eWEEK Technology Editor Peter Coffee provides a walk-through evaluation of Microsofts Visual Studio.Net. A more comprehensive review of VS.Net will appear here the day Microsoft launches the tool set, Feb. 13. Coffee says of VS.Net: "Microsoft has taken on the challenge of making distributed Web services, and non-visual server-side application elements, as accessible to developers as it made the resources of a stand-alone Windows PC with the original Visual Basic. The resulting product is a good deal more than just the next generation of edit, compile, debug, repeat, release. "
Not so much a development environment as a Web services development portal with programming tools included, Visual Studio .Net offers access to on-line resources (including free hosting service for Web service prototype efforts) as well as both new and old project types (from Web services down to Console applications).
Visual C# projects highlight the role of Microsofts new Java-like language in its Web services plans; Visual Studio Analyzer projects and Application Center Test projects highlight the welcome integration of testing tools into the new environment, a crucial concern as applications become dependent on the Internets external resources.
Conventional source code editing in Visual Studio .NET, shown here in the novel but comfortably Java-like C#, benefits from integrated outlining facilities to collapse and expand blocks of code in useful ways -- but still without some of the valuable productivity aids, such as selective viewing of lines containing a target pattern, that we find so useful in third-party editors like KEDIT and Visual SlickEdit.
The code shown here includes some of the unfamiliar constructs required to make use of the security facilities in the .Net framework. For years, developers have said that they would write secure applications if programming languages didnt make it so difficult. We can debate the degree to which this responsibility belongs to developers of operating systems, rather than individual applications, but the tools are now here. It remains to see if developers will use them, and how successfully attackers will evade them.
In addition to working with source code, Web services developers will also need to work often with XML and HTML. Integrated editors in Visual Studio .Net offer a high degree of syntax awareness and autocompletion support for all of these tasks, but we found that source code editing does not drive visual user interface tools in the dynamically bidirectional manner of current Java tools such as Oracles JDeveloper.
Changing the code that describes a user interface element does not immediately change the appearance of that element in Microsofts Forms Designer, but defers the change until that tool next becomes active. To avoid inconsistencies, the code that Forms Designer generates comes marked with an explicit warning not to attempt manual editing. How 90s.
Visual Studio .Net also has visual tools for HTML design and XML navigation, and can combine the tools shown separately here into convenient tabbed groups (oriented either vertically or horizontally; note the several horizontal tabs along the tops of the middle and lower windows here).
We found it fairly easy to overwhelm the visual XML navigator with a moderately long XML schema of fewer than 5,000 lines, and that navigators overview window quickly became useless when faced with a wide tree of relationships: The more you need that map to find your way, the less useful it will be. Third-party toolmakers, take note: Theres still room at the table.
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