First Looks

DXperience 7.2: Impress Users with the Latest Skins

Get your grids, charts, reports and more.

DXperience 2007 Volume 2 (DXperience 7.2) is a comprehensive subscription package of Windows forms and Web components for .NET developers who use Visual Studio. Although the suite includes ActiveX, .NET 1.1, and .NET 2.0 components, this review focuses on the expanded offerings in the Enterprise edition for use with VS 2005 applications.

This product shines immediately with a no-muss, no-fuss installation. Developer Express asks only once for your account's login credentials, which the company sends by e-mail on purchase. The setup routine fetches whatever registration code it requires, presumably by phoning home over the Internet.

The DXperience options page shows the breadth of products for Windows Forms and Web applications, which includes many types of grids, editors, charts, reports, and some non-visual libraries for printing, exporting, and spellchecking. On completion, the installer runs the Demo Center application, which is an excellent vehicle for learning what the controls can do.

Figure 1
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. Designing With Style.
DXperience 7.2 includes dozens of Windows forms components including a RibbonControl that emulates the Office 2007 interface. The eye candy includes a good selection of plain and exotic skins that you can apply at design-time or let users choose at runtime.

After clicking a link for the Ribbon End-User Designer Demo, I thought something had launched a second instance of Word 2007 with a weird menu loaded on it. On closer inspection, it was the XtraReports designer sample. Its default skin is a bang-on reproduction of the Office Ribbon interface. On comparing clicks of Word's Office button with the DXperience button, I noted that the DX menu wasn't quite as snappy as Microsoft's. Perhaps there was a fade-in effect behind the scenes.

The XtraEditors' "tutorials" (which are more like described examples than tutorials) let you investigate the features, properties, methods, and events for 30 separate controls, including the new ZoomTrackBarControl that emulates the zoom in/out control in Office 2007. The sample source code, combined with the MSDN-style reference documentation, should provide sufficient information to make most developers productive.

I was impressed with the array of attractively skinned ASP-xperience Web controls and their familiar, Microsoft-like design-time interface. As you'd expect nowadays, most of the controls reduce postbacks with client-side script and AJAX. My product wish list relates to standards: It would be nice to see Developer Express' architects move away from relying on HTML tables and towards style sheets for layouts. Likewise, they could consider building client-side functions on Microsoft's ASP.NET AJAX base rather than on proprietary libraries.

Developer Express promotes the prowess of its ASPxGridView with an online benchmark test that compares its performance and memory requirements with two unnamed and unseen competitor grids. It would be more fun to hold an online ASP.NET "datagrid drag race" with the top vendors prepping and then submitting their entries based on common requirements.

Developer Express shows confidence in DXperience--and respect for its customers--with a 60-day, "no questions asked," money-back guarantee, as well as royalty-free runtimes, source code availability, and permission to put a second copy on your laptop or build machine. Subscription renewals are reasonable at less than half of the first year price.

At A Glance

DXperience Enterprise 7.2
Developer Express

Phone: 702-262-0609
Price: $1300 per developer (first year) and $500 per renewal year.
Quick Facts: A comprehensive suite of Winforms and ASP.NET components including grids, menus, toolbars, charts, reports, printing, exporting, and scheduling.
Pros: Easy setup and registration; rich set of controls and features; good design-time support; attractive and functional samples; royalty-free runtimes; money-back guarantee; source code available.
Cons: Reliance on HTML tables for ASP.NET layouts; proprietary AJAX libraries.

About the Author

Ken Cox is a Canadian .NET programming writer and the author of "ASP.NET 3.5 for Dummies" (Wiley).

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