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MS previews Web-savvy tools

Microsoft is keeping a promise to make development more Net-friendly with an add-on to its Visual C++ 5.0 tool package.

Microsoft (MSFT) is keeping a promise to make its C++ development tools more Net-friendly.

The company today posted an add-on to its Visual C++ version 5.0 development package that allows developers to use dynamic HTML and to build applications tailored for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser.

The add-on, which Microsoft calls a Technology Preview, is really a sneak preview of features it plans to include in future versions of Visual C++.

It also plans to include those same features in the company's development tool package, code-named Aspen, slated to debut next year.

Microsoft hopes the Technology Preview will boost IE 4.0's popularity with corporations by giving developers easy to use tools for building client-side business applications hosted entirely in IE 4.0.

The Technology Preview, available for free download from the company's Web site, also contains support for Microsoft's OLE DB universal data access API (Application Programming Interface).

Also included is a beta version of Microsoft's OLE DB Provider templates, for building applications capable of providing data access to OLE DB clients.

The bundle will be reworked to better support COM+, the next generation of the company's component architecture. Windows Distributed interNet Applications (DNA) architecture, the new overarching name for existing and future Windows technologies such as COM, will be reworked to be more Web-aware.

According to Paul Gross, vice president of developer tools at Microsoft, Aspen will add support for IE 4.0 controls, dynamic HTML, and Windows NT 5.0-specific technology and infrastructure components, such as the upcoming Microsoft Message Queue server, Active Directory services, and Microsoft's Zero Administration technologies.

Aspen is the Visual Studio development tool package that includes Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++, Visual InterDev, and other tools. It will be delivered in stages, culminating in a final delivery in the first half of next year. The first part of the tool set has already been delivered in the form of a Visual Studio Service Pack that shipped last month, said Gross.

A second future release of Visual Studio, code-named Rainier, is being developed in tandem with Aspen, Gross said. That release will deliver COM+ technology support, additional tools targeted at Windows NT 5.0, and specific OLE DB support for Microsoft's next-generation database server, code-named Sphinx. Sphinx uses OLE DB as its primary data access interface.

Rainier delivery is slated for sometime later next year.

Prices for the tool releases have not been determined. The current version of Visual Studio is priced from $999.