Wednesday 4th February, 7pm
The VSFlexGrid Pro package arrived this evening just minutes after I returned from my weekly radio stint. A grumpy, tired parcel guy threw the box through my office window and sped off.
Thirty seconds later and my excited hands held the VSFlexGrid Pro package from Videosoft, along with a note from the public relations officer requesting a good review. Or else.
The first thing that struck me about this program is that it actually ships with a manual... a practice which seems to be getting less common in modern day computing. But having a nearby reference guide, even a 350-page slightly-difficult-to-understand one is always useful.
Installation of VSFlexGrid Pro is undertaken via three floppy disks and eats just over 5MB of hard disk space. And it doesn't just ship with the controls - a host of impressive VB samples are bundled alongside. And for the more adventurous, slightly scary C++ demos were included... but that isn't my scene.
Aesthetically speaking, the grid isn't up to much as soon as you slap it on a form. But a few clicks of the mouse button later and you can have the Explorer feel, background images and direct database binding err, at least that's what the manual blurb says.
The first example I spied certainly made my eyes twinkle. The grid boasts an incredibly simple 'array binding' feature in one line of code, you can bind a two-dimensional array direct to a grid. All changes made in the grid are reflected immediately in the array, and vice versa. Cooool!
Next up, I checked out its very simple conditional formatting and aggregates example meaning you can easy add sub totals, averages and all the usual Access-like aggregate functions direct to your application.
With a few extra lines of code, such information can be turned into hierarchical totals, allowing you to create decision-support-type applications. And in-built save/load/print features could also allow you user to save statistics for later viewing.
Although I initially experienced a few problems with direct binding to a database, they were soon obliterated... and I figured out how to link the grid direct to a DAO/ADO data control or a coded recordset.
With reference to the problem I mentioned in the introduction where I needed to select a customer from a list, yet insert the customer ID into the database VSFlexGrid Pro handles it with absolute ease, damn it.
One 'BuildComboList' function later, and the list is in place. Adding date pickers and notelets to fields is also as simple.
Another feature overlooked by developers of the built-in VB grids, is a 'Wallpaper' property the ability to tile an image in the background of your grid. And VSFlexGrid Pro ships with a few for your pleasure though some are certainly more useful than others. For example, don't try the New York skyline graphic the partially black background completely camouflages your text!
Other features such as being able to add your own customised scroll-tips (such as those in Word or Access) certainly make a lasting, positive impression.
The package also ships with VSFlexString, a string manipulation control with no visual interface. It's just a nice extra that allows you to perform complex string searches and provides Soundex capabilities.
For those who don't know, Soundex is a system whereby words are assigned a 'phonetic code' based on its physical pronunciation, allowing you to add 'fuzzy' searching options to your application. So 'James' and 'Jaymz' produce the same code J52.
However the system seems to rely on the first letter of the word being absolutely correct 'cause 'Karl' and 'Carl' produce different codes. Still, you can't have everything and this isn't really a flaw in the package, but rather the Soundex algorithm originally invented back in 1918.
Nevertheless, this grid package is certainly impressive. Fairly easy to get to grips with and boasting more features than you can wave a very large stick at... VSFlexGrid Pro has already won my heart.
On the downside, there's the price. It costs #185 / $248 which ain't pocket money for the individual, small-time developer. But for professional consultants and organisations, it's peanuts.
Oh well, time to leave the office. Wonder when the next package will arrive...
You can download a demo of VSFlexGrid Pro from www.videosoft.com
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