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December 2016 - Posts

  • XAF - Additional Enhancements for Windows & Web Platforms, Core and Model Editor (Shipping now in v16.2)

    Happy New Year Everyone!

    Late last year, I described some of the new features we shipped as part of XAF v16.2. In this post, I'll discuss a few other enhancements we incorporated in v16.2.

    Support for Multiple Browser Tabs

    v16.2 includes support for a popular ASP.NET scenario - displaying multiple independent XAF views via browser tabs within the same web browser instance . If you've used XAF in the past, you'll know that this specific requirement was not easy to implement, as the XAF web site stored information about the current main window within the ASP.NET session between requests (learn more...). Technically, it still does, but with v16.2, each loaded web window has a unique identifier by which all requests are correctly routed on the server. 

    With the new static WebApplication.EnableMultipleBrowserTabsSupport feature toggle, you can, for instance, include hyper links to two different XAF views in a customer email and when clicked, these links will open two separate browser tabs so that end-user can work with them independently.


    Custom grouping of Application Model nodes in the Model Editor

    This feature was inspired by customer feedback and to help explain it, let's consider a real world scenario. Assume that you have numerous custom Controllers placed in folders with the following naming convention:

    In previous versions, XAF did not offer an easy way to navigate between these Controllers and Actions in the Model Editor due to the default grouping by the Action identifier. Essentially, users requesting this feature needed to provide custom grouping - similar to that found in Solution Explorer. With v16.2, you can use the new ModelEditorGroupingHelper API to customize default node grouping. Here is a sample screenshot from an actual end-user project:


    Improved Web UI Theme Customization

    Though this feature was derived from the DevExpress ASP.NET product library, I definitely want to make mention of it. Let me quote myself from my personal blog:

    "There were a good number of requests to simplify the process of adjusting the New Web UI to match corporate colors. With v16.2, this process became much easier with the new options for changing the base color and font in code or configuration files of your app. Our XCRM.Web demo now contains a custom color/font scheme picker to demonstrate the use of these new release capabilities:

    In addition, the XAF theme was better integrated with the ASPxThemeBuilder & ASPxThemeDeployer tools offered by our DevExpress ASP.NET team for creating and deploying custom themes. These actions appear to be a good start towards a "true" themes chooser requested by some customers or rather their end-users, who liked a vast number of predefined styles. The idea under consideration is  that we may support changing more theme parameters at runtime (e.g., the white background was reported as eye-fatiguing by some users), i.e., not only the main color and font."

    Take special note that color/font picker feature is NOT part of the standard delivery and is enabled only in our XCRM demo by default. To add and customize this feature in your project, do the following:
        1. Copy and include the "C:\Users\Public\Documents\DevExpress Demos 16.2\Components\eXpressApp Framework\XCRM\CS\XCRM.Web\BaseColorSelector" folder in the YourSolutionName.Web project.
        2. Copy and include the "C:\Users\Public\Documents\DevExpress Demos 16.2\Components\eXpressApp Framework\XCRM\CS\XCRM.Web\CustomDefaultVerticalTemplateContent.xx" files in the YourSolutionName.Web project and optionally customize the custom template in Visual Studio to meet your business requirements.
        3. In the YourSolutionName.Web/Global.asax.cs file, add the WebApplication.Instance.Settings.DefaultVerticalTemplateContentPath = "CustomDefaultVerticalTemplateContent.ascx"; line to the Session_Start method after the WebApplication.SetInstance call.
    Refer to the Task-Based Help > How to: Customize an ASP.NET Template article to learn more about this customization process.

    Platform-Agnostic API for Displaying Dialogs

    With v16.2, use of custom dialogs has been simplified for both WinForms and ASP.NET applications. The ShowViewStrategyBase.ShowViewInPopupWindow method displays the specified View in a popup dialog with OK and Cancel buttons:

    Application.ShowViewStrategy.ShowViewInPopupWindow(Application.CreateDashboardView(Application.CreateObjectSpace(), "PaymentSuccessConfirmation", true));

    You can also pass the okDelegate and cancelDelegate  parameters to this method and specify the code to be executed when the OK and Cancel buttons are clicked. Button captions can be customized using the okButtonCaption and cancelButtonCaption parameters.

    In the following screenshot, you can see how a DashboardView configured in the Application Model can be used with this new method in an ASP.NET app:

    The ShowViewInPopupWindow method provides a platform-agnostic way to display popup dialogs from your code. However, there are certain specifics in ASP.NET applications:

    - The ShowViewInPopupWindow method can be used on XafCallbackManager callbacks initiated by the RaiseXafCallback script. It cannot be used on control callbacks (e.g., grid sorting).
    - It is impossible to pause the current request to wait for user input.
    - Main window is not refreshed when the Cancel button is clicked.

    Improved Customization of Action Controls

    The customization of UI controls used to visualize XAF Actions has been simplified. With v16.2, each Action exposes the CustomizeControl event that provides access to the underlying control including its context information. Related product documentation and examples like How to: Customize Action Controls and How to: Access Navigation Control were updated to reflect the new implementation. All of the possible scenarios are also demonstrated in the Action section of the Feature Center demo that is shipped with XAF. Below is a screenshot of Visual Studio demonstrating customization of a parametrized Action control in WinForms:

    To learn more about the reasons behind this feature, be sure to check out my blog as well.

    Instant Feedback UI Mode in WinForms GridListEditor

    With this release, XAF List Views support our server-side data processing engine - Instant Feedback UI Mode. When used, your apps will remain responsive regardless of dataset size. To enable this feature, set the ListView's DataAccesMode property to InstantFeedback. Refer to the List View Data Access Modes  and How to: Access Objects Selected in the Current View help articles for more information on supported scenarios and usage specificities.

    Faster App Startup

    We've improved our Application Model cache (introduced in v16.1) and further reduced WinForms application startup times. To learn more, check out the XafApplication.EnableModelCache article for additional information. Please note that you can now enable parallel loading of business types and tune the model cache by setting the static DevExpress.ExpressApp.ModelCacheManager.UseMultithreadedLoading and DevExpress.ExpressApp.ModelCacheManager.SkipEmptyNodes properties to True before the XafApplication.Setup method is called in the YourSolutionName.Win/Program.xx file. Based upon tests with various large customer applications, startup time can be reduced up to 30% when implemented. In general, the more business classes and Controllers included in an app, the greater the impact from this enhancement.

    As always, we welcome your comments and feedback. Tell us what you think of these new features.

  • XAF - The New Dashboards Module & Much More (Shipping now in v16.2)

    I'd like to preface this blog post with a recent quote from one of our loyal XAF users - Mario Blataric. He was an active beta tester in this release cycle. 

    Here is what he wrote in an urgent DevExpress Support Center ticket: T460839 - Urgent, need to share 16.2 excitement !!  

    "I know I can be hard customer sometimes with loads of tickets, so in the light of 16.2 release and near the end of 2016, I would like to do something different for a change. I would like to express my excitement about 16.2 release. I have been using alpha and beta rather intense in both Win and Web platforms and I can not remember when so many goodies were coming in single release. It is possible that this time many more things affect me than usual, but never the less - I absolutely love 16.2. Let me just quickly mention several things that excite me the most:

    - startup improvements of Win application (model caching)
    - ability to custom group Actions in model (as well as other nodes separately)
    - ability to edit reports (massive excitement generator - please make sure reports team get this one :-))
    - improvements of new web ui and color schemes
    - navigation permissions and PermissionPolicy (ok, PP is not 16.2 - but it got my attention in combination with navigation permissions so it is just a bonus)
    - InstantFeedback mode - I love it!
    - improved filter control on web - real beauty
    - mobile support (not born in 16.2, but got serious enough to take my attention)
    - Visual Studio 2017 support (another nice bonus)
    - and basically everything else. Some seriously amazing stuff was done for 16.2 - huge cudos!

    Also, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for support you provided in last couple of months helping me with some long-term issues I could not squash for months or even years. So, thank you for that.

    Best regards and keep doing amazing job, Mario"

    We appreciate those of you willing to migrate your apps to our most recent builds. As I'm sure you can appreciate, feedback goes a long way to making our product more stable and easier to use. 

    With that - let's take a quick look at the newest features shipping inside XAF v16.2.

    New Dashboards Module (Windows and Web)

    You can now leverage the flexibility of DevExpress Dashboard to create interactive decision support systems for Windows and the Web. We considered previously available custom solutions for the most popular dashboard scenarios (see this Support Center ticket) and determined that our best path forward was to deliver a universal Dashboards module. This built-in module should reduce the work and complexities associated with the integration of the DashboardViewer/DashboardDesigner and ASPxDashboard components into your next XAF-based WinForms and ASP.NET app.

    XAF WinForms Dashboard Module

    XAF Web Dashboard Module

    If you're reading to give this new module a try, I suggest you start with our online documentation at Dashboards Module as well as XCRM and Feature Center demos.

    Before I continue, I want to take a moment and emphasize that this new feature is a perfect example of what XAF is and how it's developed. Technically, XAF is a set of best practices and proven solutions - This set it finite as are our resources, but you are still "safe" and not "locked in". That is because you can always implement custom requirements, if a control or feature is currently unavailable - our team has done its best to ensure that the Framework is flexible and extensible. When we see high demand for a feature or we develop a better understanding of usage scenarios, new solutions typically get baked into the standard delivery.

    Permissions for Navigation Items and Groups

    With v16.2, you can grant or deny access for specific navigation items and groups in the Navigation Permissions tab of the PermissionPolicyRole Detail View:

    Much like Dashboards, we have also reconsidered and integrated previously available custom solutions into our standard delivery. Take special note that this new feature is available only for permission policy and the PermissionPolicyRole class added in v16.1.

    If you are still using SecuritySystemXXX classes, you might want to consider the following migration guidelines: 
    How to use the Allow/Deny permissions policy (aka the PermissionPolicyUser and PermissionPolicyRole classes) in the existing project

    If you're using Entity Framework and want to upgrade from v16.1 to v16.2, please review the following KB article:
    How to: Add Navigation Permissions to an Entity Framework Application Created with XAF 16.1

    Criteria Editor Enhancements (Web UI)

    XAF's ASP.NET Criteria Property Editor now supports many of the features available in its WinForms counterpart, including:

    • ability to display full object hierarchies, including members of reference and collection properties;
    • use of built-in XAF editors for value types that don't have a native editor;
    • ability to edit criteria as a string;
    • display user-friendly criteria strings within the grid footer.

    This feature is very helpful when configuring security permissions with criteria and a variety of other data analytics scenarios (e.g. with Pivot Chart - your end-users will love it!). Our wrappers around the DevExpress ASPxFilterControl also expose a number of options which you may want to tune based upon your business requirements (see the updated Concepts > Business Model Design > Data Types Supported by built-in Editors > Criteria Properties help article for more details).

    Mobile Platform (CTP) Enhancements

    We continue to focus energy on our new mobile UI, and in this release, we've incorporated the following enhancements:

    • Improved look and feel, with new UI layouts optimized for desktop and tablet devices. What do you think of the new blue design, btw?
    • Application Simulator no longer requires an internet connection. Previously, XAF users required to connect to our Azure-hosted web site for testing, which was not always convenient.
    • 'Active' and 'Enabled' action states are now context-dependent, i.e. can be updated depending on whether the currently selected list or detail record matches some criteria.

    XAF Mobile UI - Phones

    XAF Mobile UI - Tablet

    We have also fixed a series of issues for improved stability. This mobile UI is still available as a CTP, because we have a number of things in our TODO list for the final release. These include: simplified localization, easier custom control integration and better support for extended modules like maps, reports, etc. Check out the links below to learn about what we ship in the box or how to add the same functionality to your next project:

    Demo    FAQ    Tutorial    Video

    I'll have more to share about XAF v16.2 in a subsequent post. In the meantime, I'd love to get your feedback on these new features.

    Happy New Year!


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