Thursday, March 27, 2008

Web development 2008 ! We've come a long way ! Now where’s Notepad ?

Darren, our framework developer who plays with all the new cool tech had a play with VS2008 web development, and the results were not very pretty.

Today I had a simple task; Make a small application to demonstrate the new features in Visual Studio 2008 for Webform development. I had attended the Brisbane "Heroes Happen 2008" Microsoft launch event the previous day and thought "A quick 20 minute job". Hmmmm...

The Agenda...

  1. The impressive UpdatePanel
  2. Intellisense in JavaScript editing
  3. Debugging JavaScript in Visual Studio

I should say at this point that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Winforms developer although I have developed a fair few websites in my time. I've built web apps (mostly modestly sized affairs) using everything from Visual Interdev (remember that?), Notepad, and all .NET Visual Studio editions. I've done it but I have to say I don't like it. Why? If I'm brutally honest I hate the pace of development, the fact the tools aren't properly integrated and browsers that can't agree how to render anything useful; These are just my top 3 hates.

Anyway, yesterday I was truly impressed with the demos and found myself thinking maybe web development could be fun at last...

How wrong I was.

I had about 90% of the demo complete well within my initial estimate and then proceeded to put the breakpoint on the JavaScript code in the page and entered a world of pain. I use Firefox as my main browser and, naturally, VS 2008 JavaScript debugging doesn't work there. Okay, set IE 7 as my default browser for the web project, problem solved... well, no. Hmmm... Reboot? No. Repair install of Visual Studio? No. Another reboot? No. Go moan to someone else about how s@#t web development is? Worked like a charm.

Somebody please explain how bringing someone over to your PC and showing them how something doesn't work can suddenly kick it into life. I say this, but it didn't work the *first* time, just the second and every time since.

Its things like this that give me killer headaches and make me want to go back to the nice cosy world of framework development...

Aside from a nice preview of the 'design' and the (admittedly) cool CSS stuff there aren't a lot of compelling reasons to spend a large wad of cash rather than just use notepad. I mean, if I'm going to get stressed and generally harassed by technology that isn't reliable, doesn't work and then magically cooperates I may as well start in the position of expecting things to be tough and just use everyone's favourite free web development tool.

PS I don’t really mean that we should be using notepad because it would be really frustrating. The issue is that Visual Studio 2008 is so close, but so frustratingly far from being a great web development environment.

PPS I love everything else about Visual Studio.

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