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December 2014 - Posts

  • WinForms Layout Control: Design-time templates

    As with all matters in development, oftentimes we find ourselves building a user interface or part of a UI that is remarkably similar to something that we’ve just built. To avoid the repetition – in code, that is – we have had up to now several strategies:

    1. UserControls. This is certainly a viable solution if you have exactly the same UI that you want to reuse. If not, then it’s more work than it’s worth.
    2. Code generation. This works pretty well (I’ve done this before in my dim and distant past, for example), apart from one drawback: you don’t get to see your UI at design-time.
    3. Visual Inheritance. Man, if you go this route, good luck. This just smacks of over-engineering to me; I think I’ll stick with UserControls.

    The new version of the DevExpress WinForms Layout Control in v14.2 provides another much simpler way: design-time templates. This new feature allows you to save frequently-used layouts as templates and then be able to reuse those templates when necessary in your projects.

    As an example of how this works, let’s create a compound waybill form that shows the need for some UI reuse. Here’s what we’re aiming for:

    WinForms Layout Control: Example Waybill Form

    Notice that the “SHIPMENT FROM” and the “TO – CONSIGNEE’ sections are very similar: they both have addresses, and also similar ‘name’ fields.

    We proceed as normal when using the Layout Control by adding groups. When we get to the “SHIPMENT FROM” group we design it as normal, but before moving onto the group underneath which is very similar, we right-click the group we just created and select Create Template. Enter a unique name for the template and save it: you now have a reusable template in your repository. (All custom templates thus created are stored in the %Public%\Documents\DevExpress\XtraLayout\UserTemplates folder as XML files.)

    WinForms Layout Control: creating a template

    We’re now ready to use this new template. We go to the LayoutControl’s Customization Form and switch to the Templates tab. Locate the template in the list and drag it onto the form. The Customization Form allows you to see a preview of the template before we use it.

    WinForms Layout Control: Using a custom template

    Once the template has been dropped onto our form, we can customize the layout as desired, so changing the title to “TO – CONSIGNEE” and rearranging and re-captioning a couple of other fields.

    If you find that even creating a template is too much of a nod to reuse (you only want to reuse a particular layout once, for example), then we have also improved the copy/paste functionality of the Layout Control. In essence, select the group you wish to duplicate, press Ctrl+C to copy it, and then Ctrl+V to paste it. (In actuality, this shortcut is also based on the new templates feature, but the template created is not persisted.)

    Please note that the templates mechanism is version-agnostic. You can create templates in one version of the DevExpress WinForms suite and continue to reuse them in subsequent versions.

  • Silverlight’s future at DevExpress

    Over the past year, it has become increasingly apparent to the Microsoft development market that Silverlight has become sidelined. Silverlight 5, the current major version, was released December 9, 2011, three years ago. Apart from a series of minor updates occurring at roughly 6 month intervals, the only code changes have been security updates propagated through Windows Update. Compare that with the rapid-fire releases of Silverlight 1 through 4 (Sep-07, Oct-08, Jul-09, Apr-10) and you soon begin to wonder what Silverlight’s future portends.

    Driving on road towards the setting sun © rasica - Fotolia.comNow, first things first: Microsoft have provided a standard Product Lifecycle for Silverlight that states, in summary, Mainstream Support for Silverlight 5 will end on December 10, 2021. (Support for Silverlight 1 – 4 has already ended.) That’s the official news.

    Apart from that, there is no real explicit news about Silverlight’s future. Last month, when Microsoft were open-sourcing .NET Core 2015, talking about Visual Studio 2015 and ASP.NET vNext, and providing early bits for testing, there was a blog post detailing a roadmap for WPF, but, tellingly, there was nothing about Silverlight. For all intents and purposes then, we are left with the impression that Silverlight is in maintenance mode.

    From my viewpoint, I’d say this: the overall strategy of the web application market is moving away from the requirement for browser add-ons. It’s HTML5 and JavaScript and client-side controls and web services and simple deployment and the cloud. Not that Silverlight can’t do any of the latter things, but it’s no longer what the market is steering towards. Application frameworks like Silverlight and Adobe Flash have had their day: HTML5 and JavaScript are rapidly becoming the de-facto web application framework. This is especially so when you consider the burgeoning market for responsive/adaptive web apps that target tablets and phones: there’s no Silverlight there. We are clearly seeing this trend in our own sales statistics too: throughout 2014 it’s been obvious to us that customers want to write web apps but don’t want to write Silverlight ones.

    The one thing about Silverlight that is still valid today and into the future is XAML. From its early beginnings in WPF and Silverlight, XAML has grown into a cross-platform user interface definition language. We now use it for WPF, WinRT, Windows Phone, and soon-if-not-now Universal Apps. The legacy of Silverlight the framework is essentially Windows Phone, but that of XAML is across all platforms.

    Based on this analysis, we made the decision to put our Silverlight controls into maintenance mode as well – in fact, we have already forked the code. We will not be providing any new functionality for our Silverlight controls but will provide maintenance updates to fix any issues as and when necessary. We have already stopped selling DevExpress Silverlight as a separate product (either as a new subscription or as a maintenance subscription) and it is now only available as part of DXperience or Universal.

    We regret having to make this decision, but we feel our XAML development expertise and resources are going to be better spent in the future being targeted at WPF, WinRT, and Universal Apps. As always we welcome your feedback about our future strategy, so please feel free to email management@devexpress.com or comment below.

  • DevExpress VCL: Improvements to grid, maps, and spreadsheet (coming soon in v14.2)

    A quick trio of improvements to the DevExpress VCL Subscription…

    VCL Grid Control

    As part of v14.2, we've added a Find Panel to our grid control, the ExpressQuantumGrid. This enhancement is dead simple for your users: to find some text in the dataset being shown in the grid, they simply enter the search text in the Find box and the grid will display those records that have matching values. What could be simpler?

    DevExpress VCL v14.2: Find Panel in Grid

    From your side, it's still pretty simple: there is a set of options available to control the display and behavior of the Find Panel. You can specify which columns are to be searched, choose between delayed automatic and manual search modes, allow search strings to be highlighted within located records, and so on. The Find Panel is available within all grid Views, except for Chart Views.

    VCL Map Control

    DevExpress VCL v14.2 adds support to the map control for:

    • Bing Maps services (Geocode and Routes)
    • Location-based queries to Bing Maps services
    • Shapefile format files

    DevExpress VCL v14.2: Map Control Routes from Major Roads

    This example shows route planning with Bing Maps as the provider using major roads.

    DevExpress VCL v14.2: Map Control Shapefile Format

    And this is an example of using the new shapefile support.

    VCL Spreadsheet Control

    In this release we’ve added the capability for the spreadsheet control to read and save print settings in spreadsheet files.

    We’ve also added support for arrays in formulas, together with their visual representation:

    DevExpress VCL 14.2: Spreadsheet Control Array Formulas

    So have at it with sets of disjoint ranges in your formulas!

  • DevExpress VCL: New Rich Edit Control CTP (coming soon in v14.2)

    As I’ve said many times now, if you want to guess what will be coming in future versions of DevExpress VCL, all you have to do is look at what our .NET teams have been adding to their suites right now. And this next new control fits the pattern exactly: let the .NET teams work out all the issues, then port the control to Delphi.

    I am delighted therefore to announce the new rich edit control for VCL. Think of all the features you take for granted in Microsoft Word, but wrapped in a new Delphi-coded rich edit control, designed to work seamlessly with the other UI controls that are part of DevExpress VCL, such as the ribbon.

    DevExpress VCL v14.2: Rich Edit Control

    The initial version in v14.2 of this important control is marked as a CTP (Community Technology Preview). It’s nowhere near complete yet, but forms a good basis for adding new functionality – such as tables, more Actions (see below), and so on – that we’re intending to address over the next few months. It ships in v14.2 with the following essential features:

    • Character and paragraph formatting
    • Image support
    • Styles
    • Lists (bulleted, numbered and multilevel)
    • Undo/Redo history
    • Clipboard operations (cut, copy, paste)
    • Overtype mode
    • Text highlight
    • Visual formatting marks, if needed

    Not only that, but we’ve added a command API so that you can completely manage the operation of the control. This is done through the use of Action objects. By linking these Action objects to elements of your UI, such as ribbons, menus, and toolbars, you can easily create a powerful word processor in your application.

    (Note that this control is marked as a CTP beta for v14.2. Although you can use the control as is, please be warned that it will change over the next few months as we polish and add to it. Properties, methods and events may – will – change for the final release. Also, currently the control is for 32-bit applications written in Delphi and only supports the RAD Studio XE series. Although a  64-bit version is in the works, we will not be back-porting it to RAD Studio 2010. It is only available in the full VCL Subscription.)

  • DevExpress VCL: Camera control, Toggle switch editor (coming soon in v14.2)

    Among all the major new features, we found the time to add a couple of new smaller controls to DevExpress VCL v14.2.

    The first is a fun control, directly from customer feedback: the Camera Control. This control allows you to incorporate the camera on your device (say the camera on your Windows tablet, or the webcam on your laptop) into your application. For example, you have an app for insurance assessors and you want the app to be able to take photos of some property that’s being claimed on. Incorporate the new camera control, and your users are ready for action.

    DevExpress VCL v14.2: Camera Demo App Screenshot

    It even works with more than one camera – say you have a tablet with front and back-facing cameras – and as shown here I’ve tested it on my laptop that has both a built-in webcam and an external Logitech camera (held in my hand, as it happens).

    The second smaller control is a modern tablet-style toggle switch editor.

    DevExpress VCL v14.2: Toggle Switch Control

    It’s a touch-friendly control designed to replace a traditional check box. We’re providing unbound, data-aware, standalone, and in-place versions of the editor.

    (Note that new controls in DevExpress VCL are only available for RAD Studio 2010 or the XE series. Delphi 7 and 2007 are not supported with new controls.)

  • DevExpress VCL: Gauge Control (coming soon in v14.2)

    With every release of DevExpress VCL, we add more controls and features for data visualization. Many applications these days are growing into business analysis systems: data crunching and the presentation of results in the clearest way possible to allow for efficient understanding. Dashboards are a prime example of this scenario.

    VCL Gauge Control: Full Circular Gauges v14-2

    With v14.2 we’re adding a new control to DevExpress VCL to help you in conveying usable information at a glance in your dashboards, the Gauge Control.

    VCL Gauge Control: Linear Gauges v14-2

    Using the VCL Gauge Control you can communicate appropriate information with a variety of types: circular, linear, and digital.

    VCL Gauge Control: Digital Gauges v14-2

    We’re providing the following types of gauges with v14.2: Circular (full, half, and quarter); Linear (horizontal and vertical); Digital (using 7 or 14 segments). The gauges are available in both unbound or data-aware versions. Having chosen a gauge type, you can then select from a dozen built-in styles, or create your own.

    Please be aware that the Gauge Control only supports RAD Studio 2010 or later (and in particular it supports the entire XE-series, for both 32-bit and 64-bit). We do not provide support for Delphi 7 or Delphi 2007 with this control.

  • DevExpress Universal v14.2 released

    As I write this post, the teams are making the final v14.2 build ready to upload to our servers. In fact, by the time you read this, we will have flipped the (metaphorical) big red switch that makes it available to you, our active customers. Although our previous major releases have been bursting at the seams with new controls, new features and new enhancements, I’d have to say that, from my point of view, v14.2 caps them all. I wonder how we can do better for v15.1…

    New features across the board

    With this release, we continue to pull the platforms you know and use (and perhaps even love) into new areas of data visualization, attractive user interfaces, and usability. Just for some brief examples: a responsive UI for ASP.NET; a slick, fast full-featured export engine for Excel, which supports our new grouped/filtered data export from our grid and spreadsheet controls; an HTML5-based report designer/viewer; forms support in our PDF control; a preview richedit control for the Web; master-detail for the client-side datagrid; a new “Office for iOS” style for the WPF ribbon; umpteen updates for the Dashboard including element grouping and data filtering. And that’s what I can think of from the top of my head, before I even search the What’s New blog posts and remind myself of the new features for the map controls (mini-maps!), the report server, eXpressApp Framework, new chart types, and so on. There is a lot to read and digest.

    If that small synopsis has whet your appetite, you can find out more on the What’s New in 14.2 page, or read about various new features in more detail here on the DevExpress community blogs. Some typical examples:

    We have a couple more “New in v14.2” webinars to present this week – if you’ve missed any, please check our YouTube channel for the repeats – and, once the release is out, we have planned several webinar presentations in the coming weeks to explain some of the new features in more detail. We also have new tutorial videos that will be published throughout the remainder of 2014 and into 2015. If your preference is web programming, our online demos have all been updated to show off the new improvements and controls.

    DevExpress Universal 14.2 is now ready for download if you have an active license. If you are new to DevExpress (or perhaps didn’t renew last time), please check out these new features in the evaluation version. I’m sure you’ll find something that will entice you to purchase. Have fun!


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