Honoring Third-Party Vendors
by Patrick Meader
June 8, 2007
Welcome to the 2007 VSM Buyers Guide, your annual special issue that lists the almost astounding number of third-party products available to developers who use Visual Studio. This year's list includes more than 450 products from nearly 250 vendors.
The presence of a third-party vendor community is one of the most significant aspects of being a Visual Studio developer. We at VSM scrupulously avoid mentioning third-party products in the magazine's how-to articles, but this is primarily because we don't want to limit the potential reach of a given article by making a particular solution dependent on a tool you might not have.
VSM believes firmly that third-party components and services are a terrific development aid. We believe their existence can save a company that uses them enormous amounts of time, money, and effort, enabling it to achieve many in-house solutions that simply wouldn't be possible otherwise. It isn't just that these tools can simplify development and give you more powerful options in your apps—they also push what is state-of-the-art for Visual Studio development.
Many of the core features you see in Visual Studio originated as features in third-party tools that Microsoft co-opted in some way, whether through purchasing the third-party company or by implementing its own version of that functionality. Several of the companies you see in these product lists plan their entire product portfolio around extending whatever Visual Studio can do at the moment. They assume last year's products will be obsolesced, and plan accordingly. Microsoft itself relies heavily on these vendors, giving them special access to new versions of Visual Studio as they are being developed. This enables vendors to ship new features when Microsoft ships its new versions of products.
The Buyers Guide is also the issue where we give you, the readers, a chance to tell companies how you like what they are doing. This issue also announces the winners of our annual Readers Choice Awards, which readers vote on in a carefully controlled survey. This year, we went with 22 categories that span the range of tasks developers must grapple with, from the usual UI and charting and graphing components, to more service-based tasks like finding a host for your ASP.NET applications.
Editors' Choice Awards:
Microsoft's Expression product line and DotNetNuke
We're also pleased to announce the winners of this year's Editors Choice Awards: the Microsoft Expression product line and the open-source project, DotNetNuke.
Microsoft is betting big on separating design from the code, and this year it has introduced several new products intended to revolutionize how you create UIs in Visual Studio, enabling the developer to concentrate on code, and designers to concentrate on an app's look-and-feel. Existing and upcoming products in Microsoft's Expression line include Microsoft Expression Blend, a tool specifically intended for designers; Microsoft Expression Design, a vector-based drawing tool; Microsoft Expression Web, a rebranded and updated version of FrontPage; Microsoft Expression Media, a product that combines media cataloguing and the ability to edit and encode streaming media; and Microsoft Expression Silverlight, Microsoft's new name for WPF/E.
The second Editors Choice Award goes to DotNetNuke (published by the DotNetNuke Corp.). This is a sprawling open-source project that illustrates many of the finer points of developing Web-based applications for Visual Studio developers. The site includes several modules for particular kinds of development, and you are able to take this code and build on it to create your own applications. As a magazine devoted to how-to articles on programming, we are especially intrigued by the way this site combines educational information on how to design Web apps using Visual Studio with practical code-based modules that you can use in your own application.
Note that the Editors Choice category is the only award not selected specifically by the magazine's readers. We use this award to acknowledge products that we feel are likely to have a significant impact on the lives of every-day developers. This year, our choices honor products that wouldn't otherwise qualify for a Reader Choice Award. For example, we require that products in the listings for the Buyers Guide be shipping, that they be commercial components (it is a "Buyers Guide," after all), and we specifically exclude Microsoft products from our categories.
Talk Back: What's your favorite third-party tool, and why? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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