Archives

Archives / 2008 / May
  • ASP.NET MVC Preview 3 Release

    This morning we released the Preview 3 build of the ASP.NET MVC framework.  I blogged details last month about an interim source release we did that included many of the changes with this Preview 3 release.  Today's build includes some additional features not in last month's drop, some nice enhancements/refinements, as well as Visual Studio tool integration and documentation.

  • May 20th Links: ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, .NET, Visual Studio, Silverlight, WPF

    Apologies for the sparseness of my posting the last few weeks - work and life have been busy here lately.  Below is a new post in my link-listing series to help kick things up a little.  Also check out my ASP.NET Tips, Tricks and Tutorials page and Silverlight Tutorials page for links to popular articles I've done myself in the past.

  • Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 Beta

    Earlier today we shipped a public beta of our upcoming .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 releases.  These servicing updates provide a roll-up of bug fixes and performance improvements for issues reported since we released the products last November.  They also contain a number of feature additions and enhancements that make building .NET applications better (see below for details on some of them).

    We plan to ship the final release of both .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 this summer as free updates.  You can download and install the beta here.

    Important: SP1 Beta Installation Notes

    The SP1 beta released today is still in beta form - so you should be careful about installing it on critical machines.  There are a few important SP1 Beta installation notes to be aware of:

    1) If you are running Windows Vista you should make sure you have Vista SP1 installed before trying to install .NET 3.5 SP1 Beta.  There are some setup issues with .NET 3.5 SP1 when running on the Vista RTM release.  These issues will be fixed for the final .NET 3.5 SP1 release - until then please make sure to have Vista SP1 installed before trying to install .NET 3.5 SP1 beta.

    2) If you have installed the VS 2008 Tools for Silverlight 2 Beta1 package on your machine, you must uninstall it - as well as uninstall the KB949325 update for VS 2008 - before installing VS 2008 SP1 Beta (otherwise you will get a setup failure).  You can find more details on the exact steps to follow here (note: you must uninstall two separate things).  It is fine to have the Silverlight 2 runtime on your machine with .NET 3.5 SP1 - the component that needs to be uninstalled is the VS 2008 Tools for Silverlight 2 package.  We will release an updated VS 2008 Tools for Silverlight package in a few weeks that works with the VS 2008 SP1 beta.

    3) There is a change in behavior in the .NET 3.5 SP1 beta that causes a problem with the shipping versions of Expression Blend.  This behavior change is being reverted for the final .NET 3.5 SP1 release, at which time all versions of Blend will have no problems running.  Until then, you need to download this recently updated version of Blend 2.5 to work around this issue.

    Important Update: If you previously installed a VS 2008 Hotfix, you must run the HotFix Cleanup Utility before installing the VS 2008 SP1 Beta.  Click here to download and run this.

    Improvements for Web Development

    .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 contain a bunch of feature improvements targeted at web application development. 

    The VS Web Dev Tools team has more details (including specific bug fix details) on some of the VS specific work here.  Below are more details on some of the work in the web-space:

    ASP.NET Data Scaffolding Support (ASP.NET Dynamic Data)

    .NET 3.5 SP1 adds support for a rich ASP.NET data "scaffolding" framework that enables you to quickly build functional data-driven web application. With the ASP.NET Dynamic Data feature you can automatically build web UI (with full CRUD - create, read, update, delete - support) against a variety of data object models (including LINQ to SQL, LINQ to Entities, REST Services, and any other ORM or object model with a dynamic data provider).

    SP1 adds this new functionality to the existing GridView, ListView, DetailsView and FormView controls in ASP.NET, and enables smart validation and flexible data templating options.  It also delivers new smart filtering server controls, as well as adds support for automatically traversing primary-key/foreign-key relationships and displaying friendly foreign key names - all of which saves you from having to write a ton of code.

    You can learn more more about this feature from Scott Hanselman's videos and tutorials here.

    ASP.NET Routing Engine (System.Web.Routing)

    .NET 3.5 SP1 includes a flexible new URL routing engine that allows you to map incoming URLs to route handlers.  It includes support for both parsing parameters from clean URLs (for example: /Products/Browse/Beverages), as well as support to dynamically calculate and generate new URLs from route registrations.

    This new routing engine is used by both ASP.NET Dynamic Data as well as the new ASP.NET MVC framework.  It will support both WebForms and MVC based requests. 

    ASP.NET AJAX Back/Forward Button History Support

    .NET 3.5 SP1 adds new APIs to ASP.NET AJAX to allow you to better control the history list of a browser (enabling you to control the behavior of the back/forward button of the browser).

    You can learn more about this feature in the article here and the screencast here.

    ASP.NET AJAX Script Combining Support

    .NET 3.5 SP1 introduces a new <CompositeScript> element on the <asp:ScriptManager> server control, which allows you to declaratively define multiple script references within it.  All the script references within the CompositeScript element are combined together on the server and served as a single script to the client, reducing the number of requests to the server and improving page load time for ASP.NET AJAX applications.

    The script combining feature supports both path based scripts and assembly resource based scripts, and dynamically serves up the combined scripts using the ScriptResources.axd handler.

    Visual Studio 2008 Performance Improvements HTML Designer and HTML Source Editor

    In February we released a HotFix roll-up that included a number of performance improvements and bug fixes for the VS 2008 Web Designer.  VS 2008 SP1 includes all of these fixes, as well as a number of additional performance improvements.

    Visual Studio 2008 JavaScript Script Formatting and Code Preferences

    Visual Studio has for several releases supported rich source code formatting options for VB and C# (spacing, line breaks, brace positions, etc).

    VS 2008 SP1 adds richer source code formatting support for JavaScript as well (both inline <script> blocks and .js files).  You can now set your Javascript coding preferences using the Tools->Options dialog:

    These preferences will be automatically used as you type new Javascript code in the source editor.  You can also select existing code, right-click, and choose the "Format Selection" option to apply your style preferences to existing JavaScript code.  You can learn more about this new feature here.

    Better Visual Studio Javascript Intellisense for Multiple Javascript/AJAX Frameworks

    VS 2008 includes Javascript Intellisense support in source view.  The intellisense support with the initial VS 2008 release works well with vanilla JavaScript as well as code written using the ASP.NET AJAX JavaScript type patterns.  JavaScript is a very flexible language, though, and many JavaScript libraries use this flexibility to full advantage to implement their features - sometimes in ways that prevented the intellisense engine from providing completion support.

    VS 2008 SP1 adds much better intellisense support for popular Javascript libraries (we specifically did work to support JQuery, Prototype, Scriptaculous, ExtJS, and other popular libraries).  You will get better default intellisense when you reference these libraries.  We are also looking at whether we can maintain additional intellisense hint files that you can download to get even better intellisense and documentation support for some of the more popular libraries.

    Below is an example of using a JQuery startup function with the VS 2008 SP1 JavaScript intellisense engine:

    Notice below how VS 2008 SP1 can now provide method argument completion even on chained JQuery selectors:

    Visual Studio Refactoring Support for WCF Services in ASP.NET Projects

    VS 2008 SP1 adds better refactoring support for WCF services included within both ASP.NET Web Site and ASP.NET Web Application Projects.

    If you use the refactoring support to rename the class name, interface contract, or namespace of a WCF service, VS 2008 SP1 will now automatically fix up the web.config and SVC file references to it.

    Visual Studio Support for Classic ASP Intellisense and Debugging

    Previous versions of Visual Studio included support for intellisense and debugging within classic ASP (.asp) pages.  The file and project templates to create classic ASP pages/projects hasn't been in VS for a few releases, though, and with the initial VS 2008 we incorrectly assumed this meant that people weren't still using the classic ASP support.  We heard feedback after we shipped that indeed they were. 

    With VS 2008 SP1 this support for classic ASP intellisense and debugging is back:

     

    Visual Web Developer Express Edition support for Class Library and Web Application Projects

    The Visual Web Developer 2008 Express edition (which is free) is being updated in SP1 to add support for both class library and ASP.NET Web Application project types.  Previous versions of Visual Web Developer Express only supported ASP.NET web-site projects.

    Among other benefits, the support of class library and web application projects will enable ASP.NET MVC and Silverlight projects to be built with the free Visual Web Developer 2008 Express.  All of the above JavaScript, Dynamic Data, Classic ASP, and AJAX improvements work with Visual Web Developer Express as well.

    Improvements for Client Development

    .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 contain major performance, deployment, and feature improvements for building client applications. 

    Tim Sneath has a great blog post that talks about some of the client improvements here.  Below are more details on them:

    Application Startup and Working Set Performance Improvements

    .NET 3.5 SP1 includes significant performance improvements to the CLR that enable much faster application startup times - in particular with "cold start" scenarios (where no .NET application is already running).  Much of these gains were achieved by changing the layout of blocks within CLR NGEN images, and by significantly optimizing disk IO access patterns.  We also made some nice optimizations to our JIT code generator that allow much better inlining of methods that utilize structs.

    We are today measuring up to 40% faster application startup improvements for large .NET client applications with SP1 installed.  These optimizations also have the nice side-effect of improving ASP.NET application request per second throughput by up to 10% in some cases.

    New .NET Framework Client Profile Setup Package

    .NET 3.5 SP1 introduces a new setup package option for developers building .NET client applications called the ".NET Framework Client Profile".  This provides a new setup installer that enables a smaller, faster, and simpler installation experience for .NET client applications on machines that do not already have the .NET Framework installed.

    The .NET Framework Client Profile setup contains just those assemblies and files in the .NET Framework that are typically used for client application scenarios.  For example: it includes Windows Forms, WPF, and WCF.  It does not include ASP.NET and those libraries and components used primarily for server scenarios.  We expect this setup package to be about 26MB in size, and it can be downloaded and installed much quicker than the full .NET Framework setup package.

    The assemblies and APIs in the .NET Framework Client setup package are 100% identical to those in the full .NET Framework setup package (they are literally the same binaries).  This means that applications can target both the client profile and full profile of .NET 3.5 SP1 (no recompilation required).  All .NET applications that work using the .NET Client Profile setup automatically work with the full .NET Framework.

    A developer can indicate that the client application they are building supports both the .NET Framework Client Profile and the full .NET Framework by pulling up the project properties page for a client application within VS 2008 SP1.  Within the project properties page they can select a new checkbox that indicates it only requires those assemblies included in the .NET Framework Client Profile:

    VS 2008 will then ensure that the project can only reference those assemblies shipped in the client profile setup package (and it will generate a compile error if you try and use a type in an assembly not included in the client redist).  The compiled client application will then run on machines that have both the full .NET Framework installed, as well as machines that only have the .NET Framework Client Profile installed.

    If you have a machine that only has the .NET Framework Client Profile installed, and you try and run a .NET application on it that did not mark itself as supporting the .NET Framework Client Profile, then the CLR will refuse to run the application - and will instead prompt the end-user to upgrade to the full .NET Framework package.  This ensures that applications always run correctly - and that developers do not need to worry about missing assembly exceptions at runtime if a user tries to run an application that requires the full .NET Framework on a machine that only has the .NET Framework Client Profile installed.

    We believe that a large class of .NET client applications will be able to use this new .NET Client Profile setup to significantly speed up their installation, and enable a much more consumer friendly experience.

    New .NET Framework Setup Bootstrapper for Client Applications

    .NET 3.5 SP1 introduces a new "bootstrapper" component that you can use with client applications to help automate making sure that the right version of the .NET Framework is installed. 

    The bootstrapper component can handle automatically downloading and installing either the .NET Framework Client Profile or the full .NET Framework Setup Package from the Internet if your machine doesn't have either of them installed.  The boostrapper can also automatically handle upgrading machines that have a previous version of the .NET Framework installed.  For example, if your machine already has .NET 3.0 installed, and your application requires .NET 3.5, the bootstrapper can optionally download just the update files needed to upgrade it to .NET 3.5 (and avoid having to download the full .NET Framework setup download).

    The setup bootstrapper component can be used with both ClickOnce based setup packages, as well as with third party installer products (like Installshield).  The boostrapper optionally enables fully customized setup branding experiences (splash screens, custom setup wizard steps, etc) and should make it much easier to build optimized client setup experiences.

    ClickOnce Client Application Deployment Improvements

    .NET 3.5 SP1 includes several improvements for ClickOnce deployment of both Windows Forms and WPF applications.  Some of these improvements include:

    • Support for the .NET Framework Client Profile (all ClickOnce features are supported with it)
    • ClickOnce applications can now be programmatically installed through a ‘Setup.exe’ while displaying a customized, branded install UX
    • ClickOnce improvements for generating MSI + ClickOnce application packages
    • ClickOnce error dialog boxes now support links to application specific support sites on the Web
    • ClickOnce now has design-time support for setting up file associations
    • ClickOnce application publishers can now decide to opt out of signing and hashing the ClickOnce manifests as they see appropriate for their scenarios.
    • Enterprises can now choose to run only Clickonce Applications Authenticode signed by ‘Known Publishers’ and block anything else from running
    • FireFox browser extension to support Clickonce installations using FireFox browsers

    Windows Forms Controls

    SP1 adds several new Windows Forms controls - including new vector shape, Printing, and DataRepeater controls:

     

    WPF Performance Improvements

    .NET 3.5 SP1 includes several significant performance optimizations and improvements to WPF.  Some of the specific graphics improvements include:

    • Smoother animations
    • Hardware accelerated rendering of Blur and DropShadow Bitmap Effects
    • Text Rendering speed improvements - especially with VisualBrish and 3D scenes
    • 2D graphics improvements - especially with z-index scenarios
    • A new WriteableBitmap class that enables real-time and tear-free bitmap updates.  This enables custom "paint"-style applications, data visualizations, charts and graphs that optionally bypass the default WPF 2D graphics APIs.
    • Layered window performance improvements

    SP1 also adds support for better data scalability in WPF.  The ListView, ListBox and TreeView controls now support "item container recycling" and "virtualization" support which allows you to easily achieve a 40% performance improvement with scrolling scenarios.  These controls also now optionally support a "deferred scrolling" feature which allows you to avoid scrolling in real time and instead wait until a user releases the scroll thumb (the default scrolling mode in Outlook). This can be useful when scrolling over very large data sets quickly. 

    WPF Data Improvements

    .NET 3.5 SP1 includes several data binding and editing improvements to WPF.  These include:

    • StringFormat support within {{ Binding }} expressions to enable easy formatting of bound values
    • New alternating rows support within controls derived from ItemsControl, which makes it easier to set alternating properties on rows (for example: alternating background colors)
    • Better handling and conversion support for null values in editable controls
    • Item-level validation that applies validation rules to an entire bound item
    • MultiSelector support to handle multi-selection and bulk editing scenarios
    • IEditableCollectionView support to interface data controls to data sources and enable editing/adding/removing items in a transactional way
    • Performance improvements when binding to IEnumerable data sources

    WPF also now exposes hooks that enable developers to write custom panels w/ virtualized scrolling.  We'll be using this support together with the above data binding improvements to build the new WPF datagrid that will be shipping later this year.

    WPF Extensible Shader Effects

    .NET 3.5 SP1 adds support in WPF for a new shader effects architecture and API that allows extremely expressive visual effects to be created and applied to any control or element within WPF.  These shader effects support blending multiple input compositions together.  What makes them particularly powerful is that WPF executes effects (including custom effects you build yourself) using the GPU - giving you fully hardware accelerated graphics performance.  Like almost everything in WPF, you can also use WPF databinding and animation on the properties of an effect (allowing them to be fully integrated into an experience).

    Applying an effect onto a Control is super easy - just set a Control's "Effect" property.  For example, to add a hardware accelerated drop-shadow effect on a button you can use the built-in <DropShadowEffect> on it via either code or XAML:

    Which will cause the button to render like so:

    Because Effects are extensible, developers can create their own custom Effect objects and apply them.  For example, a custom "DirectionalBlurEffect" could be created and added to a ListBox control to change its scroll appearance to use a blur effect if you rapidly scroll across it:

    Keep an eye on Greg Schechter's blog to learn more about how the Effects architecture works and to learn how you can both create and apply new effects within your applications (his first set of posts are here). 

    Note: In addition to introducing the new Shader Effects API, WPF in SP1 also has updated the existing Blur and DropShadow Bitmap effects already in WPF to be hardware accelerated.

    WPF Interoperability with Direct3D

    .NET 3.5 SP1 adds support to efficiently integrate Direct3D directly into WPF.  This gives you more direct access to the hardware and to take full advantage of the Direct3D API within WPF applications.  You will be able to treat Direct3D content just like an image within an application, as well as use Direct3D content as textures on WPF controls. 

    For example, below are three samples from the Direct3D SDK:

    We could either load them in as image surfaces within a WPF application, or map them as textures on WPF controls.  Below is an example of mapping them as textures onto cubes in a WPF 3D application:

    Note: the Direct3D integration isn't today's SP1 beta release.  It will appear in the final SP1 release.

    VS 2008 for WPF Improvements

    VS 2008 SP1 includes several significant improvements for WPF projects and the WPF designer.  These include:

    • Several performance improvements
    • Events tab support within the property browser
    • Ability to sort properties alphabetically in the property browser
    • Margin snaplines which makes form layout much quicker
    • Better designer support for TabControl, Expander, and Grid
    • Code initiated refactoring now updates your XAML (including both control declarations and event declarations in XAML)
    • Go to Definition and Find All References now support things declared in XAML

    The debugger has also been updated in SP1 so that runtime errors in XAML markup (for example: referencing styles, datasources and/or other objects that don't exist) will now be better identified within the debugger:

    Data Development Improvements

    .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 include a bunch of improvements for data development. Some of them include:

    SQL 2008 Support

    VS 2008 and .NET 3.5 are being updated to include support for the upcoming SQL 2008 release.  Visual Studio 2008 data designers, projects and wizards now fully supporting connecting and working against SQL 2008 databases. 

    ADO.NET Entity Framework and LINQ to Entities:

    .NET 3.5 SP1 includes the new ADO.NET Entity Framework, which allows developers to define a higher-level Entity Data Model over their relational data, and then program in terms of this model.  Concepts like inheritance, complex types and relationships (including M:M support) can be modeled using it.  VS 2008 SP1 now includes built-in designer support to help with this modeling:

    The ADO.NET Entity Framework and the VS 2008 Entity Framework Designer both support a pluggable provider model that allows them to be used with any database (including Oracle, DB2, MySql, PostgreSQL, SQLite, VistaDB, Informix, Sybase, and others).

    Developers can then use LINQ and LINQ to Entities to query, manipulate, and update these entity objects.

    ADO.NET Data Services (formerly code-named "Astoria")

    .NET 3.5 SP1 includes a flexible framework that enables the creation of REST-based data services.  Formerly code-named "Astoria", the ADO.NET Data Services framework provides support for publishing data through a standard REST URI syntax and using standard HTTP verbs to operate on the data resources.  Developers can easily expose data models created using the ADO.NET Entity Framework, and/or use a pluggable provider model to expose other data models.

    In addition to publishing data sources, the framework also adds a client API for working with remote REST services.  Included with this client API is a LINQ library that allows the remote query of REST services.

    WCF Development Improvements

    .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 include several enhancements for WCF development.  Some of these include:

    • Significant scalability improvements (5-10x) in Web-hosted application scenarios
    • Support for using ADO.NET Entity Framework entities in WCF contracts
    • API usability improvements with DataContract Serializers, and with the UriTemplate and WCF web programming models
    • Enhanced TestClient support within VS 2008 SP1
    • New Hosting Wizard in VS 2008 SP1 for WCF Service Projects
    • Improved debugging support in partial trust scenarios

    VB and C# Improvements

    The VB and C# teams have also added some nice improvements to VS 2008 SP1:

    Visual Basic

    You can now add "XML to Schema" items to Visual Basic projects.  On adding these project items a wizard will open that allows you to create a XSD schema set from a variety of XML sources.  This schema set is then added to the project and it enables VB XML intellisense. This support was previously available as a web download - you can learn more about it here.

    A XSD browser is also now included with VS 2008 SP1 and allows you to browse XSD schema sets.  With the final SP1 release, developers will be able to right-click on XML element names (either in XML properties or XML literals) in the VB code editor and select “Go To XML Schema Definition” - this will open the XSD browser and display the schema set (and select the current element) for the VB project.

    C#

    The C# code editor now identifies and displays red squiggle errors for many semantic code issues that previously required an explicit compilation to identify.  For example, if you try to declare and use an unknown type in the C# code-editor today you won't see a compile error until you do a build.  Now with SP1 you'll see live red squiggle errors immediately (no explicit compile required):

    The debugger in VS 2008 SP1 has also been improved to provide more debugging support for evaluating LINQ expressions and viewing results at debug time:

    LINQ enabled data sources now have a "Results View" node show up within the debugger watch window.  Expanding this node will evaluate a LINQ expression and allow you to examine the materialized objects it returns:

    Team Foundation Server Improvements

    TFS 2008 SP1 includes a ton of improvements.  Please read Brian Harry's Team Foundation Server 2008 SP1 Preview blog post for more details.

    Summary

    .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 provide a bunch of bug fixes, performance improvements, and additional feature enhancements that make building all types of .NET applications better.  It will be a fully compatible service pack release. 

    We plan to ship the final release of both .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 this summer as free updates.  You can download and use the beta now here.

    Hope this helps,

    Scott

  • Professional ASP.NET 3.5 Book (only $16 on Amazon for a short time)

    One of the things I like to track are book sales on Amazon.com, which provides a useful data point to monitor what developers are interested in on any given day.  I use the www.TitleZ.com site (which is built using ASP.NET) to track specific titles I want to watch - it then generates a report showing real-time Amazon sales ranking data, as well as 7 day, 30 day and 90 day sales ranking averages.