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  • UI Superhero Roadshow: free UX training for .NET developers

    A couple of months before we released v14.1 of DevExpress Universal we started planning a new kind of training: sessions on user interfaces and experiences, by developers for developers. After all, with v14.1 we introduced a whole set of new demo apps that showed off great user experiences, optimized for the new generation of touch devices and screens. The intent was to use the expertise of our UX and graphics designers to provide high-impact, ultra modern user interfaces that you, our customers, could copy or modify for your own applications.

    That’s all fine and dandy, but sometimes it’s handy to understand why our designers made the choices they made; the principles that they were embodying in these experiences. So we had a chat with an old developer friend of DevExpress, Billy Hollis, and twisted the arm of our own Mark Miller in order to come up with a compelling and educational training event on what goes in to make a user interface a great experience. And, wow, did we succeed. Mark will talk about the science and biology behind great UI (if you’ve seen him present on this topic in the past, be aware that he’s taken it to the next level), and Billy will delve into what developers can do to understand why modern UI is so compelling and intuitive, and present patterns and examples to help you on the way.

    UI Superhero Roadshow with Mark Miller, Billy Hollis

    That’s all well and good, but then we ratchet the content to 11 by giving you the guidance you need by showing you how to apply what you’ve just learned with Billy and Mark. We shall target two platforms: ASP.NET with Mehul Harry, and WinForms with Seth Juarez.

    Here are the times and places we have so far (but please note, these are subject to change):

    New York City, NY
    Friday, September 12, 2014
    11 Times Square, 6th floor/Microsoft Corporation, New York NY 10036

    Chicago, IL
    Tuesday, September 16, 2014
    200 E Randolph Suite 200, Chicago IL 60601

    Miami, FL
    Thursday, September 18, 2014
    Location TBA

    Dallas, TX
    Wednesday, October 8, 2014
    7000 N. State Highway 161, Irving TX 75039

    Denver, CO
    Thursday, October 9, 2014
    7595 Technology Way Suite 400, Denver CO 80237

    Exciting, right? Well, I’d better tell you how to register, then. Visit us at our Roadshow page, read more about each session, watch a video of Mark and Billy discussing what will happen, and then click on the city where you’d be able to attend.

    Looking forward to seeing you there, wherever it may be!

    (And did I mention it was free?)

  • Getting data to DevExtreme’s client-side datagrid

    As part of the v14.1 release of DevExpress Universal and DevExtreme, we introduced a new fully-HTML5/JavaScript data grid. Sounds great – and it is – but there’s one caveat. How do you give it the data that it displays?

    DevExtreme data grid in a dashboard-type app

    Sure you can look the answer up in the documentation, but way better than that is having someone show you directly. I talked with Paul Usher about doing a webinar on the subject, and we came up with a plan of attack. First we’ll show you how to use the data grid in a new project, and then we let loose with data from an array, data from a JSON feed, and data from an OData service. I did promise some PHP as well, so I’ll have to do some research on that, but I may make Paul use Windows Azure to compensate.

    However it finally turns out – and it promises to be entertaining – you will learn how to use the DevExtreme data grid in your own web pages, no matter where your data resides. The webinar is on Tuesday, July 15, at 10:00 am Pacific, and you can register here.

  • VCL Inplace Grid Edit Forms (Coming soon in v14.1)

    Many months ago, we were discussing what to do for VCL 14.1 and one of the top things that came up was an Inplace Edit Form for the QuantumGrid.

    Ponder the scenario: the user is displaying some data in a grid and wants to edit one of the records. In previous versions, you’d have a choice: either make the row editable or code up and display a form to edit the record. So imagine the difference if you could show the form directly inside the grid: that’s where the user is looking, that’s where the edit form is displayed.

    VCL Grid Control Inplace Edit Form 14.1

    Aside – there are two modes for the Inplace Edit Form: either as a form directly below the row being edited so you can still see the row (as shown above), or by hiding the row being edited. Depending on your app and your users’ requirements, you can decide for one or the other by setting a simple EditMode option.

    In case you were wondering, in contrast with the new spreadsheet and map controls that I’ve spoken about here before, the inplace edit form for QuantumGrid is available in all versions of Delphi and C++Builder we currently support.

    (Currently, we expect to be ready to release VCL v14.1 next week. Know that you only have a few more days to get your feedback in.)

  • VCL Map Control (Coming soon in v14.1)

    With the beta for VCL 14.1 ready, it’s time to talk about another new control in the DevExpress VCL 14.1 Subscription: the Map Control.

    OK, one basic scenario is as follows: you have a sales app that shows information about previous sales and sales opportunities in a particular area. You’d like to be able to show a map of those opportunities so that your sales people can concentrate on the best opportunities and their locations within that region. This is an ideal candidate for the new DevExpress VCL Map Control.

    VCL Map Control 14.1: Using Bing Maps as provider

    Here’s an example showing a pin for the DevExpress Offices in Glendale, CA. Things to note here include the pin and associated text (it’s actually on a separate layer whose background becomes opaque when the mouse hovers over it); the map controls that include a zoom bar, a navigation button, and text showing the scale and the location of the center of the map; and the use of Bing Maps as the provider.

    VCL Map Control 14.1: Using OpenStreetMaps as provider

    Here’s the same map, but this time the provider is OpenStreetMaps.

    VCL Map Control 14.1: Using Hybrid Bing Maps as provider

    And here it is again, but as a hybrid map, using image tiles from Bing.

    Now, with this control there are some caveats to its use. First of all, the map tiles provided by Bing Maps and OpenStreetMaps is licensed separately from the DevExpress VCL Subscription; we do not confer any rights to use of the map data from these providers. If you use this Map Control, you will have to license the map data from either Bing Maps or from OpenStreetMaps. (For Bing licensing details, go here. For OpenStreetMaps licensing details, go here and here.)

    The other caveat is that the Map Control only supports RAD Studio 2010 or later (and hence, in particular, there is no support for Delphi 7 or 2007).

    As usual, if you have any questions, comments or feedback, please don’t hesitate to email me at julianb@devexpress.com.

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

    We’ve now released v14.1 of DevExpress Universal and, although we shall continue to discuss the new improvements found in there for a while, it’s now time to turn to v14.1 of the DevExpress VCL Subscription. And do we have lots of good news for you on that front.

    In this first post about VCL 14.1, I’m going to reveal what the team have been working on for at least the past 9 months: a completely redesigned and rewritten spreadsheet control. We understand that in the business arena there are certain applications you’d like to write that would be enhanced by giving your users the ability to model and analyze data in a familiar spreadsheet environment. Shelling out to Excel is to be avoided, especially as you must make sure that every PC your application runs on has Microsoft Office installed. What you’d like is to somehow provide a spreadsheet panel within your application that can read and write XLS and XLSX files, that works just like Excel does, where you can format cells, insert images, calculate with the standard functions, and so on.

    Well, inspired by Microsoft Office and Excel, we have totally re-engineered the VCL Spreadsheet, starting from scratch.

    A Simple Invoice as a worksheet

    Here is an example of the spreadsheet control displaying a simple invoice, read from an XLSX file. Or is it? I get so confused. Here it is again:

    Another Simple Invoice

    I can’t quite remember which image is from the VCL Spreadsheet demo in the beta and which is from Excel. Sheesh.

    Seriously, these two images should show you how well we’ve been inspired by Microsoft Excel. This image (OK, the top one) shows such features as cell formatting (the lines and the grey bars in the grid to help separate the rows). Notice also the formatting of values. I’m more familiar with monetary values being right-adjusted rather than center-adjusted.

    Formatting Cells in VCL

    So, select the cells, right-click, then select Format Cells…

    Align Cell Values in VCL

    And then select right horizontal alignment.

    Cell Values Aligned in VCL

    Also, the VCL Spreadsheet Control supports embedding images into the worksheet:

    Triangle Demo worksheet in VCL

    Here we see two images: the first is the triangle figure on the right and the other the mathematical formula on the left. The spreadsheet is also displaying an error message alongside the calculated value (whose formula by the way is =0.5*F9*F10*SIN(F11*PI()/180)) because one of the sides is negative. This is done (along with the special coloring of the background) through the spreadsheet API.

    Talking of special APIs, how about the ability to create custom functions? You know, because the standard ones just don’t cover your business needs. With this demo above, you can create a special function in your Delphi or C++Builder code, register it with the Spreadsheet API, and then have a formula like this:  =TRIANGLEAREA(F9,F10,F11). Obviously, should you save this worksheet, you won’t be able to open the XLSX file with Excel, but you will be able to with your application containing your special registered functions. It’s a way of protecting your business logic and IP and yet all the time using a widely-used and understood file format.

    So, do you think you’ll be able to use this new control? Let me and the team know what you think.

  • DevExpress Universal 14.1 released

    In the very early hours of this morning, we published the first major release of DevExpress Universal this year: version 14.1. It is – oh, how can I put it? – a veritable Godzilla of a release that only a UI Superhero could vanquish.

    Well, something like that.

    With this release we’ve broadened our already broad reach (case in point, plucking examples out of the air, ASP.NET/MVC end-user report designer, tile navigation in WinForms/WPF,  ASP.NET/MVC spreadsheet, DevExtreme client-side DataGrid), but we’ve also spent a lot of time on providing interesting demos (using a new database of business-related data that cries out for meaningful data visualization – and of course we oblige) so that you can see how to create visually-attractive, touch-capable, modern user experiences for your business apps that will delight your users … no matter which platform you want to, or have to, use.

    As an example of this attention to detail in our demos check out our launch video:

    StillFrom14_1LaunchVideo

    If the video has whet your appetite, you can find out more in the What’s New in 14.1, or read about various new features in more details here on the DevExpress community blogs. Some quick examples:

    Not only that, but we tried a new experiment on the day before the launch: a 24-hour webinar on the new features in DevExpress Universal 14.1. We started at 12:01am on Monday morning, June 2, and continued with nary a break until 12:00pm that same day, after which we released the install. It was a blast! I’d like to say thanks to everyone involved in this, but mostly to Amanda for organizing the whole thing. You know the saying about “herding programmers”? Well, try herding DevExpress staff to present in a continuously-running webinar several times a day without inadvertently clicking the “End Webinar” menu option…

    So, DevExpress Universal 14.1 is now ready for download if you have an active license, otherwise, the new trial is up as well. Have fun!

  • .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!

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