Microsoft WebMatrix 2 for Small Website Development

Microsoft WebMatrix 2 for Small Website Development

Microsoft released a preview of a number of new technologies and developer tools at the Microsoft Build Conference. As of today I have successfully installed Windows 8, Visual Studio 2011, WebMatrix 2, ASP.NET MVC 4 and all the related developer tools and technology stacks that come with them. As a Microsoft .NET Developer and Microsoft MVP it is always great to get early access to Microsoft development tools and technologies. I am excited about them all, but I want to focus first on WebMatrix 2, which offers a lot of interesting new features for web developers interested in developing small business websites. WebMatrix 2 is not just a website editor, but a stack of technologies offering end-to-end website development and deployment services. You get HTML, CSS, and JavaScript editing and intellisense, database development tools for SQL Server and MySQL, integration with Nuget, remote website publishing and editing, reporting on SEO and website health, ASP Web Pages and PHP Scripting, starter websites and templates, and a whole gallery of CMS, Blogging, and other applications like Orchard CMS, Umbraco, Joomla, WordPress, and DotNetNuke out-of-the-box! Let's discuss some of the new features in WebMatrix 2!

What is WebMatrix 2!

I took some notes in one of the Build Conference Presentations on WebMatrix 2 as to what WebMatrix is to web developers. It was described as such:

  • Getting Started: Web App Gallery and Templates
  • Web Server: IIS Express
  • Standards Support: HTML, CSS, JavaScript
  • Scripting Support: ASP.NET and PHP
  • Database Manager: SQL Server & MySQL
  • Optimization Tools: SEO & Performance

This is a serious collection of free development tools and technologies to develop database-driven websites using both ASP.NET and PHP! In addition, the Web App Gallery and Starter Templates are an amazing treasure of assets that can jumpstart website development. In fact, in the WebMatrix 2 Presentation at the Microsoft Build Conference the presenter built 4 websites in 60 minutes using Umbraco, Joomla, WordPress, and a starter website template.

I can attest to the power of the Web App Gallery as I use it to develop Orchard CMS Websites and create custom Orchard Themes! The only thing I prefer to do in Visual Studio is to create custom Orchard Modules and Widgets, which benefit from a higher-end development environment. Otherwise, WebMatrix 2 is great for creating Orchard CMS Websites!

New Features in WebMatrix 2

Some of the new features included in WebMatrix 2 are:

  • Code completion and validation of HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, and jQuery have been added or greatly improved!
  • The Database Manager for designing, querying, and entering data into SQL Server is 1000 times better.
  • The addition of an Extension Gallery for extending WebMatrix 2. This allows Visual Studio Developers to write extensions that further improve and provide additional functionality in WebMatrix 2.
  • Nuget is now integrated into WebMatrix 2 with the new Nuget Package Gallery. This allows you to easily add libraries and helpers to WebMatrix for Twitter, Facebook, PayPal, Amazon, etc.

I have had a chance to use all of these new features and they are all really exciting.

Nuget Package Gallery in WebMatrix 2

Nuget Package Gallery in WebMatrix 2Probably the most productive new feature in WebMatrix 2 is the Nuget Package Gallery, which allows web developers to easily install and integrate a number of helpers into their websites. There are quite a number of social networking helpers available in the Nuget Package Gallery, like:

  • Facebook Helper
  • Twitter Helper
  • PayPal Helper
  • Amazon Checkout Helper
  • Google +1 Helper
  • Disqus Helper
  • UserVoice Helper
  • Amazon Search Helpers
  • etc...

If you want to display Twitter tweets and Twitter Follow links on your website, for example, the Twitter Helper can help you do it with very little code. The same is true for all the other helpers as well. We have always been able to add these manually, but now with Nuget support built into WebMatrix 2 it is so much easier to complete these tasks!

WebMatrix 2 Extension Gallery

WebMatrix 2 Extension GalleryThe one feature that shows a lot of promise is the Extension Gallery. The Extension Gallery is like the Nuget Gallery except extensions add functionality to WebMatrix 2! Visual Studio Developers can build extensions that offer new functionality in WebMatrix 2 to help developers be more productive and have a better developer experience in general. Some of the WebMatrix 2 Extensions in the gallery include:

  • Azure Backup
  • Color Theme Manager
  • Image Optimizer
  • Image Viewer
  • Zip Backup

Until WebMatrix 2 is officially released and stable we probably won't see too many extensions. But once Visual Studio Developers ( me included ) feel confident the API for developing extensions is stable, we will hopefully find a lot more extensions available to WebMatrix Developers.

Conclusion

WebMatrix 2 is looking really good. Lots of really nice features to make ASP.NET Web Developers and PHP Developers much more productive at developing small business websites. Developers can't beat the price tag, FREE, given the number of awesome developer tools and technologies that are included in the technology stack. If you are a Microsoft or PHP website developer looking for a good set of tools and technologies for developing websites, I highly recommend you spend some time with WebMatrix 2!