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.

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