Understanding Microsoft LightSwitch, aka Visual Studio Lite

Understanding Microsoft LightSwitch, aka Visual Studio Lite

Microsoft is continuing to invest in LightSwitch — its new development environment that’s supposed to make it super-easy to build business software. Think of LightSwitch as being a “Visual Studio Lite” — it has some of the same capabilities as Microsoft’s professional integrated development environment, Visual Studio Professional, but in an IDE that’s a lot easier to use and geared specifically for data-driven desktop or cloud applications.
The sorts of things you can do with LightSwitch: Create managed .NET cloud and desktop apps in Visual Basic and C#, deploy to Windows Azure and SQL Azure, leverage predefined templates.
The sorts of things you can’t do with LightSwitch: Create native applications in C++; create Web pages in HTML or JavaScript; create rich Internet apps using Silverlight; develop server applications using ASP.NET; build Office or SharePoint applications; create applications for Windows Phone or Xbox.
LightSwitch first appeared in 2010, and to be honest, has generated pretty tepid response. A lot of developers don’t understand why they’d want a “dumbed-down” version of Visual Studio. But that’s okay — LightSwitch isn’t designed for them anyway. I would suggest that LightSwitch is for someone who is used to creating business applications in, say, Excel, and is looking for something more.
Essentially, LightSwitch can create desktop or cloud apps that are based on databases and manipulation of data. You can probably tell pretty quickly if LightSwitch is for you. I can tell you, LightSwitch isn’t for me. Maybe it’s good for you, maybe not. But think more open-mindedly: Instead of asking, “Hmm, is this something I can use,” perhaps a better question is, “Is there someone in my organization who could use LightSwitch?” If you are in a .NET shop, the answer is probably yes.
If you are thinking, “Hmm, this might be useful….” you might want to know what’s coming in the next version, LightSwitch 2012. Check out Beth Massi’s team blog on MSDN.
Here you have it. If you are a professional developer, LightSwitch, or as I think of it, “Visual Studio Lite,” is probably not for you. But it may be the right tool for someone else in your organization.
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