Today Microsoft released WebMatrix, a free Web development tool designed to give students and beginners an easy introduction to Web development.
WebMatrix is designed as a one-stop-shop for simple Web development needs, supporting both PHP and ASP.NET development. It includes support for a wealth of open source Web frameworks (including Drupal, Joomla and WordPress), a local Web server and database for development and testing, and easy deployment to third-party hosts. It also includes a number of “Web Helpers”: components providing easy integration with, for example, Twitter and PayPal. A total of some 40 open source projects are installable, customizable, and deployable through WebMatrix.
The goal of WebMatrix is to make it easy for people to get up and running with any of these frameworks; to take out the Web server configuration, database creation, and so on. They do this while still providing full access to the software if you should want it, so that extensive customizations and modifications are still possible—something that might not be the case with a traditional hosted implementation of a CMS or blog platform.
With WebMatrix’s simple front-end and extensive support for open source projects, Microsoft is hoping that the product will appeal to a wide cross-section of developers. It should offer a gentle introduction to development and customization to beginners and students, and time-saving and convenience to more experienced developers. For those who outgrow WebMatrix, migrating to one of the free or paid versions of Visual Studio is also an option, providing a natural progression as needs become more complex.
As well as providing access to these existing ASP.NET and PHP open source frameworks, WebMatrix ships with ASP.NET Razor, a new streamlined templating language for ASP.NET development. This is likely to appeal to ASP.NET developers even as they move beyond WebMatrix, as it’s a much cleaner, tidier syntax than the mix of markup used in “traditional” ASP.NET.
WebMatrix seems to be a neat tool, especially for hobbyists and others who want to publish a blog but want to go further with their customizations than is typical. What is harder to see is how much usage it will garner outside this niche; professionals are likely to outgrow it rapidly.