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Review: OpenNETCF Smart Device Framework

OpenNETCF Smart Device Framework 1.2
Free
OpenNETCF.org
opennetcf.org

If you've been sucked into watching the Food Network, you surely know Emeril Lagasse and his trademarked "kick it up a notch!" That's the image that this product brings to mind for me. Even though the .NET Compact Framework is an absolutely fabulous environment for developing mobile applications (especially if you ever tried to do anything serious in previous PocketPC development tools), the addition of this open source application framework really kicks things up a notch.

The SDF brings both new classes and new controls to development for Smart Devices (the catchall term that includes both SmartPhones and PocketPCs). Some of these are things from the full Framework that Microsoft left out of the .NET CF, some are new ideas. Here's some of what you get:

  • A WSE 2.0 implementation
  • Configuration handlers
  • A raft of forms controls, including battery monitor, DateTimePicker, an ink control, a signature control, a sound player, and extended versions of some of the built-in controls
  • Cryptography classes
  • Some threading support
  • An XmlSerializer
  • Multimedia classes
  • Networking support

All in all, there is a batch of useful stuff here that's just plain missing from the basic .NET Compact Framework.

When you install the package, you'll find an OpenNETCF application type added to the New Project dialog box in Visual Studio .NET, as well as a help file (which is unfortunately a bit sketchy in spots), samples, and the source code. It's easy to get going just by creating a new project and using what you find in it; building and deploying are identical to the same processes with a standard .NET CF project.

Overall, I'm quite happy with this package. The developers who've worked on it for free have done a better job of extending a Microsoft product than just about anyone, and they've added truly useful functionality for mobile developers. And it just works, which is just what one wants from a set of libraries.

The software is distributed under a very liberal Shared Source License. You're free to incorporate it into your own applications without having to reveal your source code or pay royalties. You can download the source, the compiled binaries, or view the license from the OpenNETCF Web site -- which is also, by the way, a fine repository of information on .NET Compact Framework programming in general.

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