September 23, 2011
By Geof Harries in Programming
How Microsoft WebMatrix improved my development workflow
Microsoft WebMatrix is one of those products that falls through the cracks; it's not well known and is underutilized by those in the Microsoft web and software development community. I'd like to help change that.
WebMatrix's big brother, Visual Studio, is the cornerstone of Microsoft-based development tools. It does everything and anything you want it to, especially when paired with SQL Server and IIS. The issue with this configuration is not only that it's difficult to assemble, but it's also very time consuming. In fact, Microsoft expects that the average Visual Studio installation process will last anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour.
If most of what you do is development, that is, real programming, then this setup experience isn't a big deal. You'll be using Visual Studio every day and you need all of the power and flexibility that the software provides. Grab yourself a drink, a comfortable chair and prepare to be lulled to sleep by the slowly inching progress bar.
As I'm a designer, I don't need or want every single feature that Visual Studio provides. I also don't want to have to muck around in IIS and SQL Server - as awesome products as they are - because I have other things to do, like say, design.
This is the exact spot where WebMatrix is sweetest. Within minutes after installing the software from Web Platform Installer, I can have a fully functional project up and running. I only need to point WebMatrix at a directory and the software does the rest, from port configuration up to request monitoring. Seriously, it's magic.
One of my favourite features of WebMatrix is the most important: code editing. It's got all of the basics - highlighting, colourization, tag completion and hinting - wrapped up in an attractive, subtly-appointed interface. Plus, hey, baked-n support for the Razor syntax. I love Razor.
Yeah, this is a bit of a WebMatrix love-fest. I'm not going to apologize for that; the software completely changed how I felt about web and software development on the Microsoft technology platform. If you're in the same boat - a designer working with Microsoft-based programmers - you owe it to yourself to take WebMatrix for a spin.