Tools Ease Transition to .Net Platform

Developers working with an early version of Microsoft Corp.'s Visual Studio.Net said new integration tools are easing the conversion of tools and languages to the .Net platform

Developers working with an early version of Microsoft Corp.s Visual Studio.Net said new integration tools are easing the conversion of tools and languages to the .Net platform.

The early version is part of a set of technologies called Open Tools Platform, which Microsoft announced last week. Also included in the set are two SDKs (software development kits) that the company said ease the customization of development environments and applications.

Because Visual Studio.Net is still in beta, the platform is restricted to licensees of Microsofts Visual Studio Integration Program. Like other pieces of the .Net strategy, Visual Studio.Net is not expected to be ready to ship until the second half of the year.

Nevertheless, the kits "provide an enormous amount of infrastructure to provide a really complete development environment," said Basim Kadhim, chief architect for Fujitsu Software Corp.s COBOL product group, in San Jose, Calif.

"From a development standpoint, we want to leverage that. To build an IDE [integrated development environment] is a very large development task," Kadhim said. Fujitsu is building a .Net compiler for COBOL.

Microsoft officials in Redmond, Wash., said the platform will provide more extensibility and greater customization than the current version of Visual Studio, letting users create wizards and macros out of the box.

Dick Hardt, CEO of ActiveState Tools Corp., said his .Net development team is about half the size of a similar effort for the Mozilla open-source framework project. The SDKs provide a rich platform and allow seamless integration with Visual Studio, said Hardt, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Working with the Microsoft stuff, youre working with a black box, but its very-well-documented," he said. "With Mozilla, you can see everything, but its not nearly as well-documented."

ActiveState has developed a version of Perl for .Net, which is in beta, and is also working on Python for .Net, a Visual XSLT tool and Visual Tcl.

"A lot of people work within the Visual Studio framework," Hardt said. "For those people who know Perl, Python or Tcl, theres no learning curve. They can be productive right away."

Users said working with the beta version has presented some headaches but nothing insurmountable.

"Certainly there is a fair amount of pain in dealing with beta technology, but Microsoft has been working very closely with us," Fujitsus Kadhim said. "We believe the end result is going to be a very powerful solution for our customers."

Despite its early stage of development, users said they already are hearing demand from their customers for tools to access .Net.