I was first introduced to the control vendor Telerik about 5 years ago when I was helping a client replace an outdated version of another vendor's controls with the much more responsive ASP.NET controls from Telerik. ASP.NET technology has changed a lot since then, but Telerik is still making top-notch controls, including its RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX.

You can download the RadControls suite, which supports ASP.NET 3.5 and later, from Telerik's website or from Visual Studio 2010 using Extension Manager. I downloaded the package from the website and after the installation completed, I had a new desktop icon providing a link to the package's local Help landing page. Telerik provides not only this Help link but also many others embedded within the design process.

Traditionally, control vendors have concentrated on providing individual controls. However, since the release of Visual Studio 2010, control vendors have started to expand this footprint. Similar to other vendors, Telerik now provides a New Project template named RadControls Web Application in addition to its website templates.

I started, however, with my traditional control test of adding a date-picker control to an existing simple web application. The result was a surprise -- when I ran the application, I received a runtime error. The error was useful in that it explained that the control required other ASP.NET rapid application development (RAD) settings and components to function and referred me to the Telerik documentation to better understand the dependencies for the control.

The message clearly told me that I first needed to add a RadScriptManager control to my form. I added it to my master page and restarted my application, which led to a second error message. It indicated that I needed to register the control, instructing me to use the smart-tag menu shown in Figure 1. Using the menu's Register Telerik.Web.UI.WebResource.axd option, I registered my control. Afterward, that option was gone from the smart-tag menu, and the embedded date picker in my web application worked.

 

Figure 1: Using the smart-tag menu to register a control
Figure 1: Using the smart-tag menu to register a control

 

This system is designed to not only walk you through the process but also provide lots of ways to get additional assistance. If you examine the screenshot in Figure 1, you'll see some features that are present in all the smart-tag menus: links to online topics specific to that control, an embedded Search box, and a link to go to the Telerik support center. These are great features that are supplemented by even more assistance venues, such as online forums and a rich set of how-to videos.

Next, I decided to create an instance of the RadControls Web Application to see what this custom application template offered. Creating a new project with that template starts a three-screen wizard that walks you through configuring your initial project. In the first screen, you preselect a theme. In the second screen, you turn on or off certain site-related Telerik RAD controls. In the last screen, you update a few additional site definitions that aren't specific to Telerik.

The settings you select in the wizard are incorporated into your project primarily through changes to your site's web.config file. In particular, the RAD controls leverage a custom HTTP handler, which needs to be defined within your web.config file. The RadControls Web Application template automatically creates the necessary XML to map that handler into your site's request-handling pipeline.

One downside of the RadControls Web Application template is that it doesn't include a master page. When manually creating a site, I was able to add a reference to RadScriptManager to the master page. After adding a RADGrid control to my manually created site, I was able to quickly and easily use the smart-tag menu to make the necessary web.config file changes so that the web page could display a grid of editable data.

Overall, my main concern with this suite relates to the use of an HTTP handler that requires modifying the web.config file or a related portion of a hosted site. Although the RadControls Web Application template automatically handles this on a developer machine, it might become problematic when the application is moved to production. Fortunately, making the necessary changes to the production web.config file isn't typically difficult -- but if it's done incorrectly, a blocking problem will occur. Thus, if a control isn't working, this is one area you should troubleshoot.

Keep in mind that the custom HTTP handler is beneficial in that it bypasses much of the overhead of handling a full page. So, you need to balance the increase in complexity for using this type of control architecture against the potential for improvement in the runtime performance of the Telerik ASP.NET RAD controls.

RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX
PROS: Great control suite with a ton of examples and online support; can start using the intuitive controls with little or no previous experience
CONS: Custom HTTP handler might be problematic in certain hosted scenarios
RATING: 5 out of 5
PRICE: $799 for developer license; $999 for developer license with subscription and priority support; $1,299 for the Premium Collection (includes the RadControls suite, other Telerik suites, and subscription and priority support)
RECOMMENDATION: The RadControls suite is an excellent choice if you're looking for ASP.NET RAD controls. It has great support and documentation, provides a wide range of controls, and provides a set of tools to quickly enable client features. However, if you're migrating to HTML5 or working outside ASP.NET, you should consider using Telerik's Premium Collection.
CONTACT: Telerik • 888-365-2779 • www.telerik.com