Microsoft introduced the ASP.NET Web Matrix integrated
development environment to provide an inexpensive method for creating ASP.NET
Web applications and services. This is a valuable tool for creating ASP.NET
solutions on a budget.

And yet, Microsoft has developed a tool that tops Web
Matrix. In the near future, Microsoft will release the Express Edition of the
Visual Web Developer. For now, the second beta version of this tool is
available online as a free
. I’ll highlight some of the features of this tool, and provide a
simple example that will get you started with developing in Visual Web
Developer 2005 Express (VWDE).


The Express editions of the Visual Studio line provide a
lightweight and easy-to-use tool for developers who want to learn .NET. The
Web Developer IDE, like the other IDEs, comes with
starter kits to help beginners get their feet wet.

And, much like Web Matrix, the VWDE provides its own Web
server for you to test your code. This makes it unnecessary to install IIS on
your development machine, which is a convenience if you’re running Windows XP
Home Edition.

VWDE, however, offers much more than Web Matrix. Also, if
you’re familiar with Visual Studio .NET, you’ll see that a lot of the same
functionality exists in VWDE, including IntelliSense.

Start developing with VWDE

There are two types of models for creating ASP.NET pages:
the single-file model in which the code is inserted in the page (much like
classic ASP); and, there’s the code separation model in which the code is included in a separate file from the visual elements portion of the file. The
code separation model is available through a check box on the Add New Item
wizard. When you select this check box, VWDE creates two files: SomePageName.aspx and SomePageName.aspx.cs
(assuming you use C# for your code; otherwise, the extension will be .vb).

The page layout is created in a WYSIWYG editor. The code is
available through a source code editor (e.g., Visual Studio .NET). When you
separate the code, you generally add form elements (i.e., Web controls) by
dragging the control from the toolbox to the WYSIWYG design area. To edit the
control’s event, you will usually double-click on the control. Then, you will
be transported from the Web form WYSIWYG editor to the source code in the
source code editor. From there you can add your custom code to handle the
control’s event.

Follow these steps to create a solution in the VWDE:

  1. Go to
    File | New Web Site.
  2. Choose
    ASP.NET Web Site from the list of installed templates. Make sure that
    Location is set to File System and use the default file location. Then,
    set the language to Visual C#.
  3. Add a
    new page to the solution by right-clicking the solution name in the
    Solution Explorer and choosing Add New Item.
  4. Choose
    Web Form from the list of installed templates, set the name to whatever
    (just keep the .aspx extension), and select the
    Place Code In A Separate File check box.
  5. When
    your Web form is added, make sure you’re in the design view by clicking on
    the Design tab in the lower left-hand corner of the IDE.
  6. Click
    and drag a button control from the Toolbox to the design area.
  7. Double-click
    on the button control to reveal the Button1_Click event handler code.
  8. Add a
    line to write “Hello World!” to the Response buffer:
protected void Button1_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    Response.Write("Hello World!");
  1. Save
    your files and test your code by pressing [Ctrl][F5]—this
    will run your code without debugging ([F5] alone will allow debugging).
  2. When
    the browser opens, you should see the button on the page. Click on the
    button to see the words “Hello World!” appear.
    If this works, you should be able to start creating your own customized solutions.

Refer to the documentation included with VWDE to create more
advanced solutions. Also, consult the IDE for guided tours and communities for
help on creating VWDE solutions.

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