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More Than Mobile

Articles
Published on 27 March 2013

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We all strive for the best, and it is natural. We drive beautiful cars, wear comfortable clothing, and use reliable computers. We try to surround ourselves with the most exciting things that combine style and quality. Specific requirements are demanded for the household items that fill our everyday life. And our demands are constantly increasing. Look at a mobile phone. From this device we want much than just playing video and audio files, surf the Internet, and work with any application. We want beauty, delights of shape, sophistication in a style. And if people make such demands on their mobile devices, it is not surprising that we will improve our products for them.

In order our tools be enjoyable and interesting, we have made significant changes in Stimulsoft Reports. Mobile. We wanted to ensure that the words "speed" and "universality" have become synonymous with our product.

ribbon

We have done substantial work to change the interface. And the changes are really global. After trying different ways, our developers have identified the most suitable type of the interface, Ribbon UI.

page setup

Now all menus: drop-down lists, forms, and other items now have animation. Each item has a special drawing, so work with this has become much more enjoyable.

In addition to the graphical changes we optimized the code. Now the report designer has to work even faster.

An interesting innovation is Quick Zoom. Drawing became smoother and more pleasant for the eye, and its speed increased significantly.

quick zoom

To better understand the feasibility of the next innovation, consider a well-known situation. You work in the Internet and, at the wrong time, the connection with the server is lost. Everything you did is lost, and you have to start all over again. It is very inconvenient! Now, if you lose your connection with the server, automatic synchronization with the server occurs and your report will not be lost.

There are many new features for working with components, for example, work with the clipboard. Now you can copy, cut or remove components. Previously color was selected by entering the color number. Now you should simply click the palette to get the needed one. One of the most important updates is the ability to open a report directly from the local disk. Also you may load images from files into the relevant report components.

menu

colors

We completely redesigned the preview window. Work with this has become much faster and more convenient. Now you can view all the report pages immediately.

preview

Changes of the component properties are displayed immediately, but not after you click Submit. This simplified the report designer and made it user-friendlier.

barcodes

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Our WinRT report designer continues to gain new users in the Windows AppStore. This is not surprising, since feeling that it is at your hand (in the truest sense of the word), bringing additional pleasure of working with it. We have already talked about its features and advantages, and now want to give you a small report on what you can do directly with your touch.

No doubt, the most important thing in the Touch UI is convenient and fast moving and resizing of components on the report page. For this, when selecting the component, you see four rectangles in the corners of components. Touching them you may perform the actions mentioned above.

image1

Also, for convenience, in case a component is quite big (bigger than a finger size), and is easily accessible by pressing, it can be moved simply by clicking on it and dragging the finger across the screen. In case the component is small and is difficult to be selected, it can be dragged by the top left box.

As for resizing components, we have three remaining rectangles - bottom left, bottom right, and top right. Clicking them and moving across the report page, you change the size of the component. As for resizing bands, we have only one triangle on top, bottom or right side, depending on the band type.

image2

When developing the report designer, we experimented a lot until got an optimal size of the touching regions comfortable for the fingers control. At this size you always choose the right component and do not accidentally select the adjacent item - everything is very convenient.

Consider the report zoom. The main advantage of any tablet is zooming by the movement of two fingers on the screen. So we certainly implemented this feature. There is only one restriction. The first click should be done on the report page or outside of it without selecting a component. This is needed in order not to interfere other activities on components. Also in case of manipulation on the screen by your finger without selecting components, the page will be scrolled, if it does not appear entirely on the screen.

In all our designers on other platforms, when double-click the component its editor (if it has the one) is invoked. In the RT version we also implemented this. When you select a component then on the right side of it the so-called «Quick Buttons Panel» is appears. It contains buttons for the most important actions (calling the component editor, removing the component, creating a copy of the component on the left, creating a copy of the component on the right, settings). This feature is currently in the final stage of development and in the next prerelease build will be available for testing. Calling the design from the panel is very comfortable, even if the size of the component is too small, and double click by a finger is difficult to perform.

Also in the «Quick Buttons Panel» you may find such interesting commands as "creating a copy of the component on the left", "create a copy of the component to the right", using which, for example, you can easily fill in bands with StiText components (or others) with one click, instead of creating a permanent component from the Components panel.

Now about the ribbon interface. This interface has been chosen for a reason. With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft has provided a fully functional version of Office 2013, which was designed for work with the mouse device and for the touchpads. The only difference - they slightly increased the size of buttons so that users can easily press them with their fingers. And as the practice shows it is really very comfortable! Entirely familiar user interface with a number of buttons available on the tablet. There is no need to spend valuable time to retrain or get used to the new location - just sit down and quietly generate reports.

For complete convenience, we have developed an Object Inspector. It is a powerful tool for quick and visible changes in the properties of components, which, of course, is present in all of our report designers. Properties are grouped by category, folding-unfolding categories by a finger. Maximum optimization of speed gave excellent results. Even on the less powerful tablets of the RT version everything works very quickly and without delays caused by lack of memory.

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Controlling programs with the mouse and keyboard is becoming less popular. And the point of it is not that the keyboard is out of date or fashionable, easy control by fingers in many cases is really more convenient.

We do not want to be popular. We do not want to look fashionable. We followed one rule, do not sacrifice quality and get better. If we thought that our report designer will be less convenient on even 1 percent, you would not held in the hands the new Report Designer for WinRT. We will not say that it is a revolution in the world of reporting, we'll call it a stable comfort!

Let’s look at it deeply:

This product is designed to work on the new operating system Windows 8 on PC’s as well as on Intel and ARM tablets. This version is the native one of the product working with business objects. We also added features, introduced recently in the Silverlight version of the product, to work with any databases, SQL connections, XML data through business objects. We have created an application 'Converter.DataSetToBO', which converts any data in a special data stream or file, which then can be connected to the designer for further work without any problems.

Starting creating a new Designer, we thought long time which interface to use for this application in order to implement all features of Windows AppStore applications, and, at the same time, users did not have to learn a new work in it and look how that can be done. As a result, we have agreed with the idea of Microsoft Office 2013 version with enlarged Ribbon UI for the Touch interface. In this case, our old users will feel comfortable and new ones are much easily able to understand the familiar environment. For your convenience we have made 8 shades, so that anyone could find the right color for the application.

The report designer is maximally optimized for convenience in the Touch interface. Now simple finger movements can be used to create, move, and resize components.

The basic functions have also been added for the convenience of work both Drag'n'Drop components from the components panel and data dictionary. A fully functional PropertyGrid optimized for the Touch interface has been implemented for editing properties of components.

We believe that if you like to work with hands, without any extra efforts, if the words “comfort” and “reliability” are synonyms of your work, you will find yourself in our new product.

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Most recently, in a software product Stimulsoft Reports.Silverlight we added support for the new Office 2013 themes.

Now let's talk more about the features of this theme. We have implemented 8 basic colors, but sometimes our users want to implement a custom theme based on our one, or just slightly change the color palette, as it cannot be good for the customer applications.

If you have the source code of Stimulsoft Reports.Silverlight product, then you can do it. But there are some specific things. The current theme files contain an average of about 5000 lines of code, which consequently complicate the task.

The new theme is so unique compared to the previous ones that, in a few minutes, it is now possible to apply a new color, based on the ready theme, creating a new file which contains only about 15 lines.

How to do this?

In the assembly Stimulsoft.Controls.SL.dll, add a new theme file based on any existing one (for example: MyColor.xaml) into the folder Themes/Office2013.

Further, in the enumeration of StiSilverlightThemes, add a new field in the end (e.g. Office2013MyColor).

And finally, to show a new theme in the designer in the list of settings you need to add the new theme in the Stimulsoft.Report.StiOptions.Silverlight.Themes.ThemeList() method.

The description of resources of a theme being added.

1. office15AppButton2010Background – the color of the MainRibbonButton in the Normal state.

silverlight themes 1
2. office15AppButton2010MouseOverBackground - the color of the MainRibbonButton in the MouseOver state.

silverlight themes 2
3. office15AppButton2010PressedBackground - the color of the panel item in the MainRibbonButton in the MouseOver state.

silverlight themes 3
4. office15ForegroundSelected - the color of the selected tab of the RibbonTab. Identical to the office15AppButton2010Background.

silverlight themes 4
5. office15ButtonMouseOver - the color of the button in the MouseOver state.
6. office15ButtonPressed - the color of the button in the Pressed state.
7. office15ButtonChecked - the color of the button in the Checked state.

silverlight themes 5 7
8. office15SelectionBackground - the color of the text selection in the TextBox.

silverlight themes 8
9. office15ColorButtonMOBackground - the background color of a big button in the MouseOver state.
10. office15ColorButtonPRBackground - the background color of a big button in the Pressed state.
11. office15ColorButtonMOBackground - the border color of a big button in the MouseOver state.
12. office15ColorButtonPRBackground - the border color of a big button in the Pressed state.

silverlight themes 9 12

Anticipating New Devices

Articles
Published on 12 October 2012

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Quite recently, some pages of news blogs were filled with very exciting news. A well-known company Microsoft announced its intention to "expand". Yes, yes, and it is not the release of a new operating system or service packs. Microsoft intends to produce gadgets. But do not afraid that this commercial giant will retire into its shell. According to CEO Steve Ballmer, the partnership with the manufacturers of the devices will not stop.

Own gadgets from Microsoft! What should we expect and what should we be ready for?

Their first child will be the tablet PC called Surface based on the operating system Windows 8. This tablet PC will actively use Cloud Microsoft services. The Surface will also get the latest mobile version of MS Office. Isn’t that interesting?

Naturally, Microsoft is not going to be limited with this achievement.

Apart from the development of cloud services for business, Microsoft is going to make a really big step forward. We all watched fantasy films, where devices are controlled by a light finger touch, gesture or voice. Apparently, Microsoft developers also watched such movies and decided to materialize those ideas.

Now, it is hard to imagine how far the developers run and what result we will see. But who can keep us from dreaming? Just imagine - more intuitive technologies, unified phones, tablet PC’s, computers work under a single operating system Windows.

Any business will have the opportunity to grow faster, because familiar and reliable technologies will be literally at hand.

These are the perspectives. Neither more nor less, but Microsoft intends to take a place in the advanced high-technology areas, but also crowd the existing giants.

We can follow this and hope that the company will bring its ideas to something ready. After all, when devices available it is much easier to use many programs, because the operating system will be developed ​​for the existing gadget but not a mythical assembly of an ally.

Such a change in the company policy explicitly says about its progress. The gadget emperors appeared in recent years and it would be foolish to such a power like Microsoft to stand on the sidelines. We can safely say even if Microsoft is not the first but it is in the group of leaders.

It remains to follow the development and, keeping up with them, supplement the market with excellent reporting tools.
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