Introducing .NET Core Windows Forms Designer Preview 1

Olia Gavrysh


Introducing .NET Core Windows Forms Designer Preview 1

We just released a GA version of .NET Core 3.0 that includes support for Windows Forms and WPF. And along with that release we’re happy to announce the first preview version of the Windows Forms Designer for .NET Core projects!

For developers the .NET Core Windows Forms Designer (when we will release the GA version) will look and feel the same as the .NET Framework Windows Forms Designer. But for us it is a huge technical challenge to bring the designer to .NET Core because it requires the design surface that hosts the live .NET Core form to run outside the Visual Studio process. That means we need to re-architect the way the designer surface “communicates” with Visual Studio. You can watch these communications in the Output Window, where we track each request sent when the Visual Studio components are accessing properties or executing methods on the live controls in the design surface. The engineering team is still working on this technical challenge, and we will be releasing the Preview versions on regular basis to give you the early glance at the .NET Core Designer. Stay tuned! The next Preview will be coming out in early November.

Because this is the very first preview of the designer, it isn’t yet bundled with Visual Studio and instead is available as a Visual Studio extension (“VSIX”) (download). That means that if you open a Windows Forms project targeting .NET Core in Visual Studio, it won’t have the designer support by default – you need to install the .NET Core Designer first!

Enabling the designer

To enable the designer, download and install the Windows Forms .NET Core Designer VSIX package. You can remove it from Visual Studio at any time. After you install the .NET Core Designer, Visual Studio will automatically pick the right designer (.NET Core or .NET Framework) depending on the target framework of the project you’re working on.

It is early days for the designer, here is what to expect…

Please keep in mind, that this is the first preview, so the experience is limited. We support the most commonly used controls and base operations and will be adding more in each new Preview version. Eventually, we will bring the .NET Core Designer at parity with the Windows Forms Designer for .NET Framework.

Because many controls aren’t yet supported in Preview 1 of the designer, we don’t recommend porting your Windows Forms applications to .NET Core just yet if you need to use the designer on a regular basis. This Preview 1 is good for “Hello World” scenarios of creating new projects with common controls.

Controls included in Preview 1:

  • Pointer
  • Button
  • Checkbox
  • CheckedListBox
  • ComboBox
  • DateTimePicker
  • Label
  • LinkLabel
  • ListBox
  • ListView
  • MaskedTextBox
  • MonthCalendar
  • NumericUpDown
  • PictureBox
  • ProgressBar
  • RadioButton
  • RichTextBox
  • TextBox
  • TreeView

What is not supported in Preview 1:

  • Container
  • Resources
  • Component Tray
  • In-place editing
  • Designer Actions
  • Databinding
  • User Controls/Inherited Controls

Give us your feedback!

We are putting out our first bits so early to support the culture of developing the product with our users’ early feedback in mind. Please do reach out with your suggestions, issues and feature requests via Visual Studio Feedback channel. To do so, click on Send Feedback icon in Visual Studio top right corner as it is shown on the picture below.

We appreciate your engagement!

Addressing Questions

What to do if Windows Forms Designer doesn’t work?

We heard some question related to the Windows Forms Designer not working. Here’s what could have happened:

  1. You might have created a .NET Core Windows Forms project instead of the traditional .NET Framework one without realizing it. If you type “WinForms” or “Windows Forms” in the New Project Dialog, the first option would be a .NET Core Windows Forms project. If your intention is to create a .NET Framework project (with the mature designer support), just find and select Windows Forms App (.NET Framework).

  2. If you want to work with .NET Core project, don’t forget to install the .NET Core Windows Forms Designer, since it isn’t yet shipped inside Visual Studio by default. See the previous “Enabling the designer” section.

Does .NET Core WPF Designer depend on Windows Forms Designer installation?

We also received some questions related to the .NET Core WPF Designer not working and if it requires a separate installation or the Windows Forms Designer installation. No, the WPF Designer is completely independent of the Windows Forms Designer. We released its GA version of the WPF .NET Core Designer at the same time as .NET Core 3.0 and it comes with Visual Studio. In Visual Studio version 16.3.0 we had an issue with the Enable XAML Designer property set to false by default. That means that when you click on .xaml files, the designer doesn’t open automatically. Upgrade to the latest Visual Studio version 16.3.1 where this issue is fixed. Another option to fix it is to go to Tools -> Options -> XAML Designer and check Enable XAML Designer.


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  • Avatar

    Will C++ lanaguage be part of the .NET core Windows form development ?

    As Embarcadero C++ users already being very tired of waiting their slow C++ cross platform development for Android and MacOS 64 bits.

    If there is C++ for .NET core 3.0 Windows Form, 100000000000000000000% I will migrate and even if it is commercial version.

    I still prefers C++ the big brother instead of C#

    Please advise.


  • Varadharaja Perumal
    Varadharaja Perumal

    Hi all,
    I had this problem earlier too (please refer my comment on Nov 11), but was able to resolve it after reading this blog – that is the issue of Forms designer not appearing.
    But, here again I the problem has rec-cured weirdly
    I am doing my application – created a simple forms with minimal forms design objects and concentrated on developing the code in c# and have been developing and testing the same for last couple of week lets say. No problem, but strangely now the same application refuses to open the forms design to let me modify the forms, though the forms opens up when i run the code – but that’s no use if i cannot redesign the form further to complete the application.
    I have also tried to create a new application – same happens – initially the forms appears, i create the minimal forms objects, and then i try to copy the original code into the new one and the forms designer just does not appear – strange really.
    Can some one please help and suggest how to get over the problem. I am stuck as it is a large amount of code and i have to test it out with all other form objects created too.
    thank you all for any help in this regard

  • Avatar
    Douglas, Joe

    If you want to have your time completely wasted then try it. I wasted an hour putting a simple windows forms application together using this designer for .net core and saved the results (or so I thought). When I reloaded the project later on, everything was gone – as if it never happens. So take my advice and use the designer for .net framework and forget about even trying .net core.

    • Avatar
      Lorin Kundert

      I had to save the form and then close it before exiting Visual Studio. Insane

  • Avatar
    Yes I'm Awesome

    Broken after the Visual Studio update to 16.4.0. Tried on two different machines.

  • Avatar
    Carlos Caycedo

    I try download enabling designer, but it send me to updates page. ¿Can you please hel me?.

  • Avatar
    Mikola Akbal̆

    .NET Core Windows Forms Designer Preview 1 has the bug with font. When I set custom font, I close form and I reopen it – all my controls become larger each time I open form.

  • Harikrishnan Namboothiri N
    Harikrishnan Namboothiri N

    Instead of availing this designer option in the preview, I kindly request you to avail the same in the release version of the visual studio. Because the option in the preview is of no use. It just give chance to access some features only


    when clicked on download, i am redirected to another page. Package is not downloaded