We've been hard at working extending our WinForms Data Grid and in our upcoming release, we'll ship a handful of new features designed to help you create incredibly refined WinForms user interfaces. In this post, I'll focus on the new Compact View and describe the usability virtues of Merged Column Grouping.
Office-Inspired Compact View
As you already know, our Grid ships with a number of unique Data Views (Standard, Banded, Tile, WinExplorer, etc). In this release cycle, we've updated the Grid's Tile View so you can deliver user experiences that mimic Microsoft Outlook's Compact View option. As you can see in the image below, this new UI metaphor will give you an entirely new way to display data - one that is more aesthetic, and in many cases, more readable than using a standard column/row UI metaphor.
To help illustrate the benefits of the new Compact View, let's take a quick look at the DevAV demo which ships as part of our WinForms distribution. Prior to the availability of our Compact View, the Employees module looked like the following:
With Compact View enabled (pictured below), the Employee module's evaluation grid is easier to read and able to call attention to important employee attributes (In this case, did the employee get a raise and/or a bonus).
Once we release v17.1, we'll ship a new WinForms Grid Designer to help you create a wide variety of tile based layouts - Our goal is to give you the ability to generate layouts using standard table design logic; divide a tile template into rows and columns and place tile elements onto table cells using drag-and-drop (and of course to merge table cells for more complex layouts). Needless to say, tile elements can then be placed into table cells which will resize proportionally.
Just like Merged Column Grouping described below, the use of the Compact View will be predicated by business needs - Compact View is not superior to a traditional table layout, it's merely meant to augment UI options.
Merged Column Grouping
In addition to the new Compact View option, our upcoming release will allow you to merge the grid's grouped columns by dragging the appropriate column header(s) to the group panel (with the CTRL key pressed) and arrange them across a single "grouping line." Merged grouped columns are a great way to reduce complexity and improve readability within grids that contain multiple group level. To illustrate the virtues of merged groups, let's first look at a grid with a traditional grouping hierarchy...
The data displayed within the grid pictured above has been grouped by the Category column AND the Status column. In the grid below, data has been grouped by the same columns, but instead of nested grouping within the grid's container, the 2 columns are merged into a "joined" group.
The decision to use traditional nested groups versus our new merged column groups is entirely up to you and your users. The flexibility built into our WinForms Data Grid gives you the wherewithal to activate the feature as needed and your end-users the ability to swap from one to the other as business requirements dictate.
We'd love to get your feedback on these new features - Tell us what you think and how you might use them in your next WinForms desktop application.