The following guest blog was written by Joth Pigott of 2434.com Limited.
Our company, 2434.com Limited develops and distributes Backstage, a business application for managing all aspects of a professional classical orchestra from event management to projecting their annual budget. The Backstage database has over 1,000 discrete fields, and the budget projection reports are processor intensive since the payments to each musician for each day are dependent on many factors.
The next issue was deciding on a component vendor. Key components of Backstage are a powerful scheduler as well as heavy integration with Microsoft Office products – particularly Excel. This choice was in fact very easy in that, at the time of looking, Syncfusion were the only Xamarin partner to offer a scheduler. We then found we qualified for their free community license! This seemed too good to be true, although we were nervous about what level of support would actually be offered to free customers. However, we found their forums and online documentation extensive and had absolutely no reason not to give them a go.
The Syncfusion Community License Offers full support to qualifying developers.
We have in fact had to make considerable use of their support which has proved excellent. WinForms is a very mature product that has a large repertoire of complex controls that are very quick to work with due to the excellent visual designer in Visual Studio. Working with Xamarin and XAML is a very different experience with a considerable learning curve. We’ve visited a number of developer conferences and know we are not the only ones to experience that. Getting code to compile on the various platforms was initially very frustrating. However, once you’ve learned where everything sits and what the various compile errors actually mean, it becomes very useable.
Xamarin Forms is also very spartan compared to WinForms due to the limitations of the common controls on all the various platforms. For example, it lacks a checkbox or multi-select dropdown which we make heavy use of in WinForms. However, there are workarounds – you just have to be a bit more creative. For example, we built our own multi-select control based on the Syncfusion SfNavigationDrawer and SfListView. In the scheduler, we also wanted a ‘status bar’ on each event, which the Syncfusion SfScheduler doesn’t offer out of the box. However, their free community support returned to us in under 24 hours a project showing us how to enhance the scheduler to show the status of an event.
As for now, we’ve got many months ahead of porting the code across. Howeve,r it’s a great feeling to believe that you’ve chosen the very best tools for the job combined with the knowledge that every year they will get better and more fully featured together with mobiles and tablets getting even more powerful. Many thanks to Microsoft, Xamarin, and Syncfusion!