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Microsoft readies Vista and Web-friendly tools

Developers can get free add-ons to build programs for Vista and Office 2007 and to create AJAX-style Web applications.

Microsoft will hand out three developer toolsets on Tuesday, in hopes of spurring programmers to create applications for Windows Vista, Office 2007 and the Web.

The software giant is hosting two developer conferences--Microsoft TechEd Europe in Barcelona and VSConnections in Las Vegas--where it plans to announce the release of the tools.

One announcement will be for .Net Framework 3.0, the software "plumbing" needed to run and build Windows Vista applications. The software, available as a plug-in to Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005, lets developers write applications that use Vista's new user interface, security features and communications system.

Microsoft is expected to make Windows Vista available to business customers at the end of this month and to consumers in January of next year.

The second launch is for a plug-in to Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office, for building applications that use Excel, Word and other programs in Office 2007. The update is expected to be in broad release early next year.

This add-on will enable developers to write applications that take advantage of the new "ribbon" user interface and other features with Office 2007, said Brian Goldfarb, a group product manager at Microsoft.

Microsoft is also scheduled to release the second beta to its Web development tool kit, called ASP.Net AJAX and code-named Atlas.

This test version is expected to be generally available around the end of this year, when it will be offered as a free download under one of Microsoft's Shared Source licenses, Goldfarb said.

The Atlas AJAX tool is designed to speed up development of Web applications that run in a browser or on a server, he said. Goldfarb added that the software complies with standards and will work with other server-based scripting systems, such as PHP.

One customer, Burton Snowboards, said that using the AJAX Web development technique with Microsoft's Atlas tool has allowed a team of programmers to add more interactivity to its public-facing Web site.

Rather than hire or train more engineers in Adobe's Flash Web development technology, Burton Snowboards decided to train its Visual Studio programmers on the Atlas tool, said Ben Noonan, Internet project and development manager for Burton, in a press briefing arranged by Microsoft.

"Now that our pages are enabled with Atlas, we've seen nearly double the traffic," Noonan said. "The learning curve on the Atlas tool kit was minimal."