I recently had the opportunity to review a product called WebZinc.NET by White Cliff Computing Ltd. It is a .NET class library, written in C#, that basically gives you access to the Internet by turning it into a group of objects. There are many other features like full XML support, FTP functionality, and support for dial-up networking, to name a few. We'll take a look at WebZinc.NET and see if it's worth buying.
After installing the product, which went smoothly and easily, I took a look at the help documentation that comes with it. The first item is a quick easy walkthrough that shows you how to setup and retrieve data from the Internet. It was very easy to follow and gives a good overview of how to use the product. Karl Moore does an excellent job of keeping it simple, but shows much of the power of the product.
I found that the object model is laid out very well. It turns each web page into a group of collections that you can loop through. This also allows you to use the same programming techniques across multiple web pages, lowering the learning curve greatly. An example is the paragraph object. This lets you grab data in paragraph format from a web page, such as MSN headline news stories. It is very simple to loop through the collection and retrieve all of the headlines. All text returned could be filtered by rules also.
WebZinc also comes with a browser control that can be embedded on to a form. You then have full control over where the user goes and what he does. This could be used to give users access to certain company websites, but no others. All the other features of WebZinc can be used here also, such as posting information when the user goes to specific pages.
Another 'Can't Do Without' feature is the property browser. It allows you to point it at a URL, and then look at all the data that WebZinc returns in an easy to see tree view format. It allows you to see exactly what data each of the methods will return for the URL. I found this to be a huge time saver.
The page fill feature is also very nice. It allows you to post text to any online form, even forms that span multiple pages. You could then pull the results of the submitted form. The FTP functionality allows complete upload and download from an FTP server. XML automation allows you to schedule and run different tasks at different times. This is a very handy feature if you do regular maintenance of a web site that pulls data from others.
This is a very good buy for the price. I highly recommend it for anyone that needs to interact with data on the web. A single license is currently $399. Options for multiple developers, sites and full source code are also available.
Check it at http://www.webzinc.net/