The Cat's Out of the Box: The ASP.NET Sand Box

Ambrose Little / Tuesday, June 27, 2006
For some, this may be old news, but I was just visiting again today, and I thought this is something that more people should know about.  So in case you haven't heard, the ASP.NET teams have put up a little section on to host side projects that they're working on; they call it the sand box.  Right now, they have 10 projects up there, including the famed "Atlas."

There are a number of other tantalizing tidbits that you might find interesting.  I just downloaded and installed the CSS Properties Window, which is a pretty neat way to edit your styles.  It will let you see the styles applied to a particular element while in design view and let you modify them, even ones in a linked style sheet, even using themes.

One they just recently released is this thing called the Blinq Prototype, which as I understand it is a tool that will generate an ASP.NET application using DLinq (ORM paradigm) based on a database.  Now, I'm a strong advocate of object-oriented and domain-driven design, but if you need a good starting place for an application that is based on an existing database schema that uses objects (not data sets) and integrated language query (which is totally awesome!), this promises to be a RAD tool (in both senses).

Yet another nice tool is the table profile provider.  The out-of-the-box profile provider in ASP.NET stores profiles data as a blob-like manner; this tool enables you to store the profile properties separately in the database as distinct columns.  I don't know about you, but that's how I prefer it.  It's always nice when you get free code done pretty much the way you want it.

One tool there that I find absolutely indispensible is the Web Application Projects.  That one's actually a tad more official than some of the others as it is a released add-on, but despite its official suit and tie status, it's still a really cool tool.  I find that I pretty much want to do all my ASP.NET apps as WAPs, maybe because it is more familiar from the 1.x days, but mostly because most of the apps I work on are team projects, and WAP plays much better with VSS, in my experience, than the 2.0 web site projects.

So the sand box is definitely a spot you should keep your eye on for new, cool stuff that comes out of band from the regular release cycles from Microsoft.  As far as I know, there is not currently an RSS feed for the sand box, but if you watch Scott Guthrie's blog, he's usually good about talking up the stuff they put out there.