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WebMatrix: What is it, Why use it, and Who's it for?

Tags: Web Matrix, ASP.NET, ASP.NET Web Pages

What is WebMatrix?

WebMatrix is a free, lightweight Web development stack that makes it easy to build web sites that can grow with you, from installation to product deployment & maintenance.  Developers can take advantage of mastering fundamental concepts of building apps for the web by using WebMatrix.

WebMatrix has to be the simplest tool that I’ve seen for creating web sites in a long, long time.  If you want an entry point to the .NET platform, this is the way to go, regardless of your development background (or lack thereof). 

Why should I use yet another tool/stack/framework?

Well, that depends...

Are you working on only high end enterprise applications? If so, then WebMatrix isn’t for you. And if you’re a developer building applications that are neck deep in unit tests, are loosely coupled, highly patterned and  SOLID, you’ll want to stick with Visual Studio 2010 and likely won’t have a need for WebMatrix. 

You may, however, find yourself having to work with developers who primarily use Office and/or scripting to build their departmental (which can sometimes grow very large) applications. These folks often foray into the world of VBA and Visual Studio as well.  This intersection of the task-focused and enterprise developers is just one of the development spaces in which WebMatrix can help.

For those who prefer to build on top of or customize pre-built templates rather than writing them from scratch, WebMatrix is your tool.  WebMatrix is great for small to midsized data-over-forms and CRUD applications.  It’s also great for customizing & extending existing starter & template sites which can reduce your development time by quite a bit.

Who’s it for?

If you’re writing classic ASP or PHP sites, WebMatrix makes it more than easy to transition seamlessly over to the ASP.NET development stack.  If you’re new to web development in general, WebMatrix will be a big win for you too, as it makes it easy to build simple brochure and data-driven modular sites.  Web Pages built with the Razor view engine/syntax can also be edited in notepad, and don’t need to be compiled like you would with ASP.NET Web Forms or MVC.

For those of you already working in Visual Studio, you’ll be able to jump right in without a learning curve.  That’s great for those times when you need to work with the Office/scripting developers who would use WebMatrix as their primary tool or when building lightweight sites.

What’s in the WebMatrix download?

The WebMatrix download size is small at about 15Mb, and takes about 5 minutes to install.  In the download, you’ll get IIS Developer Express, SQL Compact Edition & the ASP.NET Razor View Engine, along with access to an OSS web application gallery and integration with web hosting providers.  By downloading the Web Platform Installer you have everything in one package that you need to create & publish rich web sites simply and quickly.  It’s really nice to finally have a complete package with all the tools in it rather than spending time finding multiple products to have to download, install and configure.

Here’s what the IDE looks like with the preinstalled “Bakery” template opened.  It’s very simple and streamlined.

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More Information

Here’s a few announcements, intros and how-to’s surrounding WebMatrix:

Download WebMatrix here: http://www.microsoft.com/web/webmatrix/download/

The Official Microsoft Web Platform Team Blog

WebMatrix eBook (.pdf) Download

Scott Guthrie’s WebMatrix Announcement

Scott Hanselman’s blog post on WebMatrix.

Chris Love has a nice series of posts out already on WebMatrix.

Your first WebMatrix application by Mike Brind

Nikhil Kothari’s thoughts about WebMatrix

The IIS Team WebMatrix Overview.

Blog post by Marc Holmes

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