What are the general thoughts on the 2008v1 release so far? We have just started to use it and don't really see much new or improved. Are there any massive improvements?
Right now we are tryign to decide to renew our subscription or move on to another suite such as Telerik.
The Infragisitcs controsl have been ok and we have usedthem for years but overall they are very heavy for web use and more complex than they need to be. Support and sample code is also weak in our view.
With all due respect to the requirements for maintaining complex software, I'd have to say that one of our primary observations about Infragistics products is that the steak has frequently fallen short of the sizzle. Our Senior Engineer with 25+ years of programming experience on the 80X processor family remarks frequently that Infragistics should spend about half the time they spend on their web presence and sales efforts on the development of the product. When our techs finally decipher the toolset, it's easy to achieve impressive results, but we often wonder whether we may have been able to do something similar in a comparable amount of time without the 3rd party tool. Under circumstances like this, payout begins only with the second or third project accomplished with the tool, and only then when it's done by the same technician.
Your observation that the 2008v1 product seems not to hold much substantial change over past releases is one that I've, personally, made with prior releases. The ever-present critique that it seems all-too-apparent that nobody on the design team ever revisits documentation with an eye toward continuous improvement seems so hackneyed that it now seems a foregone conclusion that mentioning it will do absolutely no good whatsoever.
Here's a workflow statistic: When we put new technicians to work with infragistics tools, IN EXCESS of 73% of their tool time is spent viewing the help documentation. By comparision, when we receive new MS releases (for instance our recent adoption of .NET 3.5 or VS2008) new technicians spend about 18% of their tool time in help systems. We're now several generations into the ASP.NET product line from Infragistics and still don't have context-sensitive help (or even easily-searchable help, for that matter.) This type of documentation is fine for in-house solutions where the majority of help documentation viewers are already familiar with API and technique, but it's woefully inadequate for efficient production use.
Infragistics pushes hard for developers to adopt annual subscriptions to their packages, but after our first experience with it, we quickly decided that it would be highly undesirable to pay far more than we pay for a tool like VS2008 Professional Edition for a toolset that lacks the polish and attention to detail that IG should be backpushing with every release. Someone at IG might invest some well-spent time reviewing how to detail existing offerings during a development cycle rather than adding new features with weak appeal and heavy potential for regression.
That's my .02 worth, this is our 5th year using IG products, and our second annual release purchase.
Jason LockridgeSr. ProgrammerSmithSystems, Inc.Los Angeles, CA
I have to agree that the learning curve for Infragistics controls can be fairly steep. I have been using IG controls for Win and WebForms for some years, and have a fair understanding of the controls I use. Learning any new controls can be somewhat daunting, and can consume large amounts of development time.
I also use controls from other supliers, and have found the experience to be fairly similar.
The easiest way a developer can learn a control is to see it in action. OK, I know IG has examples etc, but these tend to show many controls being used simultaneously and only cover perhaps a single aspect of the control a developer may be interested in.
A much better way would be to have many simple examples in a library. On release of a control, IG could produce a few examples of the control being used. Then when a developer runs into trouble trying to use the control, either IG or a forum contributer could provide a solution example. In this way a shared libary of simple examples could be quickly assembled, providing both old and new developers with an easier learning curve.
So, what about it IG ? Would you create a contributable library in these forums ?
Based on your description, I'm wondering if you've seen what we call our "feature browsers." They are typically very focused in on single control, single feature samples, more like what you are describing, I think.
As for community samples--totally! I think it'd be awesome for folks to contribute those. In fact, you should be able to do that here and now on these forums. If you click on the Options tab while posting, you can attach a file there, which could easily be a ZIP w/ a sample. We do have a limit, IIRC, on size, but it should be high enough for most targeted samples.
We can also take anyone's samples to share on our community site if you like. We don't have a way for you to post there directly right now, but we're more than happy to facilitate that.
Keep the good ideas coming.
Project examples do help clarify usage for complex tools, but this approach creates "vectored" development (in which developers are "vectored" into a design approach modeled after another developer's technique.)
Creativity with tools intended to be used at the presentation layer simply must have meticulous documentation, and any tool developed in this generation WITHOUT context sensitive help is inexcusable.
We've all seen this faux pas from developers: after they finish a half-hearted effort at documenting their product, that's the end of it. Their first efforts propogate from generation to generation with only minor addendums, instead of comprehensive review, reorganization, and new efforts to take advantage of new documentation technology (like video exemplar in deployed solutions.)
With tools as complex as IG's, at this price point, customers should settle for nothing less. And, in a way, I think that they vote their dissatisfaction by skipping generations of releases when they don't perceive the polish and detail that meets the current best practice.
If you're having problems with context sensitive help please contact Developer Support by submitting an incident.
Also, this help topic describes the F1 Help Available and some notes concerning it's use.
Also, this blog is written by the manager of the docs and he can answer any questions on the direction and effort he is taking to improve the help.
I have seen the Features Browsers, and they are a step in the right direction. But imagine a developer, simply looking for an answer on how to use a single property of a control :-
The help system search feature is not very good, and often I can end up manually searching for a specific property. Finding it, there is often only limited info, and no example of how to use it. OK, I know you will say that you are trying to provide a better help system, but the IG controls are now fairly complex and providing a great help system would be fantastic, but maybe not cost efective.
The Features Browser can provide further assistance, but again a developer may have to pick through the example code to find the specific property they are interested in.
Developers are working on many real world systems, and each may approach a development solution from different angles. We do however all tend to focus on fairly simple aspects, typically :- 'How do I get a Dialog Window to display when a user clicks a button'. Yes, I know the answer may be buried somewhere in the help or features browser, but it's so much simpler ( and often quicker) to ask the question, and get a short consise code example from another developer.
Please also note that I am not talking about fully operational code examples, but simply 'code snippets'.
So, my vote would be for a searchable database of these snippets, contributed by IG staff and developers. Accompanying the code snippets could be references to other code snippets, or even links to the IG help system or Feature Browsers. In this way a quick reference guide could be built providing both new and existing users of IG products with a better help facility.
Perhaps others may like to comment on my suggestions ?
I agree to an extent with your comments, but the problem is that all software vendors are faced with the problem of enhancing existing products and developing new ones, When a new product or version is released (especially in the control marketplace) there is strong pressure to move on to the next version, partly due to us, the customers, who demand new features.
The above means that the documentation of software often is given a much lower priority.
Yes, I would like to see more documentation effort (with context sensitive help), but the effort involved in this would almost certainly result in a more expensive product, and I am not sure this may be the best path.
In another post in this section, I have advocated a searchable database of code snippets contributed to by both IG staff and IG customers. My gut feeling is that this may be not only a more cost effective option, but also one where developers can learn much more quickly about any product features.
I think IG products represent good value for money, and have experienced other vendors who supply poor quality products and documentation. I will continue to renew my yearly subscriptions to IG products as renewal costs are much lower than initial purchases when skipping several releases.