Sunday, December 28, 2003

Maybe Microsoft Does Listen Once in a While

I've very much enjoyed programming with the .NET platform, but there's one issue that has led me to avoid committing to Visual Studio.NET as a tool for web development, and that is its' complete disregard for web-standards, and for XHTML in particular. Try as one might to work around Visual Studio's limitations, the damn thing seems to actively work to sabotage one's efforts, and the prospect of having to rewrite all the web controls from scratch to be XHTML-compliant leaves one wondering what benefit there is in bothering with ASP.NET to begin with. If I'm going to go to all that trouble, why not stick with JSP? I'm not going to pass up the benefits of strict XHTML compliance (MathML support, and improved web accessibility for millions of people with disabilities), Microsoft be damned.

Well, it seems that Microsoft may finally have caught on that this cavalier attitude towards standards simply won't wash with a sizable number of developers, and is promising that things will be different with the upcoming "Whidbey" release of Visual Studio.NET.

Visual Studio “Whidbey” enables you to easily build applications that conform to industry and government standards. The development environment includes new tools for supporting W3C standards such as XHTML and government standards such as accessibility standards.

XHTML Compliant Designer
All HTML code generated by Visual Studio “Whidbey” is XHTML compliant. For example, all the formatting options available from the toolbar generate HTML which is fully XHTML compliant. All tags generated by the designer are well-formed and properly cased for XHTML.

In addition to XHTML designer support, Visual Studio “Whidbey” also includes tools for helping you write XHTML compliant code in the source editor. While working in the source editor, you can validate your HTML source code against either the XHTML 1.0 Transitional or XHTML 1.0 Strict standards. When your code doesn't successfully validate, you are provided with an explanation for the validation failure.

Accessibility Checker
Creating accessible Web pages -- Web pages which can be used by persons with disabilities -- is a requirement for many government agencies. Visual Studio “Whidbey” now enables you to easily validate and enforce accessibility standards.

You can use the integrated Visual Studio “Whidbey” Accessibility Checker to quickly identify accessibility problems in your application. The Accessibility Checker validates your ASP.NET pages against both the Section 508 and W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, and will automatically output warnings and errors to the IDE Task List.

More on the changes that are to accompany the Whidbey release can be found in this MSDN article. As always with Microsoft, one is well advised to wait and see if all the promises pan out. In the meantime, I'll be devoting my attentions to JSP for web development, with .NET being relegated strictly to desktop applications.