Get the GAT!

If you start a lot of projects you might follow a structure or pattern to how your solution is put together. Mike Roberts has a great blog here on how ThoughtWorks generally sets up their project development tree. They also put together a simple tool to do this (Tree Surgeon). We follow a similar structure, but it's usually all done manually (usually by the lead developer or Solution Architect) at the start of the project. There are some variations on where things go, etc. and some things are driven by the demand of the application. For example if you're not accessing a database directly (like in a SharePoint application where the Database is the SharePoint Object Model) then you don't need a Database project with SQL/Oracle/etc. connections and scripts. Stuff like that makes it sometimes cumbersome to set things up and it usually takes a few hours to get everything just right and it will vary from person to person and group to group on preferences of how things are organized.

If you follow the Patterns & Practices group over at Microsoft, you'll know they've been working on a lot of cool things. They consider themselves in the guidance business and not creating cool tools (this is the same group responsible for Enterprise Library, reference architectures and patterns and other neat stuff). Now imagine if there were a pattern you could follow based on policies and architecture your organization wants/needs/desires to adhere to. Imagine if you could just fill out a single Wizard page and have that entire solution generated for you in minutes. And that every project at your organization followed the same pattern no matter what the specifics of the project were so if you moved from project to project (or worked on multiple projects at the same time) you would immediately know where everything was and where it was supposed to go. The GAT will help you get there (and more).

Tom Hollander has announced that the Guidance Automation Toolkit (GAT) is now available for download. This download is for Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 and you'll also need the Guidance Automation Extensions installed (which is available on the same site). Think of the GAT as the old Visual Studio Enteprise Templates on steroids (and beyond). Anyone who built VS 2003 templates knows some of the pain and suffering involved in it. The GAT makes this easy(er) but it's more than just templates as you can implement policies and patterns and the whole thing fits into the bigger Software Factories approach to things (although we're not sure how yet, I can guess a few things that could be done in this space). Anyways, if you're into it, Get the GAT!

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