IIS Developer Express - The Fabulous Developer's Web Server


Microsoft developed IIS developer express keeping in mind the ease of use for developers only. This article covers the good things about IIS Developer Express server and a drawbacks of the same as well.

This is one of the hottest news on the internet these days in the tech galleries, and it has to be when Microsoft does something new for the already climbing graph of number of developers who would like to work on Windows. But before we go in deep for knowing what is in there in this special version of the most popular web server on Windows platform, let us first see what is the standard version of IIS.

What is IIS?


For a one-word answer to that question, I would say: IIS is a web server. IIS stands for "Internet Information Services". This web server comes free with almost all Windows Operating Systems (except some smaller editions like home basic version). However, it is not enabled by default. But when you install it, you have a fully functional web server running on your system. IIS can be used to host websites which can range from small web pages for a personal website to a large commercial website hosting business critical application. The fact that it is the default web server for the Windows Server operating Systems would be enough, I guess to make you believe that it is indeed capable of doing anything that you want to do with it, especially when you must be already knowing that most critical servers within organizations run on Windows Server Operating Systems.

To enable IIS on Windows, you have to take some simple steps as below:

- Insert your Windows installation disk in your optical drive.
- Go to control panel -> Programs -> Turn Windows features on or off
- Select Internet Information Services from the list and click ok

That all! IIS will get installed on your computer!

What is IIS Developer Express?


Now that we already know what IIS basically is, it would be nice to know what is IIS developer express. IIS Developer Express is the "Developer" version of IIS given by Microsoft for free to the developers; the 'express' word in the name suggests that it is the free version. This version come with a few more features and capabilities than the standard version of IIS.

Pros of IIS Developer Express Server


The question comes easily in our minds - What is new in this version? It's the same question you would ask when you hear about a new version of Windows coming up, although in this case, the product is IIS. Microsoft is a software company which rules the world and in the world of software, you need to have developers making software for you. The whole world runs on Windows and a huge number of servers use IIS for serving the websites. Hence it is important the new developers interested in developing new applications get the right tools that they need. They will need a web server which makes it easy to program their websites.

Hence Microsoft added a few new features in the Developer Express edition of its IIS flagship. Some of the most important ones are:

1. PHP Support Inbuilt - IIS Developer Express: PHP is gaining popularity and it was so very obvious to Microsoft that they need to support this language which powers up a very huge amount of web today. Hence they have made PHP support available in the IIS Developer Express. While this is also available in the IIS 7, IIS Developer Express makes use of this feature to ease the programming for the software developers. This relieves the developer to configure PHP for IIS separately, which is actually a very tiring and tedious process, and a lengthy one too!

2. Control over Process - IIS Developer Express: In case of standard version of IIS, the websites start automatically when you start your computer and your computer is ready to serve the websites. This is done by the Windows Process Activation Service (also known as WAS) which starts a few process when the Windows starts. It is a point to be noted that this service launches Google talk when you start your computer every time.

Automatically activating the web server in a development environment is a big problem. This is so because during the development process, the web site will not be complete and there will be security problems. So your web site will make your computer vulnerable on the web. IIS Developer Express allows you to switch on and off the web server manually (and easily) and it does not start the web server automatically when you start your computer. This saves you from being vulnerable on the web.

3. Supported protocols: it supports almost all the protocols used by standard version of IIS. It supports HTTP, HTTPS, WebDAV, and WCF (over HTTP). This is great for developers trying to making a great application because it allows them to use all the features they would want in a development web server.

4. Non-admin support for developers: When doing development work, it is not mandatory for the developers to run the system as an administrator. This is a great feature especially when you consider the fact that almost every management work for a web site is done using an administrator account. IIS Developer Express allows you to take almost total control using your non-administrator account and gets the work done! This is very good, as you do not risk your computer by using administrator account for development purpose.

5. Visual Studio Support: The IIS Developer Express run with the management controls in hands of WebMatrix and this is one great feature. This also enables IIS Developer Express to get integrated with Visual Studio IDE, which happens to be the most popular programming platform on the Windows Operating System. Auto-completion and debugging facilities in Visual Studio are a great aid to the development process and the support for Visual Studio is just too good for Developers!

6. Multi developer support: The IIS Developer Express helps the developers in a team organize their work while making the website usable. In case of a problem, the developer responsible for the problem can easily change his code as all the code is organized according to their creators. This is one great thing when compared to the standard version of IIS. It is great because, when you develop a web site, a whole team does the work in a split manner and there are a huge lot of files for every developer. A problem can take at least 10 times more effort if the work by every developer is not organized well.

Now the awesomeness of IIS Developer Express comes when we actually use it. The 'awesome' factor comes from the facts that

  • IIS Developer Express can run on .NET frameworks ranging from 2.0 to 4.0. Therefore, it will not force you to change things from bottom to top. You can use what you are using in any of the versions from the above range and leave the rest on IIS Developer Express.

  • IIS Developer Express can be installed along side IIS standard edition. This makes the work easier for a developer because he does not have to uninstall the previous one. It just works out of box!

  • Development websites in ASP.NET will not be accessible from outside of the development environment and that is just great because it saves you from external attacks when 'developing'.

  • If you have read about WOW subsystem, then you will not have problem understanding that the IIS Developer Express will run on the 64 bit Operating System, despite the fact that a 32 bit version is not available!

  • SSL is supported, and that means that Business Critical applications can be made secure from Ground up.

    Cons of IIS Devloper Express Server


    Now that is a great feature set! Considering the popularity of IIS, developers needed support for making the development easier and that has been done by making IIS Developer Express so flexible that perhaps developers will not ask for new features for a few weeks.

    But there are a few things which are not so good about IIS Developer Express but are justified, but here they are, the downsides of this product:

  • It is not recommended to use IIS Developer Express for production use.

  • You cannot start and stop the IIS Developer Express just as you stop and start IIS standard edition, this is because the process model of the IIS Developer Express is much different than a

  • IIS Manager, which is used to manage IIS standard edition is better in a few ways than the WebMatrix.


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