Microsoft WebMatrix is a mixed bag

Microsoft's free and easy Web development tool for noncoders has some nice features, as well as irksome shortcomings

By Martin Heller, InfoWorld |  Windows, Microsoft, web development

The SQL Server Compact Edition database has SQL semantics but is entirely file-based. That makes it perfect for low-overhead development scenarios. WebMatrix's ability to upsize from this to scalable SQL databases makes it fit into the typical Web development lifecycle. Of course, the free open source SQLite3 has many of the same characteristics, but Microsoft has always had a streak of NIH syndrome.

The product also includes an editor for the database. It isn't much, but it does the job for the schema, data, and indexes, and it keeps the novice from having to learn SQL Server Management Studio or phpMyAdmin.

Overall, I can't really recommend WebMatrix to anyone as a primary site development or maintenance tool, but it might help novices to get their feet wet, and it might help some people set up no-cost Web applications on Windows boxes. On the other hand, WebMatrix is free and doesn't take much download time, so it might be worth adding to your bag of tricks.

See the following page for WebMatrix screen images.

  • Lightweight desktop SQL database
  • Website deployment that synchronizes databases and files
  • Simplified Razor syntax and single-page model for server-side code
  • A small assortment of helpers to add common functionality easily
  • SEO site scanner and checker
  • Web application stack constructor depends on download servers being available
  • Oversimplified site editor, but easy link to Visual Studio
  • SEO checker not particularly useful

The following screen images offer a small glimpse into the WebMatrix site creation process. You can create a site from scratch or import from an existing site, but most users will likely start with a template from the WebMatrix gallery. The Razor framework and integration with the SQL Server Compact database offer a simple means to make sites dynamic, and thanks to the WebDeploy feature, publishing to a Windows server is a snap. But there are a few traps along the way.

To get a closer look at a screen, just click on the image.

WebMatrix offers a gallery of 38 public domain sites created with .Net or PHP.

When you pick an application, WebMatrix figures out the dependencies so that it can create a complete, working stack on your development machine.


Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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