Battle of the Third Party Controls

For those of you local to the Southwest Florida area and don’t know, there is a nice little .NET user group for developers, hobbyists, managers/owners, and various other IT-centric folks. The developer group is very welcoming to new visitors, always provide a great array of topics, and if you’re lucky, you might even get a bit of “swag” for attending one of the free meeetings.

On March 18th, 2009, the Naples .NET Usergroup put on a Battle of the Third Party Controls session which consisted of developers presenting on third party development controls they’ve used in their own projects. In the ring – Telerik, Infragistics, DevExpress, and FarPoint.

Here’s a quick recap:

Infragistics

Round 1: Infragistics

Well, Infragistics was battered, bloody, and bruised from the start. John Dunagan took his best shots at a set of developer controls that really didn’t want to play nice. Obviously, sometimes things happen with systems, user error, and Murphy’s Law; but too much went wrong to make Infragistics even a contender in this battle.

John pointed out difficulties while installing, references not automatically being added properly when dragging controls from the Visual Studio toolbox, and gasp, Visual Studio crashed while importing Infragistic Themes into the project during the demonstration. John had a lot to contend with.

Grade: D-

It was over when…

Unfortunately, before it began – and if you want more specifics, I pronounced it dead when we viewed source and saw a mindnumbing, mouse scrolling nightmare of Viewstate, excessive inline styles, and what looked like poor auto-generated HTML throughout a very basic UI sample.

Telerik

Round 2: Telerik

Telerik on the other hand, came out with gold trimmed, bright white trunks and a mean look ready for a fight. Philip Lippard had a pretty cushy job with Telerik providing a great source of pre-built, fully interactive examples publicly available on their website (http://www.telerik.com). Phil did a nice job demonstrating the controls, and with Telerik’s one-two punch of very attractive, and much lighter (relatively speaking) controls, Telerik was the star of the show and the favorite among developers.

Grade: B+, Though Telerik is a strong control suite, and a personal preference in most cases, I do hold criticism of some of the controls. For example, the Charting controls I strongly dislike and favor Component Art, a control company not featured in this battle.

It was over when…

Phil typed http://www.telerik.com into the address bar. Telerik does a great job with their website as well as their controls, and the marketing really shows through (in a good way).

DeveloperExpress

Round 3: DevExpress

Presented by Amy Hatfield, a darkhorse for me personally, DevExpress really impressed. Like a middleweight fighter moving up in the ranks, DevExpress was not as robust as Telerik, but certainly showed a lot and is a solid choice for a control suite. Amy did a very nice job showing off a lot of code-less (minimal) wiring of the grid control; featuring Ajax, paging, and detail template binding with little to no codebehind required.

I certainly intend on looking a little harder at DevExpress in the future.

Grade: B-

It was over when…

If this was a fight, it would have ended in a judges decision. Nothing knocked out DevExpress by any means, and is a viable scrapper through and through.

Farpoint Spread

Round 4: Farpoint

If the other three suites were fighters brawling it out, Farpoint would have been the bookie – involved, but not quite in the competition.

Farpoint was ready to go, energetic, and full of zest; but competing in a completely different arena than the other controls. Farpoint, as it turns out, is a Spreadsheet control that does one thing and does it well. Opening existing excel documents (regardless of version) seems to be a breeze, working interactively with bound or empty workbooks is smooth, and you should have no problem importing, exporting, or printing spreadsheet objects.

We were fortunate enough to have a presenter all the way from Raleigh, North Carolina, and I applaud his effort in presenting.

Grade: Not eligible. Unfortunately it’s just not a sound comparison with the other controls. Certainly I see some benefit to the control, but at the same time, I personally was not blown away by the product. For Office-heavy users who need an online spreadsheet solution, it sounds like the way to go.

It was over when…

For me, it was over when I realized it was just a spreadsheet. I have not come across a lot of client requests where they simply want an excel document or template online to do calculations/forms etc. For me, I would much rather relegate that to an HTML form with calculations occuring in code and presented with more of a “face” to it, rather than an older, spreadsheet-style UI.

It was a fun night, a good battle, and great people to share knowledge and viewpoints with. If you happen to be in the area, check out http://www.naplesdot.net for more information on future meetings.

Channel 9

P.S. – interviews with the presenters will be featured on Channel 9 by Russ Fustino from Microsoft. Check it out here!

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