Visual Studio 2005 for the Web
By Brian Goldfarb
With ASP.NET 2.0 we have provided an incredibly powerful and flexible platform for Web developers. The breadth and scope of the features and opportunity are simply incredible to think System.Web.dll is now four times bigger than it was with ASP.NET 1.1. With this ton of new code I m already seeing the amazing things that developers have produced by using it. Clearly, the list of features is too long to discuss here, but I definitely have my personal favorites. I don t think I could live without master pages, the membership and profile application services, or the new localization framework. But the most understated area of advancement is in the ridiculous amount of improvements that have been made to Visual Studio 2005 (and Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition).
First and foremost is 100% source code preservation. Yes, yes I realize that some of you may consider this a bug fix, but I assure every reader that the challenge this presented was significant (it took three full-time employees 18 months to solve). But does it ever work well! Out of this grew a number of other significant tools improvements that can best be defined as increased design/source view fidelity, which most definitely includes the maintenance of position/selection when switching back and forth between views. The design surface has been radically improved to work well with standards-based Web design (XHTML and CSS), in addition to supporting master pages and themes/skins at design time. Throw in the tag navigator, improved table editing support (set width/height with drag/drop and better selectors), and better rendering, and things are definitely on track.
Next, to truly complement the improved designer, we pulled out all the stops in source view. My favorite new source view feature is the ability to expand/collapse arbitrary HTML tags just like regions or functions or if blocks in code; it makes it incredibly simple to navigate complex tables/div structures. Additions like pluggable real-time schema validation (standards like XHTML and browsers like IE6, Firefox, etc.) make building standards-based sites so much easier. Also, we let you take control of the source with granular source code formatting options, ensuring that your code always looks the way you want it (and you can even enforce it as policy with Visual Studio Team System!).
Speaking of VSTS, there are a huge number of new enterprise-grade Web features in the tool. With VSTS, we have incorporated rich tools to help with testing sites. The simple interface makes it easy to define (record), customize, run, and monitor Web UI unit tests. In addition, there is now support for unit testing on class libraries (app_code, etc.), enabling a comprehensive solution to prevent regressions and monitor the health of your application s code. Also, VSTS has a rich Load Testing and profiling infrastructure to help identify, isolate, and resolve performance issues.
Lastly, we took the pain out of getting sites up and running; FrontPage Server Extensions (FPSE) are no longer required to build Web sites. Actually, neither is IIS. We have a built-in Web server that can be used for building, running, and debugging sites, and you can do all of that without having Administrator privileges on the box. The barrier to getting up and running is gone.
And this is just the short list. I urge you to take Visual Studio 2005 for a test-drive ... I think you ll find the improvements to be very welcome.
Brian Goldfarb is Product Manager - Web Platform and Tools at Microsoft Corp.