Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
ASP.NET website developers are always on the lookout for useful components that can enhance their websites' user experience—and even more so if those components are economically priced. Karamasoft's UISuite, a set of UI components for ASP.NET applications, fills the bill on both counts, offering components that let you add assorted UI functionalities to your website.
UISuite Overview and Installation
UISuite consists of 10 components: UltimateAjax, UltimateCalendar, UltimateEditor, Ultimate Email, UltimateMenu, UltimatePanel, UltimateSearch, UltimateSitemap, UltimateSpell, and UltimateTabstrip. The components offer many possibilities for use in ASP.NET applications. For example, you could use the UltimateMenu and UltimateEmail controls in developing a website and the UltimateEditor and UltimateCalendar controls for a web-based content management project. Each component includes a variety of options that let you adapt its use to your project's requirements.
I found the UISuite installation process to be a bit problematic. After I initiated the installation, a dialog box appeared behind the installation screen prompting me to close all open Visual Studio windows to enable the installer to add the controls into the Visual Studio Toolbox. This dialog box will probably confuse developers because you don't notice it unless you minimize the installation screen. Additionally, the installer doesn't automatically add the required controls into the Visual Studio 2010 Toolbox—an inconvenience for developers using the product.
A Look at the Components
The UltimateAjax component refreshes only a portion of a page instead of reloading the entire web page, such as for a regular post back to server, which not only minimizes the server load but also provides a better user experience. The UltimateAjax component can be used with either the standard Visual Studio Toolbox controls or with other controls in the UISuite. This component displays an HTML block that you can customize while processing the web page.
The UltimateCalendar component enables you to add a pop-up calendar and date picker to an ASP.NET application. The component also auto-detects the current culture (useful for scheduling for multi-national application users), allows creation of a scheduler, displays multiple months and week numbers, and lets you add a customized header and footer.
As the name indicates, UltimateEditor lets you integrate a WYSIWYG online HTML editor into your web applications. The editor provides support for spell checking and multiple languages, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Using the Karamasoft WYSIWIG HTML editor
The email component, UltimateEmail, provides an option to validate email addresses. The control supports mail merge and newsletters. You can also use it in Windows-based applications, as well as web-based ASP.NET apps.UltimateMenu lets you add menus to your ASP.NET applications. The menu component supports frames, context menus, and search-engine optimization (SEO). Figure 2 shows an example menu.
Figure 2: FedEx-style menu created with the Karamasoft UISuites Menu component
UltimatePanel lets you display accordion-style boxes in applications. The panel component ships with several styles that you can incorporate into ASP.NET applications. You can explore other styles in the sample demo project included with UISuite.
The UltimateSearch component allows you to add a search capability to ASP.NET applications. Both local and remote sites, including PDF and Microsoft Word documents, can be searched, and several search options are provided. For instance, you can display time in seconds on the search results page.
The remaining three components included with UISuite let you add a sitemap, spell checker, and tabs to your applications. A key feature of the UltimateSiteMap component is that it automatically adds breadcrumbs to all pages. It also allows a sitemap to be displayed in either a table or treeview. UltimateSpell performs spell checking as words are typed and can spell check 1,500 words per second from more than 34 dictionaries. And UltimateTabstrip lets you create both hierarchical and multi-line tabs and define your own style for the tabs.
UISuite is distinguished by its simplicity. You only need to follow certain steps, such as adding controls to the Toolbox and setting properties, to incorporate a component's functionality into your web application. I recommend you check out the live demo of all the components included with UISuite to get a sense of the product's usability.
The UISuite installation package consists of 10 different files for each component, which makes the installation process somewhat cumbersome. I would like to see Karamasoft provide a single installation file that lets you either install either all components or only few selected components, according to preference.
The vendor should also update the documentation provided for each product in the suite—for example, the documentation refers to Visual Studio .NET in many places instead of Visual Studio 2010.
As of the time of this writing, Karamasoft has released a separate suite of controls for the Silverlight platform, which developers can use to implement search and spell-check functionalities in Silverlight applications. I hope the vendor will release more controls for Silverlight in the near future.
Notwithstanding these relatively minor wish-list items, I found the components Karamasoft's UISuite to be easy to use and highly functional. Developers who want to add intuitive UI capabilities to their ASP.NET applications will find the UISuite components to be a worthwhile investment.