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  • Developing for the Universal Windows Platform? We’ve got you covered.

    I’m proud to announce that today we officially released our suite of controls for the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). For those who are ready to develop native Windows 10 apps, or even prepare for developing apps for the future UWP form factors and devices, we now have a full suite of controls that will help you fulfill your goals.

    Examples of apps created with the DevExpress UWP suite

    Much as Windows 10 is a multi-faceted progression from the ideas first seen in Windows 8, we decided to leverage the work we had put into our Windows 8 controls in order to produce this new UWP suite. Over the past few months, pretty much every control was reevaluated for the new run-time, ported, optimized, and tested in production. Apart from the grid control and data editors (of course, we couldn’t say we properly support this new platform without having our famous grid present and correct!), we’re providing data visualization controls such as charts, gauges, a photo gallery, and a map control; app navigation controls such as the tile bar, tiles, and radial menu, together with page layout control; a ribbon; a PDF viewer; and much more. Windows 10 apps that allow for data entry and visualization, together with dashboard-type facilities should now be a breeze to create.

    For full details of the suite go to devexpress.com/Win10Apps.

    During the design process for the new suite, we naturally came to the point where we had to make a decision about the Win8 XAML control suite from which this new product was evolved. From everything we’ve seen and heard during the launch of Windows 10, it became readily apparent that Windows 8 as a target platform was going to rapidly become irrelevant. Windows 10 is a simple (and free!) upgrade to Windows 8, especially for retail customers – all of the laptops I personally look after are all now on Windows 10 – that it just made sense to discontinue the Windows 8 XAML product in our future major releases. Consequently, it will not be part of v15.2 when we release in December, whereas the Windows 10 Apps control suite will be. If you are still having to maintain a Windows 8 XAML app, the suite will still remain as part of v15.1, but no new features will be added. Our efforts in this space are going to be directed to the new form factors for UWP, as well as providing new features and controls for it.

    As usual, we’d love to hear your feedback about the new suite.

  • DevExpress VCL Subscription v15.1.5 released, with full support for Delphi 10 Seattle

    Just a quick note to say that we released v15.1.5 of the DevExpress VCL Subscription today. The main new feature of this release is adding full support for Delphi 10 Seattle (DX) and C++Builder 10 Seattle (CX), collectively known as RAD Studio 10 Seattle (RX). So download it today from your Download Portal if you are using DX, CX, or RX (and especially if you were using the “unofficial” support for them that had crept into v15.1.4).

    There are a couple of new enhancements as well.

    • The biggest one (and the one that delayed us a little in our full support for DX, CX and RX because of the extra testing we had to do) is we’ve added the capability to print the ExpressRichEdit Control.
    • The grid’s main improvement has been speeding up its export capabilities, especially when the layout information is not required.
    • There have been numerous other resolved issues as is usual when we release a minor version. See here for the full list.

    So, download, install, and enjoy!

  • Skinning WinForms: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    This may come as a shock to you – it certainly did to me – but it seems we provide over 50 skins to choose from for your WinForms projects. Well, I knew there were quite a few – you should see the number of pizzas we have to ship in to the graphic designer team when we do a new major release so they can update them all – but frankly this has got a little out of hand.

    Consider this: we’ve been shipping skins now for some ten years, and over that time the general way we as computer/tablet/phone users view UI has changed dramatically. Like it or not, a modern flat style is de rigueur these days. All you need to do is look at Windows 10 and Office 2016, both very recently released, for what I mean. The problem is that pretty much all of the unique look-and-feel styles we ship at the moment (like, say, Halloween or Valentine) are very old-fashioned just from that particular perspective: they are decidedly not flat. And that’s what we hear from our customers about our skins: end-users want the same flat style they see in their smartphones and their tablets in the desktop apps they use every day. Yes, it’s a giggle to change to Halloween, say, but using that day in, day out, is not conducive to an efficient working environment.

    WinForms Skins are a-changing

    For us, we have a two–pronged issue when we publish a major release: first, we have to update the skins for the new release; and second, if we release a new control, we have to “skin” it for all of the skins we provide. This, frankly, is hard work for not much benefit, since I would guess the majority of our customers don’t actually use these older skins. Indeed I’d be willing to bet that a lot of customers “brand” a standard skin with their corporate colors and the other skins just aren’t exposed or used in any way.

    Apart from “flatness”, there is another huge issue with UI that is starting to really make itself felt. I am currently writing this on my new Dell XPS 13 with the Infinity display running at 3200×1800. I love the sharpness of the resolution, but with my old eyes I cannot run it at a standard DPI. With Windows 10 making it a lot easier to set text sizes and DPI settings, I can configure a great visual experience across the board, except with older programs. They’re … well … not so good visually, shall we say. Our older skins fall into the same category. We’re doing a lot to improve our WinForms controls to work much better visually on these high-DPI screens, but we are being held back because of the skins.

    So, what’s the plan?

    First off, we want to find out how you, our customers, are using the WinForms skins we provide. To that end, we have drawn up a survey and encourage you to go fill it out. The more info and detail we get, the better all round.

    Second, based on our current thinking, we’re going to reorganize our skin collection for v15.2.

    1. System/Application Skins. This will include the skins based on Microsoft Office and Windows, together with Mac OS: Office White, Office Dark Gray, Office Light Gray, McSkin. If Microsoft changes the Office theme in the future, for example, the relevant skins will be changed appropriately.
    2. High-contrast skin. For accessibility purposes.
    3. Holiday and seasonal custom skins. Spring, Summer, Xmas will be redesigned.  We’re planning on adding a Fall skin.
    4. A set of differently-colored skins, based on the same look and feel styles as above. These are going to replace all of the older skins: Blue, Black, Silver, Pink, Green, Coffee/Caramel.

    The other skins will be removed and no longer supported. Note that depending on the answers we get from the survey, this reorganization may be more (or less) drastic than I’ve outlined here.

    Third, if we see a cool new app with a cool new UI and we feel there���s going to be a high demand for replicating it, we may introduce a new skin. But in general we will just update the reduced number of skins in our collection to match changes in the general market. Our goal is to maintain and keep up to date the above selected skins only.

    Of course, this is highly dependent on your feedback. So, I wholeheartedly encourage you to fill out the survey form – that’s going to be the best way for us to collate and analyze the responses and understand how you use our skins. You can also leave your opinions about this change as comments here, if you wish.

  • DevExpress Universal support for Visual Studio 2015 released

    VisualStudio logo

    I’m sure that you can’t but helped to have noticed that Microsoft released the latest version of Visual Studio this morning. After completing its fairly lengthy beta, Visual Studio 2015 is now ready for download. There are three versions: Community (which is free for use, but with some licensing and other restrictions), Pro, and Enterprise. There’s lots of new functionality in there, especially dealing with mobile development and the like with UWP (Universal Windows Platform), and of course all of the familiar support for Windows Forms, ASP.NET, and WPF is still there.

    Now, I’m sure in being a DevExpress customer, you are at the forefront of technology and raring to go but there’s just one warning niggle at the back of your mind: can I install DevExpress Universal in it? The answer is of course yes, providing that you have downloaded the very latest versions. We released two new versions of DevExpress Universal this morning coinciding with Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2015 launch: v14.2.9 for those customers who are still using the v14.2 series, and v15.1.5 for those who have already upgraded to the v15.1 series. Both of these new versions (or later) will install into Visual Studio 2015 just fine.

    For those who are looking for our UWP controls, please be patient just a little while longer. Windows 10 for the desktop is due for launch on Wednesday, July 29 and Microsoft’s sudden withdrawal of the ability to install the betas on new machines has left us a bit in the lurch. Nevertheless, Paul Usher and I will be presenting a webinar this Thursday, 23 July on the new UWP controls, so do take a moment to register to reserve your place.

  • Silverlight and DevExpress Universal v15.1

    You may have noticed something peculiar once you’d installed v15.1: no Silverlight controls came as a part of the product and hence were no longer present on your machine. Wait, what?

    Back in December 2014, at the time of the v14.2 release, I announced that we were no longer going to update and enhance the Silverlight controls (Silverlight’s future at DevExpress). I’ll quote the relevant summary:

    …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.

    However, we then made a pretty big faux pas: we removed the controls completely from our products in v15.1, despite our promise to keep it available with DXperience and Universal subscriptions, and despite the fact that we made no announcement of such an action being contemplated, let alone made. The decision was made internally, but the fact that it was a breaking change and an action that required an announcement escaped everyone.

    Without further ado, I apologize to our Silverlight customers on behalf of DevExpress for this uncharacteristic oversight. We deeply regret this failure in communication.

    So what’s going to happen at DevExpress with regard to Silverlight now?

    1. If you have one or more Silverlight apps using our controls that you are maintaining, you will have to remain on v14.2. Possibly this might mean a separate development machine or VM. We do not plan to add the Silverlight suite back to v15.1.
    2. We shall continue to provide support and minor updates to our Silverlight controls until next June, when we release v16.1. In fact, let me be a little more precise: we will continue to update DevExpress Silverlight v14.2 with minor releases as and when needed, up to and including 30 June 2016. In essence, if you are an active customer, you will receive support and any updates we publish until that date.
    3. After that, that’s it. No more Silverlight. Now, should Microsoft subsequently make some breaking change to Silverlight (which, admittedly, is very unlikely – they’ve just done very minor updates for the last three plus years and the API can be considered as frozen), we shall revisit this policy, perhaps by making a hotfix available to repair whatever issue was brought up by Microsoft’s change. I will not, however, guarantee this.

    My recommendation, then? You should strongly consider moving or porting your Silverlight projects to another platform well before the next twelve months are up.

    By the way, I shall be making some efforts to ensure that such a situation does not occur again; that you, our customers, are informed well in advance of major changes like this that will affect your development and projects. Your loyalty and satisfaction are of great importance to us.

  • DevExpress VCL v15.1: the old spreadsheet has gone

    My chair in the officeOne of the breaking changes we neglected to mention with the release of DevExpress VCL v15.1 yesterday is that the old spreadsheet control, deprecated when we released the new spreadsheet control a year ago, has been completely removed from the install. If you still are using that control, you will have to reinstall v14.2 and continue to use that until you migrate your apps to use the new control.

    Our assumption was that since the new control was vastly superior to the old – there’s really no contest – our customers needing a spreadsheet would have spent some time over the past year to migrate to the better one. It seems that we were overly optimistic in that regard, so I apologize on behalf of the team and the company to all those customers who installed v15.1 only to be surprised by the sudden disappearance. Of course, I was positive I had mentioned it in a previous blog post, but alas it appears I was wrong there too (for proof, see the picture of my chair): I can find no mention of our timetable to remove the older control after a year of being deprecated. Again, please accept my apologies. We let you down badly.

    My takeout from this is that we have to become a lot better at revealing such large breaking changes well in advance, so that you, our customers, are inconvenienced as little as possible, or at least have enough time to lay down some plans for the inevitable change. Stay tuned to my section here on the DevExpress Community site: I’ll be talking to the team about any such major changes planned for the next 12 months and I will be reporting back in a future blog post.

  • Enhanced User Experience for VCL apps (coming in v15.1)

    In this installment of what’s new in DevExpress VCL v15.1, I’m going to look at what’s been enhanced with regard to the user experience.

    Map Control

    This one sounds simple (and is anything but to code) the map control now supports inertial scrolling. You should know what this is: you’re swiping with the mouse (or finger) to scroll the map and when you release, the map gently comes to a halt.

    In addition, users can now scroll the map using the arrow keys on the keyboard.

    Layout Control

    We’ve added a couple of enhancements for the layout control. (Of course, whenever I mention the layout control, I feel bound to say: use it and save yourself aggravation in laying out dialogs, setting sheets, and what have you. Seriously, it’s great.)

    Unified Indicator for Drag-and-Drop Operations

    The VCL Layout Control now provides a unified indicator for drag-and-drop operations. This new indicator replaces the earlier styles ("classic" and "hot zone") with more intuitive suggestions on potential drop positions.

    Alignment Customization Toolbar

    Dropping a layout element in quick customization mode now displays a toolbar that offers options for customizing the element's alignment. The toolbar is automatically hidden once the mouse pointer moves away from the drop position.

    Both of these features are shown here:

    VCL-Layout-Control-DragDrop-Improvements-15-1

    Data Editors and Controls

    • First up, we have added a modern drop-down calendar. This features things like mouse wheel support and animation to give your users a fast and intuitive way to select a date.
      VCL-Editors-Library-Modern-Style-Calendar-15-1
    • Next, our Image Editor now supports animated GIF images. (This would have been handy for this post, let me tell you.)
    • You can now align an error icon to the right-edge of an editor that has failed validation. This gives your users a clear indication of where to fix problems in their input.
    • The Toggle Switch now allows you to use an image or descriptive text to indicate whether it’s on or off. Here’s some examples:
      VCL-Editors-Library-Toggle-Switch-Editor-State-Indication-15-1
    • Finally, we’ve added support for our universal image format to gallery items.

    Tomorrow, in our final installment, we’ll look at some other visual design changes to v15.1.

  • VCL Gauges – new capabilities in v15.1

    Back in v14.2 of DevExpress VCL we introduced a set of gauges that would help you be more visually expressive with pertinent and important information in your apps and in your dashboards. Well, it should come as no surprise that we’ve expanded on that foundation for v15.1.

    New Gauge Styles

    Our designer had a spare few hours and went overboard: we’ve added six new gauge styles for v15.1. They are called Clever, Cosmic, Eco, Red, Shining Dark, and Silver Blur, and of those six, my personal favorite would have to be Eco:

    VCL Gauge Control: Eco Style v15.1

    The things I really like about this style are the subtle off-white gradient background and the light green needles. A very eco-friendly style, indeed.

    Tickmarks on Circular Gauges

    Here’s a subtle enhancement for you here: we’ve added the ability to customize the orientation of the tickmark labels. Along with this change we’ve improved the algorithm that positions tickmarks with long labels.

    VCL Gauge Control: Customizable Label Orientation in v15-1

    In this case a picture is definitely worth a thousand words, since even we had the hardest problem coming up with one/two-word descriptions of these for the enumeration...

    Digital Scale Enhancements

    For the digital scales for v15.1, we’ve added a couple of new display modes (8x14 and 5x8 segment matrices) and the ability to adjust the spacing between characters.

    VCL Gauge Control: Digital Scale at 8x14 in v15-1

    This image shows off the 8x14 character matrix.

    Other Enhancements

    1. You now have the option of animating the indicator or needle.

    VCL-Gauge-Control-Value-Indicator-Animation-15-1

    2. There is a new three-quarter circular gauge.

    VCL-Gauge-Control-Circular-Three-Fourth-Scales-15-1

    3. We’ve added the Wide Circular type.

    VCL-Gauge-Control-Circular-Wide-Scales-15-1

    4. Gauges can now have a logarithmic scale. Hey, this take me back: it’s just like a slide rule!

    VCL-Gauge-Control-Logarithmic-Scale-15-1

    5. You can now define and display your own custom scale captions.

    VCL-Gauge-Control-Custom-Scale-Captions-15-1

    6. There is now a container control for gauges. This not only allows you to group a set of gauges together, but also gives you the opportunity to simultaneously resize them as you resize the container.

    VCL-Gauge-Control-Scale-Container-15-1

    Design-time Enhancements

    We’ve added a couple of enhancements to help designing with gauges:

    • Ability to create nested scales using the scale's on-form context menu
    • Ability to copy and resize scales using drag and drop
    • On-form selectors for range bars

     

    And with that long list of enhancements, I’m sure you’ll find even better ways for your app or dashboard to display significant information, and allow your users to understand it at a glance.

  • DevExpress VCL Spreadsheet control (Coming soon in v15.1)

    As Ray said yesterday when talking about the new Rating Control, he and I are going to take it in turns describing the new features and functionality in v15.1 over the next few days. Today, it’s my turn, so welcome to the new features in the ultimate in data analysis controls: the DevExpress VCL Spreadsheet.

    Data Export

    The first new piece of functionality for the spreadsheet isn’t really about the control itself, but about how it is used with controls in the rest of the VCL Subscription. In essence, we’ve now incorporated it as a principal component of our data export engine. This means that we now have one and only one export functionality for grid or tabular data, and this has allowed us to significantly simplify the data export engine's code and avoid code duplication when implementing new features, both of which are vital to a quickly changing feature set.

    In particular, this merging of code provides the following features:

    • Ability to export data to CSV files
    • Ensuring cell number formats in the exported XLSX file are based on data cell display formats shown in the Grid, Tree List, Pivot Grid, and Vertical Grid controls
    • Detail grid Views can now be exported to XLS, XLSX, or TXT files
    • The progress of export operations can now be tracked, and aborted if necessary
    • Custom encoding formats for strings exported to TXT or CSV files
    • Ability to export images to XLS files, including those displayed by cxImageComboBox grid items

    One consequence of this work is that the ExpressSpreadSheet Suite is now required for products – especially the grids and treelists – that provide export capabilities and will be automatically installed with them. Since the new spreadsheet was written to support later compilers only, this meant we had to drop support for older compilers.

    Once DevExpress VCL v15.1 is released, the ExpressSpreadSheet Suite will be added to the ExpressGridPack and ExpressQuantumPack subscription packs. We will provide a free upgrade to the new SKUs to all customers that own an active subscription to these packs.

    New functionality

    The v15.1 release includes the following new features for the DevExpress VCL Spreadsheet Control:

    • Ability to outline or group data in a worksheet. This gives your users a much better facility for analyzing data using the spreadsheet.
      VCL-Spreadsheet-Control-Grouping-Outline-15-1

    • A new built-in dialog for find and replace operations.

      VCL-Spreadsheet-Control-Find-Replace-Dialog-15-1
    • Support for Excel template files (XLT and XLTX files).
    • Ability to export an active worksheet to a TXT, XML, or HTML file.
    • Ability to iterate through all generated cell objects.
    • Support for the keyboard shortcuts that are available in Excel.

    I’m sure you’ll agree these are some welcome new features (especially the data export enhancements). No doubt there are other features you’d like to see with the spreadsheet control, so please do let us know.

  • DevExpress VCL v15.1 – supported compilers

    With v15.1 we are trimming the number of compilers (and therefore IDEs) that we are supporting with the DevExpress VCL subscription. As I’ve said several times over the years, supporting older compilers comes with a cost, perhaps intangible in many ways, but it’s still there and does have an effect.

    In essence, if the compiler has XE in the name (and there are eight of these, times two for Delphi and C++Builder), we support it in both 32-bit and in 64-bit modes with our VCL Subscription. That’s the simple rule. Rule 2 is that RAD Studio 2010 is also supported (for now), although the new Rich Text Editor – you saw the beta announcement here 6 months ago, stay tuned for more news in another post – is not supported. And that’s it.

    The biggest change then from v14.2 to v15.1 is that we are dropping support for what might be termed “the non-Unicode compilers”: Delphi 7, Delphi 2007 and C++ Builder 2007. As it happens, the new controls we’ve released from v14.1 onwards (spreadsheet, rich text editor, maps, gauges, etc) have not supported these compilers anyway. All we’ve provided over the past year for these compilers have been some enhancements plus bug fixes. Please note that Embarcadero do not provide support for them either (in fact, the last email I read was that XE3 is about to be dropped from their support and upgrade paths).

    (Aside: it’s at this point that I did some research. Delphi 7 was released in August 2002, very nearly 13 years ago. I was using a Dell Inspiron 8000 at the time, with a Pentium III and 512MB RAM, running Windows XP (it cost me $3K). I wrote the Deflate and Inflate code for TurboPower’s Abbrevia on that machine. Delphi 2007 was released in March 2007, over 8 years ago. By any stretch of the imagination, these are old: just think of the progress made in computers, technology, apps, run-times, and programming languages over the last 8+ years.)

    With v15.1 we wanted to do some major restructuring of the controls. The first part of this will be using the engine that’s part of the new spreadsheet control to provide way better XLS/XLSx export facilities to the grid, treelist, etc. This, candidly, would not be possible with the non-Unicode compilers. All in all, we felt the best business course of action was to consolidate our code to use the latest compilers and language features; it’s the only way we feel we can continue to provide deeper, broader, and, frankly, better features and functionality to our VCL customers.

    Having said that, v14.2 is not going away just yet. Yes, it will be superseded by v15.1 in a couple of weeks, but we shall continue to provide bug fixes to it for the next year. Hence if you are an active customer you will still be able to download the minor releases until it, in turn, is retired.

    My recommendation though is to move on. It seems to me that every month Embarcadero are providing discounts to upgraders. I would take advantage of them. Retire your legacy apps perhaps, or migrate them to the latest RAD Studio: there will come a day that we will start removing support for the early XE IDEs too. And, of course, if you’re using a later RAD Studio already, stay tuned for more news over the next few days on the new features in v15.1 of DevExpress VCL.

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