Iron Speed Designer Review


Iron Speed Designer Introduction

Hard-core developers who are into systems programming really seem content to use Notepad/VIM/Emacs as their editor of choice. While these are great text editors, when it comes to UI designing, Microsoft itself has spoiled developers by providing a great Rapid Application Development tool in the form of Microsoft Visual Studio.

Enterprise developers eagerly await the release of the next version of Microsoft Visual Studio where they can do more with less effort. While Microsoft Visual Studio itself provides a lot of GUI aid for product development, a significant effort still has to be made to develop the application itself.

It is this area that RAD tools target to increase developer productivity. Having used Notepad and Microsoft Visual Studio throughout my programming career, I was taken aback by the comfort and ease provided by the Iron Speed Designer for creating a zippy application in minutes.

Disclaimer: This article highlights my experiencewith this RAD tool

Iron Speed Designer is a RAD tool for .NET framework application development targeting web applications - Internet, intranet and SharePoint.

Iron Speed Designer First Experience

The first time you launch Iron Speed Designer, you will be prompted for a registration key. Once you enter your registration key, the Application Wizard launches.

 

Editor's note: You can get a registration code and download Iron Speed now. The form for doing this is at the bottom of this article.

 

the IronSpeed Designer Application Wizard
Figure 1

After clicking Next, you are prompted to select the page style depending on the edition you choose. Within your trial period, you are allowed to choose all available styles. Once your trial/evaluation period has expired, you can only choose amongst the Free edition templates.

For the purpose of the review, I chose the "Kilimanjaro" style from the Enterprise edition listing.

 the
Figure 2

To check out all the features, I chose to use the Sample database "Southwind" application.

the Sample database
Figure 3

At this point, you are prompted to select which pages to create and which tables will be used for data population.

To keep things simple, I changed the default table selection to choose the following data tables - Customers, Orders and Order Details. I also changed the default pages selected to add some things I want to check - email-able page, printable page, etc. Once at the "Keys" page, you get prompted if Iron Speed Designer was able to guess the primary-foreign key relationships between the tables. It is at this point that you will thank/curse your database developer for ensuring that the database was/wasn't properly normalized.

If Iron Speed Designer detects that it could not determine primary-foreign key relationships, it will report its suggestions as to which table field combinations will make sure they function as primary-foreign keys. I found this to be a very nice feature from an application developer stand-point since you can work without being at the whims of the database guru in your department. I left the settings on the next page because I wasn't interested in adding support for more languages, but this seemed very interesting as well.

adding support for more languages
Figure 4

I wanted to target this new application to run against .NET framework 4.0

 target this new application to run against .NET framework 4.0
Figure 5

Iron Speed promptly reported that it is about to create 84 pages. WOW! That's a lot of work I did in a couple of minutes.

IronSpeed Designer creates 84 pages
Figure 6

After about a minute or so, I am presented with the dialog that code generation is complete.

IronSpeed Designer Operation complete screen
Figure 8

And a web page pops up, and your application is already operational.

What remains now is the customization of your .NET framework application to give it your look and feel, like changing the logo and branding your application.



Download Iron Speed Designer

If you want to try Iron Speed now, then use the following form to request a product key and download.

Iron Speed Designer Review


Iron Speed Designer Application Explorer

Iron Speed Designer does a great job of breaking down your application into logical subsets.

[app9.jpg]
Figure 9

Screen clipping taken: 12/11/2010, 7:23 PM

The screenshot above shows that IRON SPEED DESIGNER broke the application down into "Presentation layer", "Business Layer", "Data Access Layer", and "Base Classes".

Another great feature they have is the ability to preview your changes from within Iron Speed Designer itself.

[app10.jpg]
Figure 10

Click the "Live Preview" and you are shown instantly what it will look like on live data.

Another great feature I discovered was the ability to easily navigate through the tree structure of the elements on my application's webpage through the "breadcrumb" feature.

[app11.jpg]
Figure 11

I could click on any element above to navigate to that section of the webpage.

Limitations with Iron Speed Designer

While Iron Speed Designer is a great RAD tool, I found a few quirks which annoyed me.

  1. Iron Speed Designer by default wants to run as "Administrator". I dislike applications running as Administrators because that implies they control my system, which makes me frown.
  2. Since Iron Speed Designer was running as Administrator by default, when I clicked the Microsoft Visual Studio button on the Iron Speed Designer tool, it also launched as Administrator. This pretty much ensured that it invoked Microsoft Visual Studio with setting preferences different from the current logged-in user profile. I had to go through Microsoft Visual Studio First Run experience for the "Administrator" user, something which could have been avoided.
  3. Some of the classes/pages it generates are empty. From a design perspective, I think Iron Speed Designer wants to provide the user the flexibility to customize the application as much as possible. However in doing do, it generates a lot of noise classes. You cannot accurately gauge saved developer time when the tool considers the time saved by designing these noise classes. That metric should have a correction factor depending on individual scenarios.
  4. It is only for Web-application development. I don't call this a limitation, rather a request that they could bring this to Desktop application building too and also to the Windows Phone 7 application platform.

Licensing

Iron speed provides a few different licensing options which are discussed in detail at http://www.ironspeed.com/products/Pricing.aspx?.

Summary

Overall, I must say I am impressed with the ease of use and the flexibility provided by the Iron Speed Designer. It was a great first time experience and I loved it.

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Download Iron Speed Designer

If you want to try Iron Speed now, then use the following form to request a product key and download.



About the Author

Vipul Vipul Patel

Vipul Patel is a Software Engineer currently working at Microsoft Corporation, working in the Office Communications Group and has worked in the .NET team earlier in the Base Class libraries and the Debugging and Profiling team. He can be reached at vipul_d_patel@hotmail.com

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