DXperience v6.3

14 November 2006

Well, we're almost there. A couple more t's to be crossed and i's to be dotted and we can release version 6.3 of our DXperience suites. For our customers who haven't been involved in the beta test, it's a little like watching a swan gliding along the water: all seems calm and collected but you don't notice all the thrashing underneath. Simply put, there has been some incredible activity behind the scenes over the past few weeks as we've striven to get this release ready. The various teams have done a great job.

So, it's about time to reveal some of the new things we've been doing to the suite, especially as Release Day is mere hours away. Although this is going to be a bit of a list, I'll talk about some of the new things later on in more detail in further blog posts.

First off, let's look at the new ASP.NET controls. There's the ASPxPivotGrid for starters: we've taken our pivot grid technology from our WinForms controls and adapted it for the web. It enables you to create pivot reports for your web apps, just as with Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access, that your end-users can manipulate by dragging field headers around to slice and dice their data, in order to get at the data's underlying meaning and sense. At long last, and a very nice implementation to boot.

After that we have the ASPxPopupControl that enables you to easily add popup windows or advanced hints to your web pages.

Of course, we haven't neglected to enhance our existing ASP.NET controls either. Overall we do a better job with our XHTML compliance (the disabled style is properly supported in all browsers); there's a new option called SyncSelectionWithCurrentPath that, when enabled, will automatically select the element (be it tab, menu item, or navbar item) that refers to the current path; and we've improved the ASPxNavBar, ASPxMenu, and ASPxPopupControl controls to enable you to bind template elements directly to the fields of the underlying data source.

Let's look at the individual ASP.NET controls now. This one is cool: the ASPxNavBar's groups can now be expanded or collapsed with a neat animation effect. Talking of collapsed headers, you can now associate an image to be displayed within the header when collapsed, and you can now even hide group headers altogether.

The ASPxMenu has had a couple of enhancements: we've added mouse over and mouse exit events to individual items, and root level items are stretched to fill the control when you resize it.

The ASPxGrid now comes with compiled resources for scripts and images, which helps with the end-user's experience when first navigating to a page with a grid. The source code comes with the scripts uncompressed, enabling you to modify them if needed and to recompress them when needed.

The Site map controls have also been enhanced. A categorized view is now available, whereby you can split your site map into several horizontal sections, and, within each section, you can arrange your links into multiple columns. Additionally, you can now control the layout direction of site map groups, whether you prefer the across- then-down or down-then across layouts, and you can arrange items within groups using a flow layout.

Now, let's check out some of the changes to the WinForms controls. I think I'll structure this to leave the best 'til last, so if you're the type of mystery reader who wants to see whodunnit rather than read through it all, you can skip to the last paragraph :)

We've done some great changes to the XtraCharts product, continuing our drive to make it a must-use, let alone a must-have. We have three new 2D chart types: Area, Stacked Area, and Full-Stacked Area (I'll talk about these chart types in a later post). We now support multiple secondary X and Y axes on the same chart (I know this has been requested a lot), and we can export a chart to Excel's XLS format. Based on other customer requests, we've enhanced the Gantt chart options so that each Gantt chart bar can show the duration rather than the start/end times, and the Gantt View now enables you to show arrows between tasks. Datetime axes are now supported; and you can specify whether a series' axes show qualitative, numeric or datetime values.

Like XtraCharts, XtraReports just keeps on getting better too. You can now embed shapes into your reports (we ship with rectangles, rounded rectangles, ellipses, arrows, polygons, stars, crosses, lines, braces, and brackets). The next thing is way cool (I saw it for the first time in the booth at TechEd Barcelona --sometimes even the CTO only gets to see these things very late in the process): you can zoom a report from 50% to 800% at design time. This makes it extremely easy to nudge controls into their correct place at design time. The ReportToolbar control has been much improved too: you now have full control over the buttons collection and each button's visibility. A new action has been added to the report toolbar to save the report result to a file without showing it in the browser.

We've added a Filter control to the XtraEditors library, a stand-alone version of the Filter Editor that ships with XtraGrid and that enables the end-user to easily construct simple and complex filter criteria. Validation has been enhanced for a form or control with the new DXDataErrorProvider.

XPO now has an ODP.NET provider for Oracle support; the new upcasting support enables you to combine base and derived classes in the same query; and there is a new easier way to implement persistent properties.

The XtraTreeList control has some spiffy new functionality. It now has fixed column support (when a column is anchored to the left or right edge, it isn't affected by horizontal scrolling). You can now find columns by the bound field's name. End-users can now move the focus away from the tree list control by using the keyboard (Ctrl+Tab). The FilterNodes method now forces the control to refilter its data, and you now have control over the incremental search facility.

The PropertyGridControl within the XtraVerticalGrid product has had some long-awaited enhancements: you can now display properties of multiple objects, and you can specify the list of browsable attributes and only properties with those attributes will be displayed. Other news for XtraVertcalGrid: grids can no be printed with the XtraPrinting library, and the grid's data can be exported to the usual suspects: XML, HTML, PDF, RTF, TXT, XLS and MHT.

On to XtraLayoutControl. I just love this control, it's so nifty; I wish I'd had it years ago. Anyway, it now has splitters, so that end- users can resize layout items without resorting to the customization form. The layout items themselves now support skinning. We've exposed some extra events so that you have finer control over whether groups can be expanded or collapsed (and when a group is expanded or collapsed), and whether the user can switch to another tab. We've also provided binding to the StyleController component, so that you can centralize layout style settings in a central place (the layout control defers its settings to the style controller). Also, at design time, when a column from Server Explorer is dragged onto a layout control, a layout item is automatically created with an editor bound to the dropped data column.

Finally, the big one (if you've jumped here from the beginning of this post, this is where you should land): XtraBars has the most complete Ribbon control that I've seen yet. We were demoing this at TechEd in Barcelona, alongside Microsoft Word from the 2007 Office System for comparison. It's so good, it's spooky. You start off with the RibbonForm which provides the big button on the top left and the re- drawn caption bar. Needless to say, not only does it work beautifully in non-Vista OSes, but in Windows Vista, it supports the standard transparency of the caption bar. The ribbon itself has all the standard controls like tabs, groups, controls (such as split buttons), galleries, the application menu, etc. It has the same animation behavior as the real thing (the animations are terrific, by the way), as well as the same popup (or is it dropdown?) gallery behavior (which you can customize). We've mimicked the ribbon behavior when the application window is resized. We've got super-tooltips and a convenient tooltip content editor for them. You can move the Quick Access Bar from the caption bar to underneath the ribbon. The ribbon has the correct hide behavior. Heck, it's almost as if I should be listing the differences in behavior, rather than what you can do with our ribbon.

That's about it for this post. Look out for more as I explore some of the new features in DXperience 6.3 and the benefits you'll see from using the suite.

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