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Alexander Gracie Consulting

"Sybase DataWindow .NET has given me a competitive advantage in terms of being able to rapidly develop a high quality application."

Jack Addington
Alexander Gracie Consulting

As a single programmer shop building a large medical research application, Alexander Gracie Consulting needed efficient and flexible development tools. With Sybase® technology, it found the built-in data presentation capabilities needed to display information in a wide variety of formats and generate reports using a common C# programming interface.

Business Advantage

  • AGC now has the means to share information between different sets of data, providing for ease-of-use when users view screens that summarize each page as they navigate through the application.

Key Benefits

  • Provides a highly functional, data-intensive application
  • Accelerates development time of screens and reports
  • Naturally separates information access from the presentation interface
  • Easily ports to Web and handheld platform

Sybase Technology


  • Software

Sybase DataWindow .NET — A Superior Tool in Any Environment
Jack Addington, an independent developer who operates Alexander Gracie Consulting, built a research data collection application for managing research projects, with the generic applicability for medical research projects involving patient studies.

Currently, it is used for schizophrenia research with a particular focus on an early psychosis treatment program. According to Addington, this is highly valuable and innovative research. “They are one of the leading groups in examining the positive impact of early treatment for psychosis on longer term outcome.”

Addington has a solid Sybase PowerBuilder® background and, in the early project planning stages, while excited about .NET development, he knew he would miss the power and flexibility of PowerBuilder’s DataWindow tool. Addington’s limited exposure to Microsoft’s native DataGrid had been an unpleasant experience. Like many .NET developers, he found it cumbersome to use and visually unimpressive.

The search for alternatives concluded with Sybase’s announcement of a .NET version of its patented DataWindow technology. The DataWindow, a pivotal tool in the Sybase PowerBuilder environment, is now available to developers working in Visual Studio .NET languages like Visual Basic and C#. Addington knew the internals of the technology were solid.

A Painless Data-Intensive Front End
With a fairly complicated application, Addington made liberal use of the DataWindow’s many different looks. “I use between 80 and 100 DataWindows,” Addington said. “There is at least one DataWindow on every single screen in the application.”

There was one purely data-driven area of the application used for generic data capture that would have been difficult without the DataWindow control. “I put a free form DataWindow up, and depending on the contents of each row I could hide it or show whether it was a number, a date, or a string,” Addington said. “I have a fixed number of available options in a drop down DataWindow that I line up on top of each other and turn them on or off and change the color. I do this for each row, dynamically, based on the data in the row. There was no way I could do all that with the native DataGrid. This dynamic, generic data entry is one of the core sections of the whole application.”

Beyond the user interface, the DataWindows’ ability to generate reports as a natural extension of the control is an important feature that has saved time in the project. Addington likes the power of the reporting capability: “The DataWindow neatly generates targeted reports. Even if you are a novice, it’s very quick and easy to get something done that’s fairly powerful.”

Compartmentalized Development and Web/Handheld Portability
From a development perspective, Addington appreciates the inherent compartmentalization Sybase’s DataWindow .NET gives his application, “I like the separation of the DataWindow from the rest of the interface. You can have your SQL self-contained in the DataWindow.”

Looking ahead, Addington sees a wide range of deployment options. He expects to develop a Web version of his application and wants to move it to handheld devices, which would free the researchers from their desktops. DataWindow .NET gives him portability options he would not have had using all native controls.

Perfecting the End-user Experience
Sybase’s DataWindow .NET neatly bridges the gap between the backend database and the end user. With data-intensive applications, a developer faces challenges with both the database design and the front-end user interface. The trick on the front end lies in presenting an enormous amount of highly detailed information in a well-organized, easily navigable and simple layout.

When a screen is well designed, the user can summarize at a glance each page as they move through the application. Screens can be strictly utilitarian, or they can incorporate an element of artistry, subtly employing thematic grouping, balance and color to draw the user’s eye to specific areas. Data presentation flexibility is essential in a functional user interface. Sybase’s DataWindow .NET decouples the presentation from the underlying data organization, delivering immense flexibility in the look while maintaining standardized database access.

The DataWindow — Making .NET Even Better
Sybase DataWindow .NET fits perfectly into the Microsoft development .NET offering, by adding the powerful and agile DataWindow functionality.

“DataWindow .NET saved my hide on this project,” Addington said. “I’ve been spoiled by DataWindow’s ease of use and presentation style. Features such as the ability to share information between different views of data where I can have three completely different DataWindow views for the same data source is fantastic.”

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