DevExpress 14.1 – the Good, the Great and the downright Cool!

This is not the first time I have participated in a major product release during my time here at DevExpress, but I still can’t help getting caught up in the excitement surrounding our twice yearly launch (let’s not get into a debate on biannual vs biennial).

The focus is on becoming a UI Superhero and delivering amazing user-experiences across .Net platforms and next-gen mobile devices.


Just when you think there are no more features to add into the toolbox, the boffins decide to prove you wrong, again! 14.1 contains new controls across ALL the technologies supported, over the last few weeks, the teams have been providing teasers on what we can expect in this drop.

Here is a quick snapshot:

WinForms: 9 new controls, 11 major controls enhanced
WPF: 4 new controls, 2 new services and 8 major controls enhanced
Win8/XAML: 4 new controls, cool new features added to grid control
ASP.NET WebForms + MVC: 3 New Controls, 8 sets of enhancements

The list goes on.

My favourites have to be

1. The ASP.NET Report Designer (CTP)
Create and edit XtraReports right in your browser :)



2. PDF Viewer enhancements
Page Rotation, Deletion/Extract and Merge functionality :)


For the first time ever, there is going to be a 24 hour live webinar leading up to the launch, this will feature all your favourite speakers, Seth, Amanda, Mehul, Mark, Don, Rachel, Julian, Amy, Areg and of course me :)

For the rest of the week, key team members will be presenting the “What’s New in 14.1″ webinars to ensure you get to see the best features in all their glory. Click here for full details on all the webinars.

CodeRush vs ReSharper (the Roslyn debate)

Will CR/R# take advantage of Roslyn???

WOW! what a hot topic…

In short, here is what you need to know…

1. Will ReSharper take advantage of Roslyn?


2. Will CodeRush take advantage of Roslyn?


Now, to be fair both camps have produced two very detailed posts (click on the links above)

As a developer I have written before on my preference for IDE Tools, but I think this is quite a defining moment. Thinking back to pre .NET days (yes, my dear students, there was a time before .NET, just as there was a time before the internet!) there were a few contenders that made our lives easier, since Visual Studio was born, the selections have been limited to a couple of key players. At the time of writing there are a couple of other vendors that have not responded to my request on support for the new compiler.

Roslyn provides so many benefits and will continue to grow into the next generation of frameworks, so DevExpress’s position of embracing it I believe is the right way to go. Now, if only I can get Mark Miller to join me on a webinar to explain all the cool features of CR Roslyn style :)

[watch this space]

How do you test a web UI ?

We all understand the importance of a good testing framework, Test Driven Development (TDD) significantly reduces the maintenance cost of software and provides for cleaner, tidier code, but what about the UI elements of a web site or HTML5/JS Application? what’s involved in running tests on different browsers, different operating systems and devices?

I recently took TestCafe from a spin, it is quite simply the quickest easiest testing tool I have ever used. You can download, install and start creating tests on any browser, any operating system in less than 15 minutes! Compared to some of the competitor packages that I looked into that is lightning fast!


So what makes it such a winner?

Well to start with it’s “plugin free”, and by that I mean NO extra bits to download for your browser. Seem like a small thing? WRONG, you can run TestCafe on ANY mainstream browser without installing anything extra, you can swap machines and run tests from any machine, any operating system or device. This is a HUGE difference to the other packages I looked at, one in particular took me thirty minutes just to get working, I had to install additional extensions and I was limited to Firefox for recording tests!

Within minutes of installation I was up and running, the visual test recorder was simple and intuitive, and after I finished my test I could edit it right there in the browser with an API set that made sense. In fact, I could almost memorise the whole API.

TestCafe really has to be seen to be believed, so I’m going to do an online presentation on May 19, where I will show you just how easy it is to deploy, record a test, explore the API inside the script editor and display true browser independence with Chrome, IE, Firefox and Safari.

Register here and in the meantime download TestCafe and experience web testing made easy!

The UI is very easy to navigate, use and understand:

Clean UI

Editing a test is simple, the edit window also does a compiler check:


Mobile Evolution: Obj-C –> TypeScript with DevExtreme

It still amazes me, the number of developers who have put writing mobile apps into the ‘too hard’ basket. The scenario is the same around the world… someone at a corporate level decides it would be cool to have an ‘app’, but when you start looking into it, well, it’s a nightmare. There is framework after framework, promise after promise, and then when you start looking at the costs and small print, its a mine field! The question that has been raised for years is still as relevant as ever… “do I go native or hybrid?”, well that still depends on your project, your skill set and budget, but if you are wanting to break into the mobile market at attack all three major players at once, I recommend hybrid. People who know me would be shocked at that last statement since I love native iOS development, but the truth is simple, you cannot hit multiple platforms from the comfort of Objective-C. That’s when I decided to take on a challenge, to create a hybrid version of an existing iOS application that I developed years ago, and since TypeScript was officially released in Visual Studio Update 2, I decided it should be the language of choice.

Join me on April 29, 10am (PDT) as I turn a native iOS application into a DevExtreme generated hybrid and get maximum exposure from a single codebase.

Register Today

Not Flappy, Not Happy, Ratings gone MAD!

Ok, I don’t rant too often, but this one has me annoyed. Local development house PIG Studios decided to do something a little different when it wanted to launch itself. Effectively there are a number of games in the pipeline, but given the noise of flappy bird, they decided to try and launch a quick, annoyingly addictive game – Fello Pean Tubes. Enter Cecil… now Cecil is a sperm, albeit a cartoon one, he looks like an albino tadpole, and the idea is that you have to help Cecil navigate his way through the fallopian tubes to help fertilise the egg. There are three different game modes (baby, crawl and run), each offering a different starting speed. All the game assets were unique, created by the artists at PIG Studios, the intro music was a stock file while the in game experience was written again by one of the guys at the studio. Almost a month ago, Tim submitted the game for Apple’s approval having jumped through all the hoops of becoming a registered Apple developer. After the obligatory week of waiting, the game (known from now on as FT) was rejected. Apple cited a problem with the advertising information in the pList, and it was rated wrong…


So, the boys decided to remove iAd and just sell the game for a meagre $0.99. This time the rating was put to 9+ and a resubmission was made. Now remember at this point, there were no faults with the game, it was all admin related. Another 7 days go by, then the app is moved into “Review” for 3 days!. Finally, REJECTED! the reason was the same, your rating is wrong, this game has suggestive mature content!!!

I may be broad minded, having raised 3 girls and two boys has meant everything in life was discussed. But telling a developer you have to have an R17+ rating on a swimming albino tadpole because it is suggestive??

For now the boys decided to up the rating and just get the game into the AppStore, but I feel it is censorship gone mad. There are more suggestive cartoons on free to air TV than what FT offers, I mean aren’t schools now giving “The Talk” at a younger age now? Seriously Apple!

Anyway, best of luck to the boys over at PIG Studios, I would recommend any iPhone users grab a copy of Fello Pean Tubes (Android version coming soon, so I’m told), and I know they have some exciting things in the pipeline, FT is the first of a 4 part series, and there is some cool Unity development going on too.

Why not grab your copy and help these guys out…



What’s involved in setting up ASP.NET security?

ImageWhat’s involved in setting up ASP.NET security? well it depends who you ask and what you want to do.  It is interesting to see that something so important causes many developers to stumble.  How do you set up a basic registration page? how do you maintain what roles or memberships a person has? how do you set a page to be secure?  Well, join me February 11 (EST) [which again means 4am for the Aussies, 7am for the Kiwi's, 6pm for the Brits] for a fast paced, hard hitting webinar that takes you through some of the basic implementations of securing your ASP.NET website. Full details available here. Don’t worry if you can’t make it, the session will be recorded an put on the DevExpress Youtube channel as well.

.Net PDF Viewer Showdown – revisited

Sometime last year I wrote a post on PDF Viewers and the difficulty in choosing one that was inexpensive, easy to implement and performant. Since that time DevExpress released a PDF Viewer for WinForms, WPF and XAML, so I thought it time to add them into the equation.

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Ok, it was a simple enough feature to add. A viewer that would allow PDF’s to be shown on screen. Already in my toolkit I had the SyncFusion control, but after a couple of quick tests I found the speed to be woeful and thus started the painful process of looking for a control to use.

A number of vendors offer PDF creation, manipulation, annotations etc, but not viewing. I was most disappointed that DevExpress did not have anything in their swag, which means the project in question is now only 99% DX :( This is the cool part, the project can go back to 100% DX :)

The list came down to

- DevExpress (
- Gnostice (
- Atalasoft (
- DynamicPDF (
- Aspose (
- ActivePDF (
- Deaja (
- Snowbound Software (
- Bluebeam Q (
- PDFTron (
- GDPicture (
- SyncFusion (
- O2 Solutions (

So what was I looking for ? a .Net Assembly that could be added to my project, capable of adding a control to a WinForm to display/interact/print existing PDF’s. It would be nice to add annotations and stamps to documents someday. Whilst price had to be balanced, licensing was important. Royalty Free distribution is a must.

How would I test? install a demo version of the product, create a viewer control on my form, set the properties, load a pdf, zoom and print. All the PDF’s tested would be live client data, the sort of thing that would be used in the final product, varying in size, content and properties. If the project could not be put together in 30minutes or less then the product was too complicated.

The litmus test is being able to do as much of the above as possible without referring to the documentation.

Round One::
Dismissed straight away because of what I thought were hideous websites were Deaja and Bluebeam. In the world of technology when your primary clients would be developers, you need something that is informative and stylish. Both these products would have been rejected on price/licensing if they had made it through round one, although to be fair, Bluebeam didn’t really fit the bill as far as a .Net library was concerned.

The list continued to get smaller as products whittled down…

Round Two::
: Snowbound – license pricing too high;
: PDFTron – restrictive licensing, too expensive;
: activePDF – confusing web site, licensing model complex and no pricing available
: DynamicPDF – restrictive licensing
: Atalasoft – PDF Reader SDK too expensive (price vs functionaltiy)

The following products made it through to testing

Round Three::
: Syncfusion – easy to implement, very slow in performance
This was the product that started me down the slippery slope of viewers, I was startled that with a $1700 price tag (for single product), the performance was dreadful.

: O2 Solutions – too hard to build a testing demo
After installing the product things look promising, until I tried to add some code. The documentation was poor, it was simply too hard to try and build the demo.

: Aspose – looked really promising, until you try and build a demo !
A single 10mb dll? I was a little surprised by how hard it was to try and create a viewer. There was nothing to add to the toolbox, the website is verbose and confusing, the forums turned up nothing. After 30minutes of trying to get something to happen I simply gave up and put it in the too hard basket.

: Gnostice – easy to implement, crashed in demo app and slow performance
The Gnostice library was easy to install and quick to implement in the project. The methods and properties were discoverable and the demo was built in a matter of minutes, unfortunately when opening one of the PDF’s we got booted with an exception, and other PDF’s were very slow.

: GdPicture – complex product matrix, confusing mix of sdk and plugins, but FAST !
GdPicture nearly got thrown out because of the complicated product matrix, I already had a partner license so I persevered – and glad I did. It looks confusing with the large number of options available, I wasn’t sure which product I needed, or plug-ins, but GdPicture has a royalty-free license, a major plus. GdPicture installed quickly, and a test app could be produced easily. Performance was fantastic. Best of all, it did not get in the way of our interface, a simple container that allowed me to add the buttons and functionality required on the form. If it’s just PDF viewing you want then the $950 license is one of the most economical on the market, if you want image manipulation as well as viewer then GdPicture still hold the lead, however,

The NEW Winner !

: DevExpress – as an existing DevExpress customer the PDF Viewer when released was automatically included in my subscription, however, for a WinForms implementation I would have had to pay just $899 which included a LOT of additional controls, not just PDF. At time of writing, the version of the PDF Viewer worked extremely well, it was faster than everyone tested except GdPicture, but the royalty free licensing makes it really attractive. I was able to drag the control onto my form and set a few properties, everything worked, but what was really cool, was the ability (from the SmartTag) to auto create either a Toolbar or Ribbon bar with file, navigation and zoom functionality.

- – - – - – - – -

In summary, the majority of vendors seem to favour a limited license instead of a royalty free one, which was disappointing, a number seemed to think that high pricing was the way to go. I still think for wanting a basic feature there are too many hoops to jump through, especially when you consider that PDF Viewing on OS X, iOS (iPhone/iPad) is native, no additional libraries or costs required. It also seems component vendors need to think about their web sites when offering some of this stuff, it is a jungle out there.

I do hope that DevExpress have a note on a story board somewhere that shows “create pdf viewer” !

It was really encouraging to see DevExpress enter the market with a viewer early 2013 (beta) and in less than 12 months deliver a low cost, powerful PDF Viewer.