Those diehard p&p fans in the audience are no doubt familiar with the Guidance Automation Toolkit (or GAT). We first launched GAT in May 2005, and so far it has had little fanfare – but this is in fact one of our most significant deliverables. GAT allows architects and developers (that includes us as well as you) to integrate guidance deliverables into the Visual Studio environment. By “guidance deliverables” we mean things like blocks, patterns and frameworks, and they get integrated into Visual Studio using techniques such as templates, wizards and code generation (find out more by watching the on-demand webcast). The reason that GAT is so significant is that many of the deliverables that the patterns & practices team will be releasing over the next year will be built on top of GAT. For example, we’re working on some very cool new things we are calling “Baseline Architecture Tookits” or “Application Toolkits” (we still arguing over names) that will use GAT to help you build end-to-end applications for scenarios such as Smart Clients and LOB Services using p&p guidance.
So if this thing is so big, why aren’t we making more noise? First, we thought that it would be much easier to tell the GAT story once we have one or two great p&p deliverables that use it. Second, the May 2005 release of GAT only runs against Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2, which of course wasn’t a real shipping product. But now Visual Studio 2005 has finally been released, it’s time to start turning up the volume!
But first, we need a new version of GAT (and the runtime components, called the Guidance Automation Extensions or GAX) that work with the final VS2005 bits. And here’s where things get a little more complicated. GAT and GAX depend on another very useful component called the T4 Text Templating Engine. This lets you build “text templates” that are a lot like ASP pages that work with any kind of text, not just HTML. T4 is also used by the DSL Toolkit, and an older version (called T3, naturally) was included in the May 2005 release of GAT. While T4 is very nearly complete, we are told it won’t be done until December. Our original plan was to release a preview of GAT/GAX with near final bits in November (i.e. this month) and release the final version in December as soon as T4 is ready. However it has also taken a bit longer to get the rest of GAT done, and in the end it got so close to the December date that we decided it would be better to hold off and just release once with the final T4 bits.
So after that long introduction, the punchline is that we expect to have the new versions of GAT/GAX available in mid December 2005. However if you are working on a project now that uses GAT and you are urgently awaiting a new version, please e-mail me and I can get you access to near-final bits to tie you over in the meantime.