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Product Review: .netBUTTON 3.0
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by Anand Narayanaswamy
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Introduction

The .NET Framework does not provide any facility to customize the button control used in Windows and Web development. Even though developers can employ CSS, it is difficult to create buttons in different shapes with rounded corners and amazing colors. Hence, there is a great demand among developers for a third party tool which can be used to create buttons. Canada based Corporate Web Solutions Ltd has developed a unique product named .netBUTTON, which can be used to create buttons for both Windows and Web development. Developers will be able to create buttons in a wide range of shapes by integrating the product into Visual Studio 2005, Visual Studio 2008 or Visual Studio Express Editions. At first, I thought the product would be an ordinary GUI based product. However, after an initial investigation it turned out to be a programmatic ASP.NET control.

Installation and Working

The product is available as a fully functional free development version and does not require any installation. The only limitation of the free version is that buttons will be rendered with a strikethrough on the button text. However, developers will be able to test all the features included with the product prior to purchasing a production license. You just need to extract the contents of the supplied ZIP file and manually add the DLL file to the Visual Studio Toolbox. I tested the product with Visual Studio 2005.

I would suggest that the vendor creates an installation program so that the product automatically finds a place inside the Toolbox. I found it easier to work with the product in a Windows Forms application than ASP.NET. This is because the product requires write permission to be given to images directory if you use it in an ASP.NET application, which can be easily given using the tools supplied by your hosting provider or by contacting them.

Figure 1: .netBUTTON in design view

An interesting feature of the product is that the button is rendered depending upon the font, size and style of the text. It also includes support for creating buttons in different shapes such as rectangle, ellipse, circle and rounded rectangle. Moreover, you can use ellipse to create both oval and round shape buttons. It also automatically generates buttons for various button states including normal, hover, clicked and disabled state. The vendor has developed the product in such a way to render properly in browsers without JavaScript support. You can also create buttons dynamically from databases such as SQL Server. The vendor has posted a list of all features on their website, including a screenshot of all buttons in different shapes and color.

The product includes a sample application with which you can sneak preview all button styles by manipulating its size, shape and other parameters.

Figure 2: A built-in sample in Action

A big advantage of the product is its built-in support for internationalization and string customization. I feel that developers will be able to create high quality automatically sized button images based on the programmatically provided string value. Moreover, since buttons are rendered natively using GDI+, they are high quality regardless of the button size and scaling.

The product ships with around 30 button styles, fonts and sizes as shown below.

Figure 3: Button Styles

The vendor has also hosted a live demo of the product on their website. I feel that it will help customers a lot as they can directly view the effects of different buttons. The product ships with comprehensive documentation and samples for Windows and ASP.NET applications in both C# and VB versions. The vendor provides excellent support through e-mail. However, it would be great if they maintain a discussion forum on their website so that users and product team members can directly interact with each other.

Conclusion

I feel that the product is a nice extension to the default Button control which ships with .NET Framework. The product completely removes the pain associated with the creation of style sheets, which was used to produce buttons in the past. I am sure developers will surge ahead to build quality buttons with one of the more versatile products available in the market today.

About the Product

Title

.netBUTTON 3.0 | Related URL

Price

US $195 | Buy Now

Rating

*****

About the Reviewer

Anand Narayanaswamy (Microsoft MVP and Chief Technical Editor, ASPAlliance.com) is the author of Community Server Quickly.


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