From its humble origins, the .NET datagrid has transformed into a versatile yet complex software component because of technological advancements and evolving business requirements. Because of its complexity, you must peel back the layers to better understand the control.

The First (Free) .NET Datagrid

The first-generation .NET Datagrid, released by Microsoft and bundled with Visual Studio, took tabular data and displayed it onscreen in the form of rows and columns. It had basic designer (configuration) support and included paging, sorting, and updating support–all requiring writing code.

The origin of the .NET Datagrid

Microsoft's (Second) Free Version

In the second release of the .NET Datagrid, Microsoft added enhanced design-time capabilities, new data-binding features, and added out-of-the-box sorting and paging features. Microsoft defined more run-time events, also known as "callbacks", to extend the behavior, as well as adjust the look and feel of the grid at run time.

2nd release of the Datagrid

Third-party .NET Datagrids Take Off

From the beginning, developers ran into limitations with the default Microsoft controls. Developers wanted a more responsive user interface that looked more professional and met rigorous functional requirements.

However, developers didn't want to write colossal amounts of code in order to enable the datagrid to do even basic tasks. This plight resulted in .NET component vendors adding the features that developers found lacking in the default Microsoft controls, including:

3rd generation .NET Datagrid

  • Multi-level grouping for hierarchical display
  • Multi-column sorting to make fundamental analysis easier
  • Auto-sized columns and rows–created without writing code
  • Rich design-time support for configuring appearance and behavior
  • In-place editing with less code
  • Unbound columns for more accessible, dynamic data display
  • Merge/split cells and rows, similar to Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Flexible styling options to apply custom branding to the user interface
  • Freezing columns, similar to Microsoft Excel

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.NET Datagrids with Spreadsheet-like Features

The next wave of .NET datagrids had more Microsoft Excel-like spreadsheet features, which added support for exporting and printing–much like other reporting tools. New features included:

4th Generation of .NET Datagrids

  • A spreadsheet-style look and feel to leverage the popularity of Microsoft Excel
  • Advanced row filtering to narrow down results, also inspired by Excel
  • Embedded input controls within cells like text and images
  • Multi-line rows to display composite information, such as an address, within a single cell
  • Dynamic cell drawing for complete control of the grid's appearance
  • Virtual data scrolling to display large amounts of data while providing a seamless user experience
  • Configurable views, the next version of styling options
  • Support for a range of export formats, including images, Excel, Word, and PDF

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Today, .NET datagrids continue to add functional and non-functional features, such as performance, ease-of-use, and seamless programming. They are the most frequently used components in .NET applications and are leading drivers of .NET component suite purchases.

To learn more, download our white paper "Best Practices for Using .NET DataGrids Effectively” today.