Third-Party Controls for Visual Studio 2008 Reduce Development Time and Costs by 75 Percent
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Since 1992, ASPEX Corporation has been a worldwide leader in automated micro-analysis solutions that are based on the company’s line of scanning electron microscopes. Of the company’s products, its Perception suite of microanalysis software is what tailors an ASPEX solution to a particular set of customer needs—such as sizing and quantifying particles, quality control, analyzing gunshot residue, metal quality analysis, or pharmaceutical applications.
In early 2008, ASPEX set out to improve the reporting capabilities of its Perception MQA (Metal Quality Analyzer) software, which, at that time, generated only tabular reports. “Customers who wanted to visualize the data had to output it to a comma-delimited file, and then import it into Microsoft® Office Excel® for graphing,” says David Kepple, Software Engineer at ASPEX. “As part of our com¬mitment to delivering turnkey customer solutions, we knew that we had to meet user demand for richer reporting and graphing features.”
ASPEX used Studio for WinForms 2008—a suite of more than 60 components for the Microsoft .NET Framework from ComponentOne, a Microsoft Visual Studio® Industry Partner—to quickly and easily add the desired reporting and graphing features to Perception MQA. “We evaluated third-party components from several vendors, and ComponentOne clearly was the best fit for our needs,” says Kepple. “With ComponentOne Reports for WinForms, I was able to do more in two weeks than I achieved in a month with another vendor’s solution.”
ASPEX used several ComponentOne components and their application programming interfaces (APIs) to enrich its application. “In my opinion, the real power of ComponentOne was the ease of creating custom report fields using their APIs,” says Kepple. “We created ternary plots using the C1ReportField API and created an elemental composition table using the C1FlexGrid API. We used the C1Chart control to create an interactive map of features for metal-cleanliness reporting and also used the C1SuperTooltip and C1Reports controls in the application.”
Currently, the control console for the instrument is written in Delphi and writes the data collected to a centralized database. The new reporting and graphing functionality resides within a second application (both applications are a part of Perception MQA), which was written using the Windows® Forms designer in the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 development system. “Our plan is to migrate the Delphi-based console application to the Microsoft .NET Framework over time, so that we can have the same development environment for everything,” says Kepple.
By using ComponentOne Studio for WinForms 2008 together with Visual Studio 2008, ASPEX was able to quickly and easily enrich its Perception MQA application to meet customers’ reporting and graphing needs. Benefits of the approach have included:
- Rapid development. Kepple imple-mented all functionality in only six weeks, compared to the more than six months that he estimates it would have taken to code it all from scratch. “Visual Studio makes software development fast and easy, and ComponentOne controls make it all that much faster and easier,” says Kepple. “We chose ComponentOne in mid-March and had a trade show starting in May. We met our May dead¬line, and the application was received very well—people even wanted to start using it before it was officially released.”
- Minimal learning curve. Kepple spent virtually no time coming up to speed. “I already knew Visual Studio, and taking advantage of the ComponentOne controls didn’t require me to do anything different—just drag and drop a control, and then click to program it,” says Kepple. “ComponentOne also had great resources on its Web site, and the sample code and Help files were excellent as well. The few times I’ve needed it, support has been great, too.”
- Cost savings. Kepple estimates that using ComponentOne saved his com¬pany at least 75 percent on develop¬ment costs. “Had we coded everything by hand, the six months or more of effort required would have cost about $50,000,” says Kepple. “We saved three-quarters of that amount or more—close to $40,000—and only paid $800 for the controls. And the controls include redistribution rights and are royalty-free, so that was a one-time cost.”
Because of these strong benefits, ASPEX has incorporated ComponentOne controls in some of its other products as well. “Taking advantage of the extensibility of Visual Studio and the widespread availability of third-party controls is the only way to go,” says Kepple. “That way, you can get down to solving business problems instead of reinventing the wheel.”
Microsoft Visual Studio 2008
Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 is the world’s most popular development environment for designing, developing, and testing next-generation Windows-based solutions and Web applications and services. By improving the development experience for Windows, the Web, mobile devices, and Microsoft Office, Visual Studio 2008 helps organizations deliver a variety of solutions more productively than ever before. Visual Studio Team System expands the product line with new software tools that enable greater communication and collaboration throughout the development life cycle. Interaction between developers and designers is enhanced through the use of Visual Studio 2008 and Microsoft Expression® Studio. With Visual Studio 2008, businesses can deliver modern service-oriented solutions more efficiently.
For more information about Visual Studio 2008, go to: msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio
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