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May 2014 - Posts

  • .NET Spreadsheet Control (Coming soon in v14.1)

    Back in my younger days, I was a Lotus 1-2-3 buff. There was nothing I couldn’t do with the ‘/’ menu system and 1-2-3’s formulas. I’d take raw spreadsheets that the bank’s traders had made to price options and other derivatives and convert them to better, more secure, less error-prone DOS apps. So last year I was heartened to find that we were releasing spreadsheet controls for our major platforms: WinForms, ASP.NET (as a preview), and WPF. It’s now been a while and it’s time to see what our spreadsheet dev team have been up to for DevExpress Universal 14.1.

    WinForms and WPF

    The spreadsheet controls we built for WinForms and WPF (for Windows applications) were the most full-featured of the spreadsheet controls we released last year, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t room for some expansion.

    Password Protection for Worksheet and Workbook Elements

    From 14.1, you can protect worksheet data or workbook elements to make them “read-only” so that you prevent your users from modifying them. As part of this data protection feature, you can specify a password that users must enter to edit protected worksheets, to change the structure of a workbook, and even to set the size and position of worksheet windows. In addition, you can extend permissions to users in order to edit certain ranges in a protected worksheet.

    Here’s the dialog to set password protection in WinForms:

    win-Spreadsheet-Password-Protection-14-1

    Chart Object Model and API

    The Charting and DrawingML object models are now available via a public API. You can create all chart types in code, specify the layout and position of chart elements, and customize series markers and labels.

    Formula Builder

    With this release, we've added Insert Function and Function Arguments dialogs in order to assist end-users when creating formulas containing functions.

    Text Search

    No more manual scanning of data in your workbook: the spreadsheet control now allows you to find and replace text in a range, worksheet, or in the entire document.

    Name Manager

    Names make your formulas much easier to find, understand, and maintain. The Name Manager allows you to add, edit or delete names in a workbook.

    New Worksheet Functions

    Always the fun part... What's new with the available functions? Student’s t-test anyone?

    • Real-Time Data Function - retrieves real-time data (RTD) from a COM server. If the server continually updates its data, RTD formulas are automatically recalculated to reflect changes.
    • Statistical Functions - LINEST, CHISQ.DIST, CHISQ.DIST.RT, CHISQ.INV, CHISQ.INV.RT, CHISQ.TEST, GAMMA.INV, T.TEST.
    • Compatibility Functions - CHIDIST, CHIINV, CHITEST, GAMMAINV, TTEST.

    Miscellaneous Improvements

    Among these major improvements, there are several minor, yet still important, improvements. 

    • Export to HTML.
    • A Formula Engine that provides access to formula elements.            
    • Ability to programmatically sort data in worksheets.
    • Ability to manually paint a line that separates frozen panes on a worksheet.
    • Ability to specify the width of row headers and height of column headers, in pixels.

    ASP.NET WebForms

    We released the DevExpress ASP.NET Spreadsheet control as a community preview back in December, 2013. The feedback from our customers has been very beneficial to us in targeting issues and improvements; so with this update, we are officially releasing the product. It hasn’t just been bug fixes over the past half-year though, we have added the following new features for the official release:

    • Built-in file management menu items (create, open and save).
    • Ability to use an external ribbon control.
    • Built-in mail merge capabilities.
    • Touch and Theme support.
    • Support for hidden columns and hidden rows.
    • Support for the standard ASP.NET localization capabilites.
    • Dialog window design improvements.
    • Optional grid lines.
    • Additional client-side events and API.

    ASP.NET MVC

    Alongside the official release of the DevExpress ASP.NET WebForms spreadsheet control comes the new MVC spreadsheet extension. Everything you liked about the WebForms version is now available with ASP.NET MVC. Specifically it ships with the following features:

    • Auto-Generated UI
    • Automated Formula Calculation Engine
    • Built-in Spreadsheet Functions
    • Cell References and Formatting
    • Cell and Cell Ranges
    • Rows and Columns
    • Charting, Pictures
    • Worksheet Management
    • Built-in Menus (Create, Open and Save)
    • Mail Merge
    • Touch and Theme Support

    Let me know what you think!

    • DevExpress source server: some musings

      In between all the hoopla on getting 14.1 tidied up and released, some of our devs have been mulling over the possibility of us providing a debug server. Yes, I know, right? When do they have the time for that? But, hold on, a debug server?

      Tin can phoneWay back when (OK, it was last year), I talked about us providing PDB debugging files for our products. The theory went like this: you would download the PDB files for the DevExpress version you have (you also need the source code, by the way), do some non-trivial configuration, and bingo you would be able to debug into our code in your app. All well and good, but the “non-trivial” bit was catching people out.

      So, our devs are proposing a better solution. We could introduce a new debugging service for our customers. If the customer has a license to a package that includes source, the installer could configure Visual Studio to add our debug source server (much as Microsoft suggest people do for .NET). As a result, a customer who licenses our source code will be able to ‘F11’ as they are debugging in Visual Studio to step into a method, including our source code. This way, customers will get a better understanding of how our controls are made and how they work. No longer will they just be that Old DevExpress Magic; which, in a way, is a bit of a pity…

      On today’s morning coffee break, the devs positing this service have finished their spike to show that it is feasible. They set up a sample internal source server and an authorization module, and used it for debugging in Visual Studio. In other words, we have shown that we can technically do this.

      Now the big question: should we? What do you think? Have you been thwarted by the PDB solution? Have you used the Microsoft source server for debugging into the .NET source code and wish you could do it for other products? Feedback is welcome.

    • HTML5DevConf and DevExpress: we’re there, are you?

      This week is the Spring edition of the HTML5DevConf (they do another in the fall) at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. On Thursday they have a complete set of sessions (the remainder of the week is training) and they also open up an Exhibit Hall for those vendors who want to show off their wares. Since we have some new fun stuff to talk about in the HTML5 space, albeit not quite released, we shall be there with our famous backlit booth panel and demoing the new features (*cough* client-side datagrid *cough*), new enhancements, new everything.

      DevExpress backlit booth

      (Here’s the backlit booth from TechEd; the artwork will be different for HTML5DevConf.)

      Present will be Mehul Harry, Paul Usher, Areg Yeghnazar, and me. If you’re there, do please come along Thursday and say hi. We have UI Superhero T-shirts and laptop stickers to give away, so don’t dawdle.

      As an added bonus, Mehul and I will also be presenting a couple of talks in Pacific N on the same day. Mehul’s is from 10:40am to 11:30am, and his subject is “Write Once, Deploy to Multiple Mobile Platforms”, enough to give you an appetite for lunch. My talk is “Breaking Bad: you CAN make secure fast web pages” from 2:30pm until 3:20pm, and I promise to teach you the vagaries of loading JavaScript asynchronously amongst other things.

      Hope to see you!

    • DevExpress wins Best of TechEd 2014 for Software Development

      So, there was this little conference in Houston this week. The locals (and everyone else, come to that) called it Microsoft TechEd 2014, and it seems that several thousand attendees were there; and, to be honest, I think I shook hands with the majority. Yes, DevExpress was there in the shape of Seth Juarez, Mark Miller, Mehul Harry, Amanda Christensen, Jeff Cosby, and yours truly, and we were showing off our snazzy new backlit booth. Er, I mean our wide-ranging suites of UI controls, frameworks, and libraries for all .NET platforms, as well as our HTML5/JS widgets and libraries. And our charting solutions. And our reporting suites. And our dashboards. All part of our DevExpress Universal product.

      Best of TechEd 2014 WinnerAs you may gather, there’s an awful lot to talk about with Universal. Part of the fun of TechEd is that Microsoft and Penton Media (the publishers of Windows IT Pro) co-sponsor a set of nine awards under various categories that celebrate the very Best of TechEd. We were finalists with DevExpress Universal in the Software Development category, and I drew the short straw to explain it all to the TechEd Award judges in 25 minutes or less. Luckily I can speak quickly when pressed and my slides and demos were pre-loaded for maximum performance. It seems our feature-rich suite, my patter and familiarity with the product (and with the help of several throat lozenges) worked: on Wednesday evening, just before the Exhibit Hall was to close for the day, DevExpress was awarded the Best of TechEd 2014 for the Software Development category.

      Can I tell you how wonderful this is? Only a few weeks ago, Universal won the Jolt Award for Best Programming Library (with quotes like “the Jolt Award winner this year led the field by a sizable margin — a comparatively rare occurrence” and “stunned by the vast amount of functionality delivered in this library packaged with remarkable polish and attention to details”) and now it’s gained the Best of TechEd 2014 Award for Software Development. Brilliant!

      To say we are pleased is an understatement. It certainly could not have been done without our customers – you – holding our feet to the fire and providing feedback, good and bad. Without you pushing, we may not have had the verve and commitment to keep on polishing the code and UI, adding new controls and features, improving the services we offer, and just making it all better and better. (Oh, and I think our development teams may have had something to do with it: thank you ladies and gentlemen!)

      DevExpress wins Best of TechEd 2014

      Just to prove it, here’s Mark, me, Mehul, and Seth whooping it up at the booth with the award!

    • Support for .NET Client Profile being discontinued

      OK, color me surprised: I thought we’d discontinued supporting the .NET Client Profile a while back, but it seems I am wrong. First of all, a little background.

      Way back in .NET 4.0 beta days, Microsoft introduced a “smaller” set of .NET assemblies that contained the major part of the .NET Framework. The idea was that deploying the majority of .NET apps would result in a smaller download should the deployed-to PC not actually have the Framework installed. I wrote about this in October 2009 – “Using the .NET 4 Client Profile” – when we were learning about the proposal (at PDC if I recall correctly). We spent a considerable amount of effort at the time in order to try and support this new initiative from Microsoft – you can get hints from reading between the lines in that old post.

      Given all this, my question to you is, do you use .Net Client Profile when deploy your application? If so, here is some important news.

      Although Microsoft continued to support the .NET Client Profile in .NET Framework 4.0, they discontinued it in 4.5. The reason was simple: the size of complete framework had decreased by about 15% anyway, all it did was introduce headaches for developers and their end-users, and current Windows installations include the Framework by default. Based on this, we have decided to stop supporting .NET Client Profile in 14.1 for some products, and we are going to completely stop supporting it in v14.2. Doing so will allow us to get rid of some unnecessary assemblies; however it will mean a breaking change should you still be using the .NET Client Profile.

      What do you think? Are you still using it? Do you rely on this functionality still? Please let me know your thoughts.

    • RAD Studio XE6 supported with DevExpress VCL

      Just a quick note to let our VCL customers know that the latest minor release of the DevExpress VCL product fully supports Delphi and C++Builder XE6, for both 32-bit and 64-bit.

      And, just as a little teaser for some news about our 14.1 release…

      VCL Map Control using Bing Map provider

      Yes, that is a screenshot from a Delphi app (click on it for the full view), from a native control no less, using Bing as the map provider. But, you didn’t hear it from me, OK? Just remember, if you want the most complete, the widest breadth of user interface controls, and the best user experience for your Delphi and C++Builder apps, look no further.

      Stay tuned for more complete news about 14.1: code freeze is just around the corner. In the meantime, enjoy XE6 the way it was meant to be used: with DevExpress VCL.

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