The Actipro Blog

All the latest UI control development news from Actipro

Customer Showcase - Test Design Studio

BlogPostBanner

Today I'd like to take some time to take a glimpse at an excellent product that is being constructed by Patterson Consulting, one of our long-time customers.  This application really shows off what kind of top-notch user interfaces you can create with Actipro's WPF controls and themes.

TestDesignStudio

Actipro Product and Feature Usage

Test Design Studio is currently written in WinForms and utilizes Actipro's WinForms controls.  The screenshot above shows their next major version, which is a WPF rewrite of the application with an updated appearance and new features. 

Our Docking/MDI product implements the docking tool window and tabbed MDI interface, and our Ribbon product is used as the primary toolbar interface.  SyntaxEditor is used to provide a Visual Studio-like code editing experience.  Patterson even wrote custom syntax languages that have fully-automated IntelliPrompt, code outlining, and more.

And the theme is spectacular.  They took our new Metro theme (recently shipped in the 2012.2 version of our WPF Controls), tinted it a bit, and voila… the result is a modern-looking app that blends perfectly with Windows 8, and other tools like VS 2012 and Office 2013.

About Test Design Studio

From Boyd Patterson, owner of Patterson Consulting:

Test Design Studio is an IDE for QuickTest® Professional scripts, VBScript files, Quality Center workflow scripts, WinRunner® scripts, and GUI Map files.

Our product focusing on bringing a rich development environment to our customers.  The challenges of achieving this product are great enough on their own, that we do not need to be burdened with core UI development.  Fortunately, Actipro Software provides many of the controls we need, so we can focus on building our product and not designing UI controls.

We have been working on a complete rewrite of the UI to use WPF technology, and Actipro Software controls have helped ease that burden.  Their Ribbon control provides a great replication of the infamous controls, and SyntaxEditor provides the editing horsepower we need to match the experience our customers demand.  Thanks to their application wide theme support, even the use of native controls look consistent with the rest of the UI.  Our new application is not yet complete, but we already have a great foundation and are excited to release this to our customers.

Details about the product (including the current WinForms version also powered by Actipro controls) are available at:  http://www.patterson-consulting.net/tds

Showcase Your Own Apps

Do you have an application powered by Actipro UI controls that you'd like to showcase on our blog?  Please contact us with a couple screens and a brief description so that we can discuss it.  We always love to see our customers' creations!

Filed under: Customer Showcase

WPF Controls 2012.2 Released

WPFBlogPostBanner

WPF Controls 2012.2 has been released and is now available for download!  This version adds a number of new controls, some great new SyntaxEditor functionality, a new Metro light theme, and other theme updates.

Major new features are described below.  See the announcement post for the detailed list of enhancements and updates.

ProductHeadingWPFMicroCharts

Bullet Graph

A bullet graph is a special kind of bar chart used to display a single value and make comparisons to one or more related values, such as last year's mark, a goal or target, or a projected future value. 

BulletGraph

Examples could include annual income or expenses data, sales data, and performance ratings data.

Box Plot

A box plot is a chart used to visualize major statistical values, such as the mean, median, and quartile values, of a data set. The mean and median can be shown as bars perpendicular to the chart. The upper and lower quartile values form the edges of a box that contains the middle half of the data.

BoxPlot

The spacing between the different parts of the box plot help indicate the degree of spread in the data. Box Plots are particularly useful for displaying distributions of a group in a compact way. This is good for creating charts that compare a group of data such as the performance of salespeople, heights of a group of people, temperatures along a latitude, and more.

Candlestick Chart

Candlestick charts are used to visualize price movements over time, such as changing stock or currency values.  The edges of the box define the opening and closing values, with the wicks extending to the highest and lowest values reached. 

CandlestickChart

The box is shaded differently depending on if the close was higher than the open.

ProductHeadingWPFSyntaxEditor

IntelliPrompt Code Snippet Selection Session

In the 2011.2 version, we added code snippet template session functionality where snippets of code can be inserted into the editor.  The snippets may contain editable fields that the end user can tab between and modify.

CodeSnippetTemplateSession

In 2012.2, we've added a new code snippet selection session that allows an end user to display a popup containing all the available code snippets. 

CodeSnippetSelectionSession

They can type in what they are looking for or can use the completion list as appropriate to locate a snippet.  Once a snippet is selected, a template session begins for it.

Structure Matchers

Structure matchers are a new language service added that allows a language to locate matching delimiter sets.  This is a feature that is harnessed by other SyntaxEditor editing functionality such as move/select to matching bracket and delimiter highlighting.  A built-in implementation is included that makes it easy to match common bracket pairs for a language.

Move/Select to Matching Bracket

SelectToMatchingBracket

When the caret is next to a delimiter that is part of a delimiter set (as identified by a structure matcher), the end user can choose to move or select the caret to the matching bracket via built-in edit actions.

Delimiter Highlighting

Delimiter highlighting checks the text next to the caret to see if it is part of a delimiter set (as identified by a structure matcher).  In cases where a delimiter is found, it and its related delimiters can be highlighted so that the end user can easily identify the code block.

DelimiterHighlighting

This highlighting commonly includes brackets (parentheses, curly braces, etc.) but can also include more advanced highlights such as #if…#else…#endif blocks.

.NET Languages Add-on Support for C# 5.0 / VB 11.0 Syntax

The latest official C# 5.0 and Visual Basic 11.0 language specifications have added some new keywords and functionality to the languages.  Both languages add asynchronous procedure support (via async/await) and VB adds iterators. 

Await

The latest .NET Languages Add-on parser is set up to properly parse the new syntax, and the resolver is able to work with async results for supporting automated IntelliPrompt.

.NET Languages Add-on Resolver Improvements for Anonymous Function Results

The .NET Languages Add-on's resolver can now examine anonymous functions to try and derive the Type of their result.

AnonymousFunctions

This helps further improve the resolver's ability to provide accurate automated IntelliPrompt when working with LINQ and other scenarios.

ProductHeadingWPFThemes

New Metro Light Theme

A complete new theme for the Metro style appearance, inspired by the latest Visual Studio and Office versions, is included in 2012.2.  It is optional and is shipped in its own assembly, similar to our Office themes.

MetroTheme

As with our other themes, you can activate native control theming so that all the controls in your app, whether they are the built-in Microsoft controls or Actipro controls, will render consistently and with a great new Metro-like appearance.

WindowChrome Class

We have a new chrome class that can be used to alter the appearance of any normal WPF window.  At the moment it's designed for use only when the new Metro Light theme is active, and has these features:

  • Ability to convert any Window to use a custom chrome like above when the Metro theme is active.
  • Window border color (when active) that matches the StatusBar color.
  • Semi-transparent outer glow effect for window border.
  • Window resizing via the outer glow effect area.
  • StatusBar background, window border, and glow effect colors can all be changed based on app state.
  • Full Aero snap support.
  • Ability to render interop (WinForms, etc.) controls properly, even though transparency is used.

We plan on expanding the chrome class with more features in the future too.

Assets Added for Making Rounded Editors

EditCorners

We've added several new resource assets and updated all our themes so that it's possible to achieve rounded corners on any edit-related control, such as TextBox, SyntaxEditor, DateTimeEditBox, etc.

TaskDownload TaskLiveDemo TaskBuyNow

Filed under: Actipro, New features, WPF

Silverlight Controls 2012.2 Released

SilverlightBlogPostBanner

Silverlight Studio 2012.2 has been released and is now available for download. This version adds a number of new controls and some great new SyntaxEditor functionality.

Major new features are described below.  See the announcement post for the detailed list of enhancements and updates.

ProductHeadingSilverlightMicroCharts

Bullet Graph

A bullet graph is a special kind of bar chart used to display a single value and make comparisons to one or more related values, such as last year's mark, a goal or target, or a projected future value. 

BulletGraph_thumb

Examples could include annual income or expenses data, sales data, and performance ratings data.

Box Plot

A box plot is a chart used to visualize major statistical values, such as the mean, median, and quartile values, of a data set. The mean and median can be shown as bars perpendicular to the chart. The upper and lower quartile values form the edges of a box that contains the middle half of the data.

BoxPlot_thumb

The spacing between the different parts of the box plot help indicate the degree of spread in the data. Box Plots are particularly useful for displaying distributions of a group in a compact way. This is good for creating charts that compare a group of data such as the performance of salespeople, heights of a group of people, temperatures along a latitude, and more.

Candlestick Chart

Candlestick charts are used to visualize price movements over time, such as changing stock or currency values.  The edges of the box define the opening and closing values, with the wicks extending to the highest and lowest values reached. 

CandlestickChart_thumb

The box is shaded differently depending on if the close was higher than the open.

ProductHeadingSilverlightSyntaxEditor

IntelliPrompt Code Snippet Selection Session

In the 2011.2 version, we added code snippet template session functionality where snippets of code can be inserted into the editor.  The snippets may contain editable fields that the end user can tab between and modify.

CodeSnippetTemplateSession_thumb

In 2012.2, we've added a new code snippet selection session that allows an end user to display a popup containing all the available code snippets. 

CodeSnippetSelectionSession_thumb

They can type in what they are looking for or can use the completion list as appropriate to locate a snippet.  Once a snippet is selected, a template session begins for it.

Structure Matchers

Structure matchers are a new language service added that allows a language to locate matching delimiter sets.  This is a feature that is harnessed by other SyntaxEditor editing functionality such as move/select to matching bracket and delimiter highlighting.  A built-in implementation is included that makes it easy to match common bracket pairs for a language.

Move/Select to Matching Bracket

SelectToMatchingBracket_thumb

When the caret is next to a delimiter that is part of a delimiter set (as identified by a structure matcher), the end user can choose to move or select the caret to the matching bracket via built-in edit actions.

Delimiter Highlighting

Delimiter highlighting checks the text next to the caret to see if it is part of a delimiter set (as identified by a structure matcher).  In cases where a delimiter is found, it and its related delimiters can be highlighted so that the end user can easily identify the code block.

DelimiterHighlighting_thumb

This highlighting commonly includes brackets (parentheses, curly braces, etc.) but can also include more advanced highlights such as #if…#else…#endif blocks.

.NET Languages Add-on Support for C# 5.0 / VB 11.0 Syntax

The latest official C# 5.0 and Visual Basic 11.0 language specifications have added some new keywords and functionality to the languages.  Both languages add asynchronous procedure support (via async/await) and VB adds iterators. 

Await_thumb

The latest .NET Languages Add-on parser is set up to properly parse the new syntax, and the resolver is able to work with async results for supporting automated IntelliPrompt.

.NET Languages Add-on Resolver Improvements for Anonymous Function Results

The .NET Languages Add-on's resolver can now examine anonymous functions to try and derive the Type of their result.

AnonymousFunctions_thumb

This helps further improve the resolver's ability to provide accurate automated IntelliPrompt when working with LINQ and other scenarios.

TaskDownload TaskLiveDemo TaskBuyNow

SyntaxEditor - Move/Select to Matching Bracket

BlogPostBanner

As seen in yesterday's post, delimiter (bracket) highlighting is coming to the WPF and Silverlight SyntaxEditor controls in the 2012.2 version (due very soon). 

A new language service that was described yesterday was a structure matcher service.  This allows delimiter sets to be located.  When one of these is registered on a language, SyntaxEditor automatically gains a new feature:  move/select to matching bracket.

UPDATE:  Version 2012.2 is live and available for download now.

Select to Matching Bracket Example

Let's take a look at how this all works.  Say we have this scenario in SyntaxEditor where the caret is next to a parenthesis. 

SelectToBracket1

Notice that the bracket highlight is not visible because the caret is on the inside of the parenthesis and the highlights for this language are told to only show when the caret is on the outside of a parenthesis.

Now we press Ctrl+Shift+] and voila, the structure matcher returns the nearby delimiters to SyntaxEditor, and the full delimiter range is selected.

SelectToBracket2

So you may be asking, how did that work, when delimiter highlighting didn't register the parenthesis as a valid delimiter?  We designed the structure matcher so that an option can be passed asking it to be more liberal in its matching algorithms.  So while the delimiter highlighting matching logic for a language may have very specific locations a match can occur, other features like move/select to matching bracket can find matches that are anywhere next to the caret.

On a side note, the hotkeys for moving (Ctrl+]) and selecting (Ctrl+Shift+]) to the matching bracket only work in WPF since Silverlight doesn't allow us to watch for that key sequence being pressed.  However you can still provide this functionality to customers via a menu item in Silverlight.

Summary

Move and select to matching bracket is some handy functionality when editing code blocks.  We're excited to offer it in the 2012.2 version.

TaskDownload TaskLiveDemo TaskBuyNow

SyntaxEditor - Delimiter Highlighting

BlogPostBanner

We're currently working on wrapping up the 2012.2 versions of our WPF and Silverlight controls and hope to have these out in the next several weeks.  Today I'd like to announce another new feature coming to SyntaxEditor in the 2012.2 version:  delimiter highlighting!

UPDATE:  Version 2012.2 is live and available for download now.

What is Delimiter Highlighting?

Delimiter highlighting, also called bracket highlighting, is a feature where highlights appear next to sets of delimiters when the caret is next to them.

DelimiterHighlighting

In the screenshot above, we have the current line highlighting feature active along with delimiter highlighting.  The caret is next to a { character which the C# language implementation recognizes as a bracket that should receive highlighting.  Thus its background is highlighted, along with the matching } bracket's background.

Language-Specific Delimiters

Each syntax language has complete control over which delimiter sets are supported.  The language simply creates a new IStructureMatcher service that is able to locate matching delimiters.

Plus we include a built-in implementation of that service that makes it easy to provide matching for curly brace, square brace, angle brace, and parenthesis pairs.

Multiple Delimiter Support

One feature request we had for the WinForms version (which already has bracket highlighting features) was a good way to support more than two delimiters in a matched set.  This is useful in scenarios where perhaps you want to highlight #if#else#endif.  I'm pleased to say that our delimiter matching feature fully supports and will highlight any number of matches in a delimiter set!

Performance Optimizations

One issue with delimiter highlighting in general is that it updates very frequently, basically with every text or selection change.  In large documents, it can take time to scan forward/backward to find a matching delimiter. 

What we did was to design this feature in such a way that the scanning work is completely offloaded into a worker thread.  It actually piggybacks onto our multi-threaded parsing framework to accomplish this.  Thus in the end, the highlights still show up fast and even when the match scanning takes a relatively long time, there is no detriment to typing or scrolling performance.

Summary

Delimiter highlighting is a visually subtle, yet extremely useful feature when editing code.  It's been highly requested and we're very happy to deliver it in 2012.2.  We think you're really going to like what we've come up with.

In our next post, we'll talk about the related move/select to matching bracket functionality, also coming in 2012.2.

TaskDownload TaskLiveDemo TaskBuyNow

Bullet Graphs Part 3 - Other Features

BlogPostBanner

In the previous post for our Micro Charts product (currently available for WPF, Silverlight, and WinRT XAML), we showed appearance features off for the MicroBulletGraph control that is coming to Micro Charts' 2012.2 version (already available for WinRT XAML). In today's post, we'll showcase several other special features of the control.

UPDATE:  Version 2012.2 is live and available for download now.

Minimum and Maximum Values

The minimum and maximum values displayed on a MicroBulletGraph are automatically calculated if they are not given a value. The maximum value is then set to the largest part value, and the minimum is set to zero, or the smallest part less than zero, if one exists. 

BulletGraph

If the minimum is given a value greater that zero then the featured and projected values will display as ellipses centered on their value. An example of a graph with its minimum greater than zero is displayed above.

Negative Values

The MicroBulletGraph also supports negative values. If the featured or projected bar are given a negative value they will start at zero and extend in the opposite direction (left for horizontal orientation and down for vertical orientation). The comparative bar and ranges will function the same for negative and positive values.

Tool Tips

Tool tips can also be used on MicroBulletGraph controls. They can be custom formatted and can display all the part values and the minimum and maximum properties. An example of this is in the screenshot above.

Summary

The MicroBulletGraph control is an excellent and versatile tool for displaying data. It has numerous customization options for function and appearance that allow it to make a comprehensive and engaging graph that maximizes the end-user's understanding of the data in a small area.

It will be included in the 2012.2 versions of our Micro Charts product.

TaskDownload TaskLiveDemo TaskBuyNow

Bullet Graphs Part 2 - Appearance Customization

BlogPostBanner

In the previous post for our Micro Charts product (currently available for WPF, Silverlight, and WinRT XAML), we revealed the MicroBulletGraph control that is coming to Micro Charts' 2012.2 version (already available for WinRT XAML). In today's post, we'll talk about how you can customize the appearance of the MicroBulletGraph to create visually stimulating graphs.

UPDATE:  Version 2012.2 is live and available for download now.

Customization Options

There are many ways to customize the look of a MicroBulletGraph, including customizable color schemes, changing part sizes, and graph orientation. The color of the graph can be set with a single base color that applies to all the parts to quickly create a unified color scheme, or the brush on each part can be set to create custom color schemes. A combination of the methods can also be used to efficiently create a graph that has a base color with highlighted parts.

BulletGraph

Various examples of MicroBulletGraph appearance customizations, from the upcoming WPF demo

In addition to a different color, the featured bar, comparative bar, and projected bar can also be set to a different size. The height of bars can be set to a specific number of pixels, or to a percentage of the graph to fill. The width of the comparative bar can also be set to a different number of pixels to alter how large of a range it covers.

MicroChartsCallCenter

The same bullet graph demo as above, displayed in our Windows 8 WinRT XAML controls demo - available now!

Summary

The many customization options provided by the MicroBulletGraph control allow for virtually unlimited opportunities to create a unique and engaging graph. Using the appearance customization abilities graphs can be color-coded and highlight key data points while being visually appealing and easy to understand.

In our final post of this series, we'll look at some other features of the control.

TaskDownload TaskLiveDemo TaskBuyNow