Resources for Your Developer Toolbox
Create Dynamic Reports and Charts
ActiveReports for .NET 2.0 by Data Dynamics is written in C# and integrates with the Visual Studio® .NET development environment to let you create dynamic reports and charts. Drop the Report Viewer control on your Windows® Form or Web Form, specify the data source and authentication information for the data connection wizard, and it builds the connection string for you. You just complete the query with the name of table you want to work with, selecting the appropriate fields as listed in the Report Explorer by dragging them onto your report in the Windows Forms Viewer.
You can import the same report layouts into your Web solutions that you use in your Windows Forms solutions. ActiveReports gives you import utilities for Crystal Reports and Microsoft® Access reports. You can export your reports to HTML, PDF, Excel, RTF, TIFF, and text files. Vector-based graphics like .wmf files are processed as metafiles (not converted to bitmaps) so your PDF export files retain their crisp graphics.
The HTTP Handlers that come with the Professional Edition of ActiveReports for .NET allow reports to be displayed from a server in various formats. For example, you can compile an assembly that includes a report, put it on your server, and call it from your application or from a Web page. The handlers let you export reports on a server to PDF or HTML format from a Web page and they allow the Web Viewer control to display reports in the same formats.
The new wizard-driven 3D chart control lets you drop charts on your reports easily, and the script editor has been enhanced to let you include code with your .rpx reports.
The Professional Edition comes with the End-User Report Designer control. This is a royalty-free Windows control that lets you host the report designer (and customize it) in your own applications so your users can create and modify reports. However, this control must first be downloaded and installed onto the client machine before it can be used.
You get a sample project and walkthrough called Diamond Reports that shows you how to customize the control to fit your needs. The Diamond Reports example, which is one of the many sample projects offered in both C# and Visual Basic®, really shows off how much you can do with the control.
In addition to all the standard report-building tools, you get a bar code control, a checkbox control, and a Rich Text control.
ActiveReports supports OLE DB, Microsoft SQL Server™, and XML data sources, ADO.NET types such as DataReaders, DataTables, DataViews, and DataSets, and binding to types that implement IList.
Price:$599 per Standard single license. $1,499 per Professional single license.
An Enterprise Reporting Solution
If you need a scalable enterprise reporting solution, the new Crystal Reports XI by Business Objects lets you create, manage, and distribute reports and business intelligence solutions using thick clients and the Web.
The new visual report designer is impressive. It lets you see exactly what your report is going to look like as you build it, both as a document and as a Web page. This release puts the emphasis on clicking features into your reports rather than coding them in. For example, you can select a data object in your report, click on "chart" in the insert menu, and the software automatically selects a type of chart that fits your data, renders it, and inserts it at that location.
The new Cascading Prompts lets you populate prompts and selection items with dynamic data from a database. The user's selection then determines what data is retrieved next, and so on. You can also include dynamically located pictures by file reference instead of having to store them in Binary Large Objects (BLOBs).
Price: $594 per Professional Edition single license.
Code Scanning Error Checker
Visual FoxPro® lets you use any variable you want, and you don't have to declare it. This can cause problems with duplicate names as systems grow and are maintained over time.
CodeInspector 3.6 by FoxMasters scans your Visual FoxPro project for duplicate names and other errors and provides you with a detailed report of the weaknesses that lurk in your project.
This new version includes six new system variables: _memberdata, _menudesigner, _reportbuilder, _reportoutput, _reportpreview, and _tooltiptimeout. CodeInspector 3.6 also has the ability to detect when variables have the same names as Visual FoxPro keywords.
Price: $79.99 per single license.
Build Resource Files Quickly
If you need to build resource files for your applications, not just create icons and manage graphics, then ResourceBuilder 2.3 by SICOMPONENTS is a resource management solution that includes multiple resource editors and a very fast compiler that supports all resource compiler (RC) format files. It will let you create, edit, import, and export not only icons but also bitmap images, cursors, menus, string tables, text, dialogs and a variety of file formats.
If you have to build resource files, ResourceBuilder is quite the workhorse. It is capable of extracting resource files from libraries, executables, and other types of PE files. In addition to importing files, it can merge RC scripts, update resources stored in executable modules, alter program version information, create resource DLLs, and convert graphics from one format to another.
Price: $99 per single license.
There are a lot of issues you have to manage when you are writing for a distributed application, such as security, deployment, and scalability. You have to think about events, transactions, and messaging in a whole new way. In Enterprise Services with the .NET Framework (Addison-Wesley), Christian Nagel gives you a set of techniques and a guide that covers everything, so you can quickly get up to speed on building distributed applications with serviced components.
Nagel introduces and explains each of the four major services included in .NET Enterprise Services: Automatic Transactions, Queued Components, Loosely Coupled Events, and Role-Based Security. The book also introduces you to the Microsoft next-generation technology for building distributed applications, Windows Communication Foundation (formerly codenamed "Indigo"), and compares it to Enterprise Services.
The book is packed with examples in C# (Visual Basic .NET examples are available on the Web). Nagel uses a small, simple app to show how you can architect it to scale with minimal rework, giving you all the tricky bits in one consolidated reference.
Price: $54.99, 576 pages.
Scott Berkun managed projects at Microsoft for over 10 years, and his book, The Art of Project Management (O'Reilly), is full of practical tools and real experience that will help you succeed with your projects.
It starts with an introduction to Project Management for software development and it covers topics such as how to make decisions, how to make a plan, and how to deal with politics. He has included chapters on how to define a process with a group, what a good process looks like, where ideas come from, and so on.
Scott gives you project management concepts in simple steps, using lots of examples of successes and failures from his own experiences, and he is always considering the "people" factor. With all the emphasis on tools and process that we have today, it's refreshing to see a book on project management that spends as much time on human factors as it does on technical tools and metrics.
This book is a candid and honest piece of work written by someone who has really been there, done that, and is willing to share.
Price: $39.95, 512 pages.
All prices were confirmed at press time and are subject to change.
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is president of Internet Development Associates (Ideva), a firm in Ocala, Florida, that specializes in Internet and intranet Web application design and development. She has published technical papers and books on various computing topics. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org