Plug-Ins Add Snap to Windows Apps

NetAdvantage uses current tools; Xamlon gets XAML projects started.

eWEEK labs tested Xamlon Inc.s Xamlon Professional 1.0 and Infragistics Inc.s NetAdvantage 2004 Volume 3, which are designed to make it easier for companies to create graphical interfaces for their projects, thereby freeing developers to focus on the business logic portion of their applications.

Although these products, which plug into Microsoft Corp.s Visual Studio .Net 2003, are aimed at the same goal of speeding the creation of Windows client applications, they follow different tracks in pursuing this end.

/zimages/6/28571.gifCheck out the eWEEK Labs Executive Summaries for Xamlon Professional 1.0 and NetAdvantage 2004 Volume 3.

We tested release candidate code of NetAdvantage 2004 Volume 3, which will ship this month. NetAdvantage provides developers with an impressive range of interface elements for use in building ASP.Net, Windows Forms and COM (Component Object Model) applications that mimic and in some cases improve on the look, feel and usefulness of Microsofts desktop applications.

NetAdvantage works to make it easier for developers to create projects that resemble todays Windows applications, whereas Xamlon Professional 1.0 enables developers to create the Windows applications of tomorrow.

When Microsofts "Longhorn" ships more than two years from now, it will bring with it an interesting new application interface development model that uses a new markup language from Microsoft called XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language).

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsofts decision to remove features from Longhorn in order to meet the 2006 shipping date.

The XAML application model offers various benefits, such as allowing the interface of an application to be developed separately from its underlying program logic and in fewer lines of code than under the current models. XAML applications also can boast better use of vector graphics, smoother text and graphics integration, and simpler three-dimensional element handling.

The biggest problem with Microsofts XAML plans is that these applications will initially run only on Longhorn, with support for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 systems to come some time after Longhorns launch. This road map renders XAML irrelevant for the huge number of machines that will likely be running older versions of Windows for years after Longhorn ships.

Xamlon Professional 1.0, which shipped earlier this month, includes a Visual Studio .Net 2003 plug-in, a notepadlike application for developing in XAML and a tool for importing Adobe Systems Inc.s Illustrator scalable vector graphics into XAML projects. Xamlon Professional 1.0 enables developers to begin developing in XAML now.

More important, the products included run-time XAML supports Windows 98 through Windows Server 2003, so companies can run XAML applications without waiting for Longhorn to ship—not to mention undertaking a Longhorn upgrade—in order to get some real use out of the projects theyve created.

In eWEEK Labs tests, NetAdvantage and Xamlon Professional 1.0 impressed us, and we recommend that companies developing applications for Windows give both products a closer look. NetAdvantage and Xamlon Professional 1.0 are available in full-featured, 30-day evaluation versions.

For developers of in-house business applications, Xamlon Professional 1.0 cant match—nor does it set out to match—NetAdvantage in the range of ready-made controls and interface elements that it provides.

Xamlon Professional 1.0 shines most brightly in the educational opportunity that it gives developers looking to get up to speed on Microsofts future application model, although Xamlon also offers companies the benefits of XAML in creating applications that they can begin to use right away.

A single developer license for NetAdvantage 2004 Volume 3 costs $495, or $795 for a one-year subscription that includes free updates that ship during the subscription term. Infragistics ships NetAdvantage updates three times a year.

NetAdvantage is also available in a $995 annual subscription arrangement that includes priority support and source code for all the elements that ship with the product. The client- and server-side elements included in NetAdvantage may be distributed royalty-free.

Xamlon Professional 1.0 is priced at $399 per developer and includes one year of product updates. The XAML run-time engine may be distributed royalty-free.

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