The Next Killer ASP.NET Control Is...

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The Next Killer ASP.NET Control Is...

 

By Jonathan Goodyear

 

It s difficult to predict what the next killer product will be. They often come from the least likely of sources. For instance, consider how unlikely it was that the Apple iPod would become the best selling digital music player in history. Most PC users hate all things Apple, yet they ll tote their iPods around just the same. They re just too darn compelling to ignore.

 

I spent some time contemplating what the next killer ASP.NET control will be. I actually found it easier to start off by eliminating what it definitely won t be. The third-party ASP.NET control market has been in a rut lately, turning out an endless supply of custom grids, charts, and menu controls. Although useful and feature rich, I think we re ready for some fresh thinking. As developers of enterprise Web applications, we ve got more fish to fry than just data organization, display, and navigation. Following are some of the controls I think we need (for starters).

 

Popup Notification. Many of you have probably used Microsoft Outlook Web Access, which implements a tiny popup window when you receive new e-mail. I think this would be a great control to use in other enterprise situations, such as notifying you if you re doing something wrong on a page (like unobtrusive validation), or informing you that someone is trying to contact you in a mission critical Web application. I found one implementation of an ASP.NET Popup Notification control on CodeProject, but an established third-party vendor needs to pick up the ball and release a full-featured (and supported) control that will be approved for corporate use (http://www.codeproject.com/aspnet/asppopup.asp).

 

Suggestion Control. Google is always coming up with new and innovative service offerings. One of them is Google Suggestions (http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en). If you haven t seen it, the Google Suggestions page looks very much like the standard Google search page. The magic happens when, as you begin to type in your search criteria, a dropdown appears with suggested search terms and actual results figures. It does this by making calls back to the Web server behind the scene as you type to refine its results. I think this would make an absolutely killer control for a third-party vendor to package and sell. It doesn t take much imagination to see how it could be used in business intelligence Web applications.

 

Progress Bar. Speaking of making behind the scenes calls back to the Web server, why hasn t an established third-party vendor created a reliable progress bar control? Back in the Classic ASP days, you could simulate a progress bar by rendering the page in pieces (http://www.eggheadcafe.com/articles/20010610.asp). However, even that didn t allow you to have the progress bar integrated with the rest of the Web page. You basically needed to have a page dedicated to showing only the progress bar. I haven t seen anything in ASP.NET that impresses me at all in this category. I m looking for a control that uses JavaScript to call the server and update itself. With the elegant delegate and event infrastructure that is in place in ASP.NET, this control is just begging to be written. I think it would sell quite well, considering most Web applications simply use a dumb animated GIF and timed page refreshes to do progress reports now. Hardly an ideal solution.

 

Modal Dialog. Like it or not, as we build more and more complex enterprise Web applications, it becomes necessary to simulate some of the behaviors of a rich client interface. One of those behaviors is the modal dialog. There are several articles online that show how to build your own modal dialog control (I ve even built my own), but they lack the features and polish of a commercial component and none of the ones I ve seen are cross-browser compatible. I want a modal dialog control that handles the whole JavaScript nightmare for me (including passing return values back to the calling page).

 

Fierce pricing competition between similar offerings has practically turned third-party ASP.NET controls into commodities. A new breed of innovative ASP.NET controls that solve both basic and complex Web application problems could be just the spark the third-party control market needs. Perhaps some of the ideas I ve presented here will get the ball rolling.

 

Jonathan Goodyear is president of ASPSoft (http://www.aspsoft.com), an Internet consulting firm based in Orlando, FL. Jonathan is Microsoft Regional Director for Florida, a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD), and author of Debugging ASP.NET (New Riders). Jonathan also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. E-mail him at mailto:[email protected] or through his angryCoder eZine at http://www.angryCoder.com.

 

 

 

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