Web ComboBox V3 is the most recent release of an AJAX-based lookup control for classic ASP, PHP, JSP, and of course ASP.NET. Developed by eBusiness Applications, this control represents the commercialization of some popular new AJAX functionality seen lately on the web (for example, in Google Suggest and Gmail). Web ComboBox does it all, and does it well.
Feature highlights of the product include:
Ideally, an AJAX-based component will have the following workflow:
Web ComboBox seems to take advantage of all the browser has to offer, with virtually flawless presentation across browser platforms.
What's so special about version 3 of Web ComboBox? As mentioned previously, there are six search modes. It's doubtful you would ever need them all, and would probably stick to one or two for consistency, but here is where this control really shines. If you have ever looked at the Gmail lookup functionality or the Google Suggest tool and drooled, now you can build the same tools into your own applications--all with a single control.
Access is provided to over 10 events, including onAfterInitialize, onShow, onHide, onBeforeSearch, onAfterSearch, onBeforeSelect, onAfterSelect, onEditKeyUp, onFocus, onBlur, and onTab.
In addition, developers can work directly with the list data, adding records, clearing the list, and even binding two comboboxes together for master-detail relationships.
The 30-day fully-functional trial of the control is available from the EBA website. A full name and email address are required to receive a download link, which is then immediately available. Download options include special versions for ASP.NET, Classic ASP, PHP, and JSP.
The installation procedure is quick and doesn't require special keys or other additional information. The software is available from the Windows Start menu, under the eBusiness Applications folder, and includes several sample projects.
Creating a basic ComboBox is straightforward.
One of the nice things about the ASP.NET version of Web ComboBox is its ability to bind to all sorts of data types, including DataSet, DataTable, DataView, IDictionary, IDataReader, and IEnumerable (e.g., Array and ArrayList) objects--just about anything that derives from IListSource. Also, EBA provides recommended SQL statement templates for popular databases including MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, and Access.
While many developers prefer code view, the designer included with Web ComboBox is a handy tool that reveals many configurable properties. In addition to the standard databinding properties, there are many properties associated with each element, such as width and height for the textbox (especially useful for SmartList), font colors, and highlight colors.
Some key properties and their meanings:
Room for Improvement
At the time this article was written, version 3 of Web ComboBox was still in Beta 2. There were several issues being tracked in the vendor's forums. In addition, some of the samples seemed partially complete, and some documentation had yet to be filled out (for example, details about the control Designer were absent). As this product is still in Beta, the bulk of these issues will likely be resolved by the time the component is officially released. Either way, the core component seems generally robust enough for deployment as-is.
This control is the one-stop solution for any lookup functionality required in a web application. There is no question that it sits at the top of the pack in terms of functionality and in terms of features. While there are other controls available that provide some of the same capabilities, I haven't seen one that goes the extra mile in terms of integration with the .NET DataGrid, user controls, and other business layer components of ASP.NET, and is as technologically innovative on the client-side.
It's my opinion that this component will likely move into the top position for AJAX-based lookup controls for years to come. At a price point of roughly $200, it may be out of the reach of independent developers, but a powerful addition to a professional web developer's toolbox.
Web ComboBox V3eBusiness Applicationshttp://developer.ebusiness-apps.com