PowerWEB TextBox for ASP.NET
By Brian Noyes
The Web gets more interactive every day. Often you need to allow end-users of your Web site to enter HTML or text into a form that gives them a rich editing experience that approaches that of a word processor. It might be for creating a Web-based e-mail system, content-creation for authors for a news site, a new blogging tool, or any number of other scenarios. Trying to create that rich editing experience from scratch is just foolish when there are pre-built controls like the PowerWEB TextBox for ASP.NET from Dart Communications.
For the cost of a few hours of developer time, PowerWEB TextBox gives you an ASP.NET server control that you can drag and drop on any Web Form, spend a minute or two configuring, and you are up and running with a page that can give your users a rich HTML editing experience within the browser. The core functionality of the control is that it presents an HTML editing design surface for your users to enter text, format it, change colors, undo changes, change alignment, and so on. What actually gets created behind the scenes is HTML markup, which the user can access just by changing to the HTML view. Using the HTML view, the user can fine tune the resulting HTML to include things like embedded images and tables that you cannot add directly from the design surface. However, even though you can't add more advanced markup through the design surface, once you add it through the HTML view and switch back to design, you can see the browser-rendered results (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The PowerWEB TextBox control gives your users a rich HTML editing and content creation experience with minimal coding and configuration required on your pages.
Besides giving your site users a flexible and easy-to-use control for creating HTML content, this control has a huge benefit from the developer perspective: Simplicity. You literally just need to drag and drop it on a Web Form, size it, and bring up the Property Builder to customize any appearance settings you want. To do something with the results of whatever the user typed in, you just access the Text property of the control. There is a high degree of customization available to the developer for changing the way the control renders itself, including applying skins, formatting controls, selecting toolbar buttons, and so on. There are a bunch of properties and methods that you can code against to customize the control programmatically. There is also a rich set of both client-side and server-side events that you can handle to be fully in the loop while the user is interacting with the control. There are extensibility points throughout the control that give you a great deal of flexibility in controlling how the control looks and acts.
My overall impression in reviewing the control was very good. Installation was quick and easy, and after adding it to the VS .NET toolbox, the drag and drop Form Designer experience was seamless. The Property Builder is a little complex, but a few minutes of twiddling and viewing the results made it easy to get what I was looking for. The documentation integrates with the MSDN collection and is complete and well organized. There are good samples showing the control in a number of different uses to help you see some of the capabilities that you might not think to take advantage of.
The only flaws I noted were that it could use a few more features in the design surface, such as being able to create hyperlinks, and insert images and tables from the toolbars. Also, there are certain kinds of formatting changes that can be made that undo doesn't currently reverse. Other than those things however, this is a very useful control that is easy to use with good value for its price.
Web Site: http://www.dart.com/powerweb/textbox.asp