Product Reviews

Inside Developer Express DXperience ASP.NET

The award-winning component suite is a powerful tool for ASP.NET app development.

The DXperience ASP.NET bundle includes almost every control an ASP.NET developer will need. The controls show that Developer Express Inc. (DevExpress) understands what developers want, even if the support for client-side code is odd.

A Visual Studio Magazine Readers Choice Award winner in our November issue, Developer Express DXperience ASP.NET offers a host of well-designed controls that support developers effectively. Not only does it include docking and menu controls as well as a grid, the suite also has a complete set of controls for creating scheduling applications, a spellchecker, a chart control and a report viewer. And there are still more goodies, besides.

Throughout the DXperience package, there's evidence that DevExpress understands the needs of application developers. For instance, rather than dump the controls into one enormous tab, the additions to the toolbox are organized into sensible groups.

As another example, the ASPxSiteMapDataSource lets you create or edit your site map from the control's SmartTag. The site map editor that pops up analyzes your site structure to create a default site map. You can then drag nodes around to customize the site map. It's a minor feature, but it's also a feature that's always been missing from Visual Studio. Adding custom elements or attributes to the site map is not supported, however.

The ASPxGridView supports editing and deleting rows as well as inserting new rows. Additional options allow users to sort and filter rows by providing criteria at run time. Developers can also define groups within the grid to generate subtotals, which -- along with the sorting and filtering features -- provide users with a simple interactive reporting tool.


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Accessible from the ASPxSiteMapDataSource, the Site Map Editor that's included in the DXperience suite lets you generate a site map using drag and drop.

All of the DXperience controls provide an extensive client-side object model that can be manipulated from JavaScript. You can access all the client-side events for a control from a control's SmartTag, which pops up a dialog box that lists all the events for a control with a skeleton function for each event. The code you write is then added to attributes on the control and is inserted into your HTML when the page is requested. While this makes it convenient to both enter and find client-side, event-driven code (and protects you against changes in the control's name), it also locks you off from the enhancements that Visual Studio has made to its support for JavaScript code.

Many controls include a template CSS stylesheet, which references the control's CSS classes. You can incorporate that template's entries into your site's stylesheet hierarchy and modify it to apply your styles to those portions of the control's HTML.

Given the number of controls involved, effective documentation is essential. By default, no Help support is installed on your computer -- it must all be accessed over the Internet. A separate download will install the Help documentation on your computer. A link in the DevExpress menu entry will take you to the company's Demo Center, which has a huge selection of demos, all with source code (the Help file includes numerous examples, too).

Not surprisingly, the first time you start Visual Studio after installing the package, you'll find that you must wait while the package infrastructure initializes. Don't panic! Subsequent startups will return to your normal experience -- except that you'll have all of these cool new controls at your fingertips.

DXperience ASP.NET

Developer Express Inc.
Web:
devexpress.com
Phone: 818-844-3383
Price: $799
Quick Facts: A large set of controls covering the needs of most ASP.NET developers in one package
Pros: Throughout, the controls reveal an understanding of what developers need to build applications
Cons: Support for JavaScript client-side events doesn't integrate well with Visual Studio



About the Author

Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter tweets about his VSM columns with the hashtag #vogelarticles. His blog posts on user experience design can be found at http://blog.learningtree.com/tag/ui/.

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