WebUI Studio.NET 2007 R1
Accelerated Web Development
By Anand Narayanaswamy
Unlike many of its competitors who overhyped ASP.NET AJAX, Jakarta-based component vendor Intersoft Solutions Corp. stands out of the crowd with its new 2007 platform strategy by offering exciting components that significantly boost developers productivity. WebUI Studio.NET 2007 R1, the company s flagship User Interface Suite, was the most anticipated release in 2007, delivering five products with more than 500 new features and enhancements with which you can develop smart-looking ASP.NET 2.0 applications in a short period of time.
Even though the market is scattered with similar products, it s the simplicity in usage that sets this above the others. I have seen many components where I need to follow complicated steps to integrate a specific control onto my Web site. But with the help of WebUI Studio.NET 2007 R1, I successfully created and deployed without any major effort my Web site powered with some of the controls shipped with the suite. Moreover, costly development time can be reduced because the product makes use of intuitive designers and wizards. This review presents what the product has to offer for developers and end users.
A fully functional trial version of the product can be downloaded from the vendor s Web site. The installation file is around 85MB; I downloaded it within a few minutes using a high speed broadband connection. One noteworthy point I should mention is that the product fully supports both Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition and Visual Studio 2005, so if you don t have access to Visual Studio 2005, you can make use of Visual Web Developer 2005 Express and start to build amazing Web applications using the product.
WebUI Studio.NET 2007 R1 (http://www.intersoftpt.com/WebUIStudio) includes 17 advanced components divided into five product suites: WebGrid.NET Enterprise 5.0, WebCombo.NET 4.0, WebInput.NET 3.0, WebDesktop.NET 2.0, and ISDataSource.NET 1.0. WebUI.NET Framework 2007 is the base framework, without which you can t run any applications developed using the product. Hence, even if you develop an application using WebDesktop.NET 2.0, you should include references to the relevant libraries of the base framework.
I had worked with previous versions of WebGrid.NET and WebCombo.NET and noticed that the vendor has now completely redesigned them by including a wide range of new functionalities. ISDataSource.NET 1.0 is a new product that you can use to seamlessly connect to the database. The core feature of this new product is that it supports declarative multiple table views and a hierarchical-relational dataset.
WebGrid.NET Enterprise 5.0 (http://www.intersoftpt.com/WebGrid) is an advanced Grid component included with the product. It provides advanced features that enable enterprise-class information to be delivered in hierarchical navigation with sophisticated user interaction, allowing users to work with the information in a more effective and productive way. The latest version provides support for Excel-style column freezing/unfreezing (see Figure 1), declarative data binding, resizable text boxes, self-referencing tables, a layout manager, a localization manager, built-in cell validation, edit types, aggregate functions, advanced load on demand, VirtualLoad paging mode, and RowChecker.
Figure 1: The column-freezing functionality in action.
An interesting point to note is that there is no need to write a single line of code because all the features can be directly enabled using the SmartTag. In addition to these features, the product also includes significant enhancements in performance and output optimization, and a simplified deployment model through SmartWebResources technology.
WebCombo.NET 4.0 (http://www.intersoftpt.com/WebCombo) is an advanced component with flexible styles customization and advanced input features. The product includes revolutionary features such as multiple columns, Microsoft Outlook-style multiple items selection, linked combo settings, Vista-style image animation, a layout manager, improved on-the-fly postback architecture, wildcard search, an additional search field, minimum character request, and an update manager. Based on feedback from customers, the vendor has implemented XHTML Transitional DOCTYPE with all functions and layout that works the same as in normal DOCTYPE.
These features significantly reduce the time required for rendering the output; it is made possible with the improved mechanism in handling the control style so that WebCombo instances that enable DefaultStyle don t generate any inline styles in the page. Instead, these WebCombo instances automatically share the same reference of external style sheet, which is retrieved through WebResource.
WebInput.NET 3.0 (http://www.intersoftpt.com/WebInput) is a rich and multi-purpose user input masking control. With the help of this product you can easily create applications with the ability to perform data formatting, input masking, data validation, and character highlighting, thus reducing the possibilities of run-time errors and database crashes. The product tightly integrates with WebGrid.NET Enterprise and WebCombo.NET, which enables developers to design applications with consistent input user interfaces and styles. Moreover, the product includes masking support for Chinese, Japanese, French (see Figure 2), and Korean language cultures, and comes with an intuitive wizard that enables you to create powerful input behavior with only a few mouse clicks and without any need to have extensive knowledge in masking characters.
Figure 2: Performing masking in French.
If you want to build Web pages with great looking user interfaces, check out WebDesktop.NET 2.0 (http://www.intersoftpt.com/WebDesktop) it contains 13 powerful components: WebDesktopManager, WebToolBar, WebPaneManager, WebTab, WebStyleManager, WebMenu, WebSplitter, WebDialogBox, WebNavPane, WebButton, WebFlyPostBack, WebNotification, and WebExplorerPane.
WebDesktopManager is truly impressive; you can create classic Windows-style Web applications with the help of icons and the taskbar (see Figure 3). Moreover, the Desktop Manager also ships with more than 40 advanced features, such as Flexible window-level configuration and the ability to create items dynamically from the client side. You can even create applications that display Microsoft Outlook 2003 and MSN Messenger-style notifications.
Figure 3: Build classic desktop-style Web applications.
You can view the live functioning of some of the core features of the product at http://www.intersoftpt.com/WebDesktop/Default.aspx?page=Gallery. Now let s discuss how to make use of some of the important controls so you ll get an idea about the simplicity of the product. As soon as you drop the WebGrid.NET control, its designer will appear on the Design view. You can then easily connect to the relevant database and activate various functionalities by using the SmartTag.
Similarly, take a look at the WebTab control; you ll notice content can be added to the relevant tabs directly from the designer, as shown in Figure 4. I haven t found this kind of feature in any of the competing products I ve used. The vendor calls this technology ClickAndEdit, and it is only one of 13 innovative technologies exclusive to WebDesktop.NET. The vendor has outlined the benefits of all these technologies at http://www.intersoftpt.com/WebDesktop/Default.aspx?page=Benefits.
Figure 4: Explore the rich features included with WebGrid.NET and WebTab controls.
The product ships with several sample applications in both C# and VB that can be accessed either from the relevant installation folder or directly from the Start menu. A live online demo of all the sample applications with corresponding source code including the relevant product documentation, knowledge base, white papers, and videos can be accessed at http://support.intersoftpt.com. These resources will enable users to learn more about the technology behind these products. The vendor also maintains a blog at http://intersoftpt.wordpress.com, through which users can directly interact with the product team more effectively. I was impressed by the support provided by the vendor; they clarified all my questions immediately through e-mail. The vendor also hosts a secure developer network and provides special privileged support for subscribers.
Even though the trial version displays a series of message boxes at run time, you can use it to explore the wide range of new features and enhancements. I d like to see the vendor provide a facility for customized installation so end users can choose the drive and the required products for installation (the current installation process doesn t provide this functionality). The vendor should also open a public discussion board on their Web site for the benefit of end users.
Other than that, I highly recommend WebUI Studio.NET 2007 R1 to any Web developer who wants to build professional and sophisticated Web applications in a short period of time. The product is extremely lightweight, and quickly and easily performs many stylish functions.
Anand Narayanaswamy, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), works as an independent consultant and runs NetAns Technologies (http://www.netans.com), which provides Web hosting services based in Trivandrum, India. Anand also works as a technical editor lead for http://ASPAlliance.com. He runs http://www.Learnxpress.com, http://Dotnetalbum.com, and http://Csharpfaq.com. Anand is the author of Community Server Quickly (Packt Publishing). You can explore more information about the book at http://www.communityserverbook.com. Find out more about him at http://www.visualanand.net or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.intersoftpt.com