A High-performance Grid for the Web

These days, every third-party component developer claims their Web grid is fast and efficient but few actually feel that way from a user s perspective. Developer Express is one of the exceptional companies that have truly delivered on that promise: their ASPxGridView control is speedy on both the client and the server.

The Competition

ASP.NET s built-in grid controls execute virtually all logic on the server side. This means lots of postbacks, lots of repetitive queries, and rebinding. It can also eat a lot of bandwidth and cause terribly slow performance under all but the simplest of circumstances. This is why third-party grid controls are so popular; they move much of the data processing to the client side to improve performance and efficiency.

To do this, most third-party Web grids download mountains of JavaScript to every user s machine to handle client-side paging and sorting tasks. Being an interpreted language, JavaScript is not known for its speed. It takes time for all that code to download and run, and user experience can vary greatly depending on the user s machine and infrastructure.

Many Web grids also utilize AJAX to fetch rows of data in the background to speed up the user s perception of performance. This achieves varying degrees of success, depending on such factors as the user s bandwidth and the size of the underlying set of data. It also depends heavily on the developer s ability to handle that data on the server in a way that is optimal for the grid s (and server s) performance. This can be a mysterious art, especially because most Web grid companies don t provide much help in that regard. In some cases, these AJAX calls may be incompatible with common AJAX libraries, such as Microsoft s ASP.NET AJAX. In other cases, their grid may not work well with alternative browsers.

Some Web grids are optimized for small sets of data, and some are optimized for large sets of data but few handle all sizes efficiently.

No Competition

Contrary to the experiences cited above, ASPxGridView has a small and highly efficient client-side JavaScript library that executes faster than any other Web grid I ve tried (and I ve tried most of them). Until I tried this grid, I was truly frustrated that all JavaScript-based grids executed so slowly. I thought it must not be possible to create a fast Web grid with JavaScript, so I d been looking intently toward future options ... maybe Silverlight would give us a good solution.

Luckily, the developers at Developer Express know what they re doing. They ve created optimized script downloads that only transmit the JavaScripts that the current page needs.

ASPxGridView supports all major browsers, including IE, Netscape, Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. However, my testing revealed some glitches when using the iPhone s version of Safari as the front end.

The Development Experience

When you first drag an ASPxGridView control onto a Web form, the initial experience is similar to dragging a standard ASP.NET GridView control onto the page; you re prompted with a smart tag (shown in Figure 1) to connect a data source or configure columns manually.


Figure 1: ASPxGridView has a familiar design-time experience, presenting a variety of smart tag formatting options.


You re also presented with automatic formatting options. Choosing one of the half-dozen included AutoFormat schemes will invoke another prompt asking if you d like the grid s image and stylesheet files automatically added to your project. Denying this prompt will cause the grid to look ugly, so I suggest you accept it.

Assuming you ve got the right database queries hooked up and your primary keys are configured correctly (which is not necessarily a trivial task), the grid automatically supports updates, inserts, and deletes if you choose to enable such features. There are an abundant variety of editing controls included for editing each field, and they can be entirely configured in many useful ways (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: ASPxGridView provides rich editing controls and features.


ASPxGridView can be programmed from the server side or the client side. Fifteen separate client-side events are provided by the grid so you can insert JavaScript as needed to provide a smooth interaction with the rest of the page.

Support System

Developer Express keeps track of your product purchases so you don t have to. When you return to their Web site after a purchase, you ll find all your purchased software permanently listed so you can re-download it anytime you like. Patches and updates are listed in full detail so you can see what has been fixed and what features have been added since the last time you visited.

Deployment is relatively straightforward. The few DLLs used by the grid can be registered in the Global Assembly Cache (GAC) on the Web server. If you re using a shared host that doesn t allow GAC registrations, you can deploy the DLLs to the standard bin folder of your Web application. However, under this lower-trust deployment scenario, you surrender the ability to export from ASPxGridView to other formats, such as Excel, PDF, and Rich Text Format (RTF).

The Developer Express website also contains all the other usual support you d expect from a professional software company, such as an FAQ section, knowledge base, forums, documentation, etc. On top of those standard options, Developer Express goes above and beyond with online tutorials and screencasts for many of their products.

The standard price of ASPxGridView is US $299.99; for an additional US $50 you get the full C# source code for the grid.

In Conclusion

You no longer need to be constrained by the limitations of ASP.NET's standard GridView control. You can upgrade into a whole new world of Web development with ASPxGridView. I suggest you download a free evaluation copy and see for yourself which of its many features are most valuable to you and your Web site.

Steve C. Orr is an ASPInsider, MCSD, Certified ScrumMaster, Microsoft MVP in ASP.NET, and author of the book Beginning ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX by Wrox. He s been developing software solutions for leading companies in the Seattle area for more than a decade. When he s not busy designing software systems or writing about them, he can often be found loitering at local user groups and habitually lurking in the ASP.NET newsgroup. Find out more about him at or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected].


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Price: Starts at US $299.99

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