Microsoft Delivers Visual Studio LightSwitch Beta

Microsoft has released the first beta of its Visual Studio LightSwitch toolset aimed at nonprogrammers.

Microsoft has released the first beta of its Visual Studio LightSwitch toolset that will enable nonprogrammers to create business applications.

The software giant released the beta to the Microsoft Developer Network on Aug. 20 and then made it available to the public at large on Aug. 23. The beta version of Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch is now available for download here.

Essentially, LightSwitch is a new addition to the Visual Studio family that enables developers of all skill levels and organizational size to easily build business applications that target the desktop, cloud and Web.

According to Microsoft's LightSwitch web page:

"With LightSwitch, you can build custom applications that rival off-the-shelf solutions. Get a head start by using preconfigured screen templates that give your application a familiar look and feel. LightSwitch also provides prewritten code and other reusable components to handle routine application tasks, along with helpful step-by-step guidance. However, if you need to write custom code, you can use Visual Basic .NET or C#. You can deploy to the desktop, browser, or cloud (post-Beta) to share your application with others more easily without the cumbersome installation processes."

In an Aug. 23 blog post, Jason Zander, corporate vice president for the Visual Studio team in the Developer Division at Microsoft, addressed several developer concerns about LightSwitch and provided a basic walk-through and tutorial on the new technology.

Answering the question of who should use LightSwitch, Zander said: "LightSwitch is primarily targeted at developers who need to rapidly produce business applications. It is part of the Visual Studio family, and when you get into writing code you are in the VS IDE [integrated development environment]. At the same time, we have found that most line-of-business applications follow a standard pattern, and LightSwitch is optimized for helping you leverage those patterns."

Moreover, Zander added:

"Our goal with LightSwitch is to help you rapidly produce line-of-business applications by optimizing for the most common application patterns (data + screens + code). LightSwitch allows you to create desktop applications (the default) or browser applications. The applications you produce follow a classic three-tier architecture and are built on top of .NET (Entities, WCF RIA Services), Silverlight, ASP.NET, with access to multiple sources of data like SQL Server and SharePoint."

In addition, Zander gives information on the limitations of LightSwitch, how it relates to Microsoft Access, and offers advice on how to upgrade or scale applications created with LightSwitch. Zander's post also includes several informative diagrams and screen shots to familiarize developers with the LightSwitch tool and its architecture.

Microsoft initially announced LightSwitch on Aug. 3 at the VSLive conference, which took place on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash.