WinForms and DXperience v2011

04 March 2011

[UPDATE 7-Mar-2011: fixed grammar, spelling, links]

There has been some feedback recently that we’re not paying enough attention to WinForms in our product plans and roadmap, or, putting it another way, we’re paying way too much attention to WPF, Silverlight, ASP.NET MVC, this, that, and the other to the detriment of WinForms. Let’s be specific here and repeat what I said in the 2011 Roadmap with regard to WinForms:

With regard to the Windows Forms controls, it is most likely that there will be a large number of smaller enhancements and new features rather than any large complex new control. The reason for this is simple: we believe that our offerings for this platform are very mature and robust. That’s not to say that our premier controls like the grid are in any shape or form “complete”, but we recognize that more benefits will come from performance improvements, usability improvements, and simplification of the APIs than by adding major features. Nevertheless, we welcome any thoughts and feedback you may have regarding features and functionality for our WinForms controls.

The scheduler will be enhanced with the year view. It is likely that this will be in the later release rather than the earlier one.

The rich text edit control will be improved with the same features described in the Silverlight section.

sand sculptorphoto © 2005 Ambra Galassi | more info (via: Wylio)When I presented my webinars about the ideas we had for our roadmap at the time of our annual Summit (first, second) in December, I also specifically asked for your thoughts about our WinForms controls. In particular, those WinForms controls that were not part of reporting, charting, pivot grid, scheduler, rich text edit, since they are all cross-platform efforts that share functionality across the platforms. What should we be looking at, what could we implement, what would benefit most from new functionality. I had a grand total of 11 replies. There were all very good (and I thank everyone who emailed me), and I circulated them among our “thick client” R&D team.

Since then, possibly some three months before the actual release, I posted the very first sneak peek about DXperience v2011.1. Coincidentally, it was about some new functionality in WinForms: the Ribbon is gaining a mini toolbar (or whatever the official fluent UI name for it is). I have a couple more ready to write about here, again about enhancements to XtraGrid (one’s about expressions in unbound columns in server mode, one’s about date group intervals in server mode, the other’s about incremental search in column filter dropdowns). Today I got another email from R&D about a new just-added WinForms feature for XtraGrid that we can’t talk about just yet for competitive reasons. It’ll be in XtraGrid first, and then we’ll move it over to the other grids later.

So, I will reject outright that we’ve somehow “abandoned” WinForms and are ignoring it and our customers there. We had some great new features in 2010, and we’ll have some more in 2011.

The other argument is that we’re paying too much attention to all of the other platforms, Oh, and WPF’s performance sucks. And, while we’re at it, it’s dying or dead, didn’t you hear? And, of course, anyone who writes thick client apps uses WinForms. (Most of those comments make me laugh, they’re similar to what we heard from our Delphi customers when we started developing for WinForms in the first place in 2002.)

Look, like it or not, we’re in a very competitive business. All software is. Perceptions about DevExpress come from many sources, some of which we can control, some not. We want to make sure that those perceptions are as positive as we can. Examples are “How open in DevExpress?”, “How well do they support us in the community?”, “How quickly and well do they respond to support queries?”, “How attuned are they to my particular market segment?”, etc. Another one is, do people perceive that we are at the forefront of (or willing to support) new technologies?

This particular perception is a double-edged sword in a way. Yes, customers want us to support new technologies – after all, when they’re ready to move forward with those new technologies themselves, they want their favorite vendor to already be established. And, no, they don’t want us to do so because it will inevitably mean that resources are going to be diverted from their favorite product onto the new stuff.

Me, I view it as planting an apple orchard. Once the orchard is established, all that’s required is pruning, weeding, chopping down the dead trees, yadda yadda. This frees us up to try and create other types of produce: kiwi fruit anyone? Maybe those other orchards will succeed, maybe they won’t. Maybe kiwis will go out of fashion before we get established. Maybe we can’t make any money at it. But, I would stand firm and say we have to, nay, are obligated to, move the company as a whole forward by trying.

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