The primary C header file for accessing the Win32 API is the
<windows.h> header file. To make a Win32 executable, the first step is to include this header file in your source code. The windows.h header file should be included before any other library include, even the C standard library files such as stdio.h or stdlib.h. This is because the windows.h file includes macros and other components that may modify, extend, or replace things in these libraries. This is especially true when dealing with UNICODE, because windows.h will cause all the string functions to use UNICODE instead. Also, because many of the standard C library functions are already included in the Windows kernel, many of these functions will be available to the programmer without needing to load the standard libraries. For example, the function
sprintf is included in windows.h automatically.
Child Header Files
There are a number of header files that are automatically included with windows.h. Many of these files cannot simply be included by themselves, because of dependencies. The windows.h header file is actually a relatively small file, that provides conditional inclusion for a number of other header files, definitions of a few important macros, etc.
Additional Header Files
This section will talk about some other interesting header files and libraries that can be included with your project, but which are not included by default with windows.h.
This section will briefly detail some of the changes that the user can make in the windows.h structure at compile time using macros.
The WIN32_LEAN_AND_MEAN macro causes several of the child headers to not be included in the build. This can help to speed up the compilation process.
UNICODE and _UNICODE
These macros, which we will discuss later, can generally be used interchangeably, but are frequently both defined together. These cause the program to be compiled with UTF-16 encoded strings instead of ASCII encoded strings. UTF-16 is one internationalized encoding based on the UNICODE standard and allows for more characters than the American ASCII encoding, although UTF-8 is often preferred in modern programming.
WINVER and _WIN32_WINNT
You must set these to a number greater or equal to 0x500 or you will not get some of the useful functions that are in Windows 2000 (and thus in any modern Windows) but were not in Windows 98.