Meet WebMatrix, Microsoft’s New Suite For Painless Web Development
Microsoft has unveiled a new all-in-one web development suite called WebMatrix.
It’s more than an IDE or a framework, it’s a whole suite — a web server, a SQL database, and a database-ready framework, all wrapped up into a single development environment that makes it easy to build, test and deploy some fairly complex web apps.
The new suite is especially geared towards developers building web apps that require local data storage. It’s pretty flexible, and you can also use it to build simple websites, then scale up to something mid-weight or incorporate a full-scale app that you could run a business on top of.
The WebMatrix suite is made up of three components: the lightweight Windows-based web server called IIS Express, SQL Server Compact Edition, a simple database server, and Razor, a new templating language based on ASP.NET. The beta version you can download today actually doesn’t have Razor, but it will be included in a future release “later this month,” according to Microsoft.
The three key technologies were previously announced by Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s VP of its Developer Division. Now, with the launch of WebMatrix, Guthrie has introduced a few new components.
Central to the WebMatrix experience is the Workspace. It’s is basically a singular dashboard inside the app where you develop your site, deploy files, perform various admin tasks, run SEO tests and generate analytics reports.
There’s a web apps gallery that attaches to Microsoft’s Web Platform Installer, so you can browse and install all sorts of open source packages or content management systems like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. There are also several templates and frameworks included, so if you need some CSS behaviors or you want to include JQuery interactions, all of those elements can be integrated into your workflow. The ones that aren’t included can be downloaded. You can test your app by automatically launching any of the browsers you have installed on your system.
WebMatrix has been built to let you start out very simply — you can just use it to run a WordPress site if you really wanted to — and then scale up to database-driven web apps. If you install something that requires a MySQL database, WebMatrix will even download and install MySQL for you.
It’s probably not going to eat into the user base of Visual Studio, Microsoft’s full-featured IDE for building apps across the entire Windows platform. But it’s so simple and fluid, it could very well draw some Windows-based developers from the LAMP stack over to the Windows IIS stack. Since everything is integrated — the dev environment, the frameworks, the app gallery and the web server — it’s really meant as a one-stop shop for building a site from scratch.