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Microsoft releases WebMatrix web development tool

17 January 2011, Mike Williams

Microsoft has released WebMatrix 1.0, a comprehensive web development tool that the company claim “includes everything you need for website development”.

And once you’ve seen what’s included, it’s hard to disagree.

The tiny installer will by default install essential core components: Microsoft SQL Server Compact 4.0 caters for your database needs, for instance, while IIS 7.5 Express is a powerful server that you can use for testing.

A simple wizard will then create an initial web site for you, based on any of a host of free and open-source web applications: DotNetNuke, Drupal, Joomla!, phpBB and more (there are 39 options to choose from).

The bundled Web Platform Installer can extend the system with a lengthy list of development tools: ASP.NET MVC 3, PHP, Visual Web Developer 2010 Express, Expression Encoder 4, and a host of IIS extensions, amongst many others.

And an integrated code editor, web server manager and FTP publisher helps tie everything together, ensuring that you really can create, deploy and manage your site from this one (fairly) lightweight tool.

Whether any of this quite justifies Microsoft’s excited claim that WebMatrix means “developing websites has never been easier” is less clear. It’s a handy tool, yes, but you’re going to need considerable web development knowledge and experience before you can use it productively.

If you know what you’re doing, though, the program could – in theory – be very useful. In just a few clicks we had the program set up to download, install and configure WordPress, PHP and MySQL, ready to begin work on a WordPress site. This automation isn’t perfect (one of our test installs failed), but when it works then it’s considerably easier than browsing through endless installation guides and editing configuration files, and could be a real time-saver.

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