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How can I make a VB6 network app available on the Internet using .NET?

I have an application developed in VB6 that people interact with on a network of PCs. How simple would it be to make the same application available to browser users on the Internet using VB.NET?
You really have three choices here:
  1. You can leave your application in VB6 or port it to VB.NET and distribute your application (along with all of the patches) via a setup program or MSI file.
  2. You can rewrite your VB6 application in ASP.NET, keeping as much of the flavor of the original application as possible.
  3. You can port your VB6 application to VB.NET and deploy it as a "smart client."

The first option has the advantage that distributing an application and its patches is well-known and well-understood. The disadvantage, of course, is keeping all of the client machines up to date with the latest version of the application.

Option two is nice because you get the Web application deployment model. The downside, of course, is that you're pretty much rewriting your application from scratch and, no matter what you've heard to the contrary, this is not an easy job. Plus, when you're done, you'll just have a Web site and not a fully-featured Windows application.

If you're not familiar with .NET "smart clients," they're Windows applications built using .NET that are launched with an URL, e.g. http://networkofpcs/myapp.exe.

Option three allows you to port your VB6 application to VB.NET and then deploy it by parking it on a Web server and e-mailing around an URL. As your application changes, e.g. bug fixes, new features, etc, each client will get the latest and greatest version when they surf to the application.

For more information about option thee (one of my very most favorite things about .NET), check the following sources:

  • The smart client Wahoo! sample, Chris Sells
  • .NET zero deployment: Security and versioning models in the Windows Forms engine help you create and deploy smart clients, Chris Sells, MSDN Magazine, July 2002
  • Increasing permissions for Web-deployed WinForms applications, Chris Sells, MSDN Online, Nov. 5, 2002

    This was first published in January 2003

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