A recent Web development software released by Microsoft called WebMatrix has offered an easier alternative to program websites, both static and dynamic, with the incorporation with databases, search engine optimization, FTP publishing and more. A very simple tool in fact, Microsoft WebMatrix operates more seamlessly with the Windows Operating System and allows one click installation of various CMS systems, including but not limited to WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. The purpose of this post is just to review this new software and not to compare this with other alternative releases to the industry standard, none other than Adobe Dreamweaver.
This paragraph from Microsoft should sum up what this is about:
WebMatrix is everything you need to build Web sites using Windows. It includes IIS Developer Express (a development Web server), ASP.NET (a Web framework), and SQL Server Compact (an embedded database). It streamlines Web site development and makes it easy to start Web sites from popular open-source apps. The skills and code you develop with WebMatrix transition seamlessly to Visual Studio and SQL Server.
Microsoft WebMatrix Welcome Screen
Microsoft WebMatrix Site from Web Gallery Screen, where you are exposed
to a vast range of CMS systems to incorporate into your online brand.
It’s current release(Beta 2) aims to attract developers, students and the general curious individual who wants a small and nifty tool to build Web sites. The program allows you to code, test and run websites, without the need to set up Web servers, databases, or studying the concepts.
Since Microsoft WebMatrix is in its beta release stages, a variety of problems and bugs are likely to occur. I have been using this program and the main issue most forums discuss is WebMatrix’s inability to provide a simpler way of deleting a website that you have created. It seems that Microsoft forgot(as usual!) to incorporate this function onto the ‘My Sites’ screen and made it so that you will have to open the whole website before you can delete it.
Each site comes with a screen similar to this, allowing you to right click on
the site folder to be able to delete it. The bottom corner and middle expands
the section above and changes the screen as you click on the relevant tab.
Something to note here is that deleting a website, is just a remove operation and therefore, does NOT delete the physical older on your system, but rather, rely on you to do this manually by going to Documents > My Web Sites before you can delete the appropriate folder.
Deleting a folder first before opening the program will still show the folder on your ‘My Sites’ screen, and clicking on it will throw a nasty ‘Path does not exist’ error on your screen, which Microsoft’s workaround suggests you create a dummy folder of the same name, then access this from the ‘My Sites’ screen then right click+delete to remove the site. Another forum suggests a bit of file hacking, whereby you will need to access the configuration file in Documents > IISExpress > config > applicationhost.config and look for the <sites> section and delete the relevant lines like the code below that do not exist.
I do love the fact that the program allows you to easily manage your database and SEO optimise your websites. The program also works well with its integrated FTP application and Code Editor.
Another issue I have is the fact that the CMS systems you add may be outdated, and therefore would require that you follow the CMS instructions for upgrading before you start working with it. An example of this is selecting WordPress from the ‘Site from Web Gallery’ Screen downloads an older version of WordPress from http://wordpress.org/wordpress-2.9.2-IIS.zip, which in other words WordPress 2.9.2, while the present WordPress installation at the time of this writing is 3.0.1.
Downloading and installing outdated CMS releases. You will need to log into your
WordPress admin and upgrade before building your site.
A nifty tool this is but not really impressed by the problems I’m discovering, including the occasional program crashes, but I guess its a drawback that comes with free beta programs. On a good note though, I find Microsoft WebMatrix easier to work with and I’m believing that Microsoft will improve by fixing these silly errors and linking to the latest CMS installation files.
So is this the best the best Dreamweaver alternative? Well its not there yet, but it does have the best seamless integration with the Windows Operating System environment and its few click install of various CMS platforms makes this hard to let go. I still recommend downloading and trying this out. Just so you know, Aptana Studio still rules in my opinion when it comes to preferred Dreamweaver alternatives.
You can learn more and download at http://www.microsoft.com/web/webmatrix/