ComponentOne Studio Enterprise 2006 v2

Now Activated with AJAX Power

asp:review

 

ComponentOne Studio Enterprise 2006 v2

Now Activated with AJAX Power

 

By Mike Riley

 

One of the most popular component suites for the Microsoft Windows platform has been updated to support several new features in its key widgets. Longtime asp.netPRO readers may recall Brian Noyes review of ComponentOne s suite several years ago. Although the product has incrementally improved since then, it hasn t had a breakout feature until this latest release. With the adoption of Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) technology for its ASP.NET components, Studio has become interesting again for .NET Web developers.

 


Figure 1: The suite includes a Studio Live Examples program that highlights the components in action.

 

This release also sports new enhancements in its .NET components for Mobile and Windows Forms development, such as the ability to disable automatic data fetching in the ADO.NET DataExtender, as well as the addition to the Reports for .NET selection of new fields, an export filter, and printer resolution properties. Full 508 compliance support for the company s FlexGrid, List, and TrueGrid .NET products has been added, as well. The suite has also been upgraded to be fully .NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005 compliant, ensuring that it continues to be a standard fixture in a developer s Visual Studio toolbox.

 

AJAX-enabled

ComponentOne has imbued their Web server-side controls, including their WebGrid, WebReports, WebTreeView, WebTabStrip, and WebTopicBar widgets, with the power of AJAX. The most impressive demonstration of this technology in action is when working with the WebGrid control. Previous users of the WebGrid component will no doubt recall the new page refresh each time an outline node icon was clicked to expand a selection. While this wasn t too distracting when working with small data sets, it quickly became a hassle when dealing with multi-nested data relationships. Using the new AJAX-enabled WebGrid, those erratic starts and stops are no longer a problem the experience is nearly analogous to working with the rich-client FlexGrid .NET Windows Form component. Sure, there still persists a slight delay between roundtrip data fetches, but by removing the abrupt page reloads, WebGrid really breaks the mold of how an HTML data grid behaves. This stunning improvement will no doubt raise UI expectations among both .NET-based and other Web-oriented languages competing in the Web 2.0 space.

 


Figure 2: In addition to ASP.NET and Windows Forms components, the suite includes three Mobile .NET controls.

 

Seeing the effect work the first time was initially exciting (predominantly due to the realization that any .NET developer could instantly become a slick AJAX magician without even knowing how the magic worked), but I must admit I secretly hoped that ComponentOne was going to completely redefine the way its database-driven components would look and operate. Visually, it was a flashback to more than a decade ago when this UI was so groundbreaking during the Visual Basic 4.x days. It took that many years to recreate the user experience in a Web browser? There must have been some UI leaps made since then. Here s a concept that might work after Windows Vista ships. Turn the grid into a 3D cube that, when expanded via the outline node, allows data related to that row to be flipped back and forth like forms in a file cabinet maybe even using the arrow keys and/or mouse wheel to scroll back and forth between the records. How about some eye candy options like zoom in/out of reports, drag/drop of plain text, and Excel files on top of the grid, which can then parse and auto-populate the grid elements based on that event?

 


Figure 3: The suite throws in a spell checking add-in that can catch static text spelling errors before the end user has a chance to do so.

 

Part of the excitement around AJAX is the whole notion that it brings a new paradigm of manipulating Web page elements to end users in a way that is fun and intuitive. Perhaps in the next major release, ComponentOne can push past the current data grid expectation and blow developers away with a cool, productive new way to represent and manipulate data views.

 

What Else Is New?

In what seems to have been a response to ComponentOne s competitors, the company now includes a Studio Live Examples application that corrals working demonstrations of the suite s offerings in an easy-to-navigate interface. ASP.NET and Windows Forms controls are exhibited, along with the surprisingly small amount of code required to render such useful displays of content. The Documentation tab provides the virtual book binding to the ComponentOne Doc-to-Help-authored online documentation for the selected control; however, I still prefer using the integrated help in Visual Studio to learn how to manipulate the suite s offerings.

 


Figure 4: The SmartDesigner dialog box for the WebChart provides easy design-time editing of the component s visual appearance.

 

While the release focuses predominantly on the AJAX-enabled ASP.NET controls, a few minor tweaks have been made to the other pieces of the package. The new SmartDesigners for the FlexGrid, Preview, and List components help expedite look and feel settings, though the integration still felt slightly bolted on and disjointed. Dialog boxes for these settings were certainly functional, but not very attractive. Hardboiled programmers might not care, but in today s environment of open source, free components, the commercial experience should be as effortless and attractive as possible.

 

Besides a handful of other minor tweaks, and the inclusion of SmartDesigners for the visual elements, few (if any) other significant enhancements were made to the suite since the previous release. Nevertheless, on the whole, the package offers a cornucopia of widgets for a .NET developer to have ready for nearly instant implementation. The AJAX-enabled components can quickly turn a mediocre ASP.NET data-driven Web site into a perceptively faster and more intuitive Web user experience. Readers can view live online demos of these components in action at http://www.componentone.com/products.aspx?ItemType=1&TabTypeID=1&PanelIndex=1&TabMapID=284&Itemid=66&Tabid=400&SubCategoryTypeID=0.

 

Mike Riley is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. He also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. Readers may contact Mike at mailto:[email protected].

 

Rating:

Web Site: http://www.componentone.com

Price: US$999.99

 

Pros

Cons

One of the most comprehensive ASP.NET, Mobile, and Windows Forms component suites for .NET developers today.

Minor (if any) improvements to the non-ASP.NET components in the suite.

AJAX-enabled components raise the bar on what should be standard behavior for future data driven ASP.NET controls.

Missed opportunity to redefine how Web data grids and charts should behave for the next 10 years.

 

 

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