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Software Review: DXperience, Part III: DXperience WinForms Subscription from DevExpress

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This is the third in a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the DevExpress DXperience Universal Edition. This is the most complete of the subscription packages available from DevExpress. The other packages include Enterprise, WinForms, and ASP.NET. For a matrix of what each package contains, check out their edition page. In this review I will examine what is available for working with WinForms.

There are three basic ways that you can acquire the controls for working with WinForms. The first is, of course, within the DXperience Universal Edition. This contains pretty much everything you need for creating a ground to sky WinForms or Web-based application.

The second is with DXperience WinForms which is a collection of WinForm development tools that are designed to add advanced capabilities to your desktop applications. The suite includes a whole series of controls that give you the ability to deliver more features in your applications with higher quality and in less time.

You will be able to give your users much more professional interfaces while being more productive within Visual Studio. These more functional features will provide more capabilities with relatively little additional effort on your part.
DXperience

Finally, you can also purchase most of these controls as standalone suites that target specific features. I will highlight all of the controls below. The Reporting tool and Printing-Exporting library as well as the Charting control I will go over in more detail in part four.

What are the controls that you get with DXperience WinForms?
XtraGrid Suite is a very comprehensive Grid and Data editor for VS.NET. There are five built-in data views; Card, Layout, Grid, Branded Grid, and Advanced Branded Grid. You can create your own custom views and you can also have different views for master and detail records.

XtraEditors Library is a flexible masked edit control that gives you the ability to create simple masks easily, but also provides you with full regular expression support. This gives you the ability to address even the most complex data entry scenarios. There are over 35 data edit and multi-purpose controls that can be used either bound or unbound.

XtraBars Suite not only gives you the ability to create traditional toolbar menus but you can use it to create the Microsoft Office 2007 Ribbon Style menu as well. Along with that, you also get the ability to create windows that can be docked, tabbed MDI interfaces, and pop-up menus like you have in Visual Studio. You can even create alert windows like you have in office to let you know you have mail.

XtraLayout Control brings you a forms design feature set that is intended to bring consistency to an otherwise mundane task; that of arranging controls on a form correctly with regard to positioning of labels and form resolution. There is even runtime layout customization ability so that your end-users can reorder controls via drag and drop.

DXperience

XtraGauges Suite ships with over 150 built-in presets and is made to be easy to use. If you need to create a dashboard with multiple gauges, this package will let you place multiple gauges into one container very easily. There is the ability for auto-arrangement where the container will determine the best possible configuration.

XtraNavBar provides you the controls to create more stunning interfaces, simplify navigation, and incorporate some of the newest look and feel in to your projects. With this control you will have everything you need to mimic the look and feel of Microsoft Office, Visual Studio.net all the way to Windows XP without having to write a lot of code.

XtraPivotGrid Suite will give you all the tools you need for data mining and multi-dimensional analysis. Now you can have full feature pivot table capabilities of a Microsoft Excel product without having to go out of process to get your results. This means that Microsoft Analysis Services (OLAP) data sources are fully supported right within your application.

XtraRichEdit Suite allows you to introduce Microsoft Word-like text editing features into your WinForms application. It provides advanced text formatting capabilities and delivers numerous end-user options helping you deliver competitive word processing WinForms products.

XtraScheduler Suite is a complete scheduling library that gives you the power to build scheduling applications that mimic the UI of Microsoft Outlook and give your end-users the type of environment that they already know. They have the ability to see in day/week/month view, manage appointments, as well as having multi-resource calendars.

DXperience

XtraSpellChecker provides to you a straightforward way to add Microsoft Office spellchecking capabilities into your WinForms applications. It also offers you suggestion forms that replicate the ones found in Outlook integrating easily into your application.

XtraTreeList Suite is a fully featured treeview-grid control. It is a multi-purpose data visualization system that can display information as a tree, a grid, or a combination of both. It also fully exploits ADO.NET as well as being used in unbound mode. It does not cache any data and therefore has a small memory footprint.

XtraVerticalGrid Suite will save you the traditional hassles associated with positioning and alignment of individual field labels and controls. This control can be thought of as an inverted grid control – allowing you to display individual rows from a dataset or to display multiple dataset rows within the container.

XtraWizard Control now gives you a way to provide step-by-step guidance for your end-user. You just drop a wizard control onto a form and then describe a minimum set of pages. All service elements (including wizard and page titles, header images, navigation buttons) are created and aligned automatically. All you need to do is provide text and images for these elements via appropriate properties.

XtraReports tools, XtraCharts control, and XtraPrinting library are also included in this WinForms subscription or as standalone suites. While I will go into these in more depth in part four, suffice it to say that these give you the ability to create and generate reports and charts as well as providing a printing solution for your WinForms Applications.

From within the DevExpress DXperience Universal Edition, along with all of this, you can also get the eXpressApp Framework, eXpressPersistent Objects, the Reporting/Printing Suites, Charting Suite, and ASP.NET components, as well giving you other IDE productivity tools that you can use to create highly dynamic Web-based, and desktop applications.
DXperience
All of the controls support style properties so that you can customize the appearance, they are easily populated with data via binding, they expose a set of client-side events and have been developed in such a way to have a small footprint and maximize performance.

The bottom line is that DXperience WinForms Subscription is a very rich set of tools for creating WinForm applications. The controls are very easy to use and have many more features than the ones you get with Visual Studio.

The DXperience WinForms Subscription is available for $799.99, or as part of Enterprise Subscription with source for $1299.99, or Universal Subscription with source for $1999.99. If you want, you can also download a demo and try it for yourself.

If you are tired of trying to get the standard WinForm controls to do things that they weren't meant to do, if you want spend less time doing the mundane tasks and more time focusing in on the parts of your applications that really matter—your business logic—then you need to check out DevExpress DXperience Universal Edition or DXperience WinForms Subscription. I highly recommend this product.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • Andy Foreman

    I can only guess that this author has not actually used the DevExpress controls, and is merely ‘wowed’ by their appearance – as so many are.

    Fact is, these controls are for the most part beautiful, however, they are likely the worst controls produced for WinForms work due to (#1) their terribly over-complex nature – you need to spend literally days just to even use them, and (#2) these are so poorly documented that the documentation itself is more of a comedy. Additionally, (#3) although these controls are supported, each support request takes about 1 day to process and along with the horrible documentation this means it can take weeks, yes WEEKS to even use one seemingly otherwise simple control. Finally (#4) these controls can do many elaborate things, but what they cannot do generally, is anything simple. Example? We tried to do a simple tree list with checkboxes – sorry DE controls cant do that.

    The fact is that when you want controls to help enhance and SPEED your development, DevExpress is exactly NOT the package you want. Think of it this way – how long did it take you to become proficient at Visual Studio? A week, a month, two? Thats about how long it takes to do the same for EACH control DevExpress puts out. Yeah, lots of controls, weeks to learn each one – and it leaves you asking the question that we asked and then found MANY purchasers ask – why do they call it ‘DevExpress’ when there is nothing even remotely ‘Express’ about it???

    This is a package that gets great reviews and yet, like many, these reviews are not produced by people using the package – or as we did, trying to use many components of it (so they get a full experience) – these are quick reviews lacking in depth. The truth is when you work with DevExpress for months as we have, you will wind up regretting your purchase – yes, you get a lot – but most of it is just frustrating, time-consuming, and in the end there are MANY other control providers who make your work easy and quick – DevExpress does just the opposite.

    Lets put it this way – The Space Shuttle is a very fancy, complex, and ‘cool’ vehicle – but if all you need to do is go to the end of the driveway, the Space Shuttle is the WORST vehicle you can choose. In fact, there, a skateboard would be MUCH better because there is no learning curve, no 10,000 gallons of fuel, no 100,000 buttons and knobs to ensure you have set correctly – you just get on the skateboard and go!

    If you have lots and lots of time to learn a vast collection of highly-over-complex controls so poorly documented, more power to you – go for DevExpress – but if you work for a living and need controls that enhance and SPEED UP your work – AVOID DEVEXPRESS LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

    DevExpress is a perfect example of overkill run amock.

  • Crono

    The one big problem I have with DevExpress is that they consider swallowing exceptions a good strategy to ensure stability.

    There was a few cases reported by customers in their support center about this, and pretty much everytime the answer was that it was by design.

    It’s a shame because I quite liked their controls overall. Now I feel I can’t trust them on reliability and code quality. :s