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Return of the Web Project

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Do you remember the mood at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back”? Darth Vader froze Han Solo in carbonite, then proceeded to slap Luke around like a hockey puck. Just when we thought all was lost, along came “Return of the Jedi”. Luke broke out some new kung-fu moves, and Princess Leia donned a bikini (which perhaps not surprisingly, spawned this website). The galactic mood was on a definite upswing.

Similarly, the “project-less” web project in Visual Studio 2005 left little hope for some ASP.NET applications to make an easy transition to 2.0. Fortunately, ScottGu announced a preview of the Web Application Project model this week.

The preview has rough edges – but is familiar. Familiar because the project based WAP model works like the Visual Studio 2003 model. Code-behind files compile into a single assembly. The model is also familiar because it works like the Windows Forms designer model, the Windows Workflow designer model, the typed DataSet designer model, the WinFX / Avalon designer model, and so on.

I hope the final release will parse @ MasterType and @ Previous page directives, as well as profile settings, to make strongly typed properties available in code-behind. Pre-compilation with aspnet_compiler.exe appears to work against the new project type, which is good.

Will Web Application Projects make migration easier? Certainly, the mental migration from 1.1 to 2.0 will be easier. The codebase should also experience fewer hiccups. I wonder if the migration tool will attempt to separate the designer generated code and developer code living together in today’s code-behind files. Breaking up is hard to do, but keeping designer goo in a separate partial class is nice.