Third-Party, Commercial ASP.NET Components I've Used

Published 04 August 05 11:49 AM | Scott Mitchell

Over a number of ASP.NET projects I've done for companies I've used a variety of third-party, commercial ASP.NET components to accomplish a bevy of common tasks. Oftentimes it makes sense for a client to plunker down the money for a pre-built app that I can plug into his application rather than paying me to create the needed functionality from scratch. I thought I'd share the list of third-party components I've used in the past, along with a (very) short review of each. I'd also be interested to hear what third-party ASP.NET components you've used in the past, and what you thought of them. (Of course, for a more lengthy list of third-party ASP.NET components - some commercial, some free - check out the ASP.NET Control Gallery.)

  • r.a.d. menu - despite having created my own free, open-source ASP.NET menu component (skmMenu), I have used r.a.d. menu in a number of applications. (The reasons for using this over skmMenu have varied. In some cases the client had already purchased r.a.d. menu; r.a.d. menu also offers better cross-browser support than skmMenu and can be customized more easily to provide a more professional look. There have been projects, though, in which I have used skmMenu, so don't let my use of 'competitor' menu components deter you from checking out skmMenu!) I like r.a.d. menu, as it's always been easy to setup and get working with. I've used it in situations both invovling rather static, boring menus, and ones where the entire menu structure was dynamically generated based on various parameters (the logged in user, the current data being worked on, the state of the system, and so on).
  • r.a.d. spell - while I've really liked r.a.d. menu, unfortunately I've not been nearly as impressed with r.a.d. spell. r.a.d. spell provides a client-side spell checker, and while it's realtively easy to setup and looks slick, I've had many random problems reported from various users on sites that I've used r.a.d. spell on. Complaints ranging from dictionary suggestions that seem 'off' to cryptic, client-side error messages when attempting to spell check.
  • Peter's Date Package and Professional Validation and More (VAM) - I'm a big fan of both of these products from Peter Blum. In one project I use the DateTextBox, CurrencyTextBox, DecimalTextBox, and IntegerTextBox like nobody's business. The end users love them, as they use client-side JavaScript to restrict the data being entered and have various bells and whistles (such as the nice-looking drop-down calendar in the DateTextBox, little up and down arrows to increment/decrement the value in the IntegerTextBox, DecimalTextBox, and CurrencyTextBox, and so on. I've yet to explore the true depth of the extra validation controls and capabilities, but expect those features to become more useful as this project evolves. But, seriously, the 'masked' TextBoxes alone made the entire purchase totally worthwhile. (In fact, in an earlier blog entry I carried on about my affection for Peter Blum's controls.)
  • aspNet Email - I had a client who needed to blast out customized emails to thousands of registered users on his site, and he contacted me for advice. I recommended Dave Wanta's aspNet Email component, which is not only easy to setup and blindingly fast in shooting emails out the door, but has a MailMerge() method that made writing the entire application about a thirty minute endeavor.
  • Tall PDF - I've not worked with this component in great enough detail to give it much of a review. I was able to accomplish what I needed to with it - building up a rather simple, two-page report in a PDF document - and didn't have too hard of a time doing it. The major disappointment was that the resolution of the PDF file seemed a bit low - that is, I could not import an image (specifically a graph that needed to appear in the report) unless it was like less than 460 pixels wide and like 620 pixels high. Kind of a bummer because I had to shrink down the dynamically generated graph in order to get it to fit, thereby losing some of the detail. But other than that annoyance, no complaints.
  • Dundas Chart for .NET - I haven't used Dundas in a client's application, but I was given a free copy from the kind folks at Dundas about half a year ago and have used the component in a couple of my own, non-public web applications. I was impressed by the look and feel and the ease with which I could chart data. One such 'private' application I've used this component in is one that I use to track my weight and caloric intake. Here's a graph showing my weight over the last six months or so. Creating this chart basically involved just a half dozen lines of code, and it's appearance can be easily configured through the Visual Studio .NET Designer. Personally I think it's a pretty snazzy looking chart considering my artistic skills!

I'm sure there are a handful of controls I'm forgetting, but the above list gives a smattering of the commercial ASP.NET components I'm currently using and have used in the past.

Care to add a comment about one of the commercial controls listed above? Want to add mini-review on a 3rd-party ASP.NET component you've used? If so, simply add a comment.

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