Editors Choice Awards Inspire and Innovate

VSM's 2005 Editors Choice awards, Microsoft ASP.NET 2.0 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, are innovative products that are likely to have a significant impact on the everyday lives of developers.

A quick note about the Editors Choice and Readers Choice awards presented in this special issue, the 2005 Buyers Guide & Product Directory: It is you, the reader, who selects the winners in all categories, save this Editors Choice category. A ballot is sent out to a randomly selected group of VSM readers, who are given a certain number of days to respond with their choices for the best products in the various categories selected by the editors. The online ballot includes several constraints to ensure that only invited readers can vote, and then, only once.

VSM's editors select the Editors Choice award winners. We use this award to acknowledge new or not-quite-shipping products that we feel are likely to have a significant impact on the everyday lives of developers. We also typically choose products that, for one reason or another, don't qualify to appear in the categories readers vote on. For instance, we require that products be shipping in order to qualify for a Readers Choice award. Also, the Readers Choice awards honor the contributions of third-party vendors, so Microsoft is specifically excluded. We relax both the shipping and Microsoft rules when choosing the Editors Choice awards. Without further ado, we present the recipients of the 2005 Editors Choice awards.

ASP.NET 1.0 was easily the most visible, most high-profile, runaway success included in the box when Microsoft introduced Visual Studio .NET. C# and Visual Basic .NET both have their adherents, and there is no shortage of developers who never want to return to Classic VB. At the same time, moving from Classic VB to VB.NET wasn't an obvious move for everyone, and there remains a large number of developers who haven't yet made the transition to Visual Basic .NET.

ASP developers, on the other hand, moved en masse to ASP.NET 1.0. The advantages of the latter were compelling and obvious. One sign of how quickly ASP.NET 1.0 was accepted—we at VSM received zero letters asking for continued coverage of Classic ASP. If you follow our Letters to the Editor page on a regular basis, you know that wasn't the case for Visual Basic .NET.

Version 2.0 of ASP.NET will be similarly well received. Throughout the beta process, ASP.NET 2.0 had better fit and finish than its boxmates, a polish that shines through in the final version. One especially nice feature of ASP.NET 2.0 is its inclusion of many common templates (master pages) that Web developers can take advantage of to get up a professional-looking Web site quickly and easily. These templates are not only reusable, but also extendable, and will save typical Web developers a great deal of time. Another feature popular among those who write for VSM: the improved IntelliSense that is now everywhere while using ASP.NET 2.0. It isn't just the code you can write that distinguishes a programming tool; it is also the code that you don't have to write because the IDE provides it for you intelligently.

SQL Server 2005 Express Edition
SQL Server 2005 Express Edition picks up where Microsoft's free SQL Server Desktop Edition (MSDE) left off. These tools enable developers to switch from file-system databases to a more robust client/server architecture.

In most cases, SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is just like the MSDE version, only better. Roger Jennings, in an upcoming article that discusses moving from MSDE to SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, notes that the most significant improvement in SQL Server 2005 Express Edition relative to MSDE is that it removes MSDE's query governor. SQL Server 2005 Express Edition also doubles the maximum database size it can work with from 2 GB to 4 GB, and there is no limit to the number of databases per instance. Another nice change: You can run up to 50 named SQL Server Express instances on a single server, vs. the 16 instances MSDE limited you to.

You do bump up against a handful of new limits. SQL Server 2005 Express Edition limits you to a single processor, ignoring the second, if present. Another downside: You must install the .NET Framework 2.0's 22 MB redistributable Dotnetfx.exe before installing SQL Server 2005 Express Edition from its self-extracting file.

SQL Server 2005 Express Edition's new features make it significantly superior to its immediate predecessor, and it should find a welcome home in two locations in particular. First, it will probably see heavy use as a local workgroup database in companies of all sizes. Second, it will be a good choice for everyone who must implement database functionality in small- to medium-sized businesses, especially independent contractors who can provide much-needed functionality to their clients while holding down the cost significantly.

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Written/compiled by the editors of Visual Studio Magazine.

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