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 ?
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 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.
I'm intrigued by this idea of a code snippet share. I'm wondering, do you think we could just do that on these forums? The reason I think that might be best is that I think we devs already like to go to forums when looking for help to a specific problem. The forums have a pretty good search engine and are indexed by Google, and they support attachments. We are also working on getting an insert code snippet feature going as well.
We could all use, say, "Code Snippet" as a tag on such posts, then we could more easily find them.
I think we agree substantially (and why not?)
If there is any directional alignment differences in our points of view about this, they lie squarely in the arena of short-term vs. long term value analysis.
Some (developers) may pressure control providers to move on to new features. This type of demand is largely driven by end-user feature requests and -- sometimes -- by creative development teams trying to push to a new competitive position. It's difficult to creatively appraise a control tool's worth when you can't understand it. Most (developers) simply want the tools to 1) work and 2) be comprehensible from an intuitive position very early out of the gate, and then want to get to meticulous, easy to find, and authoritative documentation about the nuances of the tool.
As for whether documentation of the product may be more expensive, it's really about how far down the road you look. If you incorporate the economies realized by reducing tech support requests, add in the increased positive word on the street that positively influences product adoption, and the retention created by making adopters' development teams more productive because they can actually quickly and intuitively work with the product -- all of these things may, actually, decrease costs.
At any rate, this discussion about whether appropriate documentation is the "best path" is beyond us, here. Any technician, programmer, or analyst (or IT consultant, for that matter) who EVER indicated that shorting documentation might be a way to save some money would find a very short career here.
Also, I refuse to evaluate the worth of IG products in the context of what other vendors may or may not have done or will do. That's the poorest excuse in the book for failure to provide the value that is represented by reasonable consumer expectation. The bar is set by the "best" practice, not by the "widespread" practice.
Just a couple of comments.
Code sharing takes place on forums like these whether its officially sanctioned or not. But -- and I hesitate to add this for fear of sounding negative -- the need for disjointed assistance with coding examples is some evidence of broken documentation.
Please remember that every time one of my programmers has to move OUTSIDE the IDE to seek assistance working with your controls, productivity is damaged. Perhaps there could be a way incorporate this outside forum into the VSCC to allow for searches to be performed based on contextual inquiry from within the IDE.
That being said, I think there is value in a managed programming technique reservoir in these forums. (By managed, I mean organized and reviewed.)