Web Matrix versus Visual Studio.Net 2003

I am sure that this post has been asked a thousand times, but hopefully I can put a little spin on it (that and I cant find everything I am looking for). Okay, I have been developing sites for a few years using Dreamweaver and standard ASP. Most of my code has been on the actual pages as opposed to another layer; but that's all I ever knew. I have always integrated databases into my sites. I liked the WYSIWYG of Dreamweaver and its ease of use. These have always been sites for the general public.

Now, what I am about to do is design a web-based information portal for my company to replace my Access (front end)/SQL Server (back-end) database. Basically, users will log into the portal and be able to do certain things based on their Windows credentials. It will be a relatively simple application where users add/update the database and as important, provide the users with the reports they need. To this extent, I plan on using SQL Server Reporting Services. I would also like to use CSS as well as templates.
So here is what I know (or what I think I know). Both Web Matrix and VS 2003 can use CSS and create templates, but I am looking for ease of creation. In the application, I am trying to avoid as much hand coding as possible to increase development speed. I would like to separate presentation code and business logic if it is not too complicated to do and if it is more adventageous to do so.
I also have heard that VS 2003 has tight integration with SQL Server Reporting Services. Does Web Matrix do the same? Also, it seems that neither Web matrix or VS 2003 have the greatest WYSIWYG, but I guess I will have to forego that for a little more power.
I have been approved to purchase VS. I am just seeing what would be the best option for my circumstances. If I do purchase VS, is the integrated help there good enought to help me learn the IDE, or is a book necessary?
I was just looking for some suggestions, and maybe a few war stories from people who have been there. I appreciate the help. Thanks,
2/4/2004 9:09:13 PM
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Good luck with your project.

We use Dreamweaver for layouts/design/CSS etc and then switch to VS2003 for adding database elements etc to the main or sub templates for that project. If it is speed of development you are after I think the Intellisense feature in VS2003 will alone save you a lot of time. There is a lot to learn in VS2003 so you would probably need to allow some book time to learn some of the main web project features.
Web Matrix does also have some benefits - as the IDE does less you are required to learn more which deepens your knowledge of the framework. It also uses inline code (out of the box) instead of the code behind model used by VS, the inline method is similar to that used by the next version of ASP.NET so that may help you in the future.
2/4/2004 9:20:51 PM
I can answer your question based on just one thing you said

"I would like to separate presentation code and business logic..."
If that is important to you, use Visual Studio.NET, Web Matrix is great for the little pages here and there, but VS.NET is based on the codebehind model, where you have the html source in one file, and the code in another file. Very nice if you need to hand off the html source to a designer to make it pretty. The code actually is compiled into one .dll file per project, so you can update code in multiple files, rebuild, and only move one .dll to the webserver. Sure you can do this if you use Web Matrix, but you will be compiling those .dll's on your own (although it's not that hard)
The IDE in visual studio is pretty straight forward and easy to learn, but of course it is nothing close to what you would find in dreamweaver, but it works for the programming side. It can only go so far, the only way you will see the page like it would be rendered on a browser, is to actually load it up.
Hope this helps, i'm sure others can add their experiences.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Luke 11:9
2/4/2004 9:33:23 PM

Thanks for the reply. I have a few questions though. You mention that the you use Dreamweaver to do the L&D then use VS to do the Database bit. Question then: do you create the standard page layout and then open that in VS or vice versa? Forgive me of not knowing the terms, but are you using an ASPX page for the main page with a bunch of pieces that are located in other files to make up the various elements of the pages? I would like to learn how to do that. You also mentioned that I need some book time. I have ASP.Net Unleashed, but it is pretty cumbersome. I had the same thing for standard ASP and didnt really read it. I used Dreamweaver, and I used the book more as a reference and read it when I needed to edit the code that Dreamweaver created. What book would you recomend for book time? I cant seem to find anything that clearly explains the concept of a "web project" versus a site.
You mention inline code versus code behind. The app I am designing is pretty simple. That said, which would you recomend using (inline or code behind)? Thanks again,
2/4/2004 9:37:54 PM

Thanks for your help. I really think that code behind would be beneficial to me considering that the pieces can be reused. In the past, I would have to copy and paste bits of code that would end up being used over and over again. I also like the idea of changing something in one place. Thanks,
2/4/2004 10:09:15 PM

To answer a few of your further points....
We normally have a photoshop or fireworks mock up of how the site should look.
We take that and use CSS and splice up some of the images and along with some HTML make the standard page as if it was static - this is then our template. For each project there will be at least one template but there could be more - perhaps we are doing a site with a public and private area and each area will have a slightly different standard look.
I then take the template and split it into common bits say a header, a left column, a right column and a footer. These can be created as asp.net user controls for and then dropped onto any page as required.
Then for each page needed we can use the these user controls to get the standard look and add page specific features as required.
You should also look at techniques called Master Pages (or similar), these allow you to create on style and inherit that style across each page. I have yet to find a Master Pages solution that I am happy to work with although I understand this will be a standard feature in asp.net 2.0.
For your move from ASP to asp.net I recommend this book http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1861007507/202-2811191-3682256?v=glance
it is out of print now due to the closure of Wrox but you may get one Used or Ebay perhaps,
it will help you learn how to build a basic e-commerce app in vs.net.
A lot of books cover the basic features across asp.net but this one helps you use those features to build something.
2/4/2004 11:41:23 PM

Thanks again for your help.
I appreciate you letting me know how the workflow goes. The way that you described seems to be a good way to do it.
I will do more research into Master Pages. You are right though, I found that in the ASP.Net 2.0, that will be a feature.
I looked at the reviews for the book and think I'll get it. I found a copy on Amazon (US). I tend to learn better in a project-oriented manner. Thats probably why I had trouble reading ASP.Net Unleashed. I think it will help me when I get better though.
You mentioned User Controls. See, these are the things I need to more fully understand.
I do appreciate all of the help though. Thanks again,
2/5/2004 12:05:24 AM

You may to also check out the IBuySpy open source projects here at asp.net. They serve as a great template. You may want to pay attention to the Classes that they use to encapsulatet the Buisness Logic of the site. These along with Stored Procedures will help seperate the html and code. I myself use VS.Net and highly recommend it. Not only will the intellisense be helpful, but the debugging features alone may be worth it. If you are going to be working with SQL Server, you will see that Enterprise Manager (to some extent) is integrated in the IDE which I find useful as well. Also, they implement user controls for the header and footer so you can take a look at the code and documentation to see what is going on.
Good Luck with your project.
2/5/2004 12:40:55 AM
Thanks for the help. I have looked at the portal in the past, but I think it will be a lot better after some practical experience. I like the Intellisense feature. I am also glad that the finer parts of EM are embedded into the environment. Thanks for the input.

2/5/2004 1:41:38 AM

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