Microsoft's Webmatrix site builder tool exits beta

The Web development software has graduated from its beta status and is being released tomorrow with what the company says should be more polish.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
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After three rounds of betas, Microsoft tomorrow is releasing a finalized version of its Webmatrix Web development software. The software, which was first introduced in July, gives users tools to create and manage Web sites while staying compatible with Microsoft's Visual Studio and SQL Server products.

The company expects a fully-baked version of the software to make it more attractive to first-time users. "The majority of the users are going to be new to this. That's one of the explicit goals here," Brian Goldfarb, the director of developer platform marketing at Microsoft, told CNET in an interview earlier this week. "We're trying to make Web development, and the Microsoft technology stack more approachable by a wider audience than we have in the past."

Goldfarb said most of the changes that have taken place between Beta 3 and this new version were based on user feedback. "One of the most important things you can do in a product like this is the small things--the fit and finish, the usability. It's not the features, it's the polish," he said. "It really makes the product approachable, enjoyable, and that was a big investment from the previous beta to now."

As far as Webmatrix's place among Microsoft's more high-end Web development and publishing tools, Goldfarb explained that the free software has been designed as a stepping stone of sorts. "We have an incredibly powerful professional tooling offering with Visual Studio that ranges from a free set of tools with Express all the way to team development solutions with our Team Systems product," he said. "The beauty of what we've done with Webmatrix is, when--and if--you're ready, all of the great features and technology inside of Visual Studio will work to customize the same site you were working on before. You just point it at it and keep going."

But there is a larger goal to make Webmatrix a part of Microsoft's business--not by taking kickbacks or cuts from some of the service providers that get their own plug-ins, or links from within the software, Goldfarb explained, but by bringing more people onto Microsoft's Web platform.

"Our explicit goal is to attract new customers to Microsoft technology and make them successful using it. And from there, as we increase usage of frameworks, as we increase usage databases, Windows Server and or Azure, we have the engines of which to make this a successful business strategy," Goldfarb said. "But from a Webmatrix perspective, this is all about enabling more and more people to build great Web sites with simple tools to create, customize, and publish to the Web."

Along with the Webmatrix release, Microsoft is putting out an update to its ASP.NET MVC framework, which adds support for its Razor code syntax as well as things like independency injection and output caching--both things Goldfarb said users had been "begging" for. "We'll also provide support for the nice built in Web server and database solution that come with Webmatrix to lower the installation cost of Visual Studio too," Goldfarb said.

Those who already have the latest beta of the software installed will get a notification to grab the update when it's released.