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Microsoft WebMatrix, more than a toy

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Microsoft WebMatrix, more than a toy

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Not long ago, Microsoft released WebMatrix, a new development tool that aims to make web development easy. At first, I wasn’t very convinced with it, and I was quite happy with Visual Studio 2010 for my web dev work. Did we really need another development tool for the Microsoft web stack? Visual Studio even has a free express version, so I didn’t quite get why WebMatrix was needed.

This post starts with an introduction to what is WebMatrix and I’ll share my experiences for real world projects with it in the end. And no, I didn’t stop using Visual Studio Smile.

At one of our tech lunches (a regular event at Fullsix Portugal where we get the whole server team together, order great food – and chocolates! – and watch a tech-related video), we watched the CodeMash 2011 Keynote video where WebMatrix was launched.

It blew me away. If you haven’t taken WebMatrix for a spin, watch the video. You’ll find a lot of great demos and get to see some of the coolest features in action. Josh Holmes leads the way (a great speaker) and invites people from DotNetNuke and Joomla to show how you can leverage WebMatrix to get up and running with no time with those platforms. Wait, did I just say Joomla? Yes, it’s not ASP.NET + SQL Server only… Let’s have a closer look, shall we?

When you start WebMatrix, you’re presented with 4 options:

image thumb Microsoft WebMatrix, more than a toy

The most interesting, IMHO, is the “Site from Web Gallery”. This lets you choose an open-source web application as the foundation for your website. It can go from CMS systems to e-commerce, forums and more. You’ll find products based on the Microsoft stack like Umbraco, YAF.NET, Kentico and others, but you’ll also find PHP+MySQL stuff like Joomla!, WordPress and Drupal. Choose one and you’re set to go.

How I’m using WebMatrix

WebMatrix takes care of finding all the required dependencies to have your website running, so if that means installing MySQL, then you don’t have to worry about it. It’s all taken care of. There’s a lot more to WebMatrix, like features to make publishing a snap, statistics and more, but the “Site from Web Gallery” is the feature I’ve been using the most.

A lot of the times, I need to have a website up and running in no time. This can be for trying out some things or to showcase some feature at a client meeting, and I don’t have the time to go though all the hassle of creating a web application in Visual Studio, downloading the platform, database, configure everything, etc… With WebMatrix, it really takes a couple of seconds and you’re running. This is what made me a fan of WebMatrix. It’s click, click, choose some passwords for your database, and your site is running in IIS Express. You can now customize anything you want in your website, as you have the WebMatrix IDE with all the files and database tools you’ll need until your project gets big.

After prototyping, we can choose to continue the work in Visual Studio simply clicking a button (Launch Visual Studio). This is how I go when I decide to use the work I started in WebMatrix. I never use the publish feature and I migrate the database to one of our servers, so it’s integrated with our typical ALM process.

And did I mention Razor is fully supported? Smile

Let me know how you’re using WebMatrix.

Until next time.

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