Home Microsoft Demos Visual Studio LightSwitch in St. Louis

Microsoft Demos Visual Studio LightSwitch in St. Louis

Microsoft used the occaision of the St. Louis Day of .Net conference to demonstrate a new version of its Visual Studio geared for non-professional programmers. Called Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011, the tool is available as a free add-on and download for existing Visual Studio Pro (or better) customers, or as a standalone package that will sell for an introductory price of $200. You can download a free 90-day trial at the link above.

The idea is that business apps are being developed outside of the halls of traditional IT departments, and the new tool will enable more agile projects that can accomplish more without writing much code. The tool walks a user through the data design, user interface and business logic and rules steps using a series of wizards, dialogue boxes and simple pull-down menus. These use most of current programming’s best practices to set up a very usable and powerful applications infrastructure. Jay Schmelzer, one of Microsoft’s program managers for Visual Studio, did a quick demo at the start of the conference, going on today and tomorrow.

Schmelzer mentioned the legions of “citizen programmers,” as Gartner calls them, who are right now reaching the limits of what they can do with Access or Sharepoint and need a more capable app-building foundation. The nice thing about LightSwitch is that it can be used by both novice and experienced coders alike, and fits quite easily and effortlessly into the existing Visual Studio/.Net framework ecosystem. Apps that are created by LightSwitch can be deployed to a traditional client/server environment, to Microsoft’s Azure cloud or to the Web, just by choosing a couple of buttons and with a few mouse clicks.

Being Microsoft, there is already the beginning of a rich ecosystem of extensions and add-ons to LightSwitch that can be downloaded. These include tools to access Facebook, QuickBooks and Twitter data sources, as well as a number of design templates to dress up your app. As users make changes to the app, they are instantly reflected, to make tweaks easier and to fix bugs or problems faster. Speaking of data sources, LightSwitch covers the waterfront quite nicely: you have your choice of everything from simple tables in Excel to Sharepoint document repositories, SQL data stores and custom Web-based ones as well.

This is the second time this year that Microsoft has chosen a community developer conference to launch a new product: earlier this year they launched their Web Matrix tool. As part of the announcement at the conference, they revealed a contest to win a new Asus tablet by coding up a version of the popular game Rock, Paper, Scissors. But this being Microsoft, there are two additional operands: TNT and water balloons. The contest is only available to attendees at the event.

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