One of the key controls in most applications is a datagrid. In smart client applications, you have always faced restrictions and difficulty when wanting to present data in a less ‘list style’ (using standard controls). Think of an employee table, with an image of the employee (see DevExpress example beneath).
There are commercial versions that improve things significantly, but they come at the expense of either taking a month or so out to figure how to use the control efficaciously or paying a developer to do this for you. Plus the expense of the suite of course, which usually appears vastly overpriced, but it takes genius and time to create these features with C/C++ or .NET and Windows Forms, hence the hefty price tag.
WPF and Silverlight offer the ability to style and template controls, pretty much however you like. ASP.NET has several controls that handle this scenario in Visual Studio.
If you’re in Windows Forms you’re limited to the inflexible DataGridView or third party controls. If you are in ASP.NET and don’t know of Matt Berseth’s blog you need to correct this alarming lack of good education and check it (blog) out. There are some peaches and absolute nuggets euphemistically speaking. Matt has some technically accomplished posts, and pretty much everything he writes about is excellent. I cannot stress enough the kind of hoops you’d need to jump through to create a datagrid that looked and functioned like the super-duper listview control in ASP.NET and Matt’s example.
Scott Morrison is the new program manager for the Silverlight datagrid, and has some introductory tutorials on using this ubiquitous control. I can’t help thinking that if Microsoft had got this right with WPF and had the same availability of controls for WPF, uptake would have been far swifter. Nevertheless, we are where we are now, and some great features are already being added.
DevExpress have also announced a free datagrid that is beautiful. You can view an online demo here.
Speaking as a not quite ‘hardened’ Windows Forms developer, the sooner performance issues are sorted in WPF/Silverlight in the forthcoming Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 service pack, one begins to find it increasingly difficult, latching onto previous technologies, for the sake of reasons I have hitherto promulgated in this blog (check the windows forms category).