Visual Studio LightSwitch is a mind-blowing new offering from Microsoft, which is currently available as a public beta. The idea behind LightSwitch is to create data-backed applications without having to write any code. This sounded too good to be true, so I dedicated some time to trying it out. Three minutes and twenty seconds to be precise! Now, you can find these technology on our Shared hosting plan with very reliable and reasonable price.

Here is a screen shot of the application I created - it's a simple email / phone directory for internal use within a company. I figured you'd want to store each person's name, department, email and some phone numbers.

Remember, the entire application took 3:20 to write from scratch - just look at this search screen. I've got my data persisted to a SQL Express database for free. I've got paged results for free, I've got a search box that searches multiple fields for free. I've got the option to export to excel for free. Also note that I've added a "Create New Contact" page and also a "Details" page (you click on the first name) to edit existing records. I did those inside of that 3:20 as well.

What other features do you get for free... well, there is form validation to make sure people enter all the required information when adding a new record and there is even dirty-data checking for free.

So how did I write this application. Here are the details...

Step 1 - What do you want to store

This is the first screen you get. You type in the fields that you want to use in your application. The "Type" is a drop down list that contains handy options like "PhoneNumber" and "EmailAddress" as well as the more traditional number types and strings.

Step 2 - Add a screen

From the view of the data model, you just hit the "Add Screen" button and select from the five available templates. The search data screen is the one I selected for the main view in my application. Then you give it a "Screen Name" and select the "Screen Data" and click on OK.

At this point, you are actually finished - although I repeated this step to add a "Create Contact" screen and a "Details" screen (which also lets you edit the record).

Run up the example and what you have is a fully functional application, persisting its data to a database and validating user input. It's a Silverlight application, so you can run it on the desktop or via a browser.

More Information

You can find out more about LightSwitch on
the official Microsoft LightSwitch site.

Screen Shots

Here are a couple more screen shots that show some of the stuff you get for free when using LightSwitch, like validation messages and dirty-data warnings. Even the theme of the application is free, with it's tabbed interface and simple ribbon bar menu.

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