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July 2013 - Posts

  • Supporting Windows 8.1

    Unless you’ve been taking a diving holiday in the Caribbean since before the //build/ conference (in which case, why didn’t you invite me?), you’ll know all about the Windows 8.1 (code-named ‘Blue’), at least from a user experience perspective. Well, it should come a no surprise that there are also changes to the run-time and the APIs for AppStore (aka, Metro) apps to support these UX improvements.

    Windows 8.1 Start Screen [Image (c) Microsoft]Among these enhancements and changes are:

    • A new application resizing mechanism.
    • Faster XAML load due to the ability to precompile to a binary format.
    • On-demand style loading.

    To meet all these enhancements and changes that will appear in Windows 8.1 (remember, it’s currently only in beta with a ‘late August’ RTM date), we will provide you with a new version of the DevExpress XAML controls that target this new version of the OS.

    In porting the controls to Windows 8.1, of necessity we had to make some major changes to allow your AppStore apps to leverage the new APIs and UX features. These improvements include:

    • Supporting the new application view states.
    • Optimizing the controls to use the new UX features of Windows 8.1.
    • Ensuring the DevExpress Project Templates and Item Templates are completely compatible with the new features, such as app resizing.

    Naturally, anyone reading the above is going to have some…

    Compatibility Questions

    Are these enhanced controls going to be a minor version of 13.1?
    No, they will be tagged as version 13.2. So, assuming that Windows 8.1 will RTM in August, we will immediately release a separate installer for the final version 13.2 of the Windows XAML controls. They will remain in a separate installer until we release the full version 13.2 in late 2013, when we will merge them back into the main installer again.

    Will the version 13.2 of the DevExpress Windows XAML controls work with Windows 8?
    No, they won’t. They will have been optimized to work with Windows 8.1, and will not work with Windows 8 (certain APIs will be missing, for example). So the rule here is: if you are writing AppStore apps for Windows 8, stick to 13.1. Note though that presumably users will be upgrading quickly to Windows 8.1 since it’ll be available in the Windows AppStore.

    Can I use version 13.1 in Windows 8.1, once that’s released by Microsoft in August?
    Yes, you can still use version 13.1 of the DevExpress Windows XAML controls in Windows 8.1 in compatibility mode. However, note that, in this case, you may encounter warnings caused by changes in Windows 8.1 API. You will also notice that the non-optimized controls load slower than the optimized ones.

    As always, if you need clarification, please email support at support@devexpress.com, or me directly at julianb@devexpress.com. You can learn more about DevExpress Windows 8 XAML controls here.

    If you'd like to try it out, you'll need to use a PC or VM running Windows 8.1 Preview, with Visual Studio 2013 (preview) installed. You can download the beta here. If you own a license to our Windows XAML package (or DXperience or Universal), this beta install will be available from your DevExpress account page.

  • VCL Subscription 13.1 released

    Although last week I was away at //build/, Microsoft’s developer conference for all things Windows, Azure, and Visual Studio, there was a bigger event right back in the DevExpress offices: we released version 13.1 of our DevExpress VCL package for our Delphi and C++Builder customers. This is the first major release of the year, and the team have made some important changes and enhancements to the premier VCL UI control library.

    With this release we decided to concentrate on nailing down what it means to develop performant applications with a UI that adheres to modern designs and thinking. Far too often, Delphi apps seem to be stuck in the early 2000s mindset when it just isn’t necessary. So, for example, with the new Office 2013 Ribbon style and skin, we can start to provide your end users with a fresh new look to the apps they’ll use every day: out with the grey, in with the cool minimal-chrome white.

    VCL-Office2013-Ribbon-Skin

    To add to that, how about a new form of the old standby, the context menu? We were inspired by the new radial menu in OneNote 2013 and created a control that you can use in your apps today (and we made it easy to switch your code from the previous style to the new radial one). And, heck, if your users have a touch screen ultrabook, they’ll be right at home: it practically begs the user to touch it. Talking of which, we’ve done a whole lot of work in this release to help you create touchable UIs: enhancements to controls to create bigger touch-friendly targets, better text alignment settings, superior actions with touch rather than mouse.

    VCL-Radial-Menu

    There’s one effect you really notice after using a tablet for your entertainment use: the way that grids and lists scroll. They scroll smoothly, pixel-by-pixel, yet on your desktop they scroll in jerks, row by row. Never fear, we’ve solved that problem too: welcome to flawless pixel scrolling in the grid in Table and Banded Table Views. It really is an enhancement that your users will appreciate.

    And we haven’t forgotten the developers who have to deal with lots of data. Two things of note here: we’ve improved Server Mode (our super-fast data binding mode) by adding MS Access and SQLite database support, as well as adding support for Embarcadero FireDAC (yes, we’ve sped up FireDAC, ’nuff said); and we’ve made some serious changes to our data controllers that exploit multithreading to speed up sorting and grouping in “classic” data loading scenarios. What can you expect? Well, it depends on the CPU on the client, but we’ve seen some remarkable results (*cough* four times faster *cough*, though your mileage may vary).

    VCL-Performance-Improvements

    Coupled with these and other changes, there have been many smaller enhancements and fixes, making DevExpress VCL 13.1 well worth your time to investigate. And this release of the components maintains its pole position in the VCL control suite market.

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