yourself with the difference between WPF framework level and WPF core level. You might need to know about the level distinctions if your application design chooses to replace substantial quantities of WPF framework level functionality, for instance if your overall solution already has its own implementations of user interface (UI) composition and layout.

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