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Microsoft to offer peek at new tools

The software giant?s chairman is expected to disclose features planned for a new release of the company?s Visual Studio.Net tools bundle.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will offer a glimpse Friday of future versions of the company?s Visual Studio.Net development tools bundle.

At a software development conference in Seattle, Gates will detail improvements planned for its Visual C++ tool, which is included in its Visual Studio.Net bundle. Microsoft on Thursday disclosed planned revisions for its Visual C# tool, also included in the Visual Studio.Net.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker said this summer that it plans to revamp its tools to work with new products expected to ship in the coming months. Those products include Windows.Net Server, the next version of Microsoft?s server operating system, and an upcoming release of the company?s SQL Server database code-named Yukon.

At the Object Oriented Programming Systems Languages and Applications (OOPSLA) conference on Friday, Gates is expected to disclose further details of an update to Visual C++, planned for release early next year as part of a Visual Studio.Net update code-named Everett.

Everett will include a C++ compiler that is for the first time largely compliant with a standards set down by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) nearly six years ago. Microsoft said its C++ compiler had been around 90 percent compliant with the standard. The Everett release will bring that closer to 98 percent, said Nick Hodapp, a Microsoft product manager.

Hodapp said the standards compliance is significant because it will now allow Visual C++ developers to take advantage of several popular development libraries, including Boost, Blitz and Loki. Libraries include pre-built code that let developers more quickly construct software applications.

The Everett release of Visual C++ will also feature better performance of code targeted to Intel's Pentium 4 chip and Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon chip. Microsoft expects a boost of 5 percent and 15 percent for software compiled with Visual C++ for those chips.

Microsoft will also include support in Everett for more automated development of Windows Forms, the traditional Windows client applications usually built with Microsoft?s Visual Basic tools. Developers could use Visual C++ to build those applications before, but it was a much more laborious process, said Hodapp.

Overall, Everett, will include better connections to Windows.Net Server and provide support for writing software for mobile devices, such as cell phones. The Everett release will include a Java development tool called Visual J#, along with Visual Basic.Net, Visual C++.Net and Visual C#.Net tools.

Microsoft on Thursday disclosed more details of a future release of its Visual C# tool. The company said it is planning an update to coincide with the debut of Yukon, which is expected to enter testing next year.

That release of Visual C# will include four new features: support for "generics," which is a form of a C++ template that can help C# developers build software more quickly; support for "iterators," which help developers create new code; anonymous methods, which ease development of what?s known as "event-driven" code; and support for "partial types," which make it easier to use C# for building large projects.

Visual Studio.Net, originally released in February, serves as Microsoft's chief weapon in the battle for software developers who have a choice among Microsoft's .Net Web services plan and rival software sold by Sun Microsystems, BEA Systems, Oracle, IBM and other Java backers. Web services is an emerging method of writing software that allows businesses to interact via the Internet.

Winning support of software developers is crucial for the company?s .Net plan to succeed. Microsoft earlier this year admitted that .Net has been slow to catch on, largely because of confusion over the new architecture?s marketing.

The .Net plan includes Windows.Net Server, which has been beset by delays; a development and launching technology called the .Net Framework; a new version of the company?s Active Server Pages Web technology called ASP.Net; and other new technologies.