Sunday, November 19, 2006

Third party components

One of the great things about Delphi is the fact that there are a lot of awesome third-party components out there. Commercial, Open sourced and freeware, you name it, there are good quality components plenty in each category. And as a tradition they (mostly) come all with sourcecode.

The benefits of third-party components are obvious but depending on the component set. There are components that give your application a modern look, while others solve a particular programming problem like communication protocols.
But it all comes down to the fact that using third-party components gives you the benefit of "dealing with the meat, instead of beans".
Besides that, if your vendor adds some nice new feature to a component, you can add that feature to your application by simply upgrading your components.

A disadvantage of third-party components is the fact that you become, sort of, dependent on the vendor.
Upgrading to a new Delphi version means upgrading the components. In other words you can only upgrade if you have all your components upgraded. So a lazy vendor can frustrate your upgrade plans.

What if a vendor goes out of business?
As said most components come with sourcecode, so in the worst case you can maintain the code yourself, although that was not the deal of course.

These are some consideration we made before using/buying third party components:

  1. Standardize your development. Use prefererd components for specific tasks. (For example try to use, as default, one componentset for all your GUI work. Don't mix them if not necessary)
  2. Use only components if they come with source code. This eliminates your dependency. (A positive side effect is that you can learn a lot from the source code)
  3. Buy 'long term licenses' like SA or subscriptions, so that you get updates for your components.

Our 3-rd-party favorites are:

  1. Devexpress VCL Components. This set is our default for GUI work.
  2. TMS Software Components. Besides a large component set, they have a few specific components for scripting and instrumentation.
  3. ReportBuilder from Digital-Metaphors. An outstanding reporting solution with an awesome end-user solution, right out of the box.
  4. AVLock Gold, a share ware component that helps you to turn your application into a trial version with only a few lines of code.

Conclusion:
Third party components are great. Buy/use them only if they come with source code. And last, but not least use them wise!

What are your favorites? 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Personally I wouldn't want to be without kbmMemTables.
Love ReportBuilder too, wondering if there is a shareware alternative anything like as good?

Anonymous said...

hm.. Reportbuilder may be good but is very expensive.. FastReport is a "anything like as good" alternative.