PDC05: Thoughts on PreConf Monday – is ASP.NET 2.0 a big enough change?

Monday marked the second and last day of the pre-conference schedule - and for me it meant a days of ASP.NET 2.0. My knowledge of ASP.NET 2.0 prior to the session could be summarised on 2 powerpoint slides - so needless to say I felt I got a lot out of the day.

A very important goal for me for the day was to understand whethere there was enough in ASP.NET 2.0 to make it a compelling choice for my UK ISVs who deliver web based user interface. The short answer is ... absolutely 🙂

The bits that I believe make it interesting:

  • It feels cleaner - code behind using partial classes removes baggage from your code and the new compilation model (giving binary only deployment etc) makes it more suited to ISVs deploying to customer sites.

  • Many ISVs get asked to "skin" their sites - especially when offering some kind of hosted service. The implementation of themes looks spot on - allowing a theme to be applied globally across all pages and then overidden at the page or control level. Nice.

  • Many ISVs need consistency across their application over several years of development and developers - MasterPages is a great help in this area. The new navigation controls also help.

  • ISVs work with data all the time in LOB applications. This is straight forward in VS 2003 but is code heavy. This has now changed - declarative binding and designer support is now the order of the day. Controls can easily be bound to objects as well - allowing rich designer based work but with a layered architecture. And yep - we have had another stab at implementing a grid. DataGrid is replaced by GridView which looks a whole lot easier to use yet more powerful. I welcome this as DataGrid had few fans amongst my ISVs. The declarative binding to SQL Server looks great - allowing caching to be used with ease and also able to easily take advanatage of cache invalidation especially with SQL Server 2005. Nice.

  • Membership and personalisation are something many of my ISVs have spent time coding into their application - I think what we deliver will match many of their core needs.

  • Customisation and extension of ASP.NET 2.0 is great - a new pluggable provider model is pervasive across the technology e.g. just create a new data provider if you have an old ISAM that you would like to bind to and still take advantage of the designer support

  • The designer has been tweaked in many ways - it looks a lot more productive to use.

  • The controls work (apparently) much better with none IE browsers. I am pretty sure I have said that before - so I will be cautious until I get positive feedback on this.

I had to keave before the section on Web Parts - this is a new model for portal development which Sharepoint v3 is embracing and extending. I skimmed the slides and it looks useful especially if combined with user controls for visual design work. Something else to add to my long list of stuff to look at post-pdc!

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