COMMENTARY - Some Visual Basic 6 developers have been feeling pretty unloved recently. Even though the writing had been on the wall for years, the reality of the retirement (on March 31) of mainstream support for Visual Basic 6 came as a shock to many developers. Perhaps they were waiting for Bill Gates to ride in on a white charger and save their beloved project from oblivion at the last minute. But that didn't happen.
On the other hand, existing Visual Basic 6 code didn't vanish in a puff of green smoke on April Fool's Day, either. Nor did Microsoft suddenly delete the thousands of pages of support information available on the MSDN Web site for VB 6 developers. In fact, they chose this week to launch a new page on MSDN: VBRun: The VB 6 Resource Center. With this site, Microsoft goes a long way to show that it does, in fact, still love VB 6 developers (even if some of that might be the sort of "tough love" that the developers in question would rather do without).
The new Resource Center is divided into three main sections, which provide a natural progression for the Visual Basic 6 developers looking to move their skills into the newer world of VB .NET development:
- Greatest Hits links to some of the tons of existing content on using Visual Basic 6, on MSDN and elsewhere on the Internet.
- VB Fusion discusses the use of VB 6 and VB .NET together through techniques such as COM Interop.
- Stay the Path provides resources to help VB 6 developers make the transition to VB .NET, either when maintaining existing applications or writing new ones.
Of course, some VB 6 developers won't be happy with the creeping VB .NET content is in this new site. But then, some developers wouldn't be happy with anything short of the announcement of a COM-based VB 7.0 with free upgrades for VB 6 users. . .and frankly, that's not going to happen. Like it or not, software development is an industry that does not stand still. Sure, there are plenty of people making a quiet living in various backwaters of maintenance programming with obsolete tools and technologies; there are jobs out there for VAX-11 assembly language programmers. But the cutting edge keeps moving. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it's going to stay.
VB 6 came out five years ago, and it's been tremendously successful. The new Resource Center collects the best information out there to help programmers continue to leverage that success on existing applications, and even to build on it with new applications where that makes sense. But it also points quite clearly at the upgrade paths for both skills and applications. While VB 6.0 continues to be supported (free support is over, but you can continue to buy support incidents if you really need them, and the VB 6 runtime will ship with and be supported as part of Longhorn), it's clear that VB .NET is the place to put your Visual Basic energy for the next several years.
So whatever you're doing with Visual Basic 6, you ought to appreciate this new part of MSDN. If you're still actively involved with VB 6 development, it's your chance to find some top-notch articles that you might have missed the first time around. MSDN is promising weekly content updates, so bookmark this site for frequent visits. When you're ready to move on to VB .NET, either as an adjunct to or as a replacement for your VB 6 development, the links are right there, waiting for you. Remember, just about all of us who are writing VB .NET code now started off in "classic VB." It's not such an impossible transition, and this site is just one of the excellent resources Microsoft makes available to help you along. What do you think?
Mike Gunderloy is an independent developer and author working in eastern Washington state. His recent books include Painless Project Management with FogBugz (Apress) and Coder to Developer (Sybex). You can read more of Mike's work at his Larkware Web site, or contact him at MikeG1@larkfarm.com.