Product Review: WebGrid .NET Enterprise
Grids are very essential for every web application. They enable you to display data in a consistent way. Prior to .NET, Microsoft provided several grid controls under the name of ActiveX. ASP developers can utilize these controls on their web pages by creating an ActiveX document using Visual Studio 6.0. The main problem with this process is that the pages will take too much time to load and there are several security related issues as well. Microsoft's .NET Framework simplified the work of many developers as it comes with a powerful control called DataGrid. You can easily populate data and can manipulate them directly from the Grid itself. But still developers were not satisfied with this built-in control, as it doesn't provide improved and flexible layouts, efficient layout managers etc. However, many third party vendors developed reusable components by utilizing the .NET framework and it enabled the developers to integrate complex functionalities into their projects without much difficulty. This review focuses on one such useful and powerful component namely, WebGrid .NET Enterprise Edition. This is a flagship product developed by Intersoft Solutions (http://www.intersoftpt.com/) located at Jakarta, Indonesia and it is a member of Intersoft's WebUI Studio .NET.
WebGrid .NET Enterprise provides much more improved user interface and built-in functionalities than its earlier professional edition. The product ships with numerous features with which you can easily build enterprise-level and highly professional data presentation applications in less time and codes. It is designed to deliver enterprise-class information through hierarchical navigations with sophisticated user interaction. This allows users to work with the information in a more effective and productive way. The product implements the same core architecture allowing the control to work with server's resources without page postback while preserving the true server-based processing. Moreover, it enables the users to work with the information in the stateless, browser based applications by allowing users to do common tasks such as grouping, sorting, searching and navigating nested table's rows directly in the client and see the results in real time without page postback. This makes ASP.NET applications to work just like a WinForm application. The WebGrid .NET Enterprise has been designed to support Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003 and Visual Studio .NET 2002 as well as free tools like ASP.NET WebMatrix. WebGrid .NET Enterprise fully supports .NET Framework 1.1 resulting in significant improvement in performance and stability.
Some of the other notable features of this product are Custom Aggregation, Group interval, Built-in editing, WebCombo .NET integration, and Culture support. With Custom Aggregation you can perform your own calculation to meet complex applications scenario. The group interval feature enables you to perform grouping on different group intervals instead of the column's value as in professional edition. The enterprise edition ships with eight new group interval modes like Text, Alphabetical, Date, Month, ShortTime, LongTime and so on. One of the greatest features of this product, which I noticed, is its quick built-in editing capability. The editing feature implements the Intersoft's OnTheFly postback and Microsoft's ADO.NET in-memory architectures and thus the editing process performs with less resource consumption. The editing functionality can be activated by setting the AllowAddNew, AllowEdit and AllowDelete properties.
I have to pinpoint here one of the other interesting feature of WebGrid .NET Enterprise, without which this review will not be complete. It is that of WebCombo .NET integration and this product provides many advanced functionalities over the standard DropdownList such as load on demand pick list, multiple columns, rich presentation and it is also fully compatible with .NET Framework 1.1. In order to enable this functionality you will need to install WebCombo .NET Version 2 separately. The vendor provides this product along with the WebGrid .NET as GridCombo package. After installing WebCombo .NET all you have to do is to set the EditType to CalendarCombo and the appropriate WebComboID property in the WebGrid designer's RootTable Column's section. The designer can be opened by right clicking the Grid on the Visual Studio .NET design mode and selecting WebGrid .NET Designer. WebGrid Enterprise also supports six other edit types namely TextBox, Multiline Textbox, Checkbox, DropdownList, CalendarDropdown and the CalendarCombo. For instance, if you have to show up the Calendar control, you have to set the columns EditType property to CalendarCombo or CalendarDropDown. Further, you have to enable AllowAddNew and AllowEdit of the LayoutSettings to Yes. The calendar will pop up only if you have set the column's datatype to DateTime.
You can also set different cultures from the WebGrid designer. For instance, you can set the language to be used on the Grid as Chinese. But some of the culture settings are emitting runtime errors. I hope the vendor will fix these problems while releasing the next edition of the product. An interesting feature of the product, which I liked, is you can easily modify the appearance of the Grid from the WebGrid Designer. The enterprise edition also comes with support for built-in validations and masked data display. The vendor provides a sneak preview about the complete features of the enterprise edition and it can be accessed from an article within their developer's library.
The initial steps for getting started to work with this component are almost same as any other component like setting the connection, configuring the data adapter and generating the dataset. After performing the relevant steps you have to right click the component instance on the form and select Retrieve Structure. The data gets bounded as soon as you are done with this step. Finally, you should tweak the project with a little code by double clicking the component instance and adding the code snippet as shown in Listing 1:
OleDbDataAdapter1.Fill(MyDataSet.Suppliers) e.DataSource = MyDataSet
The product comes with an excellent piece of documentation. I very much liked their arrangement, way of presentation and also the Quickstart tutorials. Moreover, the documentation is well supported with relevant screenshots at appropriate places. But the main drawback with the documentation is that it doesn't provide code snippets in Visual Basic .NET. The product ships with Visual Studio .NET projects included, both Visual Basic .NET and C#. Their earlier edition provided these projects only in C#. From my point of view, the vendor should also include the source codes of the sample projects in text files. This will surely help non Visual Studio .NET users a lot. A well-structured and comprehensive explanation about the various namespaces, classes and methods are also given for developer's reference. Moreover, the documentation's start page lists all the features of the product. You can also read a detailed explanation of all the features from the Key Concepts section of the documentation.
I didn't experience any difficulty to work with this product and the technical support team of Intersoft Solutions is very quick and prompt in responding to all my queries with regard to the product. Intersoft has also developed its own Developer Library containing a wealth of new contents, technical articles and product updates. You will also find all the latest headlines from the Events section of their homepage.
WebGrid .NET enterprise edition supports lot of other features which are not found in other Grid products like Multi-columns drop down, Cell data overflow, Alpha-bending, Master/Detail, Multi line column header, Paging, Search, Clipboard support, HTML/XML Export and Excel Import/Export. I noticed that WebGrid enterprise edition is the only product that supports PDF Export, RTF Export, and Tiff Export. It also extends full globalization support for your applications. The vendor provides 30 days money back guarantee in case if you are not satisfied with the product. You will find more information about the warranty terms from the WebGrid .NET's License Agreement which comes with the product. So go ahead and play with WebGrid .NET Enterprise. If you are still wondering about the functioning of this product, have a look at the live demo of the WebGrid .NET Enterprise at www.intersoftpt.com/WebGrid/Live/Default.htm.
Name: WebGrid .NET Enterprise
Vendor: Intersoft Solutions
Category: .NET Component/Grid
Pricing & Licensing:
30 Days Trial - Free
1 Developer License - $699
4 Developer License - $1,398
About the Author
Anand Narayanaswamy, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional works as an independent consultant and technical writer. Anand runs learnXpress.com and specializes in C#, ASP.NET, Visual Basic .NET, ASP, Visual Basic 6.0 and in the development of courseware, technical articles, documentation and reviews of products and books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org