What`s Coming Up for ASP.NET

The best part of virtual conferences is that they often stay up online for a while time after the conference is over, allowing interested parties to view them even if they couldn’t actively participate. Such is the case with aspConf 2012, and one of its better keynotes.

In case you really did miss it, aspConf 2012 is a free, virtual conference dedicated to ASP.NET and organized by and for the community. It was held July 17 and 18. You can check out past conference videos and training sessions here. This year’s conference featured more than 60 presentations from speakers both inside and outside of Microsoft.

Scott Hanselman, the organizer, gave the second day’s keynote speech. The Principle Community Architect for the Azure Web Team, Hanselman started by talking about where ASP.NET is now and some of the aspects that make its users unhappy. He then moved on to discuss how it will be improved in the near future.

What are some of the features you can expect to see? ASP.NET will be more tightly integrated with NuGet. Editor enhancements in Visual Studio are also coming. And a faster release schedule is expected to deal with some of the frustrations developers currently experience with it.

Hanselman explained that the NuGet extension should help users with integrating ASP.NET’s various pieces. Jeff Martin, in reviewing the talk, noted that “At a high level, this would enable a future where developers can mix and match approaches based on the ASP.NET foundation without being limited to a single strategy.”

Hanselman addressed Visual Studio, noting that it traditionally boasts an 18-month development cycle. What this means is that there’s only a very small window of time in which those working on it can add new features. That’s going to be addressed in the future by VS moving away from that release schedule to let out-of-band updates get added. Doing this will allow developers to get their hands on new features and try them out much more quickly.

Looking toward the future, Hanselman painted the picture of a Visual Studio that lets developers employ NuGet to fetch only the parts of VS they need for a particular project. Developers could then build projects with VS using just those parts – even downloading them if they can’t get them locally.

Some new features of VS that Hanselman covered in his talk included social tie-ins, important ease-of-use additions, and something for the JSON developers. In his first demo, for instance, he used the open source library DotNetOpenAuth. This library can provide social logins. Imagine writing an ASP.NET application and easily adding support for Twitter, Facebook, Google, and of course Microsoft authentication sources. This means users could log into your application with the appropriate account, making their lives a whole lot simpler (and potentially making your application much more popular).

Hanselman next turned to the CSS editor and some of its ease-of-use features. Say you have a color that is defined by its hex value. Hover your mouse over the definition, and you’ll get a thumbnail preview of the color (so you don’t have to try to carry what it looks like around in your head). That’s just one of the convenient touches coming soon.

As for JSON developers, Hanselman showed off a Visual Studio feature that eases the writing of boilerplate code. Martin notes that the feature “allows a snippet of a JSON instance to be selected, deleted, and then re-pasted as a class with methods generated based upon the instance used.”

So how long will you have to wait before you can get your hands on these new features and try them out? Thanks to the change in release cycles, probably not quite as long as before. With any luck, it will be late this year or early next, instead of some time in 2014. Here’s hoping.

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