Microsoft WebMatrix 2 beta available -- get it now!

Microsoft has released the first beta of WebMatrix 2, a powerful development tool that makes it easier than ever to build web applications; and as with the previous version, the program packs a raft of essential features into a simple and straightforward interface.

The installation process equips your PC with several core development components, for instance, including SQL Server Compact 4.0 and IIS 7.5 Express. And then you can build sites from an improved set of templates (“Bakery”, “Photo Gallery”, “Calendar”, “Personal Site”, and so on) or a lengthy list of popular web applications: DotNetNuke, WordPress, Drupal, SugarCRM, phpBB, Tiki Wiki, Joomla! and more (there’s support for 59 in total). Just choose your preferred application and WebMatrix 2 will download and install it for you.

This initial configuration process has been streamlined in WebMatrix 2, with the program now able to generate database passwords, users and other key details entirely automatically: all you have to do is keep clicking “Next”.

The WebMatrix 2 code editor is now smarter, supporting intellisense for .NET, PHP, HTML, CSS and JScript. If you’re still confused about something then the new integrated help links may clear things up. And you’re now able to use WebMatrix to remotely edit files on your web server, so there’s no need to republish; any tweaks you make are visible right away.

And other steps forward in this version include improved database management, easy access to a raft of WebMatrix extensions, and an integrated NuGet Package Manager for more streamlined ASP.NET WebPages 2 development.

This is a beta, and so of course not everything works quite as it should: the program had problems installing some web applications on our test PC, for example. And there are plenty of other known issues, so be sure to check these out before installing WebMatrix 2, just to get a feel for how you might be affected.

Considering the complexity of what it’s trying to do, though, WebMatrix 2 is already fairly solid, and if you’re a web developer then it could greatly simplify the process of setting up a site on a new platform. The beta is available now.

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