WebMatrix is free to download and is available for all Windows users. The new app is ideal for developers building web apps that require local data storage. But if you have the habit of building your own websites or pursuing web design as a hobby, WebMatrix is handy tool to build simple websites, either from scratch or by modifying popular open source software.
Installation & Set Up
The installer launches to a screen that lists a lot of Microsoft that you might need. Please note that these packages are not necessary for installing and running WebMatrix. You can straightaway select the WebMatrix tab to proceed with the installation. I chose not to include Visual Web Developer 2010 and SQL Server Express 2010 and continued with the installation.
Since the initial download is very light, all the required packages are downloaded from Microsoft’s servers before the installation can begin. It a took a while for the installation to get over and you will have to restart the PC mid-way after the SQL Server installation (the installation will continue automatically after the restart). At the end of the installation, we will have the latest version of IIS, including latest IIS Web extensions like IIS Media Services as the webserver, SQL Server 2008 Express as the database and the .NET Framework to develop websites using ASP.NET.
Once the installation is complete, we get to see the see the dashboard which offers four design options and I chose the Site from Web gallery. This option allows us to edit and develop web sites derived from 28 of the popular open source platforms.
I chose WordPress and since it does not support SQL Server, WebMatrix offered to install one locally or to use a remotely hosted one. WebMatrix actually downloads all the corresponding requirements of the open source package and in this case that included PHP 5 too!
Microsoft emphasizes that WebMatrix’s power lies in its four Workspaces. Each one of these workspaces allow us to develop the website, deploy files, perform routine administrator tasks, optimize content for SEO and to pull analytics reports.
Using the Site Workspace, we can monitor the website’s real-time web requests and configure server settings as well.
Code editing is part of the file workspace and we can see real time previews of the changes made to the site. If you start designing a static website and later decide to add a database to it to enhance the functionality all you have to do is click on the Database workspace.
WebMatrix supports file transfer protocols like WebDeploy, FTP and FTPS enabling us to get the entire setup including all files, database and code to the server easily.
WebMatrix is an awesome app that does a lot of heavy lifting for those who are not web development ninjas. Even though installation of packages takes time, I was impressed with the accuracy with which WebMatrix installed all the dependencies even for rival open source platforms. The simple and clutter-free user interface is worth a mention too and it helps the focus to be on the design & code with its minimal design.
Have you tried WebMatrix already? Or using a better IDE? Share your thoughts in the comments section.