ComponentOne Studio for ASP.NET AJAX
ComponentOne delivers a solid set of business-related controls with all the functionality developers need, but the reporting tools make this suite unique.
In reviewing control suites, it would be nice to have some hard metrics to use to compare them. But even something as obvious as the number of controls is hard to quantify. The ComponentOne suite adds about three-dozen controls to your Visual Studio toolbox -- about a half-dozen less than, for instance, the Telerik ASP.NET suite. But ComponentOne has a Gauge control that Telerik does not -- and the ComponentOne control can display as a dial, a slider or one of 12 other presets. So does the ComponentOne Gauge control count as one control or 12?
In the end, it's what controls you'll actually use and how productive those controls make you that count. For instance, you can use the ASP.NET Validator controls to ensure that your users enter the right data. Or you can just drop one of the ComponentOne dedicated edit controls (one each for date, numeric, currency and percent entry) on your form. For more flexibility, you can use the suite's MaskedInput control. The MaskedInput control supports a wide variety of input formats, and there's also a designer -- available from the control's SmartTag -- that includes presets for the most common data-entry tasks you'll want to support.
The suite includes both a Calendar control and a Scheduling control. I also liked the suite's Window control for creating client-side dialog windows (read more on this in my ToolTracker blog).
Unlike most suites, ComponentOne includes a complete reporting solution: A report designer and a ReportViewer control. ReportViewer supports importing Crystal, SQL Server Reporting Services and Access reports to create new ComponentOne reports. Because the object model for ComponentOne ASP.NET reports is the same as the model for Windows Client reports, you can transfer code between the two environments. For more customized document generation, a PDF control (which you won't find in other suites) lets you generate documents from your application, including adding attachments. You can even encrypt your PDF documents, making them a good choice for distributing private data.
[Click on image for larger view.]
|The ComponentOne ReportDesigner interface is similar to those of other major reporting tools.|
It doesn't seem to be possible to integrate the suite's Help information into the Visual Studio Help system -- you'll have to visit the ComponentOne Web site to read the documentation (or download the PDF file).
This is a package aimed squarely at the business developer: Controls that you'll use on almost every project. These are great controls with excellent functionality, and they're designed to make developers more productive. There aren't many of the more exotic controls that you'll see in other packages. My concern is that, for roughly the same cost -- and giving up the PDF control -- I could get a package that includes a Cloud control for tag-based navigation, a Captcha control, or a spell checker. If I'm building business applications rather than a social-media tool, do I need those controls? I suspect that I don't, and it's just my inner geek crying out for new toys. But I'd still want them.
ComponentOne Studio Enterprise for ASP.NET AJAX
Price: $895.00 (standard), $1,195.00 (with Platinum Support)
Quick Facts: A suite of ASP.NET controls targeting the fundamentals of creating Web Forms
Pros: A complete set of business-related controls that would meet the needs of most ASP.NET developers; excellent support for reporting
Cons: Overall a smaller package than others; omits some more esoteric controls
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/.