It's a late Sunday afternoon (actually, it's Monday as I started the post yesterday). The weather is great, everyone's out as its unusually hot and people are having a great time. I myself am in the office since early morning with part of our team but I love it! It's always really invigorating around releases as everything you've worked on for months stitches together and you can see it in its full beauty. And, for this release, we've got plenty of things coming. I haven't been so excited in a long time and I decided not to be selfish and share some details.
I guess you've got tired of hearing us vendors say "this is our biggest/greatest release ever" but we do feel this way about the Q3 release. Both quantity and quality-wise, I believe Q3 2006 sets a new standard for us.
Windows Forms product line
As some of you may already know, the Q3 release will be enriched by the addition of Windows Forms controls to the r.a.d.controls family. It was an adventurous endeavor for us, but our inspiration helped us overcome the difficulties and the products came along really well. We're keeping fingers crossed that you'll like the great capabilities we'll be offering to the desktop development world. Our Windows Forms product line was heavily influenced by some of the web development concepts and WPF and you'll see fine-grained CSS-like theming, animations, effects, granular control over every element's behavior and appearance, unlimited nesting of elements (you don't find that in other suites:) and so on. Perhaps the most distinctive feature is that our WinForms components are component-based – each one of them is built from a set of atomic building blocks and, what is best, you have control over them. You can even use the small building blocks to build your own controls:)
We've created several sample applications with really exciting UIs to provide you with a good showcase how easy it is to create and style interfaces with r.a.d.controls for WinForms. Lots of stuff remains to be added for the next releases and that was the reason why we labeled the launch as “CTP”. Even though the release will be CTP, we will provide a developer license to all Subscription holders by the end of the week so that you could use the telerik WinForms controls in production. Customers with a subscription to the r.a.d.controls ASP.NET suite will receive updates for the WinForms product line till the end of the subscription period. We thought about releasing the UI suite officially, however, we decided that it might be better to wait a little more and get your feedback. We do feel strong about the controls and the sample apps will demonstrate that the controls are ready for prime-time. The CTP label is there just to signify that it's our first release and we want you guys to be more cautious and observant than with the ASP.NET product line where everything is polished. You can treat the CTP as a playground where you can experiment with our concepts and explore the new things we are bringing to the market. We are very committed to enhancing the suite with additional controls and will post an official roadmap in the next few weeks. The official release of v1.0 for the r.a.d.controls for WinForms is November, 1st. Quick note here: the Windows Forms and ASP.NET product lines will be provided in separate installersbut will be released at the same time in the future.
ASP.NET product improvements
Even though we're venturing in the WinForms world, we continue with our dedication to keep the edge of our ASP.NET product line. We're adding a brand new splitter control to the suite and we've ramped up some key updates of our grid, treeview, panelbar, combo and ajax controls. In the last few quarters our focus wasn’t on quantity but rather on making sure that what you see is what you get. Quite often, component vendors fail to deliver what they promise in marketing materials (we've been victims of this in the past too) and we decided to make a change and invest a lot of effort in making everything easy, reliable and high-performing.
We've optimized the treeview, panel and combo controls and now their rendering, APIs and capabilities are quite similar to those of the menu and tabstrip. The gains are there - incredible design-time improvements, identical APIs across the controls, 70% less footprint, better integration with our AJAX tools.
Our grid control was also improved greatly and v 4.0 adds improvements in key capabilities such as virtual scrolling and now the grid is even faster than it was before. The end-user experience is also far more intuitive. Perhaps the key new feature in v 4.0 is the support for self-referencing hierarchy. It allows you to build multiple levels of hierarchy from a single table in the grid source by specifying relations inside the same table.
Another key update of the Q3 release is r.a.d.ajax 1.5. Apart from the fixes and enhancements, we added some really neat new functionality. v 1.5 includes support for web services and you can easily consume remote data. We've also improved the design-time experience to make it even easier for customer to AJAX-ify their apps.
But these key releases are only like cherry on top. We’ve spent a lot of time getting everything right across all products and ensuring that the customer experience gets better and better with every release – design-time improvements, support for WebResources for all products, better documentation, bugfixes and optimizations, significantly richer documentation for most of the controls. You will find the treeview, menu, panel and combo help significantly enhanced. We've also continued adding topics to the r.a.d.grid documentation and it's much "fatter" than before. I am sure there's a lot to be done, but hopefully you'll like the first round of improvements.
Speaking of resources, we've added a great new tutorial how to create skins for telerik products and how to customize existing skins. CSS is definitely not an easy nut to crack and, due to popular demand, the UX team prepared a guide how make our components really slick using themes. We've also added even more skins to the demos and I'm particularly thrilled about the Web 2.0 skin that we’ll be shipping. Over the next few weeks we'll be adding even more resources to make it easier for customers to understand how our products work without investing too much time in trial and error. More on this in a future post…
The last few weeks/months were busy for the telerik.com team as well. Our website got a facelift and we upgraded our navigational controls to the latest and greatest r.a.d.menu and r.a.d.panelbar. We’ve also reorganized some of the content as well to make it easier for you guys to find the information you need. Based on your suggestions, we worked on the search capabilities and the performance of the website and I hope that you’ll see a noticeable improvement in both areas.
Even though I tried to make a quick recap, I have probably missed to cover something interesting and you will find it yourself in the products or on our site in the near future. I, and everyone else on the team, hope that the newest telerik releases will live up to your expectations and you will have a great time with the r.a.d.controls.
p.s. I forgot to tell you that both the WinForms and WebForms packages contain Office 2007 Ribbon Bars. In the ASP.NET suite it’s in the forma of an example whereas in the WinForms suite it’s a fully-functional control.