Microsoft Visual InterDev 1.0 Technical FAQ

Microsoft Corporation

Last Updated: December 18, 1997

What is Microsoft Visual InterDev?

Microsoft® Visual InterDev® is a new Web application development tool from Microsoft. Visual InterDev enables developers to easily build dynamic, database-driven Web sites for corporate intranets and the Internet. The tool is a new member of the Microsoft Visual Tools family.

How does Microsoft Visual InterDev relate to Microsoft FrontPage?

Visual InterDev is a Web development tool designed for programmers, while Microsoft FrontPage® is a Web authoring tool designed for nonprogrammers. Microsoft FrontPage is a member of the Microsoft Office family, and looks and works like other Office applications. Visual InterDev is a member of the Microsoft Visual Tools family, and looks and works like other Microsoft visual development tools (including Microsoft Visual C++®, Visual J++®, Visual FoxPro®, and Visual Basic®). Because most Web sites are created by teams of people, including both nonprogrammers and programmers, Visual InterDev and Microsoft FrontPage interoperate so that teams of people with different skill sets can work together on the same Web site.

What new features does Visual InterDev offer?

The product includes a variety of visual development tools presented within a single, integrated development environment (IDE). Visual InterDev includes extensive support for building Web applications based on Active Server Pages (ASP)—an enhancement to the Microsoft Internet Information Server that allows developers to build sophisticated Web applications. Visual InterDev provides a variety of integrated database development tools for building Web sites that are database-driven. Visual InterDev also provides integrated scripting support (Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition [VBScript] and Microsoft JScript®) and enables developers to easily integrate into a Web site both client and server-side components written in Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++, Java, and other languages.

Is Visual InterDev simply a high-end version of Microsoft FrontPage?

No. Visual InterDev and Microsoft FrontPage are designed for different users. FrontPage is designed to enable nonprogrammers, including business professionals, designers, and Web site administrators to easily build and maintain professional Web sites. Visual InterDev is designed to enable application developers (programmers) to easily create Web applications, including Web sites with advanced processing such as database connectivity. The tools fully interoperate, so that teams of programmers and nonprogrammers can work together on the same Web site, each using a tool tailored to their specific needs.

How does Visual InterDev relate to Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual C++ and Visual J++?

Visual InterDev is a member of the Visual Tools family, making it easy to assemble and integrate components developed in the other visual tools within an overall Web solution. Visual J++, Visual C++, and Visual Basic are programming languages that are component producers, while Visual InterDev is a component consumer. For example, a developer may build a financial analysis component in Visual Basic and use Visual InterDev to integrate that component into a financial services Web site using ASP and server scripting. The Web site can then provide interactive financial modeling information to users, and since the component is a server-side component, the site is accessible by any browser on any platform.

Besides making it easy to integrate components developed in Visual Basic, Visual C++, and Visual J++ within a Web application, Visual InterDev also shares the same IDE as Visual J++ and Visual C++, providing even tighter integration with these tools.

How does Microsoft Visual InterDev relate to Java?

Visual InterDev is an integrated development environment for building Web applications for corporate intranets and the Internet. Java is a cross-platform programming language for building Web applets and components that can run on either the Web client (inside the browser) or on the Web server. Developers can use Visual InterDev to integrate both client Java applets and server-side Java components into a Web site.

Does Visual InterDev work with third-party tools?

Yes. While Visual InterDev includes a comprehensive set of tools for developing dynamic Web sites, customers can easily use Visual InterDev in conjunction with their favorite tools they are already using. Third-party editing tools (such as HTML editors, graphics editors and others) can be easily activated to edit any file that is part of a Visual InterDev project. Additionally, developers can easily integrate components developed in third-party development tools, such as Borland Delphi, MicroFocus COBOL, Sybase PowerBuilder, and many others. Visual InterDev also supports connectivity to ODBC-compliant database systems, which includes Oracle, IBM DB/2, and a wide variety of other database systems.

Does Visual InterDev provide database support, and what database systems can be used with Visual InterDev?

Visual InterDev offers sophisticated database-development features for building dynamic, data-driven Web sites. Visual InterDev database features are based on Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), and work with most popular database management systems on the market, including Microsoft SQL Server™, Microsoft Access, Microsoft FoxPro, Oracle, and others. In addition to providing database connectivity and rich development tools for ODBC-based databases, Visual InterDev also provides a special Database Designer feature that adds the ease of use of Microsoft Access to the setup and administration of Microsoft SQL Server databases.

What Web servers are supported?

Visual InterDev offers different features based on the capabilities of the Web server you are using. Visual InterDev enables you to create Web projects on Web servers supporting the FrontPage Server Extensions, including most popular Web servers on Microsoft Windows NT® and UNIX. For example, you can use the Visual InterDev drag-and-drop publishing features, HTML and client-side development features, and team development features on Microsoft Internet Information Server, Netscape, Apache and other Web servers supported by the FrontPage Server Extensions. The core server-side development features, such as dynamic HTML generation and database connectivity, are based on ASP, an exciting new development feature for the Microsoft Web servers, including Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0, Peer Web Services for Windows NT Workstation, and the Personal Web Server for Microsoft Windows® 95.

What is an ActiveX Server Component?

An ActiveX™ Server component (formerly known as an "OLE Automation Server") supports the Component Object Model (COM), and executes on the server as opposed to the client. ActiveX Server Components are reusable components that can provide sophisticated functionality. As COM components they expose their functionality to higher-level scripting languages such as VBScript and JScript. Thus, ActiveX Server Components are an ideal way to easily provide interactive, dynamic functionality within Web sites using Visual InterDev.

ActiveX Server Components can be developed in any language supporting COM, including Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++, Java, and third-party programming languages including Borland Delphi and MicroFocus COBOL. ActiveX Server Components also make it easy to integrate existing internal systems with an Internet- or intranet-based application, since legacy systems can be "wrapped" as COM components and then integrated into a Web application using Visual InterDev.

Can ActiveX Server Components be distributed on a network?

Yes. The Distributed COM (DCOM) technology for Windows NT and Windows 95 allows any ActiveX Server Component to be seamlessly distributed to any computer on the network. This means that using Visual InterDev, developers can easily build fully distributed, multitier Web applications. By distributing components that require heavy processing to separate application servers, the load on the Web server is reduced, so that greater performance and throughput can be achieved. Distributed solutions can also offer greater fault tolerance.

What are Active Server Pages?

Active Server Pages are a new feature of Microsoft Internet Information Server that make it easy to develop dynamic, interactive Web sites. ASP can contain embedded script logic that executes on the server as opposed to the client. Internet Information Server provides native support for both VBScript and JScript, and third-party scripting engines supporting other scripting languages (such as PERL) can be seamlessly plugged in. ASP can make use of server components written in any language supporting the COM, such as Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++, Java, COBOL, PASCAL, and other languages.

How Does Visual InterDev support the development of Active Server Pages?

The Visual InterDev integrated development environment (IDE) provides visual tools that automatically generate much of the Active Server scripting necessary to create dynamic, database-driven Web sites. For example, developers can easily insert into a project a database connection to any ODBC data source, and Visual InterDev will generate all of the Active Server logic necessary to create a pooled database connection to that database for use throughout the Web site. In addition, developers can work with integrated database tools such as the Query Designer, database design-time ActiveX controls, and database wizards that make it easy to create ASPs.

What is the difference between using the Internet Database Connector (IDC) for Microsoft Internet Information Server and using Visual InterDev for database connectivity?

Visual InterDev is based on ASP for database connectivity, and offers a much more flexible and programmable method than IDC for connecting Web sites to ODBC-based databases. Specifically, Visual InterDev provides point-and-click database connectivity, visual query tools, and wizards that generate Web-to-database connectivity based on Active Data Objects (ADO). ADO also provides for more flexible, programmable database connectivity using server-side VBScript and/or JScript.

I am currently using the Microsoft Internet Database Connector (IDC) to connect my Web site to my ODBC databases. Is there any way to migrate easily from IDC to Active Server Pages and Visual InterDev?

Yes. There is an IDC/HTX-to-ASP converter available at the MSDN Library site http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/server/toolbox/toolbox.asp.

What are design-time ActiveX controls?

Design-time ActiveX controls are an important new feature introduced with Visual InterDev. Design-time ActiveX controls provide all of the benefits of component software as standard ActiveX controls, such as plug-and-play functionality and visual editing at design time. However, design-time ActiveX controls generate textual content that can include HTML and scripting, viewable on any browser and any platform. They are helper components that help a developer visually construct sophisticated Web pages, with the control performing the hard work of generating the HTML and/or scripting necessary to actually build the page.

Custom design-time ActiveX controls provided by third-party software vendors enable Visual InterDev to be seamlessly extended with specialized capabilities.

What design-time ActiveX controls are included with Visual InterDev?

Visual InterDev includes a number of design-time ActiveX controls, including controls that automate the process of creating dynamic HTML pages based on connections to databases. For example, the Data Command Control provides an easy-to-use visual interface for constructing a complex SQL query against any ODBC database. The control does the hard work of generating the Active Server Page logic (server scripting) to execute the query and return a result set for display in a Web page. Other controls include Data Range Header and Footer controls that automatically create the server scripting to build a page that allows users to page forward and back through a long list of database records. In addition to these, Visual InterDev also includes over 15 standard ActiveX controls.

Can third parties build design-time ActiveX controls?

Yes. Microsoft has held design-previews with independent software vendors, and published the specification for building design-time ActiveX controls. The specification also includes the information necessary to build tools that make use of design-time ActiveX controls. We expect that over time, hundreds of design-time ActiveX controls will be available from third party software vendors, providing a rich set of components that can be used to seamlessly extend the capabilities of Visual InterDev. Design-time ActiveX Controls can be developed in C, Visual C++, and the Visual Basic 5 Control Creation Kit that can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft Web site.

Do design-time ActiveX controls replace standard ActiveX controls?

No. Because design-time ActiveX controls differ from standard ActiveX controls in that they do not contain a binary, run-time component, Microsoft has decided to make them a separate category of ActiveX controls. Because design-time ActiveX controls generate HTML and text-based scripting, there is no binary run-time component—hence their output can be viewed on any platform in any browser. These controls are based on published COM interfaces developed during design previews held at Microsoft, and any interested third party can build them.

Design-time ActiveX controls will co-exist with standard ActiveX Controls, which do provide a binary run-time component that offers run-time functionality not offered by design-time ActiveX controls. For example, standard ActiveX controls, unlike design-time ActiveX controls, are exposed as COM objects at run time and design time, and can be scripted at run time by exposed methods, properties, and events.

How does Visual InterDev relate to the Visual Basic 5 Control Creation Kit?

The Visual Basic 5 Control Creation Kit makes it easy to build new components that extend Visual InterDev with new capabilities. Visual Basic developers can now use the Control Creation Kit to build ActiveX controls, including design-time ActiveX controls, that can be plugged into Visual InterDev. For example, a developer could use the Visual Basic Control Creation Kit to build a design-time HTML table control that can automatically display a list of database fields in an HTML table element.

How much does Visual InterDev cost?

Visit the Pricing page of the Microsoft Visual InterDev Web site (http://msdn.microsoft.com/vinterdev/Prodinfo/purchase/Pricing.asp)for the latest information.

What platforms does Visual InterDev support?

Visual InterDev allows developers to build HTML-based Web applications that can be accessed by any browser on any platform. The development tool itself will run on Windows 95 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0.