Practical 3rd Party Components

As a developer there has to be a balance between writing new code and reinventing the wheel. There are a lot of companies writing components for the .Net environment, all trying to grab your attention, all offering faster easier ways to develop your application while promising to deliver .Net, MVC, WPF, WCF and custom frameworks.

Which should you choose ? Who can deliver ?

The main contenders I have utilised over the years include;


My philosophy when developing has always been to deliver an outstanding user experience (UX) as well as a great user interface (UI). This has sometimes meant ‘ease of development’ has been put aside in favor of what a extra control is provided to the developer. An example of this would be grids. I am yet to find a grid that allows databinding and full control of customisation.

Because of this my current toolbox has a blend of components from DevExpress and ComponentOne.

DevExpress have developed some of the cleanest UI controls I have found. Implementation is relatively simple and skinning a breeze. In particular the Ribbon control and Ribbon form have provided the core to a number of my mainstream projects. But I was never happy with the grid. I did not have the granular control I wanted…

Enter ComponentOne, I have been using the Flexigrid in one fashion or another for many years, in fact back to the VideoSoft days. Usually in a non-bound mode, and ofter with UserDraw methods. The flexibility provided is outstanding. In fact, the Rapid Estimating system designed as part of the Integra package was built with the C1.Flexigrid as its backbone.

My friends over at SSW have gone down the Telerik path and are producing some cool looking Apps there. I’m hoping to get one of the guys to write up the benefits they have found.

When choosing a component vendor I look for some critical factors:
1. Price (initial and ongoing)
2. Learning curve
3. Distribution model – must be royalty free
4. Support

Speciality Products:
There have been cases where I needed something very special, the following companies were chosen

PlexityHide – Gantt control.
PDFTron – one of the most flexible PDF libraries available at the time.

I think there is a danger in using too many controls in development and each project I undertake is looked at in the design phase to decide what will be used.