Thursday, December 14, 2006

Reviews - Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Beta (free)

A few months ago, I wrote about Microsoft Office 2007 Beta and lamented the fact that FrontPage 2003 was not part of the upgraded. I was reading a PC Magazine and one of the articles said that Microsoft's Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Beta was a much better software for newbies who need to put up web pages quickly. So, I went to Microsoft's site and downloaded the FREE beta. It's great that it is free. It also comes with a FREE PDF user's guide that looks pretty nice (good use of color), is 244 pages long, and seems pretty thorough. The full software download was a whopping 1.3 GB!

First off, the program is not intended for the same level of ease as FrontPage 2003. You can't just start typing text and inserting pictures. It's more like FrontPage's code-view layout, which I never paid any attention to when I was using FrontPage. However, if you have been doing some html (or xml) coding in the past few years, the Visual Web Developer 2005 Express provides a very nice set of modular boxes (small windows) for you to write your web codes in. Microsoft also included a nicely organized and extensive set of functions (code sets) that you use by simply clicking on drop-down boxes. So, there is no need to remember all the codes. You can just select one by clicking from a list of similar codes. The modular windows also look very well thought out. It really helps organize the process of coding. You can quickly jump around in your data files or in your code sections (or blocks). The modular windows looks a lot like MatLab windows to me. I think the recent year's beta products have been much nicer in ergonomics/process organization than their previous products. Maybe the new guy is making the difference in product design. Sorry Bill, but Ray Ozzie may have a finer touch ; )

I haven't actually built any web pages using it yet. I think I will read the user's guide first. The program is much more extensive in features (it is a full blown web development program behind all the built-in wizards), so it will take longer to get a handle on it than FrontPage. I am also learning Adobe's Flex2 for developing client-side user interface. Flex2 is VERY easy to use. It also has modular windows. You can drag and drop objects such as table, text box, checkable list box, graphics etc. Flex2 may be easier at coordinating color and font styles than Visual Web Developer Express. But Flex2 does not also integrate with the backend server-side and database interface, which the Microsoft's Web Developer does. I'll post an update of actual user experience from an amateur web developer in a couple of months.

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