One project I work on revolves around an annual event. And it just became imperative to do a significant overhaul of the visual bits of it’s website. Unfortunately, said website is a .NET 1.1 application. Granted, that is better than an ASP 3.0 application. But it required getting a trip back into Visual Studio 2003 land. And, having spent the last six months or so in Visual Studio 2005, I was in for a shock.
To start out with, getting the webby bits of the project to even load took half a day. Finally I just had to re-create the original application’s odd folder structure. Remember, in Visual Studio 2003 there are no file-type websites nor builtin web server. Everything needs to get linked up via IIS using FP server extensions. Yippee for agility.
After getting past the initial hurdles, and winning a battle with Visual Source Safe, I managed to open a file. Unfortunately I opened a nice, XHTML-compliant control in the designer. Oh, VS, why do you think <li /> tags should be <LI> and need not be matched closed? At least VSS was complying, so I could roll back to the checked in version.
There was, however, a few happy moments to the trip down memory lane. First and foremost, this application really took advantage of declarative markup and configuration files to manage most of the front-end. And it really, really came up aces when we had to repurpose it for the fourth time. Moreover, the entire layout was CSS driven. This was horribly painful to implement originally; but has paid off in spades down the road. We have swapped templates twice without ever opening the application up in visual studio. Or touching anything save CSS files and associated graphics.
So, to review:
- VS 2003 sucks compared to more modern environments. Lowlights include picky web application model and insane designer which takes unique pleasure in mangling code in new and interesting ways.
- Visual Source safe can also bite.
- Using declarative & configuration driven code, combined with CSS for layout, allows one to do lots of nice things without ever opening ancient versions of Visual Studio.
I cannot wait to get back on the current apps that live in the much more friendly world of Visual Studio 2005.