DevExpress Unleashes New Controls for ASP.NET
The latest edition of the control suite for ASP.NET offers almost every kind of control that a developer would need -- with one-third of the controls supporting ASP.NET MVC.
DXv2, the latest edition of the Developer Express Inc. control suite, adds controls and several enhancements to existing components for both ASP.NET and ASP.NET MVC developers. As a bonus, several of the controls support touch-based devices.
The DevExpress suite has always had a lot of controls (90-plus) but, among the controls added in this release, my favorite is a multifile upload control that simplifies the process of letting users move files to your site. The new Pivot Grid for ASP.NET MVC unleashes a tremendous amount of power for end users who want to slice and dice their data. The Filter control extension provides a good UI for letting users enter complex criteria for selecting data. The slider control fills a gap in the suite also.
If you're willing to commit to ASP.NET themes, DXv2 includes a theme builder tool that provides the kind of support for building themes that Visual Studio gives to CSS. The suite includes several themes that you can either adopt or modify to create your own. Themes are compiled into a single assembly to simplify distribution (which means that you'll have to use the DevExpress tool to modify them).
On the enhancement front, the GridView (Figure 1) is supposed to be faster (though I found it to be pretty zippy to begin with). The HTML editor control's usability (for those of you letting users enter their own HTML) is much improved. You can now, for instance, set up the control to reflect the hotkeys that your users expect from other editors.
[Click on image for larger view.]
|Figure 1. The DXv2 grid is fast, flexible and powerful -- as well as touch-enabled for scrolling, moving and resizing columns.|
If your goal is to create scheduling applications that mimic the Microsoft Office UI, then the DevExpress pack will make that goal considerably easier to achieve. My only complaint is that a typical Office-like UI will require combining several of these controls. While that gives developers a lot of flexibility, DevExpress could make developers' lives easier by offering a way to incorporate standard control configurations into the suite.
CNN predicted touch as the "top tech trend" of 2012. The DXv2 release includes support for Android touch phones (with iOS templates to follow) for ASP.NET. As an ASP.NET developer I want to be able to easily incorporate touch into my UIs while simplifying testing my touch-enabled apps. DXv2 delivers on the "easily incorporate" front: You don't have to do anything -- the controls just do the right thing in touch environments. DXv2 does less well on the second front: There's no emulator for you to test whether you're going to be happy with the results. If you have a mobile testbed in place, you'll be able to test the DXv2 controls; if you don't then you'll need to deploy your application to some smartphone-accessible site and test it from there.
The suite isn't cheap and there probably isn't a single control that, all by itself, justifies its cost. But you simply won't be able to create modern UIs without a suite like this in your toolkit (at least, not without investing a ridiculous amount of time writing your own code). If you haven't already committed to a control suite, DXv2 is an excellent choice.
Developer Express Inc.
Quick Facts: A suite of controls for ASP.NET and ASP.NET MVC developers
Pros: A rich set of controls covering the needs of most developers gets several worthwhile new enhancements
Cons: The support for touch is in its infancy and some typical application configurations require integrating several controls
Peter Vogel is a principal in PH&V Information Services, specializing in ASP.NET development with expertise in SOA, XML, database, and user interface design. His most recent book ("rtfm*") is on writing effective user manuals, and his blog on technical writing can be found at rtfmphvis.blogspot.com.