About the Product
Building user-friendly Windows based software is a challenging task for .NET developers. For this purpose, you need a third-party control suite such as Ultimate Suite, because the default control set that ships with .NET Framework doesn't meet the expectations of many programmers. Developed by PureComponents [http://www.purecomponents.com], a Czech Republic–based company, the product ships with controls that provide a pleasant user experience. It also enables a developer to build applications using a wide range of components in a new look and feel.
You can download a limited-period trial version of Ultimate Suite from the vendor at http://www.purecomponents.com/downloads, but the trial version generates nag screens both in the design view and during execution of the project. However, you can eliminate this annoyance by requesting from PureComponents a license key, which is valid for one month. The installation wizard automatically adds the required controls to the Visual Studio Toolbox, and you can immediately start working with them to develop .NET applications.
The entire product suite is divided into six sets comprising 80 controls sorted into three categories: ActionSet, EntrySet, and ScheduleSet. The ActionSet includes controls for building applications in Microsoft Office Outlook and Office 2007 styles. The EntrySet provides a bunch of controls for designing UIs, data-bound lists, validations, and item binding. As the name indicates, the ScheduleSet provides controls for manipulating date and time and includes fully customizable calendars in various formats and clocks as well as animated calendars.
An interesting feature of Ultimate Suite is that user input controls such as EditBox includes a useful menu named HelpMe. You can use this menu to configure predefined styles and access documentation. I noticed that the styles are reflected instantly; you need not write any extra code.
Moreover, the product also includes a customizable function named StickyLabel, which when activated attaches to the relevant control and moves along when you drag the control from one position to another on the form.
To view this feature in action, add an EditBox and Label control to the form. Then select EditBox control, expand the StickyLabel property from the Properties window, and select label1. That's it. If you now drag the EditBox, the label control will also move along its path.
Figure 4: Aligned control in action
PureComponents also provides a set of ribbon controls that you can use to build Office 2007–style applications. For this purpose, you need to drag and drop a Ribbon control from the Toolbox.
As you can see, a panel named RibbonTab is created by default, but you can modify its properties easily. You can add more tabs by selecting the Add Tab option from the pop-up menu. The next step is to add panels by selecting the Add Panel option from the pop-up menu, so that you can place controls inside it.
PureComponents has included matching ribbon-styled button and textbox controls, which I feel is a big bonus for developers and provide a uniform look and feel for your applications, as you can see below.
The product also includes ready-made templates that you can use with your applications. They mainly consist of colorful forms, dialogs, and splash screens in addition to several control parts. For instance, if your project demands a logon screen, you just need to drop the FormManager control to the form, then select the EntrySetForm Templates option from the pop-up menu. The dialog is immediately added to the form upon inserting the relevant template. Similarly, you can easily add a splash screen to your project and customize it depending upon your requirements.
The suite includes customizable controls for displaying time and date. The clock control enables you to display time in different formats. For instance, you can place in your application a clock that won't have a second hand by setting the ShowSecondsPointer property to false.
As you can see from the comparison of the above screenshots, I've placed the digit position on the top very easily with the help of DigitsPosition property.
A notable feature of UltimateSuite is that it includes a highly powerful calendar control named RichCalendar. I noticed that it looks completely different when compared with what the .NET Framework provides.
The product also includes several calendar controls, such as DatePicker, DateTimePicker, and GridCalendar. Each of these controls has its own format and unique appearance.
I found that RichCalendar and GridCalendar consume lot of form area, so if you're building an application with a lot of UI controls, I advise you to use the DatePicker control because it hides the calendar inside the drop-down list.
Documentation and Support
The product provides detailed documentation that explains how to use all the controls in a lucid style with plenty of screenshots. Also included are short videos (http://www.purecomponents.com/products) that visually describe the usefulness of some of the core features. PureComponents also provides online documentation, which you can view by clicking the relevant control from the product page. I hope that PureComponents will release a similar set of control suite for ASP.NET and Silverlight in the near future.
PureComponents provides excellent support through a dedicated customer portal coupled with flexible licensing policies. I initially emailed a few queries to the vendor but received no response. But when I submitted a ticket through the secured portal, I received a reply within one day. The ticket-based support system is an excellent method for monitoring and managing the status of customer issues.
Developers, especially beginners, will likely appreciate the distinctly different look and feel of the controls included in UltimateSuite as compared with those included with .NET Framework. The controls included with the suite are lightweight and don't cause any kind of stability issues during execution of the application. I suggest that you test-drive the product not only to sample the plethora of features but also to experience the simplicity and user-friendly behavior of the controls.