Today at VSLive! we announced Visual Studio LightSwitch (link not quite up yet). LightSwitch is intended to be the simplest way to build business applications for the desktop and cloud. It provides the tools to rapidly develop professional applications from pre-built templates in a simplified development experience. It is intended to be used by professional developers.
Top level features:
- Applications are built in Silverlight
- Pre-built templates
- Support for SQL Server, Sharepoint and SQL Azure
- Applications can optionally be hosted in the cloud
- Handles more plumbing so you can concentrate on the custom business logic.
- Lots of “drag and drop” but… with full access to the .NET Framework when you need it
- You can use C# or VB
Creating a screen
A LightSwitch application running
I haven’t yet had a chance to use it (I did play with an early alpha some time back) but I welcome it as long overdue. I started out as a Unix developer using C/C++ and 4GLs (SQL Windows, Powerbuilder, Uniface etc) to create LOB applications. The mix of C and 4GLs gave me a powerful tookit to get stuff done - the right tool for the right job. I have been arguing of late that whilst Visual Studio and the .NET Framework is “all powerful”, we have lost the productivity which we had in the days of the 4GL. With a good 4GL (there were bad ones as well) you could build hundreds of perfectly usable screens with relatively few lines of code. LightSwitch aims to do exactly that.
The first public beta of LightSwitch will be available for download on August 23.
Sidebar: How does this compare to WebMatrix?
We also recently released the beta of WebMatrix, another development tool. Both LightSwitch and WebMatrix are tools for building applications, but the approach and target audience is very different.
- WebMatrix is a tool that includes a Web server (IIS Developer Express), a simple database (SQL Server Compact) and programming framework (ASP.NET). It is targeted at non-professional developers to make it easier to create new websites from scratch, or use Microsoft’s Web Application Gallery to customize popular ASP.NET and PHP open source community applications. It is about HTML UI. It’s not related to LightSwitch.
- In contrast, LightSwitch is targeted at professional developers and power users looking to create custom LOB applications leveraging data from multiple sources that can be easily deployed to the desktop or cloud. It is about Silverlight UI. It’s not related to WebMatrix.