DevExpress 2013 Roadmap

No matter from which angle you look at it, the technology landscape is changing rapidly. From the various uses of the web, the ability to be always online, the rise of social apps, better data visualizations, to the hardware in use on a day-by-day basis, consumers of software are expecting new and better experiences from their apps. It is necessary for developers to bear this in mind as they write their new applications, and for companies like DevExpress to provide the tools, templates, and components that enable them to do so.

In all probability this year will see the number of tablets sold to exceed the number of traditional PCs, both desktops and laptops (Tablet shipments suggest a crossing point with PCs might not be far off, Charles Arthur, The Guardian, Feb 1, 2013). There are many reasons for this, for example: PCs sold in previous years are “fast enough” for the kinds of uses people have for them, meaning that they defer upgrading them to new ones; tablets are taking over the entertainment space and also apps for them are getting better at presenting information and at sharing over social networks. The smartphone space (which to all intents and purposes means iPhone and Android) is also contributing to this too, meaning that purely mobile devices will become – if they haven’t already – the important market to target.

On the web front, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are consolidating their offerings in the cloud. Consumers expect to see their data flow automatically and naturally between the apps on their devices. Personal data should no longer be siloed. Alongside this we see the rise of software subscriptions in the cloud where you pay for access to native applications rather than purchasing licenses to them: Office365 from Microsoft and Creative Cloud from Adobe being two major examples of this.

As user-centered community and social experiences have matured they are no longer purely consumer behavior. Businesses are integrating social experiences into their application design to help their users collaborate, communicate, and share ideas and opinions. Social community helps businesses to build loyalty and to create vibrant communities centered on their products and services. At DevExpress, we have started to see a new focus on “social business” and a desire from our customers to build applications with a digital world in mind. We are committed to building the tools that support this new, highly connected business experience.

As new technologies emerge and become more mainstream, like HTML5 and JavaScript, questions naturally arise regarding our future plans for traditional platforms. While vendors like Microsoft and Embarcadero may no longer be investing in “thick client” run-time platforms, like WinForms and VCL, the developer ecosystem continues to build mission-critical applications using these proven technologies. Their reasons for staying with these platforms are as varied as the developers that build on them, but rest assured that DevExpress will continue to invest in and support the applications our users demand for as long as they are using them.

We are starting to see momentum increasing for Windows 8 Modern UI apps, arguably the only real “thick client” environment that has appeared in the last year. To aid in promoting this new OS, Microsoft released the in-house designed and produced Surface RT in October 2012 and the Surface Pro in February 2013. The Surface Pro in particular seems to have been a hit with consumers, and the new modern design aesthetic has demonstrated itself to be a challenge to Apple. With this year’s anticipated convergence of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 run-times, the market for Modern UI apps looks ready to grow.

All of these considerations have influenced our thinking about the Product Roadmap for 2013. ASP.NET will continue to be a major focus for us in 2013/2014 and our ASP.NET offerings are of primary importance. In December we released our pure client-side web app solution called DXTREME and we will continue to invest in tools that help deliver applications to mobile devices, both in terms of the client-side and also in terms of the support for it in ASP.NET. We also plan to improve the breadth of our WinForms, WPF and VCL offerings to help our customers create Windows apps with great, modern user experiences. And we will continue to enrich our entire data analysis, presentation, and reporting solutions, across all our platforms.

Please note that this roadmap is an estimate for what we will focus on in 2013, given our resources and our understanding of the technology landscape in which we operate. Any dates given are estimates. Any functionality we describe in this roadmap may be postponed or cancelled altogether. Despite the popularity of our roadmaps with our customer base, we strongly recommend not to make firm plans based on them.

Windows Forms

It’s the platform that refuses to go away, and we’re just fine with that. WinForms is still the best, most efficient and fast way to create Windows applications, period.

For 2013, we’ve got some great new features to announce. Starting with the grid, one of the most visually attractive new features is without doubt the implementation of smooth pixel-scrolling, and we shall also be improving its design-time interface. Our set of editors (both in the grid and standalone) are being supplemented with a tree-list lookup, sparklines, and a gallery popup. For those who like to use WinForms with touch, we shall have several new touch-receptive controls like a date editor, time editor, and a toggle switch, built especially for fingers.

More design-time improvements are coming for the Ribbon, bars, and navbars. For the Ribbon, we shall be improving its merging capabilities and also the BackstageView.

Just to gather new features mentioned elsewhere, we shall be providing a new map control for WinForms, as well as a live tile control for Windows Modern UI that provides two-way communication with a standard WinForms app on the desktop. Another new control that we haven’t spoken about before is our new PDF viewer control for WinForms and later in the year our new spreadsheet control.

Other than that, we will of course be implementing many small suggestions from our list, too many to mention here. But stay tuned!

XAML controls (Silverlight, WPF, Windows 8 Modern UI)

Late last year, Microsoft shipped the Surface RT and started taking orders for the Surface Pro. Both of these devices sported a new metaphor in operating systems, Windows 8 and the Modern UI. DevExpress introduced some essential controls in a new product line we called DXTREME. Since our Modern UI controls are derived from our existing WPF and Silverlight controls, it makes sense to talk about them together as much as possible.

Going forward, we will deliver a brand new control for Windows 8 Modern UI that bridges together the old and the new. This control allows you to bind a WinForms or a WPF application (that runs in the desktop mode on Windows 8) to a live tile in the standard Start screen in Modern UI mode. The desktop app can update the live tile as and when necessary, and, when the user clicks the tile, they are routed to the desktop app. It’s like having the best of both worlds: your traditional app is visible as a live tile in the Start screen but is still built using the technologies you know today.

WPF/Silverlight

We continue to learn from our customers how much you want tools that not only help you work more efficiently, but that they allow you to get the most from your investment. In 2013 we will deliver new project templates that provide a solid visually-attractive starting point for your own applications. For WPF, we will add support for a glow effect to the border of the main window, similar to Visual Studio 2012. We shall also be improving the design-time support for our controls in order to present the most common and important properties and events when writing a XAML application.

Additional new controls will include a range control with chart and scheduler integration (WPF), a date/time picker with date edit integration (WPF), an advanced auto-complete library for text edits (WPF, Silverlight), server mode support for in-place editors in the grid (WPF, Silverlight), and a property grid (WPF). Enhancements to the grid include a banded column view and an instant feedback mode for the lookup editor (so that the responsiveness of the UI does not get clogged by data access).

Windows 8 Modern UI

After a welcome start as part of DXTREME, we will be broadening the breadth and depth of our Windows 8 Modern UI control set. First of all, for the grid, we’ll be providing various essential new features, such as cell navigation, predefined column types, a search panel, in-place editing, multi-selection of rows, grouping, column reordering, etc. Of course, these features will be tuned to the primary input method: touch.

Other new features in the pipeline include: an advanced auto-complete library for text edits; server mode support for editors that use the autocomplete feature; and themes and a theming engine.

ASP.NET & MVC

Over the past year, we have continued to polish and extend ASP.NET (WebForms, MVC, and SharePoint) to make it the most extensive, fast, and feature-rich set of ASP.NET controls and ASP.NET MVC extensions available today. This year will be no different, with some new major features and many smaller ones.

We’re going to continue adding more and better HTML5 support. The major plan here is make our controls “adaptive”, that is, to make them responsive to and change their look and feel based on the available browser screen estate. With the new adaptive project template you will be able to create a single ASP.NET site that will automatically render optimally on browsers from desktops to tablets to smartphones. We’ll also be adding data validation that takes advantage of HTML5 and CSS3, and will be updating the UploadControl to take advantage of the new FileReader API in HTML5.

HTML5 capabilities are only part of the web experience. We’ll be adding a new “endless paging” mode where the control will automatically get the next set of data when the user reaches the bottom of the current set. Think Facebook’s timeline or Pinterest’s pages, but in your app.

Of course, supporting the latest browser technologies is not the only part of the ASP.NET plan, we also have to consider aiding the developer in creating new, rich, web applications. Hence we shall be making the FormLayout control even easier to use by providing databinding support so you can build great-looking functional web forms in minutes.

And expect to see new ASP.NET MVC extensions for the FileManager, ImageSlider, and Captcha controls.

DXTREME HTML

Having just introduced DXTREME to great appreciation and interest at the end of last year, it’s time to flesh out the various parts of DXTREME to make it invaluable to the .NET and JavaScript developer who wants to create rich, fast, single page multi-channel applications for the mobile web.

On the client side, that means adding an auto-sensing and selectable theme for Windows Phone 8, to go alongside our themes for iOS and Android. With one HTML5 DXTREME app you will now be able to show native-looking apps on iPhones, Galaxies, and Nokia Lumias with no extra coding on your behalf. We shall also be adding some new widgets to the extensive set we already have, widgets like an ActionSheet, a dropdown menu for Android, a Toast widget for in-app notifications, an encapsulation of textareas, autocomplete for text boxes, and so on.

For the .NET developer, especially one who uses Visual Studio extensively, we have several ideas for making the IDE experience better. Think along the lines of dragging and dropping widgets onto the design surface, scrolling content at design time, better Intellisense capabilities, improvements to the property grid, and so on. We’re also providing better wizards for generating markup and code: separate models per view, sharing forms among projects, discoverability of JSONP feeds, and so on. Since many people are using DXTREME to create native apps by using Adobe Cordova (PhoneGap), we shall improve the method of providing the required certificates/signing files. Along the same vector, we’ll be making it easier to use PhoneGap plug-ins to provide extra functionality in your apps.

To make DXTREME more relevant to apps written in other languages, we shall be adding support to make DXTREME apps localizable.

And finally, we are continuing to make DXTREME faster and more comparable to native apps, all the time improving the themes to more closely resemble such apps.

Considering the expectations that are prevalent in DXTREME’s market, we shall be releasing new major versions on a different timetable than our other main platforms: three or four times a year. Our first major release for DXTREME in 2013 will be in April. Later release dates have still to be decided, but at a minimum they will be August and December. Stay tuned.

Reporting

In 2012 we released two major new reporting products: the Report Server for high-end enterprise reporting solutions and Snap for quick user-generated simple reports. Other than these two reporting suites, we still have XtraReports across all supported platforms as well as the XtraPrinting suite. For 2013 we shall be enhancing them all.

The Report Server will get some extra security features (a discretionary access control, in addition to the presently available role-based security), and a Report Server SDK to enable better integration into standard business environments.

Snap will include a data source binding wizard to help end-users bind their reports to your data.

For XtraReports there are several minor changes in the pipeline, plus a new pure client-side report viewer for the web and a table-of-contents control.

For XtraPrinting, we want to improve our export capabilities. Plans here include EMF and WMF vector image support as well as image transparency. There are also plans to incorporate our new spreadsheet engine into our printing and export capabilities.

Spreadsheet Engine

During the latter part of 2012 we realized that in order to provide better support for spreadsheet file formats for export and import, it would be better to have a proper spreadsheet engine that can be optimized for reading/writing XLSX files and that can form the basis for a new spreadsheet user interface control. For 13.1 our plans include making the main engine available as a component with a well-defined API and to hook it up to our exporting and importing functionality within our current controls (like the grid). For 13.2 our plan is to have at least a multi-sheet WinForms UI control available, but we may also have enough time to also implement a WPF spreadsheet control.

In the first version the spreadsheet engine will support reading/writing XLSX, XLS, and CSV formatted streams. It will support formulas, different cell styles, tables, and so on. The spreadsheet engine will only be available in DXperience Enterprise or Universal.

Charting

For 2013, there are many features planned for all our charts products across all platforms.

The first is an infrastructural change to improve data processing performance across the board, especially with large datasets. Although this has no “visual” aspect, all users should find our charts are more responsive and quicker to display. The results of this work will partly be available in 13.1, but some improvements will only become apparent in 13.2.

Next in 13.1, we are planning to improve the chart wizard experience to help developers design and produce visually attractive charts. We shall start with the wizard for our DXCharts (WPF and Silverlight) and then migrate this new version to WinForms and ASP.NET for the XtraCharts product.

Also in 13.1, we shall add a new sparkline control which can be used as a standalone WinForms control, as an in-place editor for the XtraGrid control, or as a report control for XtraReports. Also in WinForms, we shall release a new Map control based on our map controls on other platforms.

For 13.2, we’ll port our sparkline control to WPF and Silverlight, continue on our infrastructural work, and be guided by requirements from our Dashboard and Reporting products.

Dashboards

With our 12.2 release we introduced a new product as part of the Universal subscription for business data visualizations, the DevExpress Dashboard. It is natural that we should build upon its success in 2013 with some exciting new features.

The first new feature is a new client-side Dashboard viewer using pure HTML/CSS/JavaScript for the browser, which is due for 13.1. We will also have an OLAP server mode for the pivot table widgets, and provide printing and export for WinForms dashboards. We will incorporate the new sparklines charts once they become available.

Later on in the year, we will build out our new Dashboard Service component and our Dashboard Server, which will function in a similar manner to our Report Server. We also have plans to design a Dashboard layout engine for mobile devices.

Business Application Frameworks

Our frameworks continue to be the first port of call for business application developers since they provide a welcome robust environment for developing rich, scalable applications. We recognize though that the basic infrastructure is never finished and is always under development to meet tougher requirements now and for the future. This year then our primary focus is consolidation: to polish and enhance the numerous features we introduced over the past couple of years, while guided by customer feedback. While no new modules are planned for this year, we are sure that our customers will welcome the implementation of numerous smaller and often more important suggestions, together with stronger stability, better usability, and faster performance. For the performance part in particular, we are looking to reduce the start-up time for XAF apps as well as make the loading and opening of detail forms quicker. Some examples of the smaller improvements we wish to make include: better handling of concurrent data editing, application model structural and usability improvements, and more valuable integration of DevExpress controls.

We will provide much-needed (and requested) improvements to both the Security module and the Application Server, for example protecting members using criteria, enhancing the support of Domain Components (DC), and providing better project templates.

We shall continue to work on our Entity Framework integration story. The remaining XAF modules that haven’t been tested and verified with EF will be, and we are hard at work providing more learning materials and tutorials to help the EF developer. Some ongoing research into OData we’re doing for XAF will likely provide better integration with actual data service feeds later in the year.

VCL

Last year we concentrated on our viewpoint that VCL is the best run-time for Delphi. We provided more new features and new functionality across the board, including server mode for the grid, to show that, when using the premier library for VCL, Delphi developers can produce modern, visually-stunning native business applications for Windows.

This year we shall extend this strategy with some major improvements to our user experience. In the first major release, look for an even better touch experience with our controls alongside a new specially-designed touch theme. We shall be embracing the new Office 2013 look-and-feel with another new theme, as well as visual changes to our Ribbon control to mimic Office’s latest appearance. Not only that, but we shall include a brand new radial menu as seen in Office OneNote. We shall incorporate new multithreaded algorithms to improve the performance of data operations on our grids (grouping, sorting, and filtering). Server mode will also have its fair share of enhancements as we add support for Embarcadero FireDAC and extend supported database types with Microsoft Access and SQLite.

Later on in the year, we shall be rejuvenating the spreadsheet control with a better architecture and support for XLSX and function implementations. Providing we overcome some hurdles, Server mode will support master-detail scenarios. More skins will be provided. Of course, since Embarcadero traditionally publish their annual release at the end of Q3, we shall be supporting that new version with regard to Delphi and C++Builder. Although we shall not be supplying any FireMonkey controls this year, we shall continue to monitor the progress of improvements in the run-time and the demand for controls supporting it.

CodeRush

Last year, one of the biggest new features in CodeRush was the new debugger visualizer. Despite the rapturous welcome from our customers, we recognize that it has a long way to go, and it should come as no surprise that such improvements will form the basis of our work in CodeRush this year.

Some examples of the enhancements we’re implementing to the visualizer include visualizations of exceptions, stack traces, toggling between the levels of data display of variables, dynamic evaluation (and greying out) of code that won’t be executed, better animations when values are displayed, and support for XAML bindings.

In fact that last item is the basis for a whole other area of changes: improvements in how CodeRush deals with XAML. XAML has grown in importance with the whole Windows 8 Modern UI platform and CodeRush is being positioned as an important coding support tool for XAML developers. Expect to see binding parsing and resolution, navigation from XAML tags to the relevant resources and property definitions, expanding/collapsing of XAML attributes, better Intellisense, code providers, and so on.

For later in the year, the team are still discussing various toolset innovations. Currently plans include the possibility of major improvements to CodeRush’s testing abilities, including perhaps the ability to automatically generate test case code based on real-time data input from the developer. It is also very likely that we shall enhance the dynamic JavaScript parsing capabilities of CodeRush to help developers writing single-page apps with DXTREME HTML.

Summary

No matter which platform you support, the applications market is growing faster than ever before. The rate of change of the technology we need to understand and utilize is increasing rapidly. In such an environment, you need to partner with someone who is there with you for the long haul and who is ready with the tools you need when you need them. DevExpress is that partner and this roadmap shows what we are focusing on to help you.

Let’s see what develops.

Thank you and best wishes,
Julian M Bucknall, CTO and The DevExpress Team

www.devexpress.com