How Datagrids Have Evolved with .NET Development Platforms

In this article, we will look at datagrids and understand how they have kept pace as development platforms and technologies have evolved over the years.

WinForms Datagrids

The first datagrids available from Microsoft and third-party component vendors were built for Windows Forms applications. They are built using the .NET framework and leverage the full power of the Windows platform. Due to the underlying architecture and the sheer longevity of the Windows .NET platform, WinForms datagrids are generally considered the most functional and interactive datagrid controls among all platforms. Datagrids-Platforms

ASP.NET Datagrids

ASP.NET datagrids came out at the same time the WinForms controls were launched and had a similar feature set. Under the hood, ASP.NET datagrids generate HTML and server side code. It is typically hard to get rich interactivity in a browser unless the code extensively uses client-side JavaScript and AJAX-based frameworks. Also, for every data fetch, the grid would need to connect to a server over the web, also called a post-back. Because of these reasons, the ASP.NET datagrids from Microsoft were generally less interactive and less functional, and the web applications that used the grids suffered from performance issues. Third-party component vendors solved these problems by generating client-side code in JavaScript and AJAX, and therefore did a much better job of simulating the responsiveness of the desktop experience within the web browser. As a result, the commercial ASP.NET datagrids market took off.

ASP.NET with HTML5 Datagrids

These new datagrids are exciting for a few different reasons. Firstly, rich and interactive web-based business applications are the norm today thanks to pioneers like and Google. There is a definite trend towards using the web, rather than the desktop, as the preferred development environment. Secondly, the widespread adoption of HTML5 as the industry standard for building next generation, rich internet applications has put the classic ASP.NET control user on the ropes. The default ASP.NET controls by Microsoft were already starting to become obsolete because the commercial ASP.NET datagrids provided much better user experience. But, even for developers using third-party ASP.NET controls, the fact that most commercial controls generate a proprietary mix of HTML and JavaScript is cause for concern. As a result, it's best to go with a vendor that has already established itself as the leader in providing HTML5-enabled ASP.NET datagrids.

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) Datagrids

The first WPF Grids were launched in the same year as the Silverlight datagrids. These datagrids made full use of the powerful presentation tier and data binding capabilities of WPF. This resulted in two immediate advantages - a dramatically easier in-place editing experience and more graphically appealing user interface with rich interactivity. Over the years, there has been a slow but steady shift by developers in terms of moving away from building WinForms applications to building WPF applications to take advantage of the platform's capabilities. Consequently, WPF datagrids have benefited from this shift in terms of adoption and the focusing of development resources by component vendors.

Microsoft Silverlight™ Datagrids

In 2008, Microsoft disseminated the first default Silverlight datagrid that made it possible to provide a more responsive user experience within web browsers, more flexible layouts for the datagrid cells and an easier programming model for web developers. Just like in the past, that was a cue for component vendors to launch more powerful, robust datagrids for Silverlight that could be used in real-world business applications. Over the years though, the momentum has been shifting from browser plug-in technology to HTML5 and related web frameworks that don't require any downloads but still support very rich internet applications.


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