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Visual Studio 2008 SP1 is icing, and more cake

Martin Heller | Aug. 26, 2008
In some ways, SP1 feels like the completion of what Visual Studio 2008 was supposed to be.

SAN FRANCISCO, 25 AUGUST 2008 - Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 (VS08) Service Pack 1 (SP1) took eight months to arrive. Considering the capabilities that have been added, eight months might not seem so long. In some ways, SP1 feels like the completion of what Visual Studio 2008 was supposed to be. It's certainly not just the collection of bug fixes that you'd expect from the term "service pack."

As I said in my original review of Visual Studio 2008 in January, VS08 is the premier IDE for developing applications with the Microsoft .Net Framework and at least a contender for the best Windows-hosted C/C++ IDE. As I went on to quibble, the product as released in December lacked the much-anticipated ADO.Net Entity Framework and LINQ to Entities, and broke some JavaScript and VBScript functionality from previous versions.

It's about the data

SP1 finally includes the ADO.Net Entity Framework (EF), the Entity Data Model (EDM), and LINQ to Entities. EDM is a full-blown language-independent, database-independent entity-relationship model. It is supported by an Entity SQL language and is especially useful for data-centric line-of-business applications. LINQ to Entities integrates queries against Entities into C# and Visual Basic, which may obviate the need to learn the subtleties of Entity SQL for many programmers.

Note that Entity SQL is significantly different from the Transact-SQL query language used in Microsoft SQL Server. Speaking of SQL Server, SP1 adds full support for SQL Server 2008 to Visual Studio 2008, hot on the heels of the release of SQL Server 2008.

Better scripting

I'm happy to say that the VS08 HTML editor is no longer broken for Classic ASP. The HTML editor is still not smart enough to resolve server-side includes, however.

You'll find vastly improved IntelliSense and code formatting for JavaScript in SP1, even for third-party libraries, at least if you structure your files the way VS08 expects. If you mess up the structure enough to confuse the JavaScript parser, the worst that now happens is that the VS08 IntelliSense and code formatting won't work; syntax coloring usually continues to work, and the editor stays out of your way instead of trying to "help" you with misguided changes.

On the Web

The major new Web features of SP1 are ASP.Net Dynamic Data and URL Routing. Both seem to have been influenced by the popularity of Ruby on Rails, in that they support the Model-View-Controller pattern and quick generation of Web pages from database schemas.

Dynamic Data lets you build a basic data-driven Web application very quickly, based on a data model, in much the same spirit as building a Rails scaffold application. It also improves the way the data-bound controls work, adding validation and templates. The MSDN walk-through of creating a new dynamic data Web site using scaffolding includes two ways of creating the data model: one using LINQ to SQL, and the other using the Entity Framework. Check the Dynamic Data in Action section of the official ASP.Net page for a series of video tutorials.


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