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At the PDC: Future VB version may integrate queries, programs

LINQ is a set of Microsoft .NET Framework changes that are intended to simplify the developer's role in data query building. In effect, queries become integrated features of the Visual Basic language.

People sometimes fault Microsoft for chatting up technologies before they are ready for market. That is one reason the company periodically puts on its Professional Developers Conference (PDC). The assumption is that professional developers by nature must look far beyond the horizon, and that forward-looking material has a natural place there.

An example of something of long-term interest -- though not of immediate practical use -- is Microsoft's recently disclosed Language Integrated Query (LINQ) Project. It was put together by the company's language, data and runtime development teams. Many observers already assume it will set the tone for changes in upcoming versions of Visual Basic.

LINQ is a set of Microsoft .NET Framework changes that are intended to simplify the developer's role in data query building. It consists of CLR support, language extensions to Visual Basic -- as well as C# -- and a unified programming model for querying objects, databases and XML. In effect, queries become integrated features of the language. VB developers who are tired of Structured Query Language (SQL) or less than enamored with learning XQuery may find interest in LINQ, although, as already noted, it will be some time before it comes online.

In an interview with SearchVB.com at PDC, Paul Vick, Microsoft technical lead on Visual Basic, confirmed that LINQ support is intended for the next major version of Visual Basic. "The overarching benefit of LINQ is you can learn one way of working with objects, querying SQL and querying XML," he said.

"Today you can't easily query across objects," Vick continued. "You have to write a lot of code, a lot of ifs and fors. It is simple code, but you have to do it over and over again. You feel like you are a plumber."

Anders Hejlsberg, Microsoft distinguished engineer and author of C#, noted, "Everybody uses data in their applications, but the way you write data-intensive programs today is not the best situation. You have to master object languages, SQL and [data] APIs, and bind to them, and there are mismatches." Hejlsberg and Microsoft Architect Don Box have written a paper outlining LINQ.

Vick emphasized that LINQ was "additive," in that VB developers and others can continue to use ADO.NET as their chosen data architecture.

A technical preview of LINQ, available at PDC, includes pre-release versions of a new C# compiler, with extensions to support LINQ, as well as a Web link for downloading a Visual Basic compiler that has built-in LINQ support. Both of these pre-release compilers are said to work with Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2005.

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