Microsoft Enhances ASP.Net Web Offerings

Tool, starter kits, hosting program updated.

Microsoft Corp. updated some of its Web development offerings last week, with an upgraded ASP.Net Web Matrix tool, the official release of the ASP.Net Starter Kits and a new ASP.Net Hosting program.

Shawn Nandi, product manager for Microsofts ASP .Net, said the Redmond, Wash., company has updated its Web Matrix application development tool for ASP.Net to reflect developer feedback for the year-old tool. Nandi said new features in the tool include support for Microsoft Access databases and for Microsofts J# Java-based development environment.

"We had two goals with Web Matrix," Nandi said, "to have a quick and easy way to test drive ASP.Net and to get feedback on the next version of Visual Studio."

Nandi said support for Access databases was the primary request from developers using the free Web Matrix. The academic community requested Java support, he said. Other enhancements include improved table editing and user-control rendering. "The most popular features that people like in Web Matrix will appear in the next version of Visual Studio," Nandi said.

"I must admit that I was quite surprised to hear that Microsoft would even spend the time or effort to enhance this product," said Brian Scarbeau, an advanced placement computer science teacher at the Lake Highland Preparatory School, in Orlando, Fla., and a Web Matrix user. "Remember, now, this is a free product. But to now include J# as a language option and the usage of Access database is very exciting to me."

Scarbeau teaches a course on Web Matrix, and his students have created a case study called "Nothing but .Net," which is hosted on a live Web Matrix site, he said.

"I really enjoyed working with Web Matrix," Scarbeau said. "It was not as intimidating as the Visual Studio product, and Web Matrix worked for my needs. It was real easy to use with the drag-and-drop toolbox features and snippets. The SQL database was a challenge for me to work with, especially with the deployment part. Web Matrix is very powerful as far as features is concerned."

Microsoft first announced the ASP.Net Starter Kits at VSLive in San Francisco in February. That was the beta of the development kits, which cover five areas: time tracking, reports, community, commerce and portals.

In addition, Microsoft announced two Web resources for developers, including a new ASP.Net hosting program—found at—where developers can find hosters with which Microsoft is working to enable developers to deploy their applications on the Internet.

"People keep asking where they can find hosting," Nandi said. "Its one of the most common questions we get."