Editor's Note

Welcome to the 2006 VSM Buyers Guide

Your guide to the best tools this year

Each time we publish this issue, we receive quite a few e-mails asking why we delivered this issue instead of our regular monthly collection of how-to articles and tips. So, I want to take a moment to stress that this is a special issue (one of two we deliver each year), something you receive free in addition to your 12 regular monthly issues. For the first time, we are delivering this issue in conjunction with one of your regular issues, so that distinction might be more clear than in years past.

The purpose of the Buyer's Guide is to survey the existing landscape of component vendors and their products, and summarize them for you in an easy-to-navigate format. The heart of this issue is in the expanded product listings section that lists the vast majority of third-party (non-Microsoft) tools and services available to a Visual Studio Developer today. The Buyer's Guide is also the issue where we announce the winners of our annual Readers Choice Awards, which you, the readers, vote on in a carefully controlled survey.

Yes, VSM scrupulously avoids mentioning third-party products in its how-to articles, but this is because we don't want to limit the appeal of a given article by making the solution dependent on a tool you might not have. If we were to do that, you might not try out a solution that could otherwise be perfect for you.

That said, VSM believes third-party components and services are a tremendous development aid, and one of the biggest factors in why Visual Studio, and Visual Basic before it, are so successful as RAD environments. Yes, there is a cost to using such tools—often a substantial one—but they frequently make it possible to develop applications, or application features, you wouldn't be able to implement with your existing team. Moreover, the cost of such tools is usually offset by the time savings the tools provide when implementing a given solution. This is a cost you get back every time you use a given tool, across your wide array of applications, in most circumstances.

As a Visual Studio developer, you have the good fortune of using a tool with a huge range of third-party products and services intended to simplify and cut the costs of developing applications. Indeed, the range of tools and services available to you today is simply astounding. Our product listings include more than 300 companies, and more than 500 products, split among 22 categories. No doubt, we have missed some, too, but it's our goal to be as complete as possible within the given areas that we focus on as a magazine.

Editors Choice Award:
SharePoint Portal Server
I'm also pleased to announce the winner of this year's Editors Choice Award, SharePoint Portal Server.

SharePoint Portal Server works with, and builds upon, the architecture of Windows SharePoint Services. What we like about this tool is the level of customization and automation it provides for building portals, and the way it integrates with other Microsoft products, which is always nice to have from a developer's perspective. We think the existing version of SharePoint Portal server provides intriguing functionality, but we're also looking forward to SharePoint Server 2007, which will release with the next version of Microsoft Office. SharePoint Server 2007 is built upon Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services (version 3), which is based upon Microsoft's ASP.NET 2.0. This means you will be able to take advantage of ASP.NET features such as master pages, authentication providers, and navigation providers from SharePoint Server.

Note that the Editors Choice category is the only award not selected specifically by the magazine's readers. We use this award to acknowledge products that we feel are likely to have a significant impact on the lives of every-day developers. We also typically choose products that, for one reason or another, don't fit into the categories readers vote on. For example, we require that products be shipping to qualify for a Readers Choice Award. Also, the Readers Choice Awards honor the contributions of third-party vendors only, so Microsoft is specifically excluded. We relax both the shipping and Microsoft rules when choosing the Editors Choice Awards.

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