Many of the applications I’ll be highlighting in this series are highly graphically-intensive and media-centric. I thought I’d present a counterpoint early on in this series to highlight that Windows Presentation Foundation is also very capable as a platform for other classes of application.
90 Degree Software are based in the beautiful city of Vancouver in Canada, and have been working with us for some time on a new end-user reporting tool for business data. Those of you who use SQL Server 2005 will probably be familiar with the Reporting Services component (SSRS), which enables developers to create standard reports based on OLTP and OLAP data that can be delivered in electronic or print form. Reports are created in an XML-based format called RDL, typically using Visual Studio as an authoring environment, and are stored, configured and managed using SQL Server Management Studio.
If you’re an end-user (rather than a developer) who wants to create some standard business reports, you’ve not had a great set of authoring tools until now. Visual Studio is daunting, and the Report Builder client application is limited to a small set of predefined report templates. Fortunately, 90 Degree’s Radius software fills the gap, allowing report designers to generate freeform reports using a straightforward interface based on the Office 2007 look and feel, taking advantage of pre-built templates for applications like Microsoft CRM and Team Foundation Server.
Radius was built entirely using WPF (with the exception of the ribbon toolbar, which was bought as an off-the-shelf WinForms component because no WPF equivalent existed at the time). The report canvas, the dialogs, the application chrome – it’s all WPF. Incidentally, you’ll also see some nice usage of other Windows Vista features – they use the Peer-to-Peer APIs that are exposed by WCF, and they were one of the first applications to get the “Certified for Windows Vista” logo.
Radius doesn’t necessarily have the most immersive visual experience of all the applications we’re tracking, but it has exactly the right interface for its user base. Bloor Research are impressed, calling it a “sure fire thing“.
Some people have a perception of WPF as “only being suitable for spinning 3D video balls” – that’s clearly not the case, as this application (and many others) demonstrate. 90 Degrees’ own CEO says that WPF “gave us an opportunity to accelerate development timelines but introduce features that differentiate us from competition.”
It’s a shame that 90 Degree don’t have a trial version available for immediate download, but you can request one from their site by filling out a registration form.