Web Deployment Projects to fix Lack of Web Project Files
I just saw a demo of a new feature that the MS ASP.NET team will be releasing as an add-on to VS 2005 -- it should be available at launch too. Its called Web Deployment Projects and its basically allowing you to handle a lot of the scenarios we used to be able to do with web project files -- and more. Under the cover its just a standard MSBuild file, so its already well documented and very extensible, but its also going to hook in the new aspnet_merge tool and provide a basic UI for common scenarios. Things you'll be able to do include specifying whether or not you want one assembly per page, folder, or entire web project -- and you'll be able to specify several naming options for those assemblies too. You'll also be able to have different build configuration options like you can today in VS 2003 -- but even better than today you'll be able to have the build process link or replace parts of your web.config file with configuration specific web.config pieces (like separate connection strings for debug, staging, and release). You'll also be able to specify things like assembly signing and you'll be able to tell it the asp.net compiler to follow the IIS metabase paths so that sub-webs are effectively excluded. It looks like its very much on track to give us everything we were missing from VS 2003, and more, as well as giving as an extensible solution for anything else we can dream up since this is just an MSBuild file like all the other project files. And of course this will be completely optional, so all those that have liked the simplicity of not having a web project file will in no way be forced to use this new web deployment project. Very cool stuff -- and I'm very glad that MS had listened to those of us that had issues with the lack of the web project.