The Actipro Blog

All the latest UI control development news from Actipro

WPF Studio samples now fully support Visual Basic

Visual Basic sample project added

The latest maintenance release (build 4.5.0484) of WPF Studio now contains a Visual Basic variation of the Sample Browser sample project.  We’re very happy to provide this additional variation on the sample project to help WPF developers who work in VB learn how to use our products more effectively.

Visual Basic item templates added

We’ve also added Visual Studio 2008 item templates that can be used to add new items to your Visual Basic projects.  The item templates help you quickly get started with Ribbon, Wizard, etc.

Similar item templates have been available for use in C# projects for some time now.

WPF Studio Installer Update

Another part of the changes for build 484 is to default the WPF Studio samples to install to your Documents folder.  This helps work around the issue of needing to select a non-Program Files folder when in Vista to avoid potential UAC issues for compiling sample projects.

When installing, if you wish to allow multiple users on a computer to have access to the samples, simply choose an alternate folder for the samples that is accessible to all users on your computer.

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Ribbon and NavigationBar get new Aero themes

The latest maintenance release 4.5.0475 of WPF Studio adds new attractive Aero themes for Ribbon and NavigationBar.  These new Aero themes match great with our other WPF products such as Docking & MDI.

Additionally we've added a Change Theme button to the top of our Sample Browser.  This lets you quickly set the application-wide theme for the Sample Browser.  You can even use the Change Theme button in our XBAP live demos.

Ribbon Aero Theme

AeroRibbon

A RibbonWindow that contains a Ribbon as well as a DockSite with tool and document windows

Note how Ribbon and Docking & MDI now look great together in Aero.  The above screenshot was taken with glass effects disabled so that you can see how RibbonWindow renders with its Aero theme when used on XP systems.

NavigationBar Aero Theme

AeroNavBar

The new NavigationBar Aero theme

Enjoy the updates!

Actipro's WPF Product Roadmap - June 2008

We've had a lot of interest from customers regarding our product roadmap for WPF development.  I wanted to post where things currently stand and where our future development priorities lay.  I also would like to give customers the opportunity to voice their opinion as to what they would most like to see added to WPF Studio down the road.

In addition, we are now announcing a new WPF product that will be available after the WPF Studio v4.0 release:  PropertyGrid for WPF.

WPF Product Roadmap

Here is the roadmap for WPF development as of June 2008.

WPF Studio v4.0 Release

The WPF Studio v4.0 release will be available in the next several weeks.  We are still finishing up the two new products that have been added and are in the process of adding samples, documentation, etc. 

Actipro Docking & MDI for WPF

The Docking product implements docking tool windows and MDI functionality for WPF.  We haven't talked too much about the feature set yet, however we'll get into that closer to release time.  Rest assured though that themes are created for all Windows system themes, along with all three Office themes.  It also will offer a huge number of options.

DockingAero

Docking and MDI in Windows Vista

Use the docking tag to search for info on this product in the Actipro blog.

Actipro Gauge for WPF

The Gauge product makes it easy to create any sort of circular, linear, or digital gauge.  These gauges can be used to represent data in digital dashboards, provide virtual instrumentation, and much more.

Clock

A circular gauge that shows how easy it is to create a working analog clock

Use the gauge tag to search for info on this product in the Actipro blog.

After WPF Studio v4.0

The following two products have had work started on them but were placed on hold temporarily while we divert our development resources towards getting WPF Studio v4.0 out the door.

PropertyGrid for WPF

A new product, PropertyGrid for WPF, will provide property grid functionality similar to that found in Visual Studio and Expression Blend.  We will get into more details about the product following the WPF Studio v4.0 release.  However its development is already fairly far along, and we expect it to be ready within a few weeks after the WPF Studio v4.0 release.

PropertyGrid

The first look at our upcoming PropertyGrid control for WPF

SyntaxEditor for WPF

SyntaxEditor for WPF will provide the high quality code editing experience you expect from Actipro, the industry leader in syntax highlighting editing controls and components.  One SyntaxEditor for WPF design goal is to make a common document/parsing library so that it can be shared with the next Windows Forms SyntaxEditor v5.0 and CodeHighlighter.  We also have a ton of new features planned that we will start posting about in the future.

As a WPF Studio Customer, Will I Receive These Products for Free?

As long as your WPF Studio subscription is active when a product is released, you will be eligible to upgrade to the new version and get any new products added to WPF Studio for free.  Each WPF Studio developer license includes a free subscription that can be renewed at its expiration date each year.

What Would You Like to See Added?

Let's hear your comments on what you'd like to see added that hasn't been listed in our roadmap above.

Some suggestions from customers have included:

  • Grid
  • Chart/graph
  • Scheduling
  • Reporting

Please post a comment and rank in order of priority which of these (or your own suggestions) that you would like us to work on.

At Actipro, the opinions of our customers matter and your feedback really will help steer our long term future development efforts.

Sneak Peek: Docking for WPF (Part 4 - RibbonWindow with Docking/MDI)

Here is a new screenshot of a demo showing a RibbonWindow that contains a Ribbon along with docking tool windows and tabbed MDI, all in the Office 2007 black theme.

VistaDocking

A RibbonWindow in Windows Vista that uses the Office 2007 black theme and has docking tool windows

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, Docking for WPF will be part of the WPF Studio v4.0 release, due in several weeks.  Any customer who has an active WPF Studio subscription (all license purchases include free subscriptions) at the time of release will get this new product for free.

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ExplorerBar Goes Aero

Today's WPF Studio maintenance release added a new Aero theme for the ExplorerBar control.

 ExplorerBarThemeAeroNormalColor

The ExplorerBar control in its new Aero theme

The screenshot above shows the normal and alternate styles for ExplorerBar items.  In addition, when the mouse moves over a header, the header changes its background to reflect the hover state.

Actipro WPF Studio v3.5.0425 is live!

We've done a lot of blogging in the past couple of weeks on new WPF controls that were being prepared for the next maintenance release of WPF Studio v3.5.  Well, I'm pleased to announce that all those controls are now live with today's latest build 425.

New Controls and Components

A slew of new controls and components are included in this build.  Here is a brief list of the major new ones, with links to the previous blog posts that describe them:

Improved Documentation

Our already-thorough documentation has been further enhanced, with a lot of new topics. 

Many New Samples

We've continued to add many new samples to the Sample Browser with this build.  In fact, there are 16 new samples added in this maintenance release!

How to Download?

If you already own WPF Studio v3.5, just go to your Organization Purchases page and download the new maintenance release from there.  If you don't own WPF Studio v3.5, you can get it from the Download page.

First Look: Breadcrumb for WPF

The last major control that will be added to our Navigation for WPF product in the upcoming WPF Studio v3.5 maintenance release is the Actipro Breadcrumb control.  The Breadcrumb concept was introduced in Windows Vista to replace the old style of address bar. 

Breadcrumb
The Breadcrumb control

The Breadcrumb control is essentially a condensed version of a TreeView.  Instead of showing a full hierarchy, only the selected path down the tree is displayed.  We've put a lot of work into this control to make sure it has all the Windows Vista features along with some additional ones.

Drop-Down Selection

When the drop-down arrow next to an item is clicked, a popup menu displays containing the child nodes.  Simply click on a child node to select it.

Overflow

When the width of the Breadcrumb is not large enough to support the display of all the items, a chevron button appears at the left side of the Breadcrumb.  Clicking the button shows a menu containing access to all the hidden parent nodes.

BCOverflow

The Breadcrumb with an overflow menu displayed... the top portion is the stack of overflowed items, and the bottom portion is the list of items for the root minimized Desktop node 

Auto-Minimize

Breadcrumb can be configured to auto-hide any number of nodes at the top of the hierarchy when child nodes are selected.  This behavior defaults to hiding only the root node.  For example, in a file system when you select something below the Desktop, the Desktop node minimizes but is fully accessible from a drop-down button that is displayed in its place.  This allows you to hide nodes that aren't commonly used but still keep them accessible.

Tail Items

Tail items are a really neat feature that is unique to Actipro Breadcrumb.  Not even Vista's Breadcrumb has it.  By default, the last item displayed is the selected item.  However you can configure the Breadcrumb to display any number of tail items. 

BCProgressiveFade

The Breadcrumb showing a progressive fade feature for tail items 

As an example, say you drill down to a leaf node in your tree.  Then you click a parent node item to select the parent.  If tail items are enabled, the previously-selected leaf node will still be visible although with a faded appearance.  This allows end users to quickly jump back to a previously-selected child node.

Edit Mode

By clicking on the icon at the left of the Breadcrumb, you can jump into "edit" mode.  In this mode, the node items disappear and are replaced by a TextBox where you can enter the full path to the desired node directly. 

BCEditMode

The Breadcrumb showing an active edit mode

You have total control over how the text path is converted to a node path.

Action Buttons

Custom action buttons may be added to the right side of the control.  These can be anything you wish, however for proper usage you will want to have their purpose be related to the nodes represented in the Breadcrumb.

Progress Bar

Just like Vista's Breadcrumb, Actipro's BreadCrumb fully supports a progress bar embedded in the background of the control.  You can optionally use this to reflect loading progress when a new node is selected.  It uses our AnimatedProgressBar control that was described in a previous blog post

 BCProgressBar

The Breadcrumb showing a progress bar in its background, indicating to the end user that an operation is in progress

Features include animated smooth progress transitions, multiple states (green, yellow, red), and more.

Themes

Breadcrumb supports multiple built-in themes, everything from Windows Classic to Vista.

We are currently working on the samples and documentation for Breadcrumb, and expect to have it released in the next several days.

First Look: Aero Wizards for WPF

We're getting very close to having the next big maintenance release for WPF Studio v3.5 ready.  One of the larger new controls that is part of Wizard is the new AeroWizard control.  AeroWizard inherits our normal Wizard control but provides a custom UI that mimics the style of wizards found in Windows Vista.

AeroWizard

An AeroWizard control that shows how easy it is to create Vista-like wizards  

Note that all of the glass rendering and title bar area is handled for you.  We have a special AeroWizardWindow class that is a Window intended to contain an AeroWizard.  You can interact with the expanded title bar region just like you would in the true non-client title bar area of the window, meaning double-click to toggle maximization, click and drag to move the window, right click to display the system menu, etc.

In Aero wizards, the Back button appears in the title bar to keep consistency with the other Vista explorer windows and task dialogs.

Since AeroWizard inherits Wizard, it supports all the many features you've come to love in the core Wizard product, including command-base page switching, animated page transitions, and much more.

Want to get started building Aero wizards fast?  The new build will include a VS 2008 item template that gets you going in seconds with a fully-functional Aero wizard template window.

Command Buttons

No Aero wizard is complete without the special buttons called command buttons that sometimes allow for choices within the main page area.  We've fully implemented command buttons for you, and they even have the smooth animation when you move the mouse over them or click on them.

We're very excited to offer Aero wizards in WPF Studio with the upcoming release.

WPF and Aero glass causes ClearType to fall back to grayscale antialiasing

We had a customer write us the other day mentioning that ClearType was turning off when using our RibbonWindow class in Windows Vista with Aero enabled and was falling back to grayscale antialiasing. 

After a lot of debugging and searching, we found that the root of the problem was the use of Vista's Aero glass in the client area of a Window in WPF.  Basically if glass is disabled or not available (like in Windows XP), everything is fine and renders properly using ClearType.  However if you implement your WPF Window such that glass can enter the client area (like in our RibbonWindow or previously-posted GlassWindow that is soon to be released), ClearType will disable and grayscale antialiasing will be used instead.

We traced the line that causes the issue down to this one, which is necessary for any WPF Window to properly support Aero glass in its client area:

// Ensure the background of the composition target is transparent
HwndSource.FromHwnd(hwnd).CompositionTarget.BackgroundColor = Colors.Transparent;

Basically if the Colors.Transparent is set to the Window's composition target, ClearType becomes disabled.  If you don't set this however, then glass is not able to enter the client area of the Window.

Here is a great post by Dax Pandhi on how to enable Aero glass in WPF Windows.

In there you can see how the line of code above is used to notify Win32 to use a transparent background for the client area of the window.

After some more searching on Google, we found this post too which explains the issue a bit more:

Give me back my ClearType

That post shows some screenshots of the issue and is very helpful for telling what things will cause ClearType to disable.

I've posted a question about this issue in the Microsoft WPF forum and hopefully Microsoft will do something about this in the future.

First Look: GlassWindow for WPF

Another new control in the upcoming Actipro WPF Studio v3.5 maintenance release is GlassWindow.

It is a normal Window however adds some additional property that allow you to extend Aero glass effects in Vista into the client area of the window.  It's very simple to use, you just ensure IsGlassEnabled is true and set the thickness of the client area glass that you want.

GlassWindow

A GlassWindow with Aero glass extended into the client area of the window

As an added feature, you can set the glass thickness to -1 to make the entire background of the window be glass.