RadControls for ASP.NET

Powerful Controls and Resources to Build Robust Applications

Development of Web sites with rich user interfaces is the order of the day, especially with the evolution of Silverlight. Many third-party companies have developed powerful controls for building cutting-edge applications with high-end user interfaces using flexible customization options. Telerik is one such company which has developed numerous controls under the nameRadControls .

A fully functional trial version of the ASP.NET suite is available for download from the secured client area after completing a simple registration process. The size of the installation package is around 180 MB; the time required for downloading the file will depend on the speed of your Internet connectivity. You also have the option to download only the required product assemblies, controls, documentation, and source code if you find it difficult to download the full package. I feel these files will be useful for advanced developers who have worked with the previous builds of the product, but they won t be helpful for beginners. The installation process took around 10 minutes to complete on my system (512 MB RAM running Windows XP Professional SP2).

The RadControls for ASP.NET product line includes 18 rich and powerful controls: RadAjax, RadCalendar, RadChart, RadComboBox, RadDock, RadEditor, RadGrid (see Figure 1), RadInput, RadMenu, RadPanelBar, RadRotator, RadSpell, RadSplitter, RadTabStrip, RadToolBar, RadTreeView, RadUpload, and RadWindow. Each control contains tons of features that will help you achieve advanced functionalities.

Figure 1: RadGrid loaded with data.

You can work with these controls either with the help of Visual Studio 2005 or NotePad. Telerik has added support for Visual Studio 2008 and LINQ in the recently released Q3 2007 build, which I used for testing. The installer automatically loads all the controls into the Toolbox. Initially, you simply need to drag and drop the controls into the editor and set relevant properties to use them using Smart Task. However, manual coding will be essential in certain scenarios for producing high-end results (as shown in Figure 2).

Figure 2: RadChart in action.

A core feature of the product is that the controls emit pure XHTML strictly based on W3C standards. This enables you to implement AJAX with the help of both the RadAjax control and the ASP.NET AJAX Framework. Moreover, the controls can be used and localized not only in Visual C# 2008, but also in Visual Basic 2008, Visual C++ 2008, and all other languages supported by the .NET Framework. I feel this feature provides flexibility for developers at a later point in time, when they decide to change from one language to another. I found that the applications developed using RadControls for ASP.NET work seamlessly with all major browsers, such as Internet Explorer, FireFox, NetScape, Opera, and Safari.

A notable feature of RadControls for ASP.NET is that, for most of the controls, such as RadEditor, RadMenu, and RadTreeView, it provides support for Right-To-Left (RTL) languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew. This means that users who know these languages can input the content starting from the right side of the screen. You ll find implementation of this feature for all controls in the near future.

I found that all the controls packaged with the product except RadUpload work under medium trust level. This feature will enable users to deploy their Web applications easily in a shared hosting environment. RadControls for ASP.NET ships with a collection of skins, along with comprehensive documentation with step-by-step explanations for each control. However, in order to use them, you ll need to manually copy and paste the contents of the Skins folder to your working directory.

Telerik provides a wealth of resources in the form of knowledge base articles, live demos, video presentations, and comprehensive documentation for each control. You can also directly interact with the product team using the online discussion forum. In addition to all these resources, you can download or print a 650-page self-paced tutorial guide in PDF format. For the benefit of developers, I d like to see Telerik distribute the tutorial in printed book format with the product, as well.

Telerik is currently working to give final shape to a new generation of .NET control toolset built on top of ASP.NET AJAX. Code-named Prometheus, this is slated for release soon. As of writing this review, the new product line is in its final beta stage as the successor of the classic ASP.NET suite. It includes such new controls as Scheduler and ColorPicker. The Prometheus controls provide seamless interoperability with the ASP.NET AJAX Framework and RadAjax Prometheus. I feel this new suite of controls will not only enhance the user experience, but also will enable developers to produce compelling Web applications. You can go through the demos located at the product page if you want to see the new product in action. Moreover, Telerik has released new controls targeting Microsoft Silverlight, named RadControls for Silverlight.

I think there is huge potential for RadControls for ASP.NET if the product is used properly. As a developer you can either develop a simple menu for your Web site or you can build customized client software for e-learning purposes. Telerik gives you access to powerful controls and resources to build robust applications; it is up to you to decide how and when to use them properly.



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

Price: Starts at US$799

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