Friday, October 22, 2004


Before I start, you're going to have to bear something in mind. I live in the UK. Which means that I'm at least 12 months behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology.

I had one of those proper 'Aha!' moments last night over the .NET framework 2.0. I went to an MSDN talk last night, ostensibly about Visual Studio Express. I'm not really that interested in the express versions per se, but I wanted to have a bit of a look at what the implications were for Visual Studio Standard Edition. What would the effect be of adding an extra layer of products at the bottom of the product line (bottom in terms of features and functionality, I hasten to add, not bottom in terms of the people using them!) have on the previous bottom of the ladder product.

And it looks good (providing the price for Standard stays about the same). Smart device development looks like it's supported in VS Standard, which is something I really kinda like. And it looks to be all round goodness in a box.

That wasn't what got me excited, though.

What got me excited was ASP.NET 2.0. Although I'm going to have to have a deeper look into how they really work, some of the data access features of ASP.NET look to really rock. Being able to put data sources with (and this is the important bit) parameters bound to other controls on the page right in the code on the ASPX page looks really cool. I'm sure there are security issues there, which is why I'm going to have to have to have a deeper look into how it works, but on the face of it, for quickly banging together web forms apps it looks like a really good thing.

Snaplines in Windows forms got me really fired up as well. Although I've seen quicky demos on channel 9 and the like, I never really appreciated just how funky a feature this really was. It's fantastic. Being able to snap controls so they line up with any of a dozen reference points (The top of the control, baseline of the text, middle of the control etc.) is really quite good. I might be biased because I've been knocking some forms together in Access, where that kind of thing is really quite hard. And even harder to do quickly without losing your train of thought.

The code editing formatting options are also really good. The demo showed a load of the options available in c#, like where opening curly brackets start and end (on a new line, inline etc), and stuff like that. In ASP.NET as well, the days of VS reformatting your code every time you switch from design to code view and back are gone You want to have a block of text hard-up against the margin, you can have a block of text hard-up against the margin. It's all preserved for you. Nice.

Data Access thingys in windows forms are quite cool as well. In the quicky demo the guy showed us, he did essentially what the Data Forms Wizard does in VS 2003, but all with just pure drag and drop. Just pull a datagrid onto a form (if I remember rightly) set its data source and run the app. It automagically generates the code to populate the grid, and even gives you a navigation menustrip to boot. The whole thing took under a minute. Sweet.

And the best thing, the thing that'll have me running out to the shop to buy VS the day it comes out, the thing that'll stick in my mind, the thing that when people ask me 'So what's so cool about VS Express?' I'll tell them about... They gave us beer and Pizza! God I'm a cheap whore.

Just wanted to share.

P.S. Sadly not many links to documentation. There's not a great deal online yet.

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