Build Cutting-edge Menus on the Fly
By Anand Narayanaswamy
A fully functional trial version of the product can be downloaded from http://www.karamasoft.com/Download.aspx. The installation takes less than five minutes and the Visual Studio 2005 Toolbox will automatically be populated with the relevant control. Simply double-click the entry titled UltimateMenu in the Toolbox to get started. The product includes a built-in designer that you can open by selecting UltimateMenuDesigner using the smart tag.
With the help of the designer, you can visually build and generate menus by selecting the appropriate properties. You can view the generated Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) code and the final output of the menu directly from the designer. The key advantage of UltimateMenu is that you can either save the menus as an XML file or into a database, such as Access or SQL Server. The menu can easily be updated any time by directly editing the relevant XML file or database.
Figure 1: A preview of UltimateMenuDesigner.
UltimateMenu enables you to create Vertical, Horizontal, Scrolling, TabView, Pop-up, and Drop-down menus. Moreover, you can apply a variety of effects using filters and transitions. The product enables developers to build different menus for each user, which can be done by modifying the user rights appropriately. It also displays the traversal path on one style and actual path in another style. Karamasoft has optimized the product for search engines, and it renders special output for robots. The menus can be created using a variety of styles, such as Alaska Airlines, FedEx, Microsoft, Duke University, Windows, WindowsXP, Yahoo Music, and many more.
Figure 2: A Duke University-styled menu.
Karamasoft hosts a live demo of all the menu applications at http://www.karamasoft.com/Samples.aspx?component=UltimateMenu. I was a bit disappointed that there are no menu styles for Windows Vista. Hopefully Karamasoft will include this in the next release. UltimateMenu ships with many sample applications in both C# and Visual Basic 2005.
A unique feature of the product is that it fully supports frames without any need to write code. You simply drag and drop a menu in one frameset and it will open the submenus in another frame provided you set the SourceFrame and TargetFrame properties appropriately. Another interesting fact to note is that you can insert ASP.NET server controls and HTML controls into menu items.
UltimateMenu is cross-browser compatible and works with Internet Explorer, FireFox, Mozilla, and Opera. But you should note that some of the functions will be limited if you use a down-level browser, such as Internet Explorer 5. The product includes support for HotKey, thus enabling users to use the keyboard shortcut to trigger a specific menu. Moreover, the product is XHTML 1.0 Transitional- compliant and can be integrated with ASP.NET starter kits and DotNetNuke. The complete list of all the features is available at http://www.karamasoft.com/UltimateMenu/Features.aspx.
Karamasoft provides rapid support through e-mail and a dedicated forum, located at http://forums.karamasoft.com. UltimateMenu includes documentation in the form of FAQs and tutorials, which are sufficient to get you started. I would, however, recommend Karamasoft provide them in a single HTML Help file instead of separate files, so users can navigate the content under a single umbrella.
That said, UltimateMenu is a classic product designed for developers who want to build Web sites with rich and attractive menus.
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.karamasoft.com
Price: Developer Subscription License, US$299 Enterprise Subscription License, US$999