The Actipro Blog

All the latest UI control development news from Actipro

The New Actipro Software Website

A website is a very important piece of any business, as it often makes the first impression on customers and gives them a feel for your company and what products you offer.

At Actipro, we've worked for quite a while developing a brand new company website with a fresh, modern design that is built on the latest web technologies and performs very fast.

https://www.actiprosoftware.com

Without further ado, here's a peek at the new home page:

WebSite2019

Goals

Responsive Design

A main goal was to ensure the web site was fully-browsable on any device, everything from large desktop screens to tablets and phones.  A lot of thought has been put into the site's responsive design, so that it's beautiful on any device.

Vibrant Colors

We've fully embraced the use of numerous colors in our website's theme, that all blend together in harmony.

Subtle Animations

Websites shouldn't simply be static content.  The use of animations can breathe life into a page and keep the end user's interest.  You'll find that we use a number of quick, subtle animations throughout the website.

Simplifying Presentation (or Reducing TL;DR)

Simplifying our product presentation was another goal.  For product pages, we reduced the amount of verbiage and increased the number of screenshots.  We've worked hard to relay interesting facts about our products, while enticing you to take the next step and download free evaluations to learn more.

Easy Navigation

A website should be easy to navigate.  Large buttons guide you through where to go, page by page.  Or use links at the header and footer to navigate to other sections of the site.

Maximum Performance

We wanted the new website to render much quicker than in the past.  And we achieved that.  This new website is built on the latest ASP Core platform and is extremely fast.

Matching Blog Design

The blog should match the design of the main company website, so we've updated this separate blog site's appearance to match thematically.

Summary

Now that the new website is out, we invite you to have a look around.  Please contact us if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for improvement.  We'd love to hear your feedback!

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General

Chat With Our Development Team Via Slack

SlackBlogPostBanner

We now offer a way to provide real-time communication between you and our development team, via the free Slack messaging app. The app can be accessed directly in a web browser (https://actipro.slack.com/) or via Slack's excellent desktop and mobile apps.

ChatWindow

The purpose of chat offering is to facilitate interaction with our development team, so that we can collaborate together on new product feature ideas, show screenshots of work-in-progress, and even provide access to preview builds of new features.  This is all designed to allow you to play a larger part in steering our future work.

We currently have Slack channels related to our UI controls, the Code Writer app, and a general tech discussion.

Please note that the Slack channels aren't for technical support or sales-related questions.  Use existing support/sales mechanisms for those.

Requesting Access

Since Slack is geared around private team chats, you must be added to our Actipro team before you can join in the discussion.  All you have to do is click the Request to Join button on our development team chat page and email us the requested info.  We'll add you to our Slack team and you'll receive an invitation in your e-mail.

Whether you are already a licensed customer of our UI controls, just evaluating them, or are a Code Writer user, we'd love to have you get involved in the discussion.

TaskLearnMore

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General

We're Hiring for Two Open Developer/Engineer Positions

BlogPostBanner

Great news… We're looking to expand our company and hire a couple talented individuals who love XAML-based user interfaces and would like to join our team of developers.  If you or any of your colleagues would be interested in working at Actipro, please visit our Careers page to learn more.

Open Positions

Senior C# XAML UI Control Developer

Are you a user interface “rock star” who has a passion for working in C# and XAML-related UI technologies such as WPF, Silverlight, and Windows 8 WinRT? Do you want to be a member of a small development team where you will truly make an impact? Are you a creative developer who wants to be able to express themselves by making quality commercial UI control products that are used throughout the industry by major companies?  If so, this position may be exactly for you.

.NET Technical Support Engineer

Are you an intelligent, energetic individual who loves software development, problem solving, and communicating with customers? Do you want to be a member of a small development team where you will truly make an impact? Are you looking to be involved and gain valuable experience in the hottest XAML-related UI technologies such as WPF, Silverlight, and Windows 8 WinRT?  This position is perfect for a younger developer, looking to further their career in the industry and improve their development skills.

More Information and Applying

To discover more information about the requirements for each of these positions, please click the Learn More button below.  That page links to detailed information for each position and tells how to apply.  We look forward to hearing from you!

TaskLearnMore

Tags:
Filed under: General

Near-Term Development Roadmap

Today I wanted to make a quick post to mention where our development resources are currently aligned. 

WPF and Silverlight Controls - Version 2012.1

We're working on updates for the 2012.1 version of our WPF and Silverlight controls.  Part of this is implementing more SyntaxEditor feature areas.  We'll discuss these new feature areas in the blog over time. 

Another portion of these updates is the implementation of a new control product, which will be released for both WPF and Silverlight.  We're not naming it just yet but will certainly provide more details and screens on our blog once development is a bit further along.  It's looking great so far though!

WinRT Controls

As mentioned in a past blog post, our new web site's forums has a special forum where you can vote for which platforms you'd like us to put our development efforts into.  Right now WinRT (Windows 8 Metro style apps) has a number of votes so we've been working at understanding the differences between WinRT and other platforms like WPF/Silverlight, and figuring out how difficult it is to port controls over.

The new control product mentioned above is being designed in such a way that it will function on all three XAML-based platforms (WPF, Silverlight, and WinRT) and will be the first product we offer for the WinRT platform.  Our intention is to ship it on WinRT around when Windows 8 RTMs.

More info will be released soon… stay tuned!

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.

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General

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.

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General

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.

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General

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!

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General

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.

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General

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.

Tags:
Filed under: Actipro, General