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November 2008 - Posts

  • VCL spell checker now available unbundled

    When we originally released ExpressSpellChecker, our spell check control for the VCL, we included it as part of the VCL packages, but didn't have a separate SKU for it so you couldn't buy it on its own.

    Well, several customers have been "gently" chiding us for this decision ever since. They would like to have the spell checker without having to purchase the VCL subscription, thank you very much.

    Never let it be said we're deaf to our customers' wishes, so I'm happy to announce that as of about an hour ago, you can purchase ExpressSpellChecker on its own. (Well, not quite on its own: it also includes ExpressEditors as well, but you know what I mean.)

    Log in and pop over to the VCL order form today to see your price.

  • DXperience and Delphi Prism

    Back at PDC2008, Embarcadero announced Delphi Prism, which is essentially Delphi in Visual Studio. You can read more about it here.

    Jim McKeeth grabbed me at the show, and asked me about what DevExpress were going to be doing for Delphi Prism. And he videoed it for posterity too so I couldn't weasel out of anything I said. You can watch it here.

    The story is that we shall be supporting Delphi Prism with DXperience and we're evaluating what we need to do to make that work. As it happens: not very much -- it installs just fine and, on first blush, seems to work just fine. There are more exhaustive tests to complete, obviously.

    In other, related, news, I shall be talking at Embarcadero's CodeRage III online conference (I've been given the Monday, December 1 at 11:15am-12:15pm PT slot, an amuse-bouche before lunch). I'll be talking about using DXperience in Delphi Prism, tips and tricks. The session is pre-recorded, hence, for the next couple of days, I'll be using most of our controls in Prism and recording my findings with Camtasia for the session. So far, my conclusion is: Delphi 8 this certainly isn't.

    Stay tuned.

  • Standardization of data

    Over the past few months I've read a few blog posts decrying the good ol' Northwind database (stemming, I think, from Scott Hanselman's original post) and saying "we" (that is, the entire .NET development world) need something new and different. None of that Products and Suppliers stuff, it's so passé; we need something new.

    Actually, speaking from behind my desk with my DevExpress cap firmly on my head (photos to follow -- you mean you didn't get one at PDC?), I say phooey. We vendors not only need Northwind, but we need a richer Northwind.

    The pros of Northwind are simple to enunciate:

    • The domain is easily comprehensible. It's orders with items, it's products being sold, it's customers buying them. All developers can relate to this: you don't even have to think about the domain.
    • Since all vendors use it to a greater or lesser degree for their demos, it's automatically familiar, which apart from reinforcing the first point, also means that the developer being demoed to can just concentrate on the vendor's spiel. After all, we don't support and go to tradeshows like TechEd and PDC to sell Northwind.
    • Since it's so widespread, it becomes part of the benchmark for evaluating similar products from different vendors. If you are looking for a grid that does master/detail views and are evaluating A, B, C, and DX's versions, then you already know you've got to plug in the Orders table and the Order Details table.
    • Since it's available, it makes it easier: vendors don't have to invent, copy, or plagiarize any of this data from other places or each other in order to show off their wares.

    In essence, it's a standard.

    So what does it need? Again with my vendor cap firmly in position:

    • Multimedia data. One reason Northwind is so old-fashioned is that there are no images, audio tracks, or videos in the database.
    • Textual or memo data. Something more than a one sentence description, in other words. This could be used for showing off rich text editors, spell checkers, mail merge, etc, etc.
    • Lots of data. And I mean lots, as in many, many thousands of records. it's only through having some standard data like this that you can evaluate performance.
    • PIM-style data. You know, appointments, contacts, that kind of thing. Can't sell a scheduler control without it.
    • Data that can be charted. This is huge since there are so many different chart types. So you should have data that can be charted with bars, pies, lines; project data for Gantt charts; historical stock data for the financial charts; and so on.
    • Real-time data, that is, data that is being updated in real-time. In the past, we've hooked into the performance counters on the demo machine to show off our performance with real-time data.

    As you can see, in order for us to show off our controls, we have to spend resources and time to invent or generate an awful lot of data (and it's not like we can sell this to recoup). Northwind is just not broad or rich enough.

    We -- and you -- need standard demo data, for without it, you'll be comparing apples and oranges. Having said that, using standard data means that you run the risk of vendor code being written to work at its best with it, and if you veer off the straight and narrow the vendor's code might start to work less well. Correspondingly, if the vendor invented or generated the data, it's very likely to be invented just to show off the product being demoed. Overall, though I think standard data wins out.

  • DevExpress mentioned in VS2010 keynote at TechEd EMEA

    Yesterday TechEd EMEA in Barcelona kicked off with a keynote by Jason Zander all about the just announced Visual Studio 2010. It's still quite away from being in beta or even being released, but it's already an impressive piece of software.

    One of the new features is the editor is written with WPF. It's got a handful of new features just because of that, and also because they've gone back to the drawing board to make it very extensible from the outset. We were asked by the Visual Studio team to write a plug-in that could be shown off during this keynote, and Mark whipped up a plug-in that shows an image in the middle of the code. (Actually whipped  is what the code did to Mark: the interfaces are being worked on continuously and it was like hitting a moving target.) Mark had also worked on a version of his "Display comments as HTML" feature, but that wasn't shown.

    This demonstrates a couple of things: first of all, the ease of extensibility of the new IDE (in previous versions, this was an extremely difficult proposition, to say the least), and second, that DevExpress are working at the forefront of this new technology.


    The keynote can be seen here (there's no direct link to the actual video, just look for "Jason Zander Keynote at TechEd EMEA Developers" and play that one). At about 32:30, Jason mentions DevExpress and shows the plug-in. Unfortunately the resolution of the video is such that it's all a bit fuzzy. Nevertheless I'd advise you to watch the entire thing: there are a lot of very cool features coming down the pipe.

    UPDATE: Forgot to add that I was quoted in the official Microsoft press release about this. Fame, what's your name?


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