ComponentOne Studio for ASP.NET AJAX - Free License Giveaway

The folks at ComponentOne rebuilt their wildly popular ComponentOne Studio for ASP.NET AJAX from the ground up using the A2 Framework, Html, CSS, and JQuery.  Free license giveaway promotion has expired.

I recently reviewed all 28 ASP.NET user interface controls that exist in this suite. My first impression was that the "out of the box" styles were pretty standard. Various flavors of Microsoft Office 2007 and the ever present Windows Vista / Windows 7 look and feel. What wasn't obvious in the Control Explorer was a cool little tool they call "Foxy". Finding the tool in your start menu isn't obvious either. It shows up in ComponentOne | Studio for ASP.NET AJAX | Style Designer folder. As soon as you launch Foxy, you'll realize that your styling and icon customization options for the ComponentOne Suite for ASP.NET AJAX controls are virtually endless. I found it to be a simple to use tool even for the "style challenged" developers like myself.

The suite contains many of the standard controls you'd expect to find such as the Accordion, Calendar, ComboBox, Editor, Expander, Input Mask, Menu, Progress Bar, Slider, Splitter, Tab, Tab Strip, Toolbar, TreeView, Window, and Upload controls. ComponentOne Studio for ASP.NET AJAX also contains a few new controls and some standbys with interesting features. Check out these observations:

Calendar

I hadn't noticed this in Windows Vista or Windows 7 but apparently the calendar control offers a decade range view for selecting the year. It then transitions into almost a wizard interface for selecting the month and day. ComponentOne has implemented this functionality in their calendar control and I really like it.

Editor

The neat feature I have not seen in other ASP.NET editor controls was the split view of the text and html at the same time. I could definitely see this being used in CMS systems.

Gauges

There are a whole slew of gauges and gauge implementations available. They look great and the AJAX implementation creates a nice user interface experience. In fact, the Composite Gauge sample in the Control Explorer really shows off what you can do with these gauges. It demonstrates how to combine multiple gauges into your own unique controls. Impressive.

GridView

The GridView is cornerstone of the suite. Aside from standard GridView features, I was impressed with the column filter/search feature. The user can type in characters and select one of many comparison operators to perform on it. This is just a great feature for working with large groups of records. The aggregate and hierarchical grouping features worked well too. The ability to drag and drop multiple columns which triggers the GridView to automatically create a hierarchical grouping is a really nice feature. I'm a big fan of user defined interfaces and this fits right into that mentality.

Menu

What stood out for me when using the Menu control is its ability to properly sense where I wanted to go in the menu hierarchy without being too sensitive. This is a real pet peeve of mine when using web based menu controls and ComponentOne got this right. The animation options also add to the visual appeal.

MultiPage

This is probably one of my favorite controls in the suite. The control lets you build animated wizards that do not require complete page refreshes. If you look closely at ComponentOne's shopping cart for purchasing this product, you'll see that it uses this control. The multi-page wizard control is also used as a base component for other controls in the suite like the Tab control.

Report Viewer

This is a new control for ComponentOne that is out of beta and considered a version 1.0 product. What's cool here is that these guys have developed a technology referred to as web paper. Rather than deliver formatted html to the browser to render the report, they deliver a high definition graphic instead. You end up with reports that are always properly formatted and displayed regardless of the web browser used.

The search capability worked better than expected. It made it easy to find and navigate directly to data points within the report. End users will love this. They offer several "Save As" options including Microsoft Excel, PDF, RTF, and some of the Open Document formats. During testing, these all worked for me with the exception of loading RTF into an Office 2010 Word Document.

Scheduler

Creating an Outlook style scheduling interface is a no brainer with this control. Just drop it on the form and go.

Super Panel

I believe this component is completely unique to ComponentOne. Its primary function is to provide animated scrolling capabilities for content contained in the panel. Great for horizontally or vertically cycling through images, scrolling through large charts, or even finding places on a map. The Super Panel even supports direct scroll to specific places in the panel. The dynamic scrolling sample demonstrates this via a map and pre-defined location buttons.

Tab Control

The Tab control uses the MultiPage control as part of its base. What you end up with is visually appealing animation as the user navigates from tab to tab. Styled and label right, this could be used to create an impressive shopping cart wizard for your ecommerce apps. Be sure to check out the client side event validation scheme as well.

Upload

The upload control is fairly standard. If you watch the sample closely, you'll notice the Progress Bar implementation in the sample. EggHeadCafe may just implement this in a few of our own upload sections of the site.

Charts

The suite contains a huge array of chart types and views that should be more than sufficient for most web applications. At first glance, the graphical appeal of these charts is not mind blowing. The samples don't do them justice. If you tinker around with the settings for line alias, colors, transparency, and such, you'll find both the 2D and 3D charts look great. Unlike other chart components, these are AJAX enabled. So, no page postback required to change chart settings or data. Combine these AJAX enabled charts with the gauges mentioned above and you've got powerful data analysis dashboard capabilities for your applications.

Tooltip

In the Control Explorer, make sure you view the "Callout Animation" sample. Mouse over the icons and watch the tooltip respond. The animation and functionality is pretty cool. This is an interesting user interface concept that I think you'll want to consider for your own apps. The map sample demonstrates how to integrate the ComponentOne tooltip into Google maps. Overall, this is great little control for spicing up the tooltips in your apps.

Summary

Truth is, I'd probably buy the suite just for the Tab control and its underlying MultiPage control. I can see so many real world situations where this would boost the usability factor of my web apps exponentially. The gauges, super panel, and report viewer are a huge bonus as well.

I encourage you todownload a trial of the control suite at ComponentOne.com.

By the way, for all you Silverlight junkies, ComponentOne offers a suite of Silverlight controls for you too. In fact, this review was submitted via our article editor that uses the ComponentOne RichTextEditor for Silverlight.

By Robbe Morris   Popularity  (7180 Views)
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Biography - Robbe Morris
Robbe has been a Microsoft MVP in C# since 2004. He is also the co-founder of NullSkull.com which provides .NET articles, book reviews, software reviews, and software download and purchase advice.  Robbe also loves to scuba dive and go deep sea fishing in the Florida Keys or off the coast of Daytona Beach. Microsoft MVP