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web developmentMicrosoft has a history of releasing some great free tools The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best The Top 5 Free Microsoft Products & Why They Are The Best Read More for Windows users now and then. Recently they have unveiled WebMatrix, an all-in-one web development suite to cater to the development community. WebMatrix is not just a typical IDE or development framework but has a bouquet of tools –  a web server, a SQL database, and a database-ready framework.

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

web development

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.

web site development

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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.

Dashboard

web site development

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.

web site development

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!

web design and development

Workspaces

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.

web design and development

Using the Site Workspace, we can monitor the website’s real-time web requests and configure server settings as well.

web development

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.

web development

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

For those who are not exactly fans of Microsoft, we have earlier covered Kompozer Kompozer - Free Web Design Software To Whip Together Webpages Kompozer - Free Web Design Software To Whip Together Webpages Read More , a free web design software and the uber famous Firebug Amateur's Guide To Customizing Website Design With FireBug Amateur's Guide To Customizing Website Design With FireBug Read More plugin for Firefox.

Have you tried WebMatrix already? Or using a better IDE? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

  1. Ben
    November 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I try not to complain about free products but...

    The install did take about an hour. Not sure what all it installed- I think it installed and installer program first. After the two reboots I was up and running, well not exactly running. After another hour of the 'Quick Start' installing the PHP I decided to come here and write a comment while I wait.

    I am sure by the time Web 2.0 had gone the way of the Macarena and Web 4.0 is the new norm I will be coding away.

    Oh, Windows Essential 5.1 Download {4 of 4} Install PHP 5.2 {2 of 3} looks almost done.

  2. Ben
    November 10, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I try not to complain about free products but...

    The install did take about an hour. Not sure what all it installed- I think it installed and installer program first. After the two reboots I was up and running, well not exactly running. After another hour of the 'Quick Start' installing the PHP I decided to come here and write a comment while I wait.

    I am sure by the time Web 2.0 had gone the way of the Macarena and Web 4.0 is the new norm I will be coding away.

    Oh, Windows Essential 5.1 Download {4 of 4} Install PHP 5.2 {2 of 3} looks almost done.

  3. jasray
    September 3, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Yes, WebMatrix was mentioned on another site several weeks ago--so excited I was. If anyone is considering the install, think twice; getting the entire Matrix off of your machine is nearly impossible.

    I admit I don't have much Web Site building experience, but I find using Expressions 4 and XAMPP infinitely easier, faster and more comprehensible. The documentation much simpler and abundant.

    WebMatrix, with your brief tutorial, has unbelievable potential, but for a casual user--I was nearly lost and certainly not going to fool around with it any longer.

    The uninstall--have fun! Clearing all the files and programs and registry keys may take a week.

    Nevertheless, if one took maybe six months to really learn the program, his/her skills would be quite valuable.

  4. jasray
    September 3, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Yes, WebMatrix was mentioned on another site several weeks ago--so excited I was. If anyone is considering the install, think twice; getting the entire Matrix off of your machine is nearly impossible.

    I admit I don't have much Web Site building experience, but I find using Expressions 4 and XAMPP infinitely easier, faster and more comprehensible. The documentation much simpler and abundant.

    WebMatrix, with your brief tutorial, has unbelievable potential, but for a casual user--I was nearly lost and certainly not going to fool around with it any longer.

    The uninstall--have fun! Clearing all the files and programs and registry keys may take a week.

    Nevertheless, if one took maybe six months to really learn the program, his/her skills would be quite valuable.

    • Mohan Ramkumar
      September 3, 2010 at 9:48 am

      I totally agree with you when it comes to uninstalling the app. There are like 10 different installations associated to it and they will have to be removed one after another. The simplicity of WebMatrix nulled out this disadvantage for me.

    • spragued
      September 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm

      This is why it's usually best to set a System Restore point before any big install. Usually, Windows does it for you before it installs anything big.

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