Microsoft released its Interop Forms Toolkit 1.0 as a free add-in that simplifies the process of displaying .Net WinForms in a VB6 application.
The new toolkit not only helps to preserve VB6 applications, but also lets developers add functionality to them through additional .Net forms.
For example, a developer could provide more dynamic content by adding a WinForm that accesses Web services or RSS feeds, Microsoft said.
Moreover, instead of upgrading the entire code base, VB6 applications can be extended one form at a time, Microsoft said.
"The goal is a phased upgrade, with production releases at the end of each iteration containing both Visual Basic 6 and Visual Basic .Net forms running in the same Visual Basic 6 process," according to a Microsoft Web page describing the new toolkit.
In addition, "the Toolkit guides you down a migration path that allows you to focus on writing code that adds business value instead of infrastructure and interop code," the Web page said.
In a blog post on Sept. 22, Rob Caron, a content architect for Visual Studio 2005 Team System, said: "Are you maintaining an application built in Visual Basic 6, but itch to start doing some .Net development? Now you can live in both worlds. Instead of a one-time migration effort or complete rewrite, you can use the Interop Forms Toolkit to move your application form by form to .Net."
Caron titled his blog post: "Not Ready to Bring Your Visual Basic 6 Apps to .Net? Bring .Net to Your Visual Basic 6 Apps."
Microsoft upgraded from Visual Basic 6 to Visual Basic .Net in 2001 and many VB6 developers put up a fuss, noting that the code bases of the two products differed and migration to the newer platform was difficult.
And last year, a group of protesters, including a host of Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, generated an online petition to try to get Microsoft to continue support for VB6.
Part of the petition read: "We would like to suggest a path for the future development of Visual Basic 6 and VBA [Visual Basic for Applications] that helps Microsoft align its long-term strategies with those of its customers."
In addition, "We believe the best way to meet these objectives is for Microsoft to include an updated version of VB6 inside the Visual Studio IDE," the petition said.
That version "should use the same keywords, syntax and types as VB6, remain COM [Component Object Model]-based and compile to native code."
The new Interop Forms Toolkit brings VB6 developers a step closer to .Net.