Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Website: www.devexpress.com
Price: $1,999.99

Even though many third-party ASP.NET controls exist, developers still demand advanced and improved features, including robust controls. Developer Express (DevExpress) has introduced several such features in its latest product suite, DXperience Universal v2011 vol 1. In this review, I will examine only these new features; for information about the overall product, see my DevProConnections review of the previous version of DXperience Universal.

New Features and ASP.NET Controls Enhancements

A key feature of DXperience v2011 vol 1 is support for HTML5 and Extensible HTML (XHTML) 1.0 Strict. The introduction of this support gives you the ability to customize the appearance of the ASP.NET File Manager control with new themes, as Figure 1 shows.

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Figure 1: Modifying the ASP.NET File Manager theme

The ASP.NET File Manager control has been modified so that it can use any data source component, such as SQLDataSource, to connect to a database back end. The control also ships with the ability to generate the file system UI, including the creation of custom file system providers and the ability to control role-based security access through rules.

To work with the ASP.NET File Manager control, you simply need to double-click the control from the Visual Studio 2010 Toolbox. The control also includes a facility to download files directly from File Manager (as Figure 2 shows), as well as support for server-side file validation.

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Figure 2: ASP.NET File Manager in action

The control also ships with a new event named FileClick and provides the ability to upload files directly from File Manager. These new features should be useful for developers who need to build Control Panel for web-hosting providers.

A majority of developers use the DevExpress GridView control. The feature now includes support for multirow headers and bands. Moreover, the MVC GridView extension provides the ability to add or remove columns by using drag-and-drop functionality, including support for the master detail grid layout. The control comes with new edit modes such as Inline, Popup, EditFormAndDisplayRow, and EditForm, with support for error management if the provided values don't match.

The ASP.NET Popup control now includes several advanced enhancements, such as the Lightweight render, ScrollBars, Cascading Style Sheets level 3 (CSS3) shadows, and ASP.NET MVC Extensions. DevExpress ASP.NET HTML Editor now provides support for right-to-left writing and includes several built-in themes and a spell checker. HTML Editor also includes a built-in file manager, in addition to a document dialog with which you can easily insert hyperlinks into your content, as Figure 3 shows. You can also copy and paste the content from Microsoft Word 2010, by selecting the Export option.

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Figure 3: Inserting hyperlinks

The CheckBox control contains new render states for multiple controls. ASP.NET MVC Extensions ship with several code-usability improvements. The vendor has introduced several new performance-boosting techniques with which you can quickly export large amounts of data from the various ASP.NET controls and upload huge files with less memory required. These changes have been introduced in both the ASP.NET controls and MVC Extensions, which should be useful for advanced developers.

Improvements to Windows Controls

With the release of DXperience v2011 vol 1, DevExpress has also introduced new features in the controls that are oriented for the development of Windows-based applications. For instance, you can now easily create a table of contents from a Word document by using the Rich Text Editor control. I suggest that you to refer to the blog posts of DXperience product team members for the most recent updates.

The product also provides the ability to create drag-and-drop-style widgets by using new docking controls with several new features, such as support for AJAX and cross-browser capabilities. Developers will be able to build custom content-management systems in which widgets play a crucial part in the placement of content.

A Productivity Booster

DevExpress provides high-quality support through email, blog posts by product team members, videos, and samples, which you can access directly from the vendor website.

To sum up my impressions of DXperience v2011 vol 1, I think you'll find, as I did, that its improvements will both simplify development and reduce the time needed to develop applications.

Anand Narayanaswamy (visualanand@gmail.com) works as an independent consultant based in Trivandrum, India. He is the author of Community Server Quickly (Packt) and runs www.learnxpress.com and www.technoenclave.com.