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Maybe Microsoft isn't completely useless on the web, after all

Microsoft makes web development easy, though not perfect or particularly powerful.

I admit that Microsoft's software wouldn't be my first choice for building a web application, but a small consultancy decided to give it a whirl with its Meet with Approval application. As is often the case with Microsoft (to its credit and shame), its tools took care of the heavy lifting of writing code:

Visual Studio provides a number of prebuilt web controls that we were able to drag and drop onto our pages and allowed us to get a considerable way before having to write any code. A criticism of this approach is that such controls output bad HTML or restrict design however we did not find this. We were impressed by the way in which .NET produced relatively little code and we were able to apply all styling via CSS. Visual Studio 2008 offers a full WYSIWYG editor with CSS support that we found to be better than Dreamweaver although we did find rendering problems within the IDE when coding for cross browser CSS.

So, pluses and minuses. But what about the end result?

Pretty good, according to the developers and according to a quick review of the site. That said, plenty of critics have weighed in suggesting that the same results could be had more cheaply and in a more sustainable fashion using open-source tools.

Either way, I suspect such easy Microsoft development will appeal to a significant percentage of the potential web developer population. Not everyone is born to be a rock-star developer. Microsoft has always been a blessing to those born average, which just happens to be most of us, unfortunately.

I'm not suggesting that everyone run out and buy Microsoft's tools for web development. Hardly. But perhaps Microsoft isn't completely evil, after all. It has a little, itsy bitsy shred of goodness in it. His name is Sam, but we're hoping he's infectious. :-)