A review of Iron Speed Designer 1.6.4 and IntelliView 2.2, Designer

Iron Speed Designer streamlines code building

Iron Speed Designer 1.6.4
Cost: $495 (Professional Edition)
Iron Speed Inc.
Mountain View, Calif.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Iron Speed Designer is an application generator for .NET. More specifically, it is designed to build VB .NET and ASP.NET code from your database so that you can quickly bring database apps to the Web. I took a look at this product last fall, but it has changed substantially since then. I like the new version: It is even faster and more flexible than the old one.

There are two key changes that many users will appreciate. First, Iron Speed Designer itself has been rewritten as a Windows app rather than an ASP.NET one. Although the old Web interface worked, the Windows one is cleaner and easier to use. There is also a new application builder that walks you from start to finish in record time.

The generated files are designed to be completely re-entrant. That is, you can generate your application, make custom changes, change something in the Iron Speed Designer interface and regenerate without losing your custom changes. Iron Speed accomplishes this by using base and inherited classes for everything, and marking which parts you can change safely. The help file includes quite a few examples of customizing generated apps, along with information on the overall architecture, right down to which files are built in which directories. This re-entrancy sets them apart from simpler generators that do not allow you to repeat the process multiple times.

Other improvements include: 

  • Video help on key features; 
  • Much improved source code editing in the Iron Speed interface; 
  • Generated documentation to help you navigate the code; 
  • Right-to-left and internationalization support; 
  • Support for tables without primary keys; and 
  • Visual Studio 2003 support.

Application generation is not for everyone. But if you need to move a large database to the Web, you need to do something to avoid writing tons of repetitive code by hand. Iron Speed can vastly streamline this process. You can download a 15-day, fully functional evaluation version to see for yourself.

Consider IntelliView for unscripted reporting

IntelliView 2.2, Designer
Cost: $975 per 5 users;
Report Analyzer is free
San Jose, Calif.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

IntelliView is another entrant into the reporting field with an interesting pricing structure: the designer is relatively inexpensive, while the viewer is free. Beyond that, you can go for the $19,999 Synaptris Reporter to integrate everything into a comprehensive, Web-based .NET or Java solution for the enterprise.

The designer -- which you can download in a free evaluation version -- is probably where you will want to start. If you have used any reasonably modern report designer, this one should seem familiar. You can create either banded or free-form reports using a variety of controls, including text, graphics, raw HTML and so on. Data can be drawn from any ODBC or OLE DB data source. It is impressively easy to make a banded report with alternately colored rows and data in neat columns. Grouping, filtering and sorting in the designer are likewise trivial.

You can also design crosstabs and a variety of graphs and charts. Fields can be calculated with an expression builder, but there is no active scripting attached to reports. When you are done designing, you can save the report design as a single file.

With the IntelliView Report Analyzer, anyone can open one of your reports for free. The Report Analyzer is not entirely passive, either. You can change fonts and colors, filtering, and grouping and sorting options. The end experience is much closer to using a spreadsheet or an OLAP viewer than it is to using a report client that just zooms and prints.

Finally, you might wish to go to Synaptris Reporter to integrate these reports into your enterprise. I did not evaluate this part of the solution, but it promises zero-client reporting via ASP.NET or Java integration, a central report repository, and user and group access control among other things.

The pricing is attractive if you just need a standalone reporting solution, and the growth path to the enterprise is there if you need it. The ease of use of the designer and viewer impressed me as well, so this is one to consider for your unscripted reporting needs.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.