The Actipro Blog

All the latest UI control development news from Actipro

Working with Code Blocks in the Discussion Forums

One major update in the Discussion Forums on our new web site is that we now use a WYSIWYG editor when entering post text.  A lot of time, bug reports require the inclusion of some code blocks to help frame the issue.  In this post, we're going to talk about how to insert code blocks into a post and then how to copy them once the post has been created.

Inserting Code Snippets into a Post

Let's show an example bug report.  We'll pop into the .NET Languages Add-on forum and will click to report a problem.  After typing in the title and the beginning of the post body, we have:

Post1

Now we're ready to insert a code block.  In the screenshot above, the mouse is hovering over the Insert a Code Block toolbar button.  By clicking that, a new dialog is presented:

Post2

Simply paste your code into the large text region and pick the appropriate language type in the radio buttons at the top.  Picking a value there will allow syntax highlighting to take effect when viewing the post later.

Post3

After pressing the Insert button on the dialog, the code snippet is inserted into the WYSIWYG editor.  Note that it is not syntax highlighted just yet but will be once the post is submitted since it's header indicates it is a C# code block.

One issue that you might run into when inserting a code block at the end of a post is that you can't properly move out of the code block by pressing Enter.  Thus we provide a handy toolbar button that will insert an empty paragraph after the current code block and will attempt to move the caret to it.

Post4

After clicking that button and entering some more text, we are ready to create the thread.

Copying Code Block Contents

Now let's look at a real recent post in our forums:

View1

In this post there is a small C# code block.  Note how it is syntax highlighted since the poster indicated that the code blocks language was C# when they created the code block.

Sometimes it's very handy to copy the code block contents.  To do so, just double-click the code block's content and it will instantly be selected. 

View2

Then press Ctrl+C and voila, the code block's contents will be copied to your clipboard and available for use.

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Suggest Product Ideas

In our previous blog post, we showed off a new feature of our Discussion Forums where we have a special customer guidance forum where you, our customers, can vote and provide feedback on which UI platforms you'd like us to focus our development efforts on.

The customer guidance forums generally have a fixed list of ideas for you to vote on, but you can always write us to suggest other options.  A great feature of our new forums is that for product forums, you have the capability to post ideas of your own!

What Are Product Ideas?

A product idea is a particular feature area or functionality you'd like to see implemented in one of our products. 

The idea should clearly indicate the feature/functionality that is desired.  It is very important to be as specific as possible.  You may wish to provide object model pseudo code, sample usage code, links to images showing desired end results, etc.

Once an idea is posted, Actipro and other customers can provide comments on it.  Each registered user on our web site can allocate some of their vote allotment to the idea as well, the same as in our customer guidance forums.  This way we can gauge the popularity of various ideas.

Submitting a Product Idea

Ideas can be submitted by visiting the forum for the target product and clicking the New Idea button in the header.  That will bring you to the Add an Idea page shown below, where you can add detail about the idea:

CodeSnippets

The title should be a concise name for the desired feature/functionality.  The body of the idea is where you specify all the details of the idea as mentioned above.  Press the Create Thread button when you are done and the idea will be available for all other customers to comment and vote on.

Summary

Ideas provide a new mechanism for customers to publicly submit product feature ideas to us.  While we do maintain our own extensive internal TODO lists for each product, we'll do our best to give higher implementation prioritization to ideas posted on our forums that have a lot of votes.

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Help Guide Which Platforms We Develop For

Our new web site has multiple ways that we can get customer feedback.  We have direct interaction mechanisms such as via e-mail, our discussion forums, or support tickets.  Our old site (and the new) also have polls where you can answer some questions to help provide us feedback.

Customer Guidance Forums

We wanted to experiment with another form of feedback on our new site, implemented via our discussion forums.  Specifically we have a Customer Guidance forum category that at the moment has one forum, a UI Controls Platform forum:

Forum

So how does this work?  Basically this forum has several fixed ideas presented in it, one for each platform we do (or will) develop UI controls for:

  • Windows 8 Runtime (WinRT / XAML)
  • Windows Forms
  • Silverlight
  • WPF

Once you are logged into your Actipro account, you have three votes that you can use in this forum.  You go and apply your votes however you wish to the various platforms.  If you only care about WPF, you can apply all three to that platform.  If you only work in Silverlight now but plan on moving to WinRT in the future, you might put two votes on Silverlight and one on WinRT.

PreVote

To vote, open the thread detail page for one of the ideas.  Click the vote button on the left next to the post content.

Vote

A popup window shows where you can set your vote.  Since I haven't voted on this item yet, a check appears next to No votes.  I'll click 3 votes to apply all my votes to the WPF item.

PostVote

Now back on the thread page we can see the number 3 appears in the vote box, indicating that I've applied three votes to this idea.

Summary

We value and want your feedback.  Please log into your Actipro account now, visit the UI Controls Platform forum, and apply your three votes to the platforms you'd like to see us focus on in the future for our UI control development.

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Give Some Personality to Your Actipro Accounts

Part of our new web site roll out last weekend was a brand new discussion forum design.  The discussion forums are in the community portion of our web site, and are where you can have a public discussion with Actipro's support staff and other customers about our products.

In the redesign, we wanted to make sure that you could personalize how you appear to others, and can provide other details such as your company name, position, and/or location.  You also can customize your avatar (image representation) that is used in the forums and other places on our web site.

Forum Thread Personalization Example

Let's take a look at a posting by one of our customers:

Thread

In the thread header, below the thread title you can see a small version of the original poster's avatar along with some other details he wished to share.  In this case, Jake indicated his position and company.

Down in the comments area, we use large avatar images to visually represent who posted each comment.  Speech bubbles containing each comment's content come out from the related avatar.  This allows your eye to quickly get a feel for how the conversation flowed.  For instance, since the first comment has the Actipro logo in it, you know that it's our support team replying.  Then Jake's avatar is in the final comment.  And kudos to Jake for his Plants vs. Zombies avatar! Smile

Public Profile

By clicking on any poster's name, you can view their public profile in more detail to learn more about them.

PublicProfile

The public profile is also visible to you right from your own main account page:

MyAccount

Just click the edit link in the upper right portion of the Public Profile to edit it.  To view your Public Profile, click the Public Profile heading link.

Changing Your Avatar

Your avatar, which is your image representation, can be set by creating a free account at http://www.gravatar.com and configuring an image there for your private e-mail address that you indicated in your account.  Please note the gravatar shows for your private Actipro account email address, and not your public profile email address (since that often is left blank).

When we ask gravatar.com for an image, we only send a MD5 hash of your e-mail address and never submit your actual e-mail address, since that is against our privacy policy.

Here's what the gravatar.com web site looks like:

Gravatar

Just click the sign up link at the top and in a couple minutes you'll be all set up.

When we show avatar images for customers who have not signed up with gravatar.com, we show a random shape image so that they still have an avatar of sorts to differentiate them from others.

Summary

We fully encourage you to give some personality to your account by setting your avatar up as your picture, your company logo, or anything else you love.  And please do brag about where you are located and where you work via the information you can set in your Public Profile.

See you on the forums!

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Windows Forms 2012.1 Controls Released

BlogPostBanner

While recent blog posts have focused on the new company web site we just launched over the weekend, we also published a new 2012.1 version of all our WinForms Controls at the same time. In an older post, we described what was coming in this version. Let me summarize the updates.

Complete Restructuring and Realignment of Products

One of the largest goals of this version was to get all our WinForms controls restructured and aligned with our other WPF and Silverlight controls. This involved the creation of a new WinForms Studio bundle that is similar to the former UIStudio product but includes SyntaxEditor and Wizard as well. The former UIStudio product is no more, but its contained assemblies have been split up into three individual products (Bars, Docking/MDI, and Navigation) that can be purchased individually or as part of WinForms Studio.

Now all WinForms controls are distributed in a single WinForms platform download. This involved the creation of unified sample projects, documentation, licensing mechanisms, and installer. More details are available in this previous post.

SampleBrowser

This screenshot shows our new sample browser project that ships with the WinForms controls.

Migration to .NET 3.5 and VS 2010 Projects

For the 2012.1 version, we've migrated the minimum required framework to .NET 3.5. Of course the products will work fine in .NET 4.0 or later as well.

The product source projects are all VS 2010 projects now, and samples are distributed in VS 2010 and VS 2008 format.

.NET 3.5/4.0 Client Profile Support

One of the largest updates that will benefit our customers is that we've moved all product Visual Studio designer functionality into separate assemblies. Thus we were able to remove the dependency on System.Design.dll from our main product assemblies.

This means that in 2012.1, all our WinForms products support .NET 3.5/4.0 client profile distribution.

Easy to Upgrade

Implementing all of the above changes was a pretty large effort, especially for the restructuring/realignment pieces. We wanted to make this version easy to upgrade to for any prior version WinForms customers so there are minimal breaking changes from the previous versions' latest maintenance releases.

Effectively if you already use the latest maintenance releases of the previous versions and you are targeting .NET 3.5 or later in your app, all you have to do is license the new version (see below), swap in the new assemblies, update your licenses.licx file, and you should be good to go. We have a conversion topic in the documentation that provides details on how to handle any other breaking changes you are unlikely to but might encounter.

Purchase and Upgrade Options

Free Upgrades

For any customer who has an active subscription to a WinForms control right now, contact our sales team via e-mail and request a free upgrade to the 2012.1 version.

Purchase Option Changes and Savings

Our license purchase options have changed in this version to match how we license our WPF and Silverlight products. It's now simpler and less expensive too! Now each new license purchase automatically includes a free annual subscription and we didn't increase the price on the new licenses for SyntaxEditor or Wizard. Since UIStudio controls can now be purchased individually, this can save you money if you only needed our Bars product for example. Also as mentioned above, we now have a new WinForms Studio bundle option that includes all our WinForms control products (excludes SyntaxEditor add-ons) for one low cost and includes free subscriptions as well.

Special Offer

We want to get you set up with the latest and for cheaper. If you are an existing WinForms control customer and would like to get the new 2012.1 version but don't qualify for the free upgrades mentioned above, you normally would have to pay full price for a new license to upgrade.

From now until June 30, 2012, we'd like to offer a special offer where you can just order a renewal instead of a new license and we'll give you the new version and a restarted subscription from the day you order.

If you have any questions, please contact our sales team via e-mail and we'll be happy to help.

Enjoy the new version!

TaskDownload TaskBuyNow

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New Web Site - Maintaining Your Account

Our new company web site launched over the weekend and in today's post I'd like to go over some of the great new features related to maintaining your customer account.

Accessing Your Account

One of our design goals with the new site was to simplify the whole customer account maintenance experience.  Once you are logged into your Actipro account, hover over your name at the very top and a popup menu appears.

Account1

It provides links directly to account-related pages such as your personal account information, your upcoming/expired subscriptions list, and the organization accounts to which you are linked.

My Account

Clicking your name in the header or the My Account Information link in the menu will take you to this page:

Account2

This page contains:

  • Your avatar (image representation) and the ability to change it
  • A link to change your password
  • Your public profile information (visible in your public profile that others can see when you post in the forums) and a link to edit it
  • Links to get assistance from Actipro
  • A list of the organizations to which you are associated, if you are a customer
    • Each organization shows when it was created and gives a summary of the produce licenses that are available in that organization
    • Click the View Organization button to view organization details, download products/licenses, and more
  • By clicking the Contact Preferences tab, you can subscribe or unsubscribe from our mailing list

Organization Detail

Let's click on the View Organization button to see more information about the products and licenses that are available to me.  Again, note that you could access this page directly from the popup menu that shows when hovering over your name in each page's header.

Account3

On this page we can:

  • View all account information and click an edit link to change address, etc.
  • Overview tab:
    • See a summary list of all licensed products
    • If any subscriptions are about to expire or have recently expired, they will be listed, along with a View My Renewals button that provides quick access to purchase renewals
  • Purchases and Licenses tab
    • Lists all licensed products, grouped by platform
    • Allows download of full releases, source code (if applicable), default styles/templates (if applicable)
    • Allows emailing of license information
    • Provides helpful tips when a newer version is detected
  • Contacts tab
    • Lists the user accounts associated with this organization
    • Allows the primary contact to request new user accounts or remove other user accounts
  • Invoices tab
    • Lists organization invoices, which are available for any purchase made on our site

Let's click the Purchases and Licenses tab. 

Account4

Everything is presented cleanly and action links are available for the most common tasks you need to perform (downloading, getting licenses, etc.).  Click the Toggle purchase details links on the right to expand out details on related past purchases. 

By default, we only show the most recent licensed version for a product.  Continuing with this sample, if older versions of WPF Studio were in my account, I would have seen another toggle link under the WPF Studio 2011.2 links that would allow me to expand out similar information for old versions.

My Renewals

Now I will open the popup menu for my name link in the header again and choose the My Renewals menu item.  Again, this is also available as a button link on the main My Account page.

We wanted to really streamline things for customers in terms of viewing expiring/expired subscriptions and making it easy to place renewal orders.  Here's what we came up with:

Account5

This page lists each organization to which I'm associated and any subscriptions that are about to expire or are recently-expired.  By clicking the Order Renewals button, my shopping cart is cleared and the appropriate renewals are automatically added to it.

I'm then sent to the checkout page where I only have to enter some quick info (most of it is already populated because I'm a previous customer) and can submit my renewal order.

Account6

Shortly thereafter my order is processed by Actipro and my subscriptions are extended another year.

Please note that at the time of this blog post, and due to how our WinForms controls were restructured for their 2012.1 version, ordering renewals of earlier WinForms control versions via this web page won't work correctly.  You can contact us for assistance with renewing those or can visit the renewals shopping cart page and add them individually, similar to how you used to place renewal orders on our old site.

Summary

We've put many hours of hard work into reimagining the entire customer account maintenance portion of our web site and hope that it helps you, our valued customers, have an efficient yet enjoyable experience.

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Our New Web Site Is Live

Our brand new company web site that has been in development for over a year is now live and ready for use. Please head on over to https://www.actiprosoftware.com/ and check it out. We'd love to hear your comments.

WebSite_thumb[2]

There are a lot of new features in this site redesign that we'll be covering in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, if you have any questions or problems, please contact us and we'll be more than happy to help you.

Design Goals

Our main goals with developing our new site from scratch were to:

  • Simply everything by reducing all page content complexity
  • Consolidate appropriate pages together
  • Make it clear where you are in the site
  • Provide fast access to your accounts
  • Make it easy to manage accounts and the products for which you own licenses
  • Implement a fresh new discussion forum UI
  • Support new forms of customer feedback
  • Be "touch"-friendly so that the site looks and functions great on tablets
  • Support the latest web technologies

We'll cover some of these features in detail in future blog posts.

Turning Touch-Friendly

I'd like to showcase the touch-friendly UI design in this first post.  We love our tablets and wanted to make sure that touch-friendly design was central to our web site implementation.

Per the screenshot above, you can see how nearly every page features large clickable areas that are very finger friendly.  On that "Products" page, you can touch any of the large platform icons or the orange buttons to dig deeper into a platform.  This sort of design is pervasive throughout the entire web site.

You can also see from the screenshot above that we have a large main menu area at the top of each page with items such as PRODUCTS, DOWNLOAD, etc.  By touching these (or hovering over them with a mouse), a menu opens up with large menu items:

MainMenu

With core design concepts such as these, your fingers (or mouse) can navigate our entire site very easily.

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Launching Our New Web Site Tomorrow

The day has finally arrived.  We've dropped a couple subtle hints here and there that a new company web site was in the works.  We've put a lot of time over the past year or more into writing a fresh new web site with all the latest technologies, so that we can better present our array of products as well as make maintaining your customer accounts much easier.

We think you are going to love the new site, especially the account maintenance features and the new forums.  Here's a sneak peek of a couple pages:

NewSite

There will be some web site downtime over the weekend (mostly on Saturday, February 18, 2012) while we post the new site and work to ensure everything is functioning properly.  Please make sure that if you need to access our site to download licenses, etc., you do so today before the current web site is taken down tomorrow.  Everything should be fully working again by Monday.

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WinForms Controls 2012.1 Beta Testing Begins

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We're very excited to be done with the development of the 2012.1 updates for our WinForms controls.  Today we sent out a beta test to several customers and will continue testing the products ourselves.  The official release will happen at the same time our new web site goes live, sometime in the next several weeks.

Please see the previous blog post that details what updates and enhancements were made for this version.

If you are a WinForms control customer and would like to help us beta test, send us an e-mail.

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WinForms Control Updates in Progress

PostBannerWinFormsDevNotes

In a recent blog post, we mentioned that WinForms product updates were in progress.  I'd like to get into some more detail on what is to be expected from these updates.

Update Overview

Creation of WinForms Studio 2012.1

The next major WinForms controls release that we are working on restructures the WinForms control products to be similar to our WPF controls.  There will be a new WinForms Studio suite option that provides discounts over purchasing controls individually. 

UIStudio is being split up into three individual products:  Bars, Docking/MDI, and Navigation.  All of these separate products will be available in the WinForms Studio suite or individually.

The WinUICore and Shared assemblies have been merged into a single Shared assembly.

Finally, all products will have the same version number, which for the first version will be 2012.1.

Migration to .NET 3.5 and VS 2010 Projects

We've wanted to migrate to VS 2010 projects for the source and samples for a while now.  WinForms Studio 2012.1 will feature source built from VS 2010 projects and samples available in VS 2010 and 2008.

.NET 3.5/4.0 Client Profile Support

A common feature request over the past couple years has been for us to decouple the control designer functionality from the product assemblies so that "client profile" setups in .NET 3.5 or 4.0 can be used.

For WinForms Studio 2012.1, we have removed references to System.Design.dll from the product assemblies and have moved all designer functionality out to separate Design assemblies instead.

Restructuring of Internal Processes

All of our WPF and Silverlight controls are managed, built, and deployed using the same sort of scripts and tools.  This allows us to share code and make updates much faster.

For a long time now we've wanted to get our older WinForms controls on the same configuration.  That way, our products for all three platforms can be maintained internally by us in the same fashion. 

To accomplish this, internally we have:

  • Created a source code folder structure that closely mimics our WPF/Silverlight source code folder structures.
  • Updated all product licensing to use the same mechanism found in WPF Studio.
  • Created a new Sample Browser application that is used to browse all WinForms product samples and product release histories.
  • Converted product documentation to use our newer documentation format and build tools used in WPF/Silverlight.
  • Merged all product documentation into a single help file like in WPF/Silverlight
  • Created a new build process based on the WPF Studio build process.
  • Created a new installer based on the WPF Studio installer.
  • Other more minor updates.

Beta Testers Wanted

We're excited to be getting the updates listed above completed and out into your hands.  We are already well on our way towards doing so.

I'd like to take this opportunity to ask for beta testers to work with the new version once a beta is ready.  We hope to have a beta ready some time in the next couple weeks.

Please write us if you are an existing WinForms control customer and would like to be a part of our beta test.

We'll post more soon!

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