Visual Web Developer Express

Microsoft Visual Web Developer Express is an easy-to-use environment for dynamic Web application development. Visual Web Developer Express features a streamlined interface that focuses on providing the tools that you need for creating Web applications. All the features of Visual Web Developer Express are also available in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, and the Web sites that you create with Visual Web Developer Express are compatible with Visual Studio. You can share pages and Web sites between Visual Web Developer Express and Visual Studio without any conversion issues or loss of functionality.


Because many of the features of Visual Web Developer Express are shared with Visual Studio, the documentation for Visual Web Developer Express often refers to Visual Studio.

Visual Web Developer Express contains all the features that you need as a hobbyist Web developer or student to create fully functioning Web sites. 

This topic contains the following sections:

You can install Visual Web Developer Express using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer, which is a free tool that makes it simple to download, install, and service components of the Microsoft Web Platform. These components include Visual Web Developer Express, SQL Server Express, and the .NET Framework. These are all tools that you use to create ASP.NET Web applications. You can also use the Microsoft Web Platform Installer to install free popular ASP.NET and PHP Web applications.

You can use Visual Web Developer Express to create and work with ASP.NET Web sites and Web Application projects in the following configurations:

  • Local IIS Web sites   Local Internet Information Services (IIS) Web sites and Web Application projects are applications on a local computer that run by using a local copy of IIS. For more information, see Local IIS Web Site Projects.

  • File system Web sites   In a file-system Web site or Web Application project, files can be in any folder. This includes on your computer or in a folder on another computer that you access by using a network share. Instead of using IIS to test the site, you use the ASP.NET Development Server. For more information, see File System Web Site Projects.

  • FTP-deployed Web sites   You can work with Web sites that you access by using FTP. You can connect from Visual Web Developer Express to any FTP server on which you have read and write permissions. You can then create and edit Web pages on that server. Web Application projects do not support FTP deployment directly, although you can publish your Web Application project to an FTP site. For more information, see FTP-Deployed Web Site Projects.

As in Visual Studio, the Start Page and the File menu of Visual Web Developer Express enable you to open or create a Web site project or a Web Application project. For more information, see ASP.NET Web Projects and ASP.NET Web Application Projects.

Visual Web Developer Express helps you create both ASP.NET Web pages and HTML pages. ASP.NET Web pages are dynamic pages. They include ASP.NET Web server controls and code that is processed by ASP.NET on the server. During processing on the server, the controls and the code produce output that is sent as HTML (or other markup) to the browser. For more information, see ASP.NET Web Pages Overview.

Visual Web Developer Express includes a Web page designer. In Design view, it provides a WYSIWYG design surface where you can type text and add controls. When you want to edit the page markup directly, you can switch to Source view. In Source view, the editor provides tools to help you create well-formed markup, such as statement completion and IntelliSense. The editor also checks that the markup complies with a validation schema that you have selected, such as XHTML 1.0. Split view enables you to see both the design view and the markup at the same time. For more information, see Source View, Web Page Designer and Design View, Web Page Designer.

Custom Layout and Appearance

You can create custom page layouts by using master pages, which work like templates. You create an overall layout in a master page, and then create content pages to merge with the master page. To create a custom appearance for pages in a Web site, you can use themes. Themes enable you to define the color, fonts, and other characteristics of controls and of the page.

Visual Web Developer Express also provides tools that make it easy to work with cascading style sheets (CSS). You can design the layout and style content in Design view by using UI tools such as the CSS Properties window. You can also change positioning, padding, and margins directly in Design view by using WYSIWYG visual-layout tools. For more information, see ASP.NET Master Pages, ASP.NET Themes and Skins and Working with CSS Overview.

Web Controls

To simplify Web page development, you can use ASP.NET Web server controls. Web server controls provide familiar types of functionality for pages, such as displaying text boxes, buttons, check boxes, menus, and so on.

ASP.NET Web server controls differ from HTML elements in that you can program the ASP.NET controls in server code. This enables you to create Web pages that present a sophisticated interface to users while enabling you to create Web page content dynamically, based on information that you can access on the server.

ASP.NET includes Web server controls for a great variety of tasks you might perform in Web pages, which includes these:

  • Standard controls   Enable you to add both basic functionality and complex functionality to ASP.NET Web pages. Standard controls include buttons, images, text boxes, check boxes, hyperlinks, list boxes, and so on. Other standard controls include a calendar, a file-upload control, and a control to display XML on a Web page.

  • Data controls   Enable you to connect a Web page to various sources of data, which includes databases and XML files. Data controls also let you display data on the page in tables or in other formats, and enable users to edit data.

  • Navigation controls   Enable you to add various types of menus to Web pages. These include static and fly-out menus, a tree view, and a navigation path (which is also known as an eyebrow or breadcrumb).

  • Validation controls   Provide a way to check user input. You can check for required fields, ranges of values, minimum and maximum values, and specific patterns.

  • Login controls   Enable you to easily create logon forms and authenticate users. You can also use login controls that enable users to register on the Web site and recover or replace their passwords.

  • Web Parts controls   Enable users to customize an ASP.NET Web page in the browser. Web Parts controls can customized content such as news headlines or weather data. Users can select which Web Parts control they want to see, and they can customize the layout and appearance of the Web Parts controls. Web Parts controls are personalized, so that the user's preferences are retained between browser sessions.

  • AJAX extension controls   Enable you to enhance a Web site by using AJAX capabilities, include asynchronous postbacks.

For more information, see ASP.NET Web Server Controls Overview.

Visual Web Developer Express supports ASP.NET data source controls, which perform all the tasks that are required to connect to and communicate with various types of data sources. For example, the SqlDataSource control contains a data connection object that can connect to a SQL Server database. It also contains data command objects for SQL Select, Update, and Delete statements. Other data-source controls enable you to connect to OLE-DB data sources, XML data sources, and other data sources. The advantage of data source controls is that they provide a consistent interface for data binding for all ASP.NET controls.

Visual Web Developer Express supports Language-Integrated Query (LINQ). LINQ is a query syntax that lets you define query operations directly in C# and Visual Basic. LINQ lets you query databases or in-memory data sources. To support database queries, Visual Web Developer Express includes an object-relational mapping designer that enables you to quickly create and edit data classes that map to objects in a database.

Visual Web Developer Express also supports ASP.NET Dynamic Data. This lets you create extensible data-driven Web applications by inferring at run time the appearance and behavior of data entities from the database schema and deriving UI behavior from it.

Visual Web Developer Express also supports a variety of data controls that you can add to ASP.NET Web pages to display data. These include the GridView, DetailsView, FormView, ListView, DataList, and Repeater controls. Each of these controls enables you to present data in different ways. Each control also supports additional features, which includes sorting, paging, editing data records, inserting new data records, and so on. You can also populate controls such as the ListBox and DropDownList controls with data from data source controls.

Visual Web Developer Express lets you drag data tables onto a page. When you do, Visual Web Developer Express automatically creates preconfigured controls on the page.

You can store data in a local database by using SQL Server Express. This an optional download. For more information, see Using SQL Server Express with ASP.NET.

By using ASP.NET features such as membership, roles, and login server controls, you can add authentication (login) and authorization to a Web site using little or no code. You can enable users to register on the site, and you can create a login page that automatically checks users' credentials. You can help protect pages so that only logged-in users can view them. On a single page, you can present different information to users who are logged in and to anonymous users.

For more information, see How ASP.NET Security Works.

Visual Web Developer Express includes several project types to help you create Web applications, sites and services:


Visual Web Developer Express does not support all project types.

  • ASP.NET Web Site Projects   ASP.NET Web site projects include specific types of files that ASP.NET recognizes for processing. In addition, you can create folders for special purposes, such as for storing source code, defining themes, and managing resources. Visual Web Developer Express includes an ASP.NET Empty Web Site project template and an ASP.NET Web Site project template that includes many auto-generated capabilities that you can customize. For more information, see ASP.NET Web Site Projects.

  • ASP.NET Web Application Projects   ASP.NET Web applications projects let you compile a Web site into a single assembly and explicitly define project resources. This project type provides an alternative to Web sites projects in order to provide more options for how you deploy and maintain Web applications. Visual Web Developer Express includes an ASP.NET Empty Web Application project template and a ASP.NET Web Application project template that includes many auto-generated capabilities that you can customize. For more information, see ASP.NET Web Application Projects.

  • ASP.NET MVC 2 Web Projects   The ASP.NET MVC 2 Web Application project template and the ASP.NET MVC 2 Web Site project template can both be used to build Web applications that use a model-view-controller pattern. For more information, see ASP.NET MVC Overview.

  • ASP.NET Dynamic Data Entities Web Projects   The Dynamic Data Web application project template and the Dynamic Data Web site project template are used to work with the ADO.NET Entity Framework. The project types can target any relational database. For more information about Dynamic Data, see ASP.NET Dynamic Data Content Map.

  • ASP.NET Dynamic Data Linq to SQL Web Projects   The Dynamic Data Linq to SQL Web application project template and the Dynamic Data Linq to SQL Web site project template are used to create data-driven Web applications that use LINQ to interact with a SQL-based database. This Web application can target any relational database. For more information about Dynamic Data, see ASP.NET Dynamic Data Content Map.

  • WCF Service Projects   The WCF Service Application template provides a basic class structure for service development. The template includes basic definitions for a service contract, a data contract, a service implementation, and service configuration. You can use this template to create a service that requires little or no additional coding, and that can serve as a building block for more advanced services.

  • Class Library Projects   You can use the Class Library template to quickly create reusable classes and components that can be shared with other projects. For more information, see Class Library Template.

  • Silverlight 1.0 Web Site Projects   The Silverlight 1.0 Web Site project template creates a basic Silverlight 1.0 Web site using JavaScript and XAML.

Visual Web Developer Express includes many features to help you create and manage Web sites and Web application projects. Additional features include the following:

  • Multi-targeting   You can target a Web application to a specific version of the .NET Framework. By default, Visual Web Developer Express targets the .NET Framework version 4. The multi-targeting feature helps make sure that applications use only the functionality that is available in a specified version of the .NET Framework. In addition, the multi-targeting feature lets you deploy older applications without requiring you to add a new .NET Framework version in the deployment package.

  • IntelliSense   IntelliSense offers context-appropriate code choices as you type, including properties, functions, and objects. IntelliSense enables you to keep your coding context, find the information that you need, and insert language elements directly into your code.

  • Debugging   You can test pages by using the integrated debugger, which enables you to find errors in your code. You can also turn on trace, which displays useful debugging information in each page. For more information, see ASP.NET Debugging Overview.

  • Individualizing Web pages   You can create user profiles, which enable you to store user-specific settings that you can use to customize pages for each user. For more information, see ASP.NET Profile Properties Overview.

  • Managing state   The state management capabilities of Visual Web Developer Express enable you to store information between page requests, such as customer information or the contents of a shopping cart. You can save and manage application-specific, session-specific, page-specific, user-specific, and developer-defined information.

  • Globalization   You can configure your pages to automatically read text from a resource file that is matched to the user's preferred language and locale. For more information, see ASP.NET Globalization and Localization.

  • Deployment   You can publish Web sites to test servers or production servers using a variety of tools. For more information, see ASP.NET Deployment Content Map.