Product Review: ComponentOne Studio for WinForms controls

Even with all the advancements in technology, two important factors for enterprise desktop development still hold true today. There remains a need for better performance and an appealing user interface (UI). Today, you've got the opportunity to win a free license of ComponentOne Studio for WinForms controls (valued at $1,195.00) that will help you do just that. (Note: contest is complete and winner awarded)

I was excited when presented with the opportunity to test ComponentOne's collection of .NET Windows Form controls included in the Studio for WinForms suite. What’s great about ComponentOne is that they have been providing some of the most well-known grids for Windows Client apps, FlexGrid and TrueDBGrid, since 1991. With that longevity, you know that their controls will stand the test of time and evolve along with market trends.

The Studio offers over 65 .NET Windows Forms controls, in some instances extending what is “in the box” and in others providing controls you can’t get anywhere else. ComponentOne Studio for WinForms controls include code-free designers, built-in features, like the ability to replicate popular interfaces as seen in Microsoft Office, and awesome flexibility. The Studio comes with controls like Chart, Ribbon, FlexGrid, Scheduler, Reports, and True DBGrid.

As you read on you’ll see this product earned high remarks and we decided to hold a drawing so that one of our readers would have a chance to win a Free License of ComponentOne Studio for WinForms. Be sure you are logged in as an member and click the entry banner to be automatically entered in the drawing

As a developer, you invest in a third party control suite (or get your employer to do so) for several reasons:
• First, because it provides controls with functionality that you need in order to develop better applications in less time.
• Second, because it can be significantly less expensive to purchase the control suite than to devote the many hours of development time that would be necessary to provide the needed functionality.
• And third, because the professional look and feel of a control suite enhances the usability and performance of your applications. Having reviewed ComponentOne's Studio for WinForms controls, it's my opinion that the suite meets all three criteria

One really strong suit for ComponentOne's Studio for WinForms controls is it's all-in-one reporting solution, which has a rich object model for generating reports, several UI controls for previewing, and a report designer for creating and designing reports. Reports for WinForms is pretty much an all-in-one reporting solution. You can generate professional looking, well-behaved reports for your applications. You can even integrate your existing reporting solutions (SQL Server, Access, Crystal) into your applications.

I used the report designer to create a custom report based on some tables in the trusty Northwind database with no trouble at all. You can drag fields onto your report designer surface and easily design custom reports exactly to your liking. I generated a Grouped-by-Country Sales report from Northwind in a matter of seconds, from a stored procedure. These can then be either printed, or exported to other programs such as Excel, PDF, Html, RTF, Text, and XML Paper Specification:

Here's another custom report I did with a C1 Chart control added. You can see my Bromberg IPA and Ultra Bock are doing well:

The C1Chart control offers a wide range of features and makes it relatively easy to create really stunning color charts of just about any type. Here's one I did using the OpenHighLowClose bar chart style for a stock:

C1Report provides a rich object model for creating, customizing, loading, and saving report definitions.  Whether you need to generate reports with barcodes, charts, etc., or render reports directly to a printer or preview control it is possible using C1Report. You can also modify existing SQL Server SSRS reports or even create new reports completely in code using the C1RdlReport component

People often ask about importing, and with ComponentOne’s control you can import Access report files (MDB) and Crystal report files (RPT) using the C1ReportDesigner application. The C1ReportDesigner uses a banded report model for a highly organized and familiar layout. You can create complex hierarchical documents with automatic word index, TOC generation, data binding, and more with C1PrintDocument.

Controls that come with the C1Report features include:

C1Report Component : The C1Report component generates Access-style database reports. C1Report exposes an object model for creating, customizing, loading, and saving report definitions. I experimented mostly with this component. I found it easy to use and easy to customize with a variety of added controls.

C1RdlReport Component :
The C1RdlReport component provides support for SQL Server Reporting Services. C1RdlReport exposes the full RDL object model so you can modify existing reports or create new reports without external dependencies such as Microsoft Reporting Services. Import your existing SSRS report definitions (RDL) into C1RdlReport to programmatically generate your reports and integrate them with the full ComponentOne Reporting suite.

C1PrintDocument Component : The C1PrintDocument component provides an object model that allows you to create arbitrarily complex documents in code. The object model specifically targets paginated documents, providing a rich set of features to facilitate automatic and intelligent pagination of complex structured documents. Documents can be completely created in code, or bound to a database via a flexible data binding model.

C1MultiDocument Component : C1MultiDocument is designed to allow creating, persisting and exporting large documents that cannot be handled by a single document object due to memory limitations. Use C1MultiDocument to combine multiple C1PrintDocuments, C1Reports and C1RdlReports which will be rendered as a whole continuous document with shared page numbering, a common TOC, word index, page count and inter-document hyperlinks.

Print Preview Controls : Reports includes six visual document viewing components, including C1PrintPreviewControl, with features for previewing, formatting, printing, and exporting documents from your Windows applications. Combine these print preview controls with C1Report and C1PrintDocument to handle all kinds of document reporting needs.

C1ReportDesigner control : C1ReportDesigner is a Windows Forms control that provides the ability to design and edit report definitions that can be used with the C1Report and preview controls. Developers can use the C1ReportDesigner control to incorporate some report design features into applications, or write unique full-fledged report designer applications.

The Report suite also include two standalone applications, the Report Designer Application, and the Report Scheduler Application. Report Designer creates, edits, loads, and saves report definition files that can be read directly by the C1Report component. Report Scheduler includes a Windows service that is designed to run in the background on your machine and generate ComponentOne Reports on set schedules. A big plus is that you can redistribute the C1ReportDesigner application to deliver report designing functionality to your end-users. To me, that feature alone is worth the price of the control suite. Different users typically want different reports with different information in them. Why not provide them with an application that allows them to design their own?

Best of all, both applications come with complete source code, enabling developers to freely modify and redistribute them, royalty free. If you need to develop applications that include a reporting feature, these controls and application can cut your programming time dramatically by seamlessly converting hundreds of reports directly into your applications. Legacy Crystal Reports and Access reports can be converted easily. Since C1Reports supports the new SSRS reporting model, such as RDL report definitions, ComponentOne gives you a way to integrate existing reports and create new reports using the C1RdlReport component in order to leverage your existing SQL Server Reporting Services investment.

Another control in the WinForms offering is FlexGrid. It offers some really useful features. Here's an example of one I did that mimics an Excel "autocomplete" field:

Studio for WinForms comes with an extensive offering of samples that you can load and test, or use as the basis for further work. Each of the sample categories has a number of excellent sample projects. For example, the Report Samples alone has 36 different samples ranging from Ad Hoc Sorting to the FlexGrid Printable example. There are over 300 samples included.

With ComponentOne's Studio for WinForms controls, you'll be able to replicate popular interfaces as seen in Microsoft Office and other programs. For example, provide a docking UI similar to Visual Studio using DockingTab, create an appointments calendar similar to Outlook with Scheduler, and deliver a complete Office 2010 menu system using Ribbon. These customizable controls can be easily modified to perfectly fit your application, resulting in efficient, well-styled, rich user-friendly UI effects.

The new 2012 release adds support for Visual Studio 11, a custom map field in C1Reports, and a number of enhancements throughout the studio. Reports for WinForms now offers a custom Mapping Field Added to the C1ReportDesigner. With the new mapping report field you can add visual maps to your reports. The report field is powered by ComponentOne Maps for WPF, and gives you new ways to visualize your bound report data.

This new feature allows developers to show sales totals per country or state, visualize which geographic areas have the most activity or revenue, and draw lines connecting different cities to show routes or responsibilities. You can also render KML files to show partial maps with colored regions and markers, auto-zoom a world map to show a particular country or region, and render maps on multiple pages of the report -- or show a single map at the beginning or end of the report.

There is also added support for rotated text with the Field.TextAngle property, and added support for more shape fields such as triangles, ellipses, arcs and pie shapes. Also added is parsing of EMF+ meta files when exporting to PDF, RTF and XLS. The Report Designer application is now updated with the Office 2010 Visual Style.

The ComponentOne website offers extensive documentation, user forums, and blogs to help ease the learning curve in using this extensive set of high-quality controls. We give ComponentOne Studio for WinForms controls high marks for usability, easy learning curve, quality documentation, and good support. You can download a fully functional trial here.

By Peter Bromberg   Popularity  (22126 Views)