Microsoft announced a second set of improvements to its upcoming Visual Studio 7 (VS7) suite of development tools this week at the Visual C++ Developers Conference in Santa Clara, California, with a look at the enhancements to Visual C++ 7 (VC++). Like the earlier revelations about Visual Basic 7 (VB) last month, this week's news about VC++ is somewhat exciting, and C++ developers can finally expect a single development environment for all of the VS7 tools, support for Web Services, new ATL features, and COM+ Attributed programming, which will significantly lower the amount of code needed to create COM+ components in C++. Microsoft says that the improvements will enable the 1.2 million existing VC++ developers to seamlessly move into the next generation of Web development.

"Developers are at the heart of Microsoft's vision for Web Services, and we are committed to delivering the tools necessary to capitalize on this vision," said Tod Nielsen, the vice president of the Platform Group at Microsoft. "Microsoft is focused on arming developers with powerful and productive Web development tools based on XML that will power the creation of world's largest Internet sites. The new Visual Studio enhancements we are announcing today will make it easy for developers to use Visual C++ to create high-performance Web services to power their next-generation e-commerce applications."

Microsoft demonstrated the common integrated development environment (IDE) that Visual Basic and Visual C++ will share, allowing for the rapid development and deployment of Web Forms, COM+ components, and database applications, all designed in the developer's language of choice. This common IDE will allow developers to mix and match languages as needed, and will support cross-language debugging. A new server-side technology called ATL Server will allow C++ developers to access the full functionality of Microsoft's Web server from their favorite language, using a class-based extension to ATL, the Active Template Library used for COM/COM+. A new feature called Attributed programming extends the C++ language and significantly reduces the amount of code needed to create COM+ applications and services. And with support for Web Services, VC++ developers will be able to link applications, services and devices with one another over the Internet using HTTP, XML and SOAP, an XML-based standard for cross-platform object invocation.

Microsoft expects to release Visual Studio 7 in the first half of 2001. For more information on the new features introduced this week, please visit Microsoft's Next Generation of Visual Studio Web site