Microsoft lets developers swap code

Taking a page from the habits of the underground developer communities, Microsoft Corp. Tuesday announced that it has set up a Web site to swap snippets of code for building Web services based on its .Net initiative.

Announced alongside the second beta release of Visual Studio.Net at TechEd here, Microsoft has launched a service called CodeSwap that allows developers to highlight a segment of code from within Visual Basic.Net and send it to a depository where other developers can view it and incorporate it into their own projects.

The CodeSwap service itself is a Web service that plugs into Visual Studio.Net, and enables developers to publish and maintain a source code index from within their applications and to search the database for other pieces of code.

The database, which can be accessed at http://www.vscodeswap.com, has some similarities to the concept embraced by the open source community, where developers share code freely.

"It's not an open source project," said Dave Mendlen, lead product manager for the Microsoft Developers Network and Visual Studio.Net. He did note that Microsoft will provide a few hundred snippets of generic Web services code that developers can study and use. He compared CodeSwap to the communities he used on CompuServe when he was a developer years ago.

Microsoft said the main reason it launched the community is to drive more developers to its platform and make it easier for companies to build Web services with their current applications. In fact, the concept of easing the development process is inherent to the .Net initiative, Mendlen said. The .Net Framework, which provides all of the infrastructure, applications, and tools necessary to build and run Web services, was created so other companies didn't have to build the infrastructure themselves. Many of the early adopters of .Net agreed.

".Net really makes it a lot easier for companies to deploy Web services," said John Buchanan, director of business development at Serena Software Inc., which helped build new functions into Visual Studio.Net. "They don't have to start from scratch."

Other functions included in the Visual Studio.Net also have eased the development process. One called Intellisense will automatically finish writing lines of codes when it recognizes what a developer begins to write. The technology is based on the function already used in Microsoft's Office suite, which does similar tasks when writing a date or a commonly used name. With similar technology, Visual Studio.Net will also highlight lines of code that it senses may have been written incorrectly.

Developers here have noted that the new additions to Visual Studio.Net include a number of other features that ease the code-writing process.

"It was pretty painless moving to .Net," said Tore Lode, senior software engineer at CyberWatcher AS, a Norwegian company that built a Web service for aggregating content from the Web, databases and corporate intranets, which doubles as a Smart Tag in Office XP. "Most people are really happy to change to (Visual Studio.Net)."

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