Toolbars bring oft-used functions within easy reach

The latest in Ed Tittel's user interface tools is NetAdvantage Toolbars, a collection of WinForm widgets that work within the .NET framework.

Apparently my recent discussion of user interface tools -- including calendars and gauges -- has struck enough of a chord with readers that I've been asked to continue on in that vein for a while yet. That's what led me to this tip's topic: a venerable toolset from Infragistics known as NetAdvantage Toolbars (but perhaps more recognizable to old-timers like myself as "Active Toolbar Plus").

NetAdvantage Toolbars runs common functions with one click

User interface designers know that convenience and easy access are keys when designing software that includes commonly-used functions or services. When it comes to providing immediate and easy invocation of routine tasks and activities, nothing beats a toolbar for providing such functionality.

That's the motivation for NetAdvantage Toolbars, a mighty collection of powerful WinForms widgets that work within the .NET framework for either C# or VB.NET developers to use. Infragistics offers screen shots that show the toolbars at work in Windows 2000, 2003 and XP; as the screen shots clearly illustrate, these toolbars have a decidedly "Office-like" look and feel. Thus, they'll be familiar to most users, given how ubiquitous Office is in most Microsoft shops.

All this functionality comes within the WinToolBar control, which provides the following types of functionality:

  • Using the control, toolbars can be docked or undocked, stacked, floated or moved, and even user-customized to permit them to select the icons for specific bits of functionality they want to display on their toolbar layouts.

  • Clearly defined "toolbar styles" closely mimic the look and feel of Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003. It's also possible to customize toolbar appearance, to create your own "house style" or to mimic the look and feel of other applications (the screenshots include an "Infragistics Paint" example that looks much like Microsoft Paint). It can even mimic the look of a task list in an application that closely resembles the Microsoft Office Task Pane.

  • In addition to standard buttons, the control permits TextBox, ComboBox, PopUpMenu or other WinForms controls to be placed into a toolbar to support text search input, menu selection of application settings, and so forth.

  • Advanced visual effects that are available include things like tear-off menus, fading toolbars, and color gradients, among various others that you can apply to the toolbars you use the control to create.

  • Section 508 compliance elements built into the control include Magnifier support, plus text-to-speech features for the visually impaired.

  • Tool types supported include Button, Combobox, ControlContainer, FontList, MDIWindowList, PopupColorPicker, PopUpControlContainer, PopupMenu, StateButton, and TextBox, among many others.

    There's actually a lot more to this toolset than I have space to describe here (but you can visit the home page link above for more details). This toolset is both intuitive and use to put to work (and is immediately recognizable to Office users). Prices range from $495 for an unsupported, single-seat CD to $2,995 for a supported, enterprise wide license. This package also includes lots of other tools and controls, as Volume 2 of the complete NetAdvantage toolset includes much more than just the WinToolBar control. Software built with these tools is royalty-free. It's definitely worth a look for anybody building software that can benefit from inclusion and use of toolbars.

    Ed Tittel is a full-time writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security topics. E-mail Ed at etittel@techtarget.com with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review.

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