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Along with the release of Windows Server 2003 on April 24, another new Microsoft goodie hit the streets: Visual Studio .NET 2003. There's an awful lot to learn and like about this latest incarnation of Microsoft's various Visual Studio versions: like previous VS implementations, this one also comes in Enterprise Architect, Enterprise Developer and Professional editions. Microsoft's take on this new product, and literal reams of information are available here.

Among the many changes to Visual Studio .NET 2003, the following appear most noteworthy, in both Microsoft and third-party reports:

  • Works with .NET Framework 1.1, which has been improved and enhanced to add more security and offer better performance.

  • The upgrade wizard developed to move VB 6.0 applications to VB.NET has been extensively renovated, and in addition to its old tricks (still working) now upgrades User Controls and Web Classes to VB.NET as well.

  • As you'd expect in the wake of Windows Server 2003, support for XML Web services are expanded and improved. New XML standards also supported include WS-Routing, WS-Security, WS-Attachments and Direct Internet Messaging Encapsulation (DIME).

  • Always a boon for developers, the debugger's been spiffed up to provide views of data that purport to be easier to read and understand, making it less laborious to catch and kill bugs.

  • An integrated Dynamic Help system, with monthly updates in the MSDN subscription media, along with live links to online, third-party VS.NET communities, sites and information, should make it easier and faster to go from problems to solutions, or from confusion to enlightenment within the VS environment.

  • IDE improvements claimed include quicker start-up time, better performance and more reliability. Early reports from the field add credence to these claims.

  • Microsoft has added new managed providers to ADO.NET to make it easier to access Oracle 7i and 8i databases, as well as ODBC data sources. Hopefully, this will result in easier access to important back-ends.

MSDN subscribers can download Visual Studio .NET 2003 from the downloads page. Be prepared for what Microsoft politely calls "slow login and download times" if you try to grab this stuff online (the MSDN subscription will send media-based copies in a special shipment by mid-May, however). Microsoft also offers access to an MSDN Online Concierge for VS.NET questions, among lots of other topics of potential interest. Of course, you can always ask one of the VS.NET Info Center experts too.

So far reaction to the newest incarnation of Visual Studio .NET is pretty positive, but it will take time, elbow grease and a few wrong turns to learn how good this environment really is. Along the way, the ride promises to be interesting.


Ed Tittel is a principal at LANWrights, Inc. a wholly-owned subsidiary of iLearning.com, where he writes and teaches on a variety of subjects, including markup languages, development tools, and IT certifications. Contact Ed via e-mail at etittel@lanw.com.


This was first published in May 2003

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