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I've been researching GDI a little and on some websites I'm lead to believe it can hardly draw a few boxes, while on others it can easily be used in an interactive charting application.

So I'm wondering what is used in applications like Excel where there can be a lot movement like scrolling through a large amount of data fast? Could DirectX be used and would it increase performance? Is it used?

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Sort of - some of Microsoft's newer APIs such as Direct2d and WPF leverage your graphics card for drawing GUIs. DirectX itself (more specifically Direct3D) isn't usually used for GUIs outside of a video game that contains them.

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Thank you that's very helpful! – Dimension May 22 '13 at 4:11

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