Telerik has been quick to fill in some of the gaps in Windows Phone development with the new RadControls for Windows Phone. They made a similar move previously with their support for ASP.NET MVC and, going back even further, jumped in earlier than most control suite developers when Silverlight first came out. Jumping onto new technologies in this is always a risky proposition – and I am grateful to Telerik for repeatedly doing this. I truly hope it pays off for them.
While the Windows Phone platform was still in CTP and Beta, the main course for extending the control library was to incorporate open and proprietary projects such as the Silverlight 3 Toolkit, Silverlight 3 SDK, and Silverlight Contrib. This usually worked but there were always issues with making everything play smoothly.
As the marketplace rules were released, it also became evident that all controls would have to be compiled against the WP7 runtime, which made things just slightly hairier. Eventually Microsoft released its own official Silverlight Toolkit for Windows Phone, which provides the most requested UI components: a Pivot Control, Panorama Control and Date and Time Pickers which are consistent with the other native apps built for the phone.
The RadControls for Windows Phone has some overlap with the Silverlight Toolkit for WP7 – no doubt due to fluctuating expectations about what actually would be provided in the Microsoft Toolkit and what would be most useful in a suite. Duplications include the Date and Time Pickers, Picker, and the Wrap Panel.
The UniformGrid, DockPanel, and Window controls are found in RadControls but not in the Toolkit. Window is probably one of the most useful of these controls. It has functionality similar to the ChildWindow control from the Silverlight 3 SDK and allows us to build modal windows – very useful when a MessageBox will not suffice and especially when a phone application requires an initial login – the tales of woe surrounding building an initial login that complies with the Marketplace rules are legendary. Telerik also continues a tradition of porting nice-to-have WPF functionality to Silverlight. The standout in their phone suite is the LayoutTransform control which allows us to use Layout Transforms instead of just Render Transforms (for an illustrative example of the difference, see Charles Petzold’s blog entry).
For those having trouble with page transitions, Telerik provides assistance with their implementation of the PhoneApplicationFrame. There has been a technique going around the internet involving cannibalizing the Silverlight 3 Toolkit and customizing the default PhoneApplicationFrame in order to set all page transitions from one location. Telerik has simplified the process by providing their own implementation.
The RadControls are still in Beta and I know better than to judge the final work by any issues I find in the preview. That said, the RadControls for Windows Phone examples seem remarkably and pleasantly performant – especially the page transitions.
Telerik’s RadControls for Windows Phone are a great addition to the Windows Phone ecosystem. Telerik is definitely on the right track and their controls provide what any Phone developer would want – an easier way to build interesting and attractive WP7 applications with tools to make development go faster.