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Check out these Web development tools from Microsoft


As a Web developer who has worked with various platforms including Java, Lotus Domino, and now Microsoft, I am often overwhelmed by the number of development tools and options streaming out of Redmond. Here's a rundown of the current Microsoft products that are available for building Web-based applications.

  • Expression Web Designer: The Expression product line offers the full gamut of products for building both Web and Windows applications. It builds upon the ease-of-use of FrontPage to provide a powerful development tool. The Expression Web Designer promises a strong adherence to Web standards. While you can generate content specifically for Internet Explorer, it purposely generates standard, valid HTML and CSS by default. It focuses specifically on HTML and CSS, while other pieces of the Expression suite of products cover other aspects of development. It contains validation tools for CSS, HTML, and accessibility to ensure standards-based code is produced. If you're interested in developing Web graphics, the Microsoft Expression Design tool is available.
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007: The other avenue for developers working with Microsoft technology is SharePoint Designer. It advertises itself as another FrontPage successor for developers with a focus on the Microsoft SharePoint platform. It fully integrates with SharePoint and provides limited support for Microsoft's Web platform ASP.NET. It provides access to the many features of the SharePoint environment so Web developers can easily customize and enhance SharePoint-based sites. It is worth noting that you can develop basic sites with the tool, but it is not recommended. Like Expression Web Designer, it supports creating pages that adhere to Web standards with tools for checking CSS, HTML, and accessibility.
  • Visual Web Developer 2005 Express: This product facilitates the building of sophisticated Web sites without writing any code. It utilizes the ASP.NET platform, so sites are built using Microsoft technology. The key aspect of this tool is building sites and even backend data sources using drag-and-drop. It includes a built-in Web server for creating and testing Web pages on a single computer without using a development Web server, and it allows you to easily roll out an application via FTP. This product is meant to give developers an introduction to the Microsoft platform. It is the entry point for the more robust Visual Studio line of development tools.
  • Popfly: This add-on for the Visual Studio line simplifies the creation of Web pages, mashups, and so forth. It features an online community to share your work.
  • Silverlight: This is a cross-browser, cross-platform Visual Studio plug-in for delivering the next generation of Microsoft .NET-based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web. It is a direct competitor to Adobe's Flash.

Note: I didn't mention the more comprehensive Visual Studio versions for building Microsoft .NET-based applications; this list is meant to provide you with a sampling of Microsoft's offerings for Web developers.

Which Web development tool is right for you?

The tool you choose comes down to your development role. If you focus on building sites that do not utilize underlying Microsoft technology, you can lean on the Expression Web Designer and feel confident with the results. Corporate developers with a SharePoint infrastructure can use the SharePoint Designer tool to enhance and customize their sites and, at the same time, be able to build sites that do not utilize SharePoint, so it covers all aspects of their Web development duties.

For those Web developers working with the ASP.NET platform while not being a coder, the Visual Web Developer 2005 Express IDE will suffice. It facilitates Web page authoring and editing using ASP.NET components and Web standards with no code (C#, VB.NET, J#, etc.) support. Developers focusing on rich Web applications along the lines of Adobe Flash will rely on the Sliverlight tool.

Personally, I often have my hands deep in .NET code, so the Visual Studio line of products fit most of my needs. However, I am more involved with SharePoint-based solutions, so the SharePoint Designer comes in handy; also, it is easy to use for basic Web sites with no SharePoint or ASP.NET integration.

A moment of silence for FrontPage

With FrontPage being laid to rest after nine years, it is worth examining why it was never fully embraced by the Web development community. The main complaint with FrontPage was its lack of adherence to Web standards. The messy code with countless tables in its generated pages drew the ire of the Web development community, but it did not deter widespread product usage. It often generated sites that worked well in Internet Explorer but nothing else. Microsoft vowed a stronger support for standards with its latest products while not always reaching this goal.

Numerous options

One of my complaints with Microsoft technologies and tools is the overabundance of options, which can overwhelm even seasoned developers. Microsoft is more geared toward specific tools these days as Web, SharePoint, and .NET developers have viable options with some overlap. Choosing the right tool is tied to daily development tasks and future needs.

What is your experience with past or present Microsoft development tools? Do you think Microsoft has made acceptable progress toward embracing Web standards? Share your thoughts and experience with the Web development community.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

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About

Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...

7 comments
sarkut_2007
sarkut_2007

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MalakieUSN
MalakieUSN

I would love to find a tool that was as easy to use and as powerful as Frontpage however. Even a novice could use and build websites with Frontpage. For me, create a tools just like Frontpage but with complete compatibility and adherence to all coding types and standards... Now if such a tool already exists... name it! Malakie

Grayson Peddie
Grayson Peddie

Me? Home Automation! I'd like ti so I'd communicate with the host application, which then communicate with my [url=www.insteon.net]Insteon[/url] network via RS232 communication. I'd use ASP.net membership provider for logging into my home automation network from my Pocket PC Phone (to prevent others from messing with my lights, etc.) and SQL Server, for storing devices like lamp modules, appliance modules (bed vibrator, for example), light switches, etc. Of course I'd either not allow anyone to register, for security reasons--maybe Windows CardSpace for secure login, but there's no support for Windows CardSpace in Windows Mobile 5 and 6 as described in http://forums.microsoft.com/MSDN/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1810346&SiteID=1 It's kind of like [url=http://www.homeseer.com/]HomeSeer[/url], but streamlined with my own custom graphical user interface and I don't have to pay $199 for that.

mgoff2
mgoff2

For a Web Site which pretend to be about Web and Tecnology you should implement a printer friendly version of your articles. Serge.

mrfunnyman
mrfunnyman

Ok, first off, I'll be the first one to admit that I don't program for a living. Not to say that I don't have the programming chops, I simply make my living more as a designer/front-end coder than I do anything else. That said, I personally stay away from Microsoft products when doing any type of Web Development. I've been around long enough to cut my teeth on FrontPage 98. I know first hand why a lot of my designer friends call it the "f" word on the web. In the design community, I believe Microsoft still suffers from the stigma created by FrontPage. Designers still remember when FP changed their code for no reason, created pages that work great in IE but nothing else and having to remember to turn on FrontPage extensions, among other issues. And that whatever web design product they (Microsoft) puts out from now on will be met with that same trepidation. I think the other major issue with FrontPage (and then Expression Web), is the lack of support for competing technologies. (Forget using any Microsoft Web products on a Mac.) It just doesn't play well with anything but ASP/ASP.NET. You might be saying, why should they? Think about it. Does anyone honestly think that Dreamweaver would be as popular as it is if all it supported was ColdFusion? I don't think so. Microsoft knows how to put out development tools. Expression Web is a good product. We all recognize that fact. But for Microsoft to make inroads into the Dreamweaver market share, they'll have to put out a quality product that can support the broad landscape of technologies and not just .NET. Just my 2 cents.

mgoff2
mgoff2

I purchased a license as I was very impressed with the beta. I had high hopes of recommending it in our arge shop UNTIL I hit the BOM. This three-character 'byte order mark' regardless of its usefulness, wreaks havok on library control of enterprise applications. I'm sorry Microsoft, it's a bug and I ain't buying it.