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The Visual Basic team has released the Interop Forms Toolkit 2.0. This free toolkit provides templates and tools that make it easy to build Forms or User Controls in Visual Basic 2005 that you can use in VB6. The templates include the necessary COM wrappers enabling you to focus on adding the code you want instead of focusing on interop issues. This is a must-have tool if you have any legacy VB6 applications that you want to extend to include Visual Studio .NET features. You can find the toolkit here.

The Visual Basic team has also released a pair of Hands On Labs (HOL) that target Orcas Beta 1 and LINQ. These are good exercises to get you started with LINQ in general and LINQ to SQL. Get them here.

The ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit provides literally dozens of AJAX-based tools. This list of controls is extensive, but the fact that the controls includes source code can help you get up and running with this toolkit in relatively short order. The toolkit includes controls to cover a wide variety of tasks, including Accordion, AlwaysVisibleControl, Animation, Calendar, Cascading-DropDown, CollapsiblePanel, DropDown, DropShadow, HoverMenu, ListSearch, MaskedEdit, NumericUpDown, ReorderList, RoundedCorners, Slider, SlideShow, Tabs, and ToggleButton. Find the full list and/or download the toolkit at http://ajax.asp.net/ajaxtoolkit.

Microsoft has also released a new version of its Enterprise Library 3.1. The latest release of Enterprise Library application blocks includes Caching, Cryptography, Data Access, Exception Handling, Logging, Policy Injection, Security, and Validation. Download the tool at http://tinyurl.com/2blmwa.

The Smart Client Software Factory builds on the functionality provided by the Composite UI Application Block and Enterprise Library 3.1. This tool is intended to help you adhere to better design practices when building your applications. Specifically, the Smart Client Software Factory gives you a set of tools, templates, wizards, and components for creating applications based on separating your app's business logic from its presentation layer by using the Model-View-Controller or Model-View-Presenter patterns. This release includes support for WPF and WCF. Download it here.

Acropolis CTP 1 is in many ways the next version of the Smart Client Software Factory. It features rich integration into Visual Studio and makes it much simpler to use the principles behind the composite UI application block. Note that this is still an early release and only contains limited functionality. It is likely the final release will be sometime away (expect 12 months or more). Download it here.

One of my favorite tools for .NET is Lutz Roeder's reflector (www.aisto.com/roeder/dotnet/). Ernie Booth has written a plug-in for Reflector that loads assemblies for Silver Light 1.1 Alpha pages. If you're playing with the Silver Light Alpha, download Ernie's Electron Sculptor to look behind the scenes. You can acquire this plug-in here.

Microsoft announced the official name of the next version of SQL Server at its TechEd 2007 show in July: SQL Server 2008 (code-named Katmai). You can now acquire the SQL Server 2008 June CTP from the Microsoft Connect site. SQL Server 2008 includes many enhancements including better industry compliant encryption, integrated storage and searching of documents, and better warehousing and analysis. Note that you'll have to sign up for the beta to be able to download the CTP for this product. You can find the sign-up formshere.

In other news, the Visual Basic team announced that the next version of the VB compiler, VB 10 (or VBX as it is also being referred to), will be written in VB. This is a first for Microsoft and Visual Basic, and it represents a significant milestone in VB's long history. The Mono project and Sharp Develop have written compilers in VB, but Microsoft has never released its own VB or C# compilers in VB or C# respectively. VB 10 will be the first language that receives this treatment. An even more curious revelation has surfaced from the release of the Dynamic Language Runtime: The JavaScript compiler is also written in Visual Basic .NET. Check out Paul Vick's blog entry here for more info.

About the Author

Bill McCarthy is an independent consultant based in Australia and is one of the foremost .NET language experts specializing in Visual Basic. He has been a Microsoft MVP for VB for the last nine years and sat in on internal development reviews with the Visual Basic team for the last five years where he helped to steer the language’s future direction. These days he writes his thoughts about language direction on his blog at http://msmvps.com/bill.

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