Microsoft WebMatrix

by Charles Cherry

Microsoft WebMatrix is a product currently under development at Microsoft. It is being billed as a “small, simple, seamless” tool for building websites. This is from the WebMatrix home page:

WebMatrix is for developers, students, or just about anyone who just wants a small and simple way to build Web sites. Start coding, testing, and deploying your own Web sites without having to worry about configuring your own Web server, managing databases, or learning a lot of concepts. WebMatrix makes Web site development easy.

I’ve played around with it a bit, and I must say that I really like the concept. It uses what seems like a hybrid of classic ASP and ASP.Net MVC. All code is inline, like in classic ASP (and PHP, etc.) but there are quite a few ASP.Net MVC-style “web helpers” – shorthand code that produces HTML when the page is rendered to the browser.

The IDE also has built-in support for creating and editing simple databases using SQL Server Compact edition. It also includes a simplified version of the .Net Membership Provider, so adding things like user profiles, logins, site registrations, etc., are a snap to implement.

WebMatrix comes with a huge number of templates for creating sites based on many popular CMS engines, like DotNetNuke, WordPress, Drupal, Subtext, Umbraco, etc.

WebMatrix comes with templates for DotNetNuke, WordPress, Umbraco, etc.

The templates include everything you need to get started with those sites. If you create a new WordPress site, for instance, the tool will download and install (if necessary) PHP, MySQL, and whatever else the template needs to run.

WebMatrix is currently an early beta version, and it has a lot of shortcomings. In its current form I’m not sure a novice would be able to get much out of it. I really hope MS invests the time and resources to make this a polished product. I think there are a lot of developers out there who could use a product like this to put up simple blog sites and small, focused, product sites for small businesses that need database support, without all the overhead (and cost) of Visual Studio 2010.

To read more about WebMatrix, and to watch some introductory videos, click here.

Microsoft WebMatrix.