Developer .NET UPDATE October 3, 2003

Developer .NET UPDATE—brought to you by the Windows & .NET Magazine Network

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October 3, 2003--In this issue:

1. Developer .NET Perspectives

  • Using Visual Studio .NET to Package Application Files

2. Announcements

  • Get Problem-Solving Scripts That Will Simplify Your Life
  • Early Bird Discount--Register by October 15th!

3. Event

  • The Mobile & Wireless Road Show Is Coming to Tampa and Atlanta!

4. New and Improved

  • Accelerate Device-Driver Development
  • Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

5. Contact Us

  • See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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1. Developer .NET Perspectives

by Bill Sheldon, [email protected]

  • Using Visual Studio .NET to Package Application Files
  • This week I'm going to show you the final preparations for deploying your custom ASP.NET starter Web site. In the past few columns, I described the underlying implementation of the ASP.NET Community Starter Kit. The Community Starter Kit, one of the five sample ASP.NET implementations available from the Microsoft ASP.NET Web site (, was the starting point for creating a custom, real-world example of a Windows .NET Framework implementation. In this column, I show you the first step in packaging your site: packaging the application files. I'll save the second step--packaging the database--for the next column.

    Many developers are unaware that Visual Studio .NET provides an excellent environment for creating simple Windows Installer (.msi) packages. Although specialized third-party tools (e.g., InstallShield Software's InstallShield DevStudio, Wise Solutions' Wise for Visual Studio .NET or Wise for Windows Installer) are available, Visual Studio .NET provides an integrated, easy-to-use interface that's already part of your development suite.

    For most ASP.NET applications, the goal is to automate the collection of associated files for transfer to the Web server and ensure that the basic settings associated with the new virtual directory are correct. The result is a reliable tool that you can repeatedly use when you need to install your ASP.NET application on new or additional servers.

    To package the application files for your custom ASP.NET, you first need to add a Web Setup Project to the solution you're using for your custom starter-kit implementation. To add a new setup project, select Add Project, New Project on the File menu in Visual Studio .NET. Select Setup and Deployment Projects to display the available setup-project templates. Each of the self-describing templates target a specific type of installation. For example, the Merge Modules template creates packages that you can include as part of full .msi packages, and the Setup Project template creates packages that install client applications. Because you want to create a package that installs an ASP.NET application, select the Web Setup Project template.

    After you select the template, you need to provide a name. You might be tempted to include the word "setup" in the name. I recommend against using this word because, by default, Visual Studio .NET uses the Web Setup Project's name as the default name of the virtual directory associated with the application. Click OK to have Visual Studio .NET add the Web Setup Project to your solution.

    Next, open the File System Editor. On the left side of the File System Editor, you'll see a placeholder for the Web Application Folder. To add the necessary project files to this folder, right-click the Web Application Folder and select Add, Project Output. In the Add Project Output Group dialog box, you need to select two types of output from the outputs list.

    First, select Primary Output. Selecting this option prompts the installer package to automatically place the compiled code that's created as part of your custom starter-kit project in a subdirectory called bin in the Web Application Folder.

    Next, hold down the Ctrl key and select Content Files from the outputs list. Selecting this option prompts the installer package to store in the Web Application Folder all the files that are referenced as content in the ASP.NET site. Thus, the installer package includes all the .aspx, .asmx, .ascx, .asax, and web.config files associated with your project, but not all the subdirectories associated with your project's classes.

    Click OK to add these two types of output to the file system on the target machine. To verify that the primary output and content files will be included in the Web Application Folder, right-click each item and select Outputs. The Outputs dialog box displays the files that will be included.

    From the Outputs dialog box, you can filter files that you don't want to include. For example, if you don't want to include the web.config file from your development environment, right-click "Content Files from CommunityStarterKit" and select ExcludeFilter. In the Filter dialog box, click Add Filter, enter "web.config", and click OK. Recheck the Outputs dialog box to make sure that the web.config file is no longer listed as an output.

    At this point, your package is essentially ready to go. Optionally, you can modify the default virtual directory for your application by right-clicking the Web Application Folder, selecting Properties, then modifying the VirtualDirectory property that's in the Properties window. You can also modify the default security settings related to Microsoft IIS security and other IIS Metabase settings in the Web Setup Project's Properties window.

    To finish packaging the application files, right-click the project entry in Solution Explorer and select build. Visual Studio .NET first compiles the Web Application Project to ensure that any new files are automatically added to the installer package. Then, Visual Studio .NET generates the .msi file associated with installing your Web application.

    Creating a Windows Installer package for your Web applications is an excellent way to ensure that you have a simple repeatable means for creating your Web application. The result is that you can package your application, send that package to a staging server for final testing, then use the same package in your production environment, knowing that the initial settings are correct.

    Using an installer package can also save resources in shared development environments. With installer packages, every developer doesn't need a copy of the project to build the installer package; only the official build machine needs a copy of that project in its solution file for your application. In addition, the installer package isn't rebuilt every time you ask to start your project for debugging; it rebuilds only when you explicitly ask the installer package to do so.

    I've only touched the surface on how you can use Visual Studio .NET to create custom Windows Installer packages. For additional information about this topic, I suggest you start at the following URL in the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN):

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    2. Announcements
    (brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

  • Get Problem-Solving Scripts That Will Simplify Your Life

  • OK, so you're not a programmer. But if you read Windows Scripting Solutions every month, you don't need to be. Tackle common problems and automate everyday, time-consuming tasks with our simple tools, tricks, and scripts. Try a no-charge sample issue today!

  • Early Bird Discount--Register by October 15th!

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    3. Event
    (brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

  • The Mobile & Wireless Road Show Is Coming to Tampa and Atlanta!
  • Learn more about the wireless and mobility solutions that are available today, plus discover how going wireless can offer low risk, proven performance, and compatibility with existing and emerging industry standards. Register now for this free, 12-city event!

    4. New and Improved
    by Shauna Rumbaugh, [email protected]

  • Accelerate Device-Driver Development
  • Compuware released DriverStudio 3.0, a suite of driver development tools to help developers write, debug, test, and tune device-driver code that meets quality standards for Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) driver certification. The suite integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio .NET's IDE and Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0 through the product's DriverWorkbench technology and automates the development of drivers for Windows 2003/XP/2000/Me/NT. Components include DriverWorks, DriverNetworks, SoftICE, Visual SoftICE, BoundsChecker Driver Edition, TrueTime Driver Edition, and TrueCoverage Driver Edition. DriverStudio 3.0 supports the building of USB 2.0, AVStream, wireless IEEE 802.11b, connection-oriented network device interface specification (NDIS), and FireWire (IEEE 1394) drivers. Pricing is $2499. Contact Compuware at 800-521-9353 or on the Web.

  • Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!
  • Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Tell us about the product, and we'll send you a Windows & .NET Magazine T-shirt if we write about the product in a future Windows & .NET Magazine What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions with information about how the product has helped you to

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    5. Contact Us

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    Copyright 2003, Penton Media, Inc.

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