Monday 7th February, 5pm
As I gazed thoughtfully into my monitor, Jane rushed across the office to answer my mobile which was apparently ringing, though I never heard it.
"Good afternoon, Karl Moores' phone, how may I help?", she spoke in that dainty English accent.
"It's Marge 'ere from down t'road". Jane mimed the name... oh. That Marge. "We've got yer parcel, some geezer just left it outside our door".
Well, that's what you get from not giving the parcel company a building number. It seems the Mega Worldwide Delivery Corporation decided it should be delivered to the first construction on the lane... and not ours. And hey, let's just forget about a signature or anything.
Fifteen minutes letter and yet another grid was in my grubby lil' hands. This time it was the True DBGrid Pro 6.0, from well-known component group Apex.
And it's apparently "the world's most popular" grid. Actually, they claim all their products are "the world's most popular". Hmmm, suspicious.
Nonetheless, two minutes later it was installed on my machine and I was ready to get going.
Strangely enough, this package also contains a pretty good manual beating the previous one by another 150 pages. Perhaps they're not going out of fashion after all.
From the outset, you're exposed to classy art pictures of all types. Even the setup hosts a picture of Van Gogh's Plain of Auvers, though for what reason I'm quite unsure.
But still, setup was easy and took almost 12MB. In addition to the controls, this package also bundles with VB5/VB6 examples five in all.
Yet in all honesty none are particularly striking nor easy-to-follow not really what you'd expect from Apex.
On the positive side, a set of twenty-three tutorial projects (yes, twenty-three) are included alongside the online help, in a bid to get you familiar with the controls. They start with a simple ADO control bound grid, have a quick fling with unbound data somewhere in the middle and finish with a very (very) groovy sample that allows you to graphically group data.
Whilst playing with the tutorials, I must admit to getting slightly frustrated with the actual grid. Often when trying to move cells with the keyboard, the light cell-focus border temporarily disappeared. Also, when moving from one column to a different column in a later row, a strange 'flash' became very annoying.
Perhaps I'm just being picky, but for #195 / $310 I'd expect a little better.
Still, the grid does contain a lot of neat features. Such as it's great built-in support for graphics, an Excel-type split-bar and the ability to highlight entire rows dependant on criteria.
You can also allow the user to select option buttons within a cell or display "cell tips" the same as ToolTips, but relative to each cell. Yet none of this jazz is demonstrated in the samples nor tutorials, meaning you have to delve into the 500-page manual or online help to figure out such functionality exists.
One nice feature I noticed was the way in which the grid automatically displays a larger box for text that doesn't quite fit in its cell. But then it spoils itself by losing the boxes' border if the user temporarily switches focus to another application. Ho-humm.
The Print Preview feature of the grid didn't quite receive my thumbs-up; it looked cheap and tacky, with poor icons and menu commands such as 'Print Some Pages'.
Another way to get information out of the grid is to export it direct to a HTML file, which seemed to work well. All formatting was preserved and you have the option of appending data to an existing HTML file, which is pretty cool.
Remember the problem I highlighted in my introduction? I needed to display a combo box of customer names and for the customer ID to be inserted into the database. Well, thankfully True DBGrid Pro 6.0 does support such combo box-like selections via its own rather sticky DropDown control.
And if you're wanting for a user to select from a list box, the tutorial demonstrates code similar to that I wrote over two years ago. And that was exceptionally dodgy.
Hmm, it's about time to sum up True DBGrid Pro 6.0.
Well, it has a few really unique features and an exceptional manual - yet lacks decent working examples. And most developers hate fishing around in manuals for nitty-bitty lines of code. Still, the grid does ship is a rather neat, futuristic CD holder... ahem.
A good job, Apex. But perhaps perhaps not good enough.
I wonder what'll arrive next?
You can download a demo of True DBGrid Pro 6.0 from www.apexsc.com.
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