Infragistics is shipping NetAdvantage for WPF 2007 Volume 1 for designers and developers looking to speed creation of applications that target Microsoft’s new Windows Presentation Foundation platform.
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WPF is a significant upgrade to Microsoft’s client-side offerings, which may come to compete for “user eyeballs” with products as diverse as the Apple Macintosh, Adobe Flash, and Sony PlayStation 2. Infragistics is seeking to ease programmability and improve time to market for WPF.
Included in the NetAdvantage for WPF software suite, said Andrew Flick, product manger for rich clients, Infragistics, are xamDataCarousel, xamDataGrid and xamDataPresenter, which work as data presentation and rendering controls. Each is written in C# and XAML, the Extensible Application Markup Language developed by Microsoft for WPF.
For Flick, the most important of these controls is the xamDataGrid, as it brings into Windows Presentation Foundation the data grid that is familiar to ASP.NET and WinForms developers. "We know what grid computing means and we know how important it is," Flick said.
The xamDataGrid control uses a single data binding property that supports multiple data sources, from objects to arrays to XML. In addition, it supports hierarchical data rendering. Finally, the xamDataGrid can, in conjunction with other controls within the product, be used to create "carousel" views of data.
The idea of using a carousel is not new, Flick said. But it is one of the essential visual paradigms appearing along with Windows Vista and Outlook 2007. Flick referenced a Microsoft Research white paper, Designing a Generalized 3D Carousel View, which compared the visual browser in Microsoft Encarta 2004 to the "Lazy Susan," a rotating shelf or tray typically used for serving or storing food.
Previously, it had proven difficult to put that idea into practice. Now, it is "as easy as throwing a dataset at a table and you're done," Flick said, adding, "To have that visual finesse, it makes navigating data an interesting paradigm."
The XAML, animation, and vector-graphics techniques that WPF now heralds are new to most developers. Microsoft is focusing WPF, at least in part, at mixed teams of developers and Web designers.
Infragistic’s Flick said the new tool set works well whether your team comprises developers and designers, or just designers. As he notes: “Not every developer has a designer sitting nearby.”
In fact, Infragistics has prepackaged some visual designs. Said Flick, “We can take for example an Office 2007 “Black theme,” and wrap it up in a .dll that can be applied to our grid and carrousel. You don’t have to figure out all the designing things.”
As well, he said the new package is readily usable by traditional WinForms developers. Now, he said. “you can drop [XAML] elements into WinForms. We have created controls that will be familiar to people.”
“If you want to do a cool animation, you drop it in a Form, connect to data, and you’ve got it,” Flick said.
He noted that his company has been working on the new tools since the days of Microsoft’s Avalon presentation-side project, the precursor of WPF. He suggested that Infragistics research and work to create components gives developers a head start on WPF development, and allows them to devote more time to working with business logic in their applications.