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  • By Karl Moore
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In addition to the above, I've also taken a brief peek at the following packages.

Spread 3.0 Farpoint

#175 / $235 www.fpoint.com

Whilst more for those would need to implement spreadsheet-type functionality in their applications, this package is certainly impressive. You can imagine it as a mini version of Excel, packed into a cute control.

It supports all the usual open and save activities, as well as basic Excel-like formulae.

It will even read and write to Excel spreadsheets. Or rather, it claims to the demo provided wouldn't even open my personal accounts. And trust me, they ain't nothing fancy.

Some of the samples were quite impressive, though a few hard-coded paths made instant running a definite no-no.

More of interest to those reading this review will be its ability to directly bind to DAO/RDO/ADO data sources with absolutely no code. It also automatically recognises field types and cleverly changes the cell format according. For example, my True/False field was automatically replaced with a groovy red check box, as opposed to its raw database 0 or 1 value. In addition, if Spread spots a date, it automatically pops up a calendar for selection ease.

Spread includes a lot of neat features like that. I think, perhaps, that this cell-level formatting is one of its best features. You could, for example, set minimum and maximum numbers on each individual cell, column or row. Or you could present a combo box for item selection.

A few other impressive features included a "pointer" within the grid that moves as you type, particularly useful with masked strings and decimals. You can even changes the way simple text cells work convert the text to password characters, multi-line format, upper case, lower case, police case. It's all there.

Exporting, print previewing and graphics support is also bundled.

Oh, and for all those 16-bit developers out there you still have hope. Spread 3.0 supports Windows 3.1, no probs... something that's getting pretty difficult to find in a 32-bit world.

Quick Conclusion: Easy to use, but certainly not a traditional "grid". More a spreadsheet with graphical frills and without the Microsoft copyright. Powerful and with a whopping great manual to prove it.

Order Spread 3.0 from ComponentSource

ActiveX Component Suite - ProtoView

#415 / $635 - www.protoview.com

It's rather a pity the people at ProtoView treat me like a one-legged beggar on the prowl for freebies when I requested an evaluation copy of their ActiveX Component Suite. Why? 'Cause their product isn't all that bad. And this could've been a pleasant, unbiased review.

Still, being the soul of integrity, I shall try my best...

The ActiveX Component Suite checks in at around #x and comes with a whopping great handful of samples which is good, 'cause the documentation is pretty sparse. To be more exact, there isn't any.

Still, if the list of properties and methods laboriously categorised in the HTML help aren't to your liking, you might fancy checking out the large set of bundled samples, some of which I found particularly unstable. Still, they managed to showcase the four main components of the suite heck, even if for a mere few seconds before the blue screen of death.

Top of the list and rather relevant to this review, we find the DataTable control. Easy-to-setup with a nice set of property pages, this grid supports much of the standard stuff we've uncovered so far. Support for checkboxes within cells, alternate row colouring and direct database binding support are all there.

You'll find the occasional neat feature too such as pointers highlighting the row over which your mouse hovers but really, it's nothing special.

Also included, you'll find the Data Explorer for building groovy Outlook-style applications. The third ScheduleX component is a diary-like scheduling thing (yawn). And then we have TreeViewX, a revamped version of Microsoft's own TreeView control.

So there we have it - a total of four main components, with a few masked-edit-type controls thrown in for good taste.

Quick Conclusion: Not a bad set of tools, all in all. It certainly should meet the needs of the average developer particularly those wishing to adopt an Office-style interface. Still, my overall experience with the company behind it all certainly wasn't the greatest. A word of advice to ProtoView... get yourselves a public relations company in order to avoid future journalistic clashes!

Order ActiveX Component Suite from ComponentSource

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This article was originally published on November 20, 2002

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