DevExpress has been providing tools for Visual Studio for many years, and it is a Visual Studio ship partner, which means that when a new version of Visual Studio ships, its developer tools are ready to roll. This is true of a vendor with a very strong relationship with Microsoft. For Visual Studio 2012, there were 72 partners Microsoft saw as providing the most widely used add-ins and extensions to Visual Studio. According to the Visual Studio Blog, as part of the program, Microsoft provided “interim builds to these partners during the development cycle of Visual Studio so they could develop and test their extensions.” In turn, interim builds of the tools from DevExpress and the other partners were provided to Microsoft so that they “could improve Visual Studio’s interaction with them.”
As discussed earlier, DevExpress provides the CodeRush productivity tool, and it also provides an array of control packages and the relatively new DevExtreme, which CTO Julian Bucknall described as the “efficient way to create multi-device smartphone apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone in Visual Studio 2012.”
Jason Beres, senior VP of developer tools at Infragistics, talked about how the company has adapted to work better with Visual Studio 2012. He explained that “one of the great features of Visual Studio 2012 is its ability to stay up to date by notifying developers when updates are available, both for the IDE itself and also for any extensions already installed. NetAdvantage is a first-class citizen in Visual Studio 2012, where developers automatically get notified of new Service Releases as they become available, ready to be installed with a click.”
Like other vendors, Infragistics is hedging bets by covering HTML and XAML project-type needs. With its NetAdvantage Ultimate Release 2013 Volume 1 suite of controls, there are now touch-optimized HTML and XAML controls. This version of the control suite includes grids, data charts, maps, input and editor controls, calendars, barcodes, a full-fledged HTML Text Editor, and other elements intended to make solid experiences that work equally well on both PCs and tablets.
An area of particular emphasis for Infragistics is data visualization. On the HTML project side of things, it has its own jQuery-based library called Ignite UI 13.1. “Our new PivotGrid, PivotView and Pivot Data Selector for jQuery make it a snap to connect to, browse and interact with multi-dimensional OLAP data from data sources like SAP, SQL Server Analysis Server, or really any MDX- or XMLA-capable data source,” said Beres.
Outside the controls space, Infragistics now offers a rapid prototyping tool named Indigo Studio. Building storyboards and wireframes to mock up a project user interface can eliminate mistakes and misunderstandings that are costly after the coding starts. Best of all, Infragistics is offering it for free with NetAdvantage.
Among the third-party suppliers covered in this article, PreEmptive is the outlier in terms of the products it does not offer control suites. Instead, PreEmptive has expanded niche solutions into must-have packages.
We saw this in the discussion about obfuscation earlier in this article. A few years ago, PreEmptive released its PreEmptive Analytics Runtime Intelligence Service, which is a full-fledged solution that helps developers understand how their application is working where it matters most: in the real world. By allowing developers to build analytics into software, there are dozens of scenarios for better serving the needs of everyone involved. Any time an application “phones home,” it can raise problems in certain kinds of secure environments such as financial and military organizations, but the need to be judicious about its use is no reason to forgo the advantages that can be had everywhere else.
For commercial software companies, the insights to be gained are valuable. One example common among such companies is captured on the PreEmptive product page, where it states, “Kill that feature that is costly to maintain but only 3% of your users are using.” There are a number of times over the last few years that it would have been useful to take underutilized but high-maintenance features out of a commercial product. The problem with these decisions is that everyone involved has an opinion based, at best, on anecdotes about how popular a feature is with clients. With Application Analytics, the guesses can be trumped with actual data.
Chris Sells, a former Microsoft employee, talked about how Telerik has taken a higher-road approach to supporting Windows 8 developers by “not just porting our Silverlight controls to Windows 8 and calling it good; we’re building a set of controls that have been completely rethought for the touch-based environment of Windows 8 and building the same set of components in both XAML and HTML, embracing the multi-language platform that Microsoft has provided.”