Developer .NET UPDATE--Express Edition Packages Available--July 16, 2004

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In This Issue

1. Developer .NET Perspectives

  • Beta Versions of Express Edition Packages Are Available
  • 2. Resource

  • Featured Thread: Problems with Forms in .NET Project
  • 3. New and Improved

  • Mobile Application IDE for the .NET Platform

  • 1. Developer .NET Perspectives

    by Bill Sheldon, [email protected]

  • Beta Versions of Express Edition Packages Are Available
  • Microsoft finally launched the various beta versions related to Visual Studio 2005. I say "various" because there isn't just one beta version of Visual Studio 2005. Microsoft has also launched six Express Edition packages. Let's take a look why Microsoft released the Express Edition packages and what they can offer you.

    Microsoft became a giant in the world marketplace through familiarity and low-cost offerings. The Windows interface had become so commonplace that everyone was familiar with it. For the average business with a choice between two IT solutions, choosing the one with which people were already familiar outweighed any "technical" advantage of the other solution at the time. And the home hobbyist and high school programmers teaching themselves how to leverage the power of this home-based tool wanted a cheap development solution, so Microsoft offered it.

    Then the wheels of progress turned. As Microsoft grew, so did the cost of its development tools. If, like many developers, you get Visual Studio Professional Edition through work, you might not know its price. On, the retail price is more than $1000 (or a mere $500 for an upgrade or almost $2500 for the Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Architect (VSEA). Although Microsoft offers standalone versions of a few development products at cheaper prices (e.g., you can get Visual Basic .NET Standard Edition for about $100), the Windows development tools haven't been falling into the low-cost category.

    Fortunately, Microsoft recently took a look at its development products, realized that it no longer offered the low-cost development options that helped make the company a giant, and did something about it. Microsoft introduced the Web Matrix, which is an application-development tool for ASP.NET, and Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE), which is a scaled-back version of the database engine in Microsoft SQL Server. Hobbyists, students, and others can use these free tools to get up to speed on how to develop for the .NET platform. Web Matrix and MSDE quickly became popular.

    Microsoft knew it needed to replace Web Matrix and MSDE since Visual Studio 2005 is based on version 2.0 of the Windows .NET Framework. Because of the success of Web Matrix and MSDE, Microsoft decided to add other low-cost development options as well. The resulting products are collectively called the Express Edition packages.

    The Express Edition packages provide full access to the same Windows .NET Framework you can access from Visual Studio 2005. However, the tools aren't full featured. They're designed to provide only core capabilities. With that said, these free downloads still great for what they do. Let's look at each of the six Express Editions: SQL Server 2005 Express (SQL Express), Visual Web Developer 2005 Express (VWD), Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition (Visual Basic Express), Visual C# 2005 Express Edition (Visual C# Express), Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition (Visual C++ Express), and Visual J# 2005 Express Edition (Visual J# Express).

    SQL Express is the replacement for MSDE. SQL Express is based on SQL Server 2005 (code-named Yukon), although SQL Express doesn't appear to include SQL Server 2005's embedded .NET capabilities. As with MSDE, SQL Express doesn't currently provide a management UI, so after you've installed it, you need to reference it through a script or one of the Visual Studio environments.

    Note that if you intend to download any of the other Express Edition packages, there's no reason to download SQL Express separately. When you start to install any of the other development suites, one of the first options available to you is the selection of SQL Express as an add-on to your installation. (If there's one thing you can rely on, it's that Microsoft leverages the new technologies that it offers.) In addition, Microsoft lets you download Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Help files, referred to as the MSDN Express Library, as an add-on to any of the Express Edition downloads.

    VWD is the replacement for the Web Matrix. Providing an environment oriented toward Web applications, it supports the Visual Basic, Visual C#, and Visual J# development languages.

    When you run VWD's installation package, you'll see that Microsoft maintains the actual install base remotely. When the installation starts, you'll see that you have quite a large download, so plan accordingly. It took my system close to an hour to download VWD (including the SQL Express and MSDN Express Library add-ons), then about 30 minutes more to complete the installation.

    After the installation is complete, you're ready to start using VWD. There's online training available to help you get up to speed. The Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Guided Tour ( discusses how to use not only VWD but also SQL Express.

    Visual Basic Express, Visual C# Express, Visual C++ Express, and Visual J# Express let you develop full WinForm applications. The installation for these packages works similar to the installation for VWD. However, note that you can install all these packages side by side; if you've already installed VWD or one of the other language-specific packages and have already chosen to install SQL Express and the MSDN Help add-on, you won't be offered these items as optional components.

    All the language-based Express Edition packages come with a sample application. You can get an idea of whom Microsoft is targeting with these packages by looking at the application selected for inclusion and the project templates that are provided. For example, in Visual Basic Express, the application is a music CD organizer, whereas in Visual C# Express, the application is a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) client.

    I'm disappointed with two omissions in the language-specific packages. First, I'm disappointed that they don't provide the functionality needed to create XML Web services. (You can, however, use VWD to build XML Web services.) Although I can understand why Microsoft didn't include this functionality from a technical perspective (XML Web services currently live under Microsoft IIS and tend to be seen as part of ASP.NET), I think that from the consumer standpoint, these packages should have included it. XML Web services are a key enabling technology for extending the reach of desktop applications and for implementing the service-oriented architecture (SOA) that Microsoft promotes.

    What I find even more concerning is that Visual Basic Express doesn't provide a template for you to create class libraries. The package includes templates for only WinForms, control libraries, and console-based applications. (There's also a template that starts you down the development path for the associated sample application.) The omission of a class library template seems like a glaring omission, especially since one of Microsoft's goals for the language-specific packages is that they be used for teaching purposes. Learning to not put every application in a single assembly should be the first lesson taught after a person creates his or her first application.

    The good news is that it seems only Visual Basic Express doesn't include class library templates. Visual C# Express contains templates for class libraries and empty projects, but doesn't have a template for creating windows controls. With any luck, by the time Microsoft officially releases the Express Edition packages, both Visual Basic Express and Visual C# Express will support multiple packages. Or even better, the "Add New Online Template" feature will be enabled and you'll be able to create class libraries in Visual Basic and windows controls in Visual C#.

    Despite such omissions, the language-specific packages as well as the other Express Editions are good tools that budding .NET developers can use. The Visual Studio 2005 Developer Center ( contains more information about the Express Edition packages and links to download them. Unless you are an MSDN subscriber, there's a fee for accessing the beta version of Visual Studio 2005, but the beta versions of the Express Edition packages are all available for free download. (Microsoft won't determine the prices of the officially released Express Edition packages until next year. Microsoft does note that the Express Edition packages will be low cost.)

    So what are the key new features in Visual Studio 2005? I'll start to look at those features in my next column.

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    2. Resource

  • Featured Thread: Problems with Forms in .NET Project
  • Novice forum member MichelKeijzers is working on a software project written in C++ with .resx resources. When he opens the project's various forms in the designer view of Visual Studio .NET 2003, some show up quickly but others take a long time to appear. The processor is typically at 100 percent during this time. He thinks it might be related to the number of controls (more than 100 in some forms), but not all big forms take a long time to appear. Another problem in one form is that when he adds new controls, they're added in a random place in the .cpp file, not in the header file. If you can help solve these problems, go to the following URL:

    3. New and Improved

  • Mobile Application IDE for the .NET Platform
  • AppForge released Crossfire, a mobile and wireless application development environment for the Windows .NET platform. Using Crossfire, developers can write a custom mobile application and deploy it to all Microsoft and non-Microsoft mobile devices, including Palm OS, Pocket PC, Symbian's EPOC OS, and industrial devices. Crossfire lets enterprise organizations quickly and easily develop multiplatform mobile and wireless applications using their existing developer resources and knowledge. Contact AppForge at 678-686-9400 or 800-637-5740.

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