Visual Studio 2005 Web Application Projects Released!#

I don't know about you, but I've never been very fond of the new Web Project System in ASP.NET 2.0. I'm sure it has its advantages for some types of users but I've definitely had more than my share of problems with it. Specifically the way that it sometimes (and randomly) starts checking in binaries in Source Control has shortened my life with at least 4 months. Furthermore, having each page compile into its own assembly (by default anyway) and therefore not having a nice place to put assembly-level attributes or define strong naming that work on the entire website has surprised me (in a negative way, that is). What I don't get is that Microsoft had abandoned a familiar and working concept (the Web Application model used in the previous versions of Visual Studio) and replaced it entirely without supporting the old way of working. To me this has always been a major breaking change, and a cause of much frustration.

Well, the pain has now officially ended: the Visual Studio 2005 Web Application Projects has been released, meaning that the old model is back with a vengeance. With a free download from Microsoft, you can get your familiar working environment back in Visual Studio 2005, but with lots and lots of improvements over the previous versions of course (not even mentioning the fact that it's now ASP.NET 2.0 with all its goodness around it).

Some highlights:

  • A project file (which I don't consider a feature, more a bugfix over the previous model)! This fixes the problems with the references getting checked in, and lots of other things.
  • Because of the project file, you also have pre- and post-build events again (the new Web Project System doesn't support them).
  • You can create working Web Setup projects again, containing the content and primary output of the project. With the new Web Project System, you have to download and install a separate update (the Visual Studio 2005 Web Deployment Projects).
  • It builds one assembly by default. This fixes the problem with the assembly-level attributes and strong naming.
  • The Global.asax file isn't ugly inline script anymore but a proper class in a code-behind file. The "Application_Start" and similar methods are still "magic" though, discovered through reflection I assume, in stead of properly overriding them from the base class or something.
  • No more Frontpage Extensions required. Be gone, _vti_*!
  • Built-in Development Web Server. Be gone, IIS! Well, not for enterprise scenarios of course, but it's still a very nice feature :-)
  • MSBuild support.
  • Better web publishing options.
  • ...

I've immediately installed and tried it and it works great! One specific detail that I think is a very nice feature (just to show that it's not a quick fix of the old model to run on Visual Studio 2005 but a real full-blown upgrade) is the "Create Virtual Directory" button in the project settings, which allows you to setup a virtual directory in IIS without having to go to the IIS console:


Anyway, this add-on has made me very happy with ASP.NET 2.0 again. It's the little things that make the difference, but the big things in this case made my day :-)

Blog | Programming | .NET | ASP.NET | VS.NET
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