Peter's Date Package Review
 
Published: 19 Oct 2003
Unedited - Community Contributed
Abstract
Peter Blum of www.peterblum.com has created what could easily be deemed the end-all solution to web based date/time entry – Peter’s Date Package. His package includes a spiffy dropdown calendar/textbox, a great looking calendar, a collection of date/time centric validators, and more.
by Brian Desmond
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Introduction

      One rather common requirement for web applications is date and time entry. Microsoft supplies a calendar control in the ASP.Net framework. Realistically, the uses of the control are limited, especially compared to the powerful outlook style date/time pickers in desktop applications. Peter Blum of www.peterblum.com has created what could easily be deemed the end-all solution to web based date/time entry – Peter’s Date Package. His package includes a spiffy dropdown calendar/textbox, a great looking calendar, a collection of date/time centric validators, and more.
One of the major pieces in Peter’s package is what he calls the DateTextBox. No doubt, this control is exactly what the name describes – a textbox for entering dates. This particular textbox is no run-of-the-mill textbox, though. It comes equipped with a feature loaded popup calendar. Aside from great looks out of the box, the calendar comes with a customizable context menu, and a host of other features.

      Immediately upon targeting a DateTextBox in the Visual Studio properties window, hundreds of additional properties come up. The DateTextBox allows for all sorts of scenarios out of the box. One example is when a pair of DateTextBoxes are teamed together in order to allow a range of dates to be entered. The end date DateTextBox can be configured to not allow dates before the starting DateTextBox’s value. To make things even better, the package comes with a neat dropdown menu which will automatically input a customizable date range. For example, the developer can configure a range of five days, a whole month, year, or any other range. An example of this control in action:

Properties Galore

      All sorts of other properties are available. For example, DateTextBoxes can be configured for earliest and latest possible dates, including invalid dates in this region. In fact, the entire dropdown calendar can be customized with a custom calendar complete with custom developer specified entries and invalid dates.


      Validation is another strongpoint in this control (and the package as a whole). Validators are provided to ensure such simple things as proper date formatting and validity (based on a developer defined list), and also more advanced validators which compare dates, check the range they fall in, and ensure that a date does not precede or exceed minimum and maximum dates (defined by the developer).


      The calendar which drops down from the DateTextBox is also available in standalone format. In this form, the calendar is even more powerful than when it’s hooked into the DateTextBox.

Calendaring

      The calendar as a standalone control can be customized even more than the DateTextBox. It supports such things as buttons which toggle specific dates, custom JavaScript actions when a date is toggled, custom context menu, and even more CSS than the DateTextBox. Combined with the Special Dates control, a resource scheduling calendar, or a calendar for almost any organization can be easily built.


      Another one of the many properties of the control is a toggle to display week numbers. This is most probably very useful when writing financial applications. It would be useful in other situations too if the week numbering could be customized. For example, here in Chicago, the school system considers week one to be the week of September 1, and week forty is the second or third week of June, when school lets up.

      A couple of other useful controls in the package are the AnniversaryTextBox and the MonthYearTextBox. These controls allow entry of a month and date (an anniversary, for example), and just the month and year, respectively.


Manual & Tech Support

      Peter’s Date Package doesn’t just do date entry. It does times too. A control called TimeOfDayTextBox handles all of the time entry functions, with the usual boatload of properties to go with. Buttons can be attached to the textbox to facilitate incrementing the time and keystrokes are handled too. Just as the DateTextBox has several validators that can be attached, TimeOfDayTextBox has them too. Formatting can be guaranteed, times can be compared, and times can be checked against a range.

      Visually, the controls are astounding. They are completely customizable in almost every respect. General appearance is all controlled by CSS style sheets, and the renderings look great. The controls render properly downward in a whole host of browsers, handling features server side which are not supported by the client browser.

      The manual included with Peter’s Date Package is some 175 printed pages long. Each control and property is explained in depth, and a multitude of samples which cover all sorts of scenarios are included. The samples are all printed in VB.Net and C#. The manual is a PDF rather than a CHM which integrates with Visual Studio.Net. Given the tools available to do this, it would be nice to be able to browse from VS.Net. The PDF included with the package is very in depth, and well beyond a simple CHM file in many ways. Nonetheless, a help file for VS.Net which gave an overview of all the methods, properties, etc in the package and links to the topics in the PDF would be very helpful.

      Peter knew I was writing this when I sent in a couple of tech support questions, so I cannot objectively say anything about the support services provided by peterblum.com. I can, however, based on the various testimonials printed at several industry leading sites (i.e. www.asp.net), make an educated guess that his answers to questions are excellent and timely.

In Summary

      The entire package is a splendid piece of work. It solves a major problem when creating web applications, and it does it well. Nothing is perfect, of course, and there are a few issues with Peter’s Date Package. The naming convention, used with so many different properties, is an annoying issue as naming properties in the way Peter’s Date Package does is just not something that is standard to do, so it does take some getting used to. The number of CSS customizable items is also huge. A designer which integrated with Visual Studio.Net and allowed WYSIWYG visual customization of the controls would add a ton of value to the package!

      The package as a whole is simply excellent, and it definitely can’t be beat, especially for the low $50US price tag. Anybody that wants to compete with Peter’s Date Package is up for some serious competition.

      Peter’s Date Package is available from www.peterblum.com. It can be licensed in single server quantities ($50US each), site license ($250US), or for redistribution ($500US). A trial license can be downloaded from www.peterblum.com as well.



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