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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