n this article, I will share with you the results of my search for zero-cost resources for the ASP.NET developer. Space restrictions limit the depth to which I can discuss each item that I've found, but my descriptions should be enough for you decide if you would like to research the material further.
Fortunately, there are a number of free ASP.NET resources at your disposal so your current lack of funds isn't going to be a problem. These resources include development environments, Web controls, open source projects, utilities/tools, and a number of Web sites with articles and tutorials to select from. So relax and stop worrying. You may not have a penny to your name, but you can still develop ASP.NET Web sites!
Why not start at the source? Microsoft provides a number of free resources that help promote ASP.NET (and .NET in general).
ASP.NET Web Matrix
It is logical to start with the ASP.NET Web Matrix Project because before you can start to build ASP.NET solutions, you need a tool to build them with. ASP.NET Web Matrix is a free (hence its inclusion in this article!) ASP.NET IDE. Microsoft designed it to be a lightweight tool designed for ASP.NET development. It features an ASP.NET and HTML designer, the ability to work directly with Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server databases, support for multiple programming languages, the ability to create data-bound pages without writing any code, and the ability to work with XML Web services (see Figure 1).
|Figure 1: The ASP.NET Web Matrix IDE used to create a page.|
If you are already working with Visual Studio .NET and you are thinking that Web Matrix sounds like it could replace Visual Studio .NET, it can't and it won't. While Web Matrix is no Visual Studio .NET, it does serve a purpose and has one feature that Visual Studio .NET cannot match, the price!
It's 1:37 A.M. and you find yourself dazed and wandering through the streets of Las Vegas. You remember thinking to yourself, "With a hand like this, I can't lose!" You're tired, your feet ache, and more importantly, you're broke.
If you are looking for an open-source .NET Web server written in C#, I have good news for you. It exists and it's named Cassini (see Figure 2).
|Figure 2: The Cassini Web Server user interface is pretty simple.|
When Microsoft initially released the ASP.NET Web Matrix Project it included a mini-Web server named the ASP.NET Web Matrix Web Server. Since then, Microsoft has released the complete managed C# source code and named it Cassini.
One feature of Cassini is that it will only accept requests from localhost, so you won't open your development machine up to Web server worms and other nasty code. On the other hand, since Microsoft provided the source code, you could change Cassini to accept non-localhost requests.
If you're currently using IIS and you think that you won't ever need to use Cassini, you might want to rethink that. Consider the situation where you have an application and you want to ship some ASPX files with it. You can not (and should not) assume the user will have IIS running so you can ship Cassini as a mini-IIS in your application. Since you are not dependent on IIS when using Cassini, other opportunities open up for distributing ASP.NET applications; for example, creating auto-run CDs containing ASP.NET applications.
Issue Tracker Starter Kit (Beta)
|The ASP.NET Resource Kit is a must have resource for ASP.NET developers.
Before I jump into the Issue Tracker Starter Kit, I'll take a moment to explain what a Starter Kit is. Microsoft created them to help you build better applications. Starter Kits are functional applications, complete with source code, focused on a particular task. You customize them to do exactly what you want them to do. I liken them to using off-the-shelf software that you can customize to suit a particular client's needs. Solid documentation, adherence to Microsoft best practices, and support in the forums on ASP.NET are what you will find when you use a Starter Kit. You can download the ASP.NET Resource CD from http://msdn.microsoft.com/asp.net/asprk/
The Issue Tracker Starter Kit enables project teams to keep track of outstanding project tasks, the owners assigned to those tasks, project history, and other project-related issues (see Figure 3
). The kit supports Access and SQL Server/MSDE 2000. Only C# source code is available now, though VB .NET code should be coming soon.
Time Tracker Starter Kit
Figure 3. Track project items with the Issue Tracker Starter Kit.
Figure 4. Log time entries spent on projects using the Time Tracker Starter Kit.
The ASP.NET Time Tracker Starter Kit (see Figure 4
) allows users to track the time worked on projects. Microsoft has released the source code in both VB .NET and C#, and this kit supports both IIS and Cassini. Features include the ability to create projects, log work completed, track daily time, and time tracking reports.