Thursday, July 03, 2008

Software Review: NetAdvantage For .NET Suite- NetAdvantage For Windows Forms 2008 From Infragistics

Reviewed by T. Michael Testi

This is the first part of a three-part series that will cover what is contained in the NetAdvantage For .NET Suite. The three products are NetAdvantage for Windows Forms, NetAdvantage for ASP.NET, and NetAdvantage AppStylist. You can go online to explore more about the products in this suite. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and what it can do for you.

Infragistics over the years has positioned itself as a leader in the development of the presentation layer technologies. By creating high quality, reusable presentation layer tools for Windows Forms, ASP.NET, Windows Presentation Foundation(WPF), Tablet PC, and Java Environments, they are able to provide their customers with the ability to accelerate the development process by reducing development time.

NetAdvantage for Windows Forms

The NetAdvantage For .NET Suite is compatible with Visual Studio 2008, and Visual Studio 2005. It works with Microsoft Windows XP and Vista. Infragistics products are subscription-based which gives you updates and upgrades for the period of the license; usually one year. So when you see the terminology "2008 Volume 1", this means it is the first release for this release of the product for that year. The license is also developer based which means that the developer can install it on more than one machine, but they are the only one who has the right to use the license.

So what is NetAdvantage For Windows Forms? It is a toolkit for creating Windows Forms. It is contains an extensive set of over 50 controls and components that have been designed to provide you with the ability to create modern user interfaces for your Windows Forms applications.

The NetAdvantage For Windows Forms toolset is built on the Presentation Layer Framework (PLF); a layer that resides between the Microsoft .NET Framework, and the NetAdvantage Windows Form Elements. Some of the advantages of providing this layer is that it gives you a more stable, more consistent, and more extensible environment such that you can derive your own classes from any public component class that is not sealed, and it contains a shared set of common assemblies. It also means that once you have learned some of the Windows Form controls, the rest will require little effort.

While it is beyond the scope of this review to go through each and every feature, I will try to provide some highlights to the product. You can check out the Infragistics site to explore a more complete list controls and components. The NetAdvantage For Windows Forms consists of the Toolset which includes the Frameworks, which, as explained above are build upon the PLF, the Code Libraries that are a repository of the .NET objects that augment a given application, the Assemblies that map the control to the DLL, and the Controls and Components that you will include within your application.

The NetAdvantage For Windows Forms gives you the ability to change the look and feel of your controls and components. When learning how to use this package you will be presented with ways to set the visual styles and behaviors by using presets, themes, and appearance objects to your applications.

You can also upgrade your existing Windows Forms projects with NetAdvantage For Windows Forms so that you can make changes where you need to, and add new functionality as time permits.

So what is new with NetAdvantage For Windows Forms?
• Full Support for Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 – is new in NetAdvantage For Windows Forms. Included is support for the integrated development environment (IDE), and all .NET controls and components have been tested within this new environment.

• Vista Veneer now supports on WinTree. – This takes what was provided in version 2007 Volume 3; the Microsoft Windows Vista look and feel for the WinToolbarsManager components, and now provides them on the WinTree control. In the Windows Vista Display Styles include Scolling, Expansion indicators, colors, tool tips, and headers

• Select Nodes from any Level – is now available is to allow users to select as many tree nodes as they want in as many different levels of the tree control. This does not require any additional work on your part. You can manipulate the selected nodes collection based on the tree nodes coming from different levels.

• WinTrackBar – is a totally new track bar control that allows your users to choose values from a range; but not just a single range, rather as many as your application requires. It comes with a full array of looks and feels. If you are using the Office 2007 theme, this includes the ribbon style, and the collapsible Outlook pane. You can also style the control to implement your own Windows Vista track bar.

• New Close Button – has been added to the WinTab and WinTabbedMdiManager controls that will allow you to add tab closing functionality much like is found in Firefox and Internet Explorer tabs; this exists in the newer versions of each where you can have multiple websites open at one time and subsequently close each tab.

NetAdvantage for Windows Forms Ultra Grid • WinListView – has been enhanced to allow end users to resize each column, resize by double clicking the right side of the column header, as well as controlling the resize process through the API. The AutoFitColumns turns this on, and the ColumnAutoSizeMode handles how the control reacts with the double click. By using the PerformAutoSize method, you can auto size whenever you need to.

Is there learning curve to using NetAdvantage For Windows Forms? Of course there is. As with any development product you need to spend the time to learn the it and integrated it into your workflow. This package was build under solid development principles that makes the learning curve diminish as you get deeper into learning the product. There are also a lot of helpful designers like the UltraWinGrid Designer that will help guide you through some of the many choices available.

When you first get into NetAdvantage For Windows Forms, it can be quite overwhelming, but Infragistics has put together some really good help documents to get you started. In the case for NetAdvantage for .NET Studio, you are provided with sections that pertain to the studio as a whole as well as for the NetAdvantage For Windows Forms product. They do a good job of presenting where you need to go to get started learning.NetAdvantage for Windows Forms

There are two licenses that you can purchase NetAdvantage For Windows Forms. First is with Priority Support for $1,290.00 USD, and Standard for $795.00 USD. For the Studio it is $1,490.00, and $995.00 respectively. Priority support includes one year of priority phone, 24-hour chat and rapid response online support. As an added bonus, with either license, along with the updates, upgrades, and product releases, you also get the C# code for all Windows Forms tools and designers. You can even download an evaluation copy. There are no features disabled during your evaluation period.

If you are tired of having to repeatedly design your application interfaces, having to painstakingly change the look and feel of controls and components, or having to spend more time then you want on the look and not enough time on what really counts; the product, then I highly recommend you take a look at Infragistics NetAdvantage For Windows Forms.