telerik s Suite Deal
By Mike Riley
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts an axiom made evident in telerik s r.a.d.controls collection of .NET components. r.a.d.controls consists of 9 individual products that can be purchased separately, but like other component suites, work best together as a cohesive package. Not only is the rendered UI output of these components designed to complement one another, but the programming interfaces are also similarly defined as they should be.
Although not nearly as comprehensive as its expensive competitors, r.a.d.chart nevertheless holds its own when it comes to delivering an impressive array of chart types and flexible customization. Stacked bar, area, gannt, bubble, and beizer are just a few of the types available, and these can even be combined on the same chart for improved data visualization. Charts can also persist on the client, reducing chatty network round tripping. Users can drill down on chart selections via postback events or client-side image maps, though this approach obviously requires additional programming and a thought-out process for effective presentation of the data.
r.a.d.designer and r.a.d.editor
Developing a content management system often requires a rich editing front end for text entry and image placement. One can often tell when a site has poor editing tools because the text is always formatted the same way and rarely takes advantage of typographic emphasis. Both r.a.d.designer and r.a.d.editor are Web applications designed to work within multiple browsers (including Firefox, although, unlike some of the other controls in the suite, these two design surfaces do not yet fully support the Apple Safari browser), yet deliver a presentation layer to the user that is similar to a rich word processing application. r.a.d.designer is a WYSIWYG environment that integrates r.a.d.editor to provide the rich text manipulation that the editor provides (see Figure 1). For example, tables, CSS styles, spell check, undo/redo, and document file upload are just a few of r.a.d.editor s features.
Figure 1: Remarkably, the rich text editing functionality of the r.a.d.editor can be hosted within a non-Microsoft browser on a non-Microsoft operating system.
Even more remarkably, r.a.d.editor is ready for .NET 2.0, and is one of the first commercially available 2.0 tools that supports .NET Themes. Advanced features such as user roles, XML localization, and static placement of text directly into an ASCX/ASPX file is also supported. Although this editor doesn t replicate everything a rich client word processor might offer, it intuitively provides nearly every editing need an author might require when adding/modifying content to their Web site. These applications are worth the price of the entire suite!
Although not as overflowing with the breadth of features found in the other r.a.d. components, this handy boundary control nevertheless plays the same panel role as those found in other visual programming panels; namely, the hosting of other controls within an organized pane, complete with collapsible multi-level menus and nested treeviews that can display using 15 different effects (within IE only), including various fades and wipes, spiral, slide, and zigzag, to name a few (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: A multi-OS example of the r.a.d.panelbar running perfectly within the Linux-centric Konqueror Web browser.
This control is used for dynamically displaying text via a single character typewriter effect or a scrolling effect. The text can be fed from standard strings, XML, or populated from database query results. What makes rotator even more compelling than the multitude of freeware text effect controls is its ability to embed other HTML, ActiveX, and .NET components into this enhanced r.a.d. component. Imagine DHTML or Flash-activated displays rotating at fixed intervals, creating a dashboard portal that self-contains all the content a user needs, streaming updates to the control and its embedded dependencies. Like other controls within the suite, r.a.d.rotator is multi-browser compliant, design-time friendly, and can be instantiated multiple times on the same page.
Best designed to complement the editor component, r.a.d.spell can also be used as an ASP.NET server-side or rich client-side component. It can tie into Microsoft Word libraries installed on the Web server to ensure broad word lookup functionality. Custom dictionaries and localization via 19 languages as well as support for spellchecking options such as all caps and ignore words with numbers properties can be enabled as well, making this component valuable for any content editor relying on the Web interface to enter text in real-time without the embarrassing concern of misspellings in the posts.
A relatively simple control compared to the others in the suite, r.a.d.tabstrip nonetheless provides a UI boost for designers seeking an intuitive navigational approach. The tabstrip can incorporate graphics, overlapping backgrounds, and embedded controls, and can be oriented vertically or horizontally to best suit the optimal page layout.
r.a.d.treeview provides expanding/collapsing static or data-bound nodes, with each node customized with individual CSS assignments depending on the state of the focused node. Trees can be sorted and multiply selected and still retain their position between postbacks. The slickest feature of the treeview is its ability to accept drag/drop events, far extending its functionality beyond simple navigation display. Nodes can be dragged from one treeview to another, and on HTML elements such as text and images to create a dynamic array of interface interactivity. The control is .NET 2.0 compatible, Section 508 compliant, and works within all the major browsers (see Figure 3). Right-click context menus can also be attached to any node, further enhancing an efficient user experience.
Figure 3: The treeview control offers a unique drag n drop capability rarely found in competitive treeview alternatives.
r.a.d.controls represents a tour de force of powerful, elegantly designed .NET components that for the most part render to all the major browsers across platforms. This is a true testament to the dream that Microsoft outlined in their original .NET vision of client-side independence and a rich user experience. Placing these controls on your design surface will propel a simple interface into a compelling, sophisticated presentation that has the look and functionality of a rich client application rather than the thin client Web site it represents.
telerik has done a fantastic job with this component collection, and provides excellent documentation and a bountiful heaping of exciting examples that can also be viewed online at their Web site. The company regularly updates the suite, not only with the usual technical improvements but each new release brings a slew of enhancements that further elevate them beyond what one might think a typical interface control might provide. Because of their aggressive speed of improvements, I recommend the subscription option that will provide cutting edge designers with some of the very latest UI Web controls one can buy for the .NET platform today.
Mike Riley is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. Readers may contact him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.telerik.com
Price: Single-developer license, US$799; single-developer license plus subscription, US$999.