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What's New in ASP.NET 3.5?

For those of you who have been sitting on the sideline waiting for "Orcas" to ship before you take a look at the new features in ASP.NET 3.5, it's time for you to get in the game.

icrosoft released Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 in November 2007. I have good news and, depending on your perspective, I have either bad news or good news. If you were hoping ASP.NET 3.5 would be released with a variety of new controls, features, and architectural changes then I have bad news for you. If you're still trying to master all the controls, features, best practices, project structures, deployment options, and architectural changes introduced when ASP.NET went from version 1.1 to 2.0, I have good news for you. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of new things you will want to take advantage of in ASP.NET 3.5, but the changes from ASP.NET 2.0 to ASP.NET 3.5 are more additive and incremental than monumental.

Even if you are not ready to upgrade your existing ASP.NET 2.0 applications to ASP.NET 3.5, you will want to upgrade to Visual Studio 2008 because of all its Web development-friendly new features, including full support for ASP.NET 2.0 development. Yes, you read that correctly; you can maintain and improve your ASP.NET 2.0 applications with Visual Studio 2008.

I'll describe the changes in ASP.NET 3.5 as one of two categories: ASP.NET 3.5 specific features (new controls, for example) and ASP.NET-related Visual Studio 2008 enhancements such as nested master page support.

In this article I'll review these new ASP.NET 3.5 specific features:

  • The ListView control
  • The DataPager control
  • The LinqDataSource
  • Integrated AJAX support
  • Improved designer support for AJAX control extenders
Likewise, in this article I'll review these new ASP.NET 3.5-related Visual Studio 2008 enhancements:

  • Nested Master Page support
  • Multi-Framework Targeting
  • Enhanced Web design experience
  • JavaScript IntelliSense
  • JavaScript debugging
  • CSS Properties window
  • Manage Styles tool window
Before I get into the details on what's new in ASP.NET 3.5, I want to touch on the subject of compatibility between Visual Studio 2005 (.NET 2.0) and Visual Studio 2008 (.NET 3.5). Microsoft paid particular attention to making sure that .NET 3.5 is a smooth upgrade from .NET 2.0 with a goal of not requiring you to modify any existing code when moving your code to .NET 3.5.

Another piece of good news is that there are no project model changes with Visual Studio 2008. When building new ASP.NET applications you can choose from the Web Site or Web Application project models and select the .NET Framework you want the project to target. I'm getting ahead of myself here. I'll dig deeper into the multi-framework targeting features later in the article.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in the July/August 2008 issue of CoDe Magazine, and is reprinted here by permission.

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