Just before the 4th of July break, Microsoft announced a whole passel of Visual Studio .NET 2005 betas to the world. These include a full-blown release of Visual Studio .NET 2005 Beta 1, which offers lots of interesting improvements and enhancements to those pursuing professional development activities. But they also include the Visual Studio 2005 Express betas, which are "lightweight, easy-to-learn tools for hobbyists, enthusiasts, and novices" who are also interested in next-generation Windows software development tools and technologies.
On the full-blown Visual Studio 2005 front, expect to find all kinds of new and interesting capabilities. Windows Forms gets a big boost from expanded data binding controls that now separate binding indirection (DataConnector) from data navigation controls (DataNavigator). Likewise, data sources have been expanded to permit new project data sources to be added on the fly, and for binding to occur between such sources and any objects in the project data sources window.
Data views have been seriously enhanced, with better controls over select properties, improved column editing capabilities, and all kinds of user interface improvements. ToolStrips, MenuStrips, and StatusStrips now work much more like the menu editor from Visual Studio 2003 and offer improved design and look and feel controls. Also look for greatly expanded Crystal Reports capabilities, including tighter integration of more features into Windows applications, and more or less complete access from the ASP.NET side as well. This means better integration of Windows Form project templates, easy access to smart tags, and more.
To better support alternate platforms, Visual Studio 2005 also includes more development tools for Pocket PC, Smartphone, and other Windows CE .NET platforms. And finally, the Windows Forms team has put together a brutally frank assessment of feature status for new forms-related stuff in this new release as well.
On the Visual Studio 2005 Express side of things, here's what's available for download right now, beta-wise:
- Visual Basic 2005 Express
- Visual C# 2005 Express
- Visual C++ 2005 Express
- Visual J# 2005 Express
- Visual Web Dev 2005 Express
- SQL Server 2005 Express
Each of the first four items represents a possible programming language in which to work with Visual Studio, but all provide the same basic capabilities: to create Windows forms- and console-based applications, and to permit construction and manipulation of class libraries.
The Visual Web Dev element adds support for ASP.NET 2.0 to that mix, and the SQL Server element adds support for database access likewise, for any of the various language elements already mentioned. Though described as lightweight, the combination of a language plus Web and database development tools is pretty powerful and should provide thoroughgoing exposure to Visual Studio 2005's strengths and capabilities absolutely free!
Between the items planned for the full-blown release and the wealth of free, lightweight Express options now available, developers and hobbyists alike have a lot to scope out and play with. This promises to be an interesting beta cycle as we work up to the next production releases for Visual Studio 2005!
Ed Tittel is a full-time writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security topics. E-mail Ed at email@example.com with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review.