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December 2013 - Posts

  • DevExpress VCL 13.2: Modernizing your apps

    As long-time customers know, we release our new major versions at the end of the first half of the year and at the end of the second half (June and December, usually). A couple of weeks ago, we released DevExpress Universal 13.2, so this week it’s the turn of our VCL subscription. DevExpress VCL 13.2 continues our current momentum to help you show your customers and end-users that Delphi and C++Builder can be used to produce modern apps, with fresh designs and up-to-the-minute user experiences. It really is time to move away from those grey late-90s application designs.

    So if I had to pick a topic, I suppose the main motif with VCL 13.2 is modernizing your apps. New themes, touch capabilities, tablet-like behaviors all provide a framework for creating a modern UI.

    New Features and Enhancements

    Improved VCL Touch Experience More Touch. Continuing our efforts to give you touch-centric capabilities in our controls, we’ve added optimized touch behaviors to the Filter Control, the Page Control, the Tab Control, the Date Editor (shown), and the Blob Editor.


    VCL Mail Client App Office 2013 Light GrayThemes. Modern apps need modern themes. Meet Metropolis, Metropolis Dark, Office 2013 Light Gray, and Office 2013 Dark Gray. You can now provide the UI your users expect from the latest Microsoft Office suite.


    VCL Tree List Pixel ScrollingPixel Scrolling. You know how a list scrolls on your tablet? Buttery smooth, no sudden jumps? We added this per-pixel scrolling to the Table View and the Banded Table View in ExpressQuantumGrid last time, and this time we’ve added it to the ExpressQuantumTreeList, ExpressVerticalGrid, and the Layout View in the grid. When used in Touch mode, pixel scrolling is enabled by default. This feature is available nowhere else, but your users now expect that experience.


    VCL Tile Control Small TilesTiles. Windows 8.1 was recently released with a set of enhancements to the Start Screen, and we’ve migrated the major visual ones to our Tile Control. So now you have small tiles, group caption editing and multi-tile rearrangement using drag and drop.


    Summary

    These are just a few of the enhancements and new features of DevExpress VCL 13.2, mainly those that touch (pun intended) on modernizing your applications. To see all the new features – including the Icon Library and the new Color Picker -- please visit our What’s New page.

    I hope I’ve shown how DevExpress VCL 13.2 continues our drive to help you modernize the traditional VCL app. By incorporating the new Office 2013 themes and becoming more touch-aware, your applications will stand out from the crowd. And, by reading what we’ve added to our .NET WinForms product over the past year, you’ll have a very good idea about what’s coming up in 2014. It’s an exciting time to be writing apps with VCL. Stay tuned to see if you’re right!

  • VCL Roadmap news: Delphi 7 and 2007 support

    We’ve just completed our Company Summit for 2014, where we all meet up, management and team leads alike, to discuss and formulate a plan for the following year. One of the results from this endeavor is our annual Roadmap, which we publish late December/early January. Prior to this being published – and rather than burying this news in the middle of what is going to be a large document – I wanted to call out a decision we made with regard to the DevExpress VCL Subscription.

    Delphi RoadsignI’ve been saying for a while now that supporting Delphi 7 and Delphi/C++Builder 2007 is proving to be less and less viable. These older versions use shortstrings, have no modern language features, have issues with Windows Vista (!) and later (and I’ll put on my Microsoft PSA hat here and reiterate that Windows XP support is gone forever in April next year). And then I read Warren Postma’s excellent article he published a couple of days ago: “ Modernize your codebase: Inspiration to Ditch your Ancient Delphi Version”, which in essence cemented some of the feelings we have in supporting these older compilers.

    We have in place plans for providing some major new controls and features for our VCL Subscription in 2014. It should come as no surprise that these features will be inspired directly from some of the new WinForms controls and improvements we’ve provided during 2013 (here’s a list of those, should you be interested – try and guess which ones we’ll be doing for VCL in 2014). The great thing about doing it this way is that the WinForms team have found all the design and platform issues and worked around them, meaning the VCL team can avoid them and produce equivalent controls more easily. As a quick example: consider pixel scrolling. We provided it for DevExpress WinForms and then we added it to DevExpress VCL – but the WinForms team had to work out all the nuances and problems.

    But… the run-times are different (.NET is not VCL, C# is not Delphi) and so despite that there’s still quite a bit of work to do. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and all that. Compounding that with the need to consider shortstrings, the lack of generics, rudimentary interface support, a less sophisticated IDE, and so on in order to support Delphi 7 or 2007, means that our workload increases dramatically to offer a new control for arguably not much benefit. We’d rather expend our time and resources to implement new functionality for the majority than to shoehorn in a new control into a 7 to 10-year-old compiler and run-time for the small number who are still on those platforms. Hence our decision:

    From 14.1 onwards, all new controls and features published in the DevExpress VCL Subscription will only be for Delphi/C++Builder XE or later, whether 32-bit or 64-bit.

    My strong recommendation is to upgrade to Delphi or C++Builder XE5 – Embarcadero do have some attractive upgrade discounts at the moment – for at least your new projects. I’d also move your older projects forward as well, but I recognize that many people are using pre-compiled libraries from now-defunct companies and can’t do so. Either way, if you do want to use these new 2014 controls you will have to use a more modern compiler and IDE.

  • DevExpress Universal 13.2: Building modern apps everywhere

    If you’ve been a DevExpress customer for a while now you’ll know the cadence of our releases: June and December, named year dot 1 and year dot 2. So it should come as no surprise that this week is the week we’re releasing the second major release of 2013 for the .NET and Visual Studio platforms. As I look through the What’s New for Universal, I’m struck firstly by the depth of some of these new features and secondly by the breadth of platforms they cover.

    With this announcement blog post though, I’m not going to just reiterate all of the entries in that What’s New page since I’m certain you’re perfectly capable of browsing through that set of pages without a guide. Instead I’m going to take a look at the new features thematically, and the most prominent motif I see is creating modern apps.

    By “modern apps”, I’m not just talking about tiles and touch and flat UI. If that’s all this post was, I don’t know who would get utterly bored first: you reading it or me writing it. Agreed, there is a lot of that aspect to creating a modern app, but I want to define the term more broadly. Over the years, I’ve seen the general line-of-business applications we write surfacing data analytical tools as part of the app as well as shifting to being more modern in appearance. Users now expect not only grids (with the full panoply of sorting, grouping and filtering functions) but pivot grids, charts, reporting, and dashboards in their apps. They want to extract information from their data, and to present it in a visually arresting and beautiful manner. I’d say that’s what modern apps are all about.

    New features and enhancements

    DevExpress WPF Office 2013 Dark Gray Theme

    Themes. Yes, I know, I said I wasn’t going to talk about them, but I should at least point out that we now have new themes across the board. WinForms gets three themes inspired by Visual Studio (Visual Studio 2013 Blue, Black and Light); WPF and Silverlight get two Office-inspired themes, Office 2013 Dark Gray and Office 2013 Light Grey, as well as a special touch-centric modern theme called TouchlineDark; and DevExtreme gets a couple of new themes, the first for Android (Holo Light), and a generic, non-platform-specific theme for those times you want the same look and feel across all devices. Not to be outdone, ASP.NET and MVC gain a Moderno theme.

    DevExpress ASP.NET Ribbon

    Ribbon. Like it or not, but in this age of touch-enabled devices and laptops, the ribbon turns out to be a clever well-thought out UI concept and so ASP.NET/MVC finally gains a Ribbon control of its own. We’ve also increased the use of our Ribbons: many controls, such as the spreadsheet, now have the option to prefill the form’s ribbon with standard buttons and actions.

    DevExpress WPF Spreadsheet

    Spreadsheet Control. In 13.1, we previewed a spreadsheet control  -- the ultimate data analysis tool in a way – for WinForms. The control comprises two main parts: a highly-optimized spreadsheet engine that knows about cells, worksheets, formulas, the usual spreadsheet file formats, and so on, and a presentation part that has an auto-generated Ribbon UI and can display and edit data in cells. Thanks to this foresight, in 13.2 we’ve now provided a spreadsheet control for WPF and, get this, ASP.NET WebForms. Not only that, but we’ve added support for charting and mail-merges. And of course, since it’s a DevExpress control – it participates in our theming support. All in all, you can now easily create a modern analytical app on the web or for Windows.

    Windows 8 PDF Viewer Control

    PDF Viewer. Again, in 13.1 we previewed a PDF Viewer control for WinForms, with the same kind of split between “engine” and presentation as we did for the spreadsheet. In 13.2 we’ve added a PDF Viewer control for WPF and Windows 8 XAML (preview only). There’s support for zooming, scrolling, text search, embeddable fonts, and so on. The traditional Windows platforms have a ribbon interface and a search UI; the Windows 8 version supports full touch capabilities and rendering to a DirectX drawing surface for speed.

    DevExpress HTML-JS Bubble chart

    Charting. For WinForms and ASP.NET/MVC, there’s Legend Check Boxes to allow users to toggle the visibility of chart elements, and there’s automatic data aggregation of data based on chart size and zoom level. WPF and Silverlight allow for the Legend Check Boxes too; WPF also gains sparklines. The DevExtreme team have outdone themselves, and provided a plethora of new data visualization functionality: Bubble charts, constant lines, crosshairs, shared tooltips, data aggregation, logarithmic axes, and so on.

    DevExpress WinForms Map Control

    Maps. These controls have become very popular on every platform, so we’re happy to announce improvements to all our map controls. The WinForms Map Control gains automatic zooming and panning, as well as printing. It has support for route planning using Bing Services. For WPF and Silverlight we have support for item virtualization via web services to provide faster performance. DevExtreme acquires a vector map widget, allowing you to quickly configure a map with markers, tooltips, zooming, and centering.

    DevExpress Dashboard IDE Integration

    Dashboards. The biggest news here is Visual Studio integration: you can now create dashboards from within your favorite IDE. OLAP servers are now supported, as well as calculated fields and Dashboard parameters. Other additions include shapefile maps and sparklines.

    DevExpress Reporting Pre-printed Forms

    Reporting. There are new features across the board for DevExpress reporting. XtraReports Suite gains a new document view control for ASP.NET, support for pre-printed forms. and an enhanced user experience for Print Preview (such as the ability to print report selection, navigate to page number). Report Server now includes support for stored procedures and editable HTML email templates for server notifications. SNAP Reports provides mail merge capabilities, an integrated Query Builder (with parameters), and sparklines. XAF now integrates XtraReports at design time in the new ReportsV2 Module.

    Document Server. The new PDF Document Processor can find text in PDFs and retrieve results, extract text from PDFs, export any page as an image or print it. The Spreadsheet Document Processor now performs mail merge and data export operations.

    DevExpress XAF soft validation

    XAF. Apart from the ReportsV2 Module discussed above: support has been added for custom fields (and at run-time too) and soft validation rules (where entities can be committed with warning-level data errors).

    DevExtreme AndroidLightTheme

    DevExtreme. There’s a lot of new functionality here, some of which has already been mentioned. I’ll switch to a bulleted list for the rest:

    • Visual Studio integration has been enhanced greatly. There’s TypeScript support and a much-improved DevExtreme View Designer.
    • Support for iOS7 and Tizen has been added.
    • Angular.js is now supported for the UI widgets.
    • The already extensive list of mobile widgets has been supplemented with a pivot and a panorama widget (inspired by the similar widgets on Windows Phones), a popover widget (and toast), a radio group, an autocomplete textbox, an action sheet, and so on.
    • The list widget is now editable and, at your discretion, allows end-users to select and/or delete items, but even bigger than that, we’ve added support for webkit-based CSS native scrolling.
    • You can now fully localize DevExtreme applications as required. Dictionaries for the text, captions, and messages that are added by the framework to your applications are supplied with the product. In addition, you can now generate custom user dictionaries with the strings used in your application.
    • You can now use TypeScript (instead of JavaScript) when developing mobile apps with DevExtreme . The distribution includes a project template that references the framework's TypeScript definition files and provides sample TypeScript code required when developing a DevExtreme application.

    DevExpress CodeRush Debug Visualizer

    Last, but not least, CodeRush. Its XAML support has been improved with renaming identifiers, navigating through references, as well as showing code issues for undeclared static resources and obsolete members. The Debug Visualizer has had many enhancements, not limited to evaluating arguments and variables in VB and JavaScript, better evaluation and display of expression values, a unique visualization for out and ref arguments, and improved common debug workflows, such as stepping into LINQ queries and nested lambda expressions.

    Summary

    I hope I’ve shown how Universal 13.2 has expanded the definition of what it means to be an modern app. It’s not just eye-candy in the form of touch-enabled controls and modern flat UIs, but brain-candy in the form of advanced analytical and data visualization controls. By reading between the lines, you’ll also have a good idea for some of the things we’ll be adding in 2014. Stay tuned to see if you’re right!

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