Time to Move On

As you'd expect following a new product release, companies are building new applications on top of the latest SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2005 Express databases.What I've found surprising, however,is that many companies are choosing to build new applications with Visual Basic 6.0 instead of Visual Basic .NET or its follow-on Visual Basic 2005. In fact, a recent survey by SQL Server Magazine found that the same percentage of respondents (44 percent) are currently using Visual Basic 6.0 as are using Visual Basic .NET for application development. Although there's no doubt that Visual Basic 6.0 is a productive development environment, the latest release of Visual Basic not only fills in some important pieces that the early releases of Visual Basic .NET were missing, but adds a lot of capabilities.

In the past, there were good reasons to stay with Visual Basic 6.0, even apart from syntax and other language differences. For example,Visual Basic .NET didn't have the edit-and-continue tool. I worked on one project in which the actual data layout didn't match the layout defined in the specifications. Edit-and-continue let me quickly modify my code and test the changes—steps that would have taken hours without the function. Visual Basic 6.0's Application object provides easy-to-access system and program resources,absent from the early Visual Basic .NET releases. Finally, Visual Basic .NET applications needed the 20MB-plus .NET Framework, which made the Visual Basic 6.0 runtime look trim and lightweight in comparison.

These arguments for staying with Visual Basic 6.0 just don't hold water any longer. Although the Visual Basic 2005 compiled edit-and-continue isn't exactly the same as Visual Basic 6.0's, in my experience, it's equally effective. The Visual Studio 2005 release which includes Visual Basic 2005, now supports the My object, giving easy access to system, application user, and network resources. The base OS for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP now includes the .NET Framework. Plus, Windows Update, Microsoft Software Update Services (SUS), and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) can install the latest version of the .NET Framework on the updated systems, making it a common commodity. Moving to the compiled ASP.NET brings a substantial improvement in application performance for Active Server Pages (ASP) developers, as well. Given all these factors, no real technical reasons stand in the way of developing in Visual Basic 2005.

One place to get started with Visual Basic 2005 is the Microsoft Visual Basic Developer Center at http://www.msdn.microsoft.com/vbasic/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/dnpag2/html/vb6tovbnetupgrade.asp. This site provides guidelines for moving Visual Basic 6.0 applications to Visual Basic 2005 and an assessment tool that you can run against your existing Visual Basic 6.0 code to identify upgrade issues.

I can understand not migrating existing applications to Visual Basic 2005, but if you're embarking on a new application development project, now's the time to put Visual Basic 6.0 to rest and move ahead with Visual Basic 2005 technology. Using Visual Basic 2005 keeps you ahead of the technology curve for the lifecycle of the application, and you won't add to your backlog of legacy code that you'll eventually have to upgrade. Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition is a free download until November 2006, and you can get it at http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/vb/ download/default.aspx.

Who knows? You might even like it better.

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