The good and slightly not good about Visual Web Developer Express
Let me start by saying it's great to see the excitement bubbling out of Microsoft from the various teams involved with the new Express products. As a customer, I think you can only feel good about the pride that 'Softies are putting into these new bits. After using the pre-beta builds of VS 2005 now for about three or four months, I was already impressed.
I first heard about the low-cost IDE's I think in March. My first thought was, “It's about time,” because the barrier of entry into the Microsoft programming world has always been non-affordable tools. I thought I'd give the Visual Web Developer Express beta a look-see to see just what the “hobbyists” and “n00bs” could do.
The first and biggest surprise was that full Intellisense is maintained, just as it is in VS 2005. Outstanding! The “code-beside” model is leaps and bounds ahead of the old-style code-behind, and it's almost OK to use the inline code blocks now. Almost...
What I don't like is that you can't do compiled class libraries. I guess this topic is near and dear to me because the focus of my book is to get people to harness the power of an object-oriented platform to build applications “right.” It's not that you can't write classes for use across the app (now the .cs or .vb class files go in the /code folder), but you certainly can't reuse them in compiled assemblies. I think that's kind of a bummer.
It seems to me that Microsoft struggled with how to position these products and what to include or not include. The upside of the product is that, without question, it's powerful and makes building Web apps easier than it ever has been, and normal people can afford it. My only beef is that it kind of allows developers to do things “old school,” something I've been trying to get people to not do via training and now this book. I think it's a philosophical concession to allow what isn't far from the old script days, but I do understand the business decision to allow it.
I don't think my issues will lessen the value of the new products, but it's certainly an area of concern. I guess the real test is to see if they revise the pricing on Visual Studio itself, as well as things like MSDN subscriptions. I've heard that might be a consideration as well. I know that personally I'd get a subscription again if it were under a grand.