VWD 2008 EE First Impressions

Uh, can’t understand the title? Verbosely, VWD is Visual Web Developer and EE is Express Edition.  😛

Microsoft not only released .NET 3.5 and the Express Editions but they also included new “How Do I?” videos. New videos include new features of ASP.NET 3.5 and LINQ. This is something that I really like from Microsoft – they release aside from the wordy walkthroughs, they provide downloadable videos with examples. Quite different during my stay where I had to recreate samples of my own by downloading the recorded webcasts from MSDN.

I was suppose to prepare some new content for ASP.NET 3.5 for the Philippine .NET Users Group. Since I am no longer from Microsoft and I don’t have any access to any non-Express Edition of Visual Studio 2008, I had to use the Visual Web Developer 2008 EE.

Like what I have said in my previous entry, the default target framework for VWD is .NET 3.5 although you can change the target framework for this. There are no additional extensions for AJAX that is needed to be installed since it is already built-in in the framework. A new ASP.NET project will give you a default webform (Default.aspx). If you want to have a default page that is AJAX enabled, you can delete this file and add a new item.

vwd08_b.png

The UI is similar to the 2005 version only that there are new templates for .NET 3.5 (notice the LINQ to SQL Classes which by default points to the App_Code folder). I am not sure if it’s a glitch on this section where I tried to add a new master page for my project:

vwd08_c.png

I guess this one means that you can nest masterpages in Visual Web Developer 2008 with IDE support. Way back in 2005, nested masterpages are supported by the framework but not in the IDE.

After creating the new AJAX Web Form, aside from having a ScriptManager control automatically on your webform, there’s a quite small nifty code that you might be curious about:

vwd08_a.png

On the <head> part of the form, you’ll see a pageLoad() Javascript function. At first look, I thought it was just a simple JavaScript function. I tried to put a typical “Hello, World” alert in there and when I ran the application, it triggered the alert on page load. Going back to the page, I noticed that there are no explicit calls to the function on page load and I was thinking if this is a new feature or not. More often than not, should I want to call on a Javascript on page load, I explicitly put in the body tag of my page the “onload” event (e.g. <body onload=”PageLoadFunction();”>). I searched for articles about the events available although I haven’t found significant results even on MSDN. Maybe they are still building up the documentation of these new functions.

Since AJAX adoption in most web applications are inevitable, I downloaded Joe Stagner’s video in  the link above regarding the AJAX integration in Visual Studio 2008. I was amazed at the integration of the AJAX Control Toolkit (ACT) with Visual Studio even if it is not a (/an official) Microsoft product. I tried it myself although to my dismay, I wasn’t able to replicate the steps he has done. What made it worse is that while I was able to add the new controls in my toolbox, I wasn’t able to drag the controls used in the video in my designer

vwd08.png

(Sorry, mouse pointers are not included in screenshots. 😦 ).

There has been an ongoing discussion in the ASP.NET forums and the error was traced to the wrong assembly information in the latest release of AJAX Control Toolkit. It’s either I have to download the trial of VSTS 2008 or wait for an updated release of the AJAX Control Toolkit with the correct assembly information. The temporary workaround (if you have the full version) is detailed here:

  1. Download the 3.5 AJAX Toolkit source code from ajax.asp.net
  2. Open AjaxControlToolkit.csproj file
  3. Bring up Project Property Pages for this project in Visual Studio 2008 (e.g., by right-clicking on C# AjaxControlToolkit project node and selecting “Properties”)
  4. On the Application tab, click on the Assembly Information button
  5. Change version number of Assembly Version to 3.5.0.0 (instead of 3.5.*.0)
  6. Rebuild the assembly
  7. Use the output DLL under bin\Debug or bin\Release subfolder (depending on which configuration you chose to build)

Whew, there are still more to discuss with the new features of Visual Web Developer. As I prepare myself bracing tableless design (for Search Engine Optimization), I think I should be prepared also facing several CSS issues across browsers. Whew!

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