Wow! What a great trip! I got back late last week from an amazing 10-day tour through eastern Canada (and Vermont) spreading the LightSwitch love. Thanks to all the user group leaders, conference organizers, and friends who made this trip possible. I was happy to see the great turnout at all the events and warm reception that folks gave to me and to Visual Studio LightSwitch. I can honestly say that people are very excited about the HTML client we are working on, but they were also very interested in what LightSwitch can do today – by being able to quickly model interoperable data services that are smart, secure and can be deployed to Azure – drastically reducing the time it takes to build these type of business apps. I definitely turned a lot of heads and attitudes about LightSwitch.

Learn more about LightSwitch by visiting the LightSwitch Developer Center.

Takeaways

  • In speaking with primarily professional .NET developers using Visual Studio today, only a few people at this point have never heard of LightSwitch. However most have never tried it and had misconceptions about it, forming opinions about it without even trying it. I’m glad I could set them straight. :-)
  • Adding HTML as an alternate client is driving a lot of interest and more acceptance of LightSwitch. Most developers I spoke with are being “forced” to learn JavaScript & HTML to keep up with business demands and the plethora of mobile devices being used in the enterprise. LightSwitch can really fill a gap here.
  • Professional developers do appreciate that the plumbing and “boring” repetitive code is done for you so that they can concentrate on the customization, they just need to be able to trust the design and extend it if needed.
  • Being able to use LightSwitch as a way to build and deploy data services separately from the client was very compelling for native (Win8, iOS, Android, etc.) developers. They can quickly create the shared backend services and concentrate on the clients.
  • Although there is a lot of excitement in the HTML client, people were also impressed with the desktop Silverlight client. This is still a very necessary piece in business apps – heavy mouse & keyboard usage scenarios still need to be covered.
  • Although I only spoke to a few SharePoint folks, being able to create SharePoint/O365 apps with LightSwitch was very exciting for them. Many enterprises use SharePoint as an application portal where all the security is managed in one place. Being able to quickly create an HTML or Silverlight app and deploy it to SharePoint was very compelling for them. I think we need to do a SharePoint speaking tour next ;-)
  • Interesting how attitude seems to be changing now that LightSwitch is maturing and covering hard scenarios. A lot of .NET developers are having a hard time building these apps themselves. Welcome all to the community! :-)

Demos & Resources

Building Connected Business Apps in Light Speed using Visual Studio LightSwitch

At the user group events I had about 2 – 2.5 hours for the presentation so I started off showing how to build and consume OData services using the data designer in LightSwitch. I showed how to aggregate multiple data sources, write business rules, enable security/access control and then demonstrated how these rules apply no matter what client is talking to the services. The point here is that LightSwitch in Visual Studio 2012 can be used to quickly create smart, secure, interoperable middle-tier services.

For more info on these features see:

Then I moved on to show off the HTML client preview 2 that we released last month. I did a variation of the Contoso Moving HTML Client Tutorial that shows how to build a companion mobile application for a moving company. We started off with a common set of data services and business logic as well as a Silverlight desktop client. Then I walked through the process of defining screens & dialogs using the screen designer. I showed some of the customization you have available by tapping into the rendering of the controls in order to write your own JavaScript. You only have to write JavaScript when you want to customize something, LightSwitch does the rest. I also showed how to customize the theme with standard CSS. The point here is that LightSwitch, in addition to the desktop apps, will be able to quickly create HTML5/JavaScript business apps based on the same set of interoperable data services.

Finally I took the application (data services, Silverlight client, and HTML client) and deployed it to an Azure website in about 3 minutes. I then told everyone in the room hit the public URL and party on! I have to say deploying LightSwitch applications to Azure websites is super-easy and is pretty much a no-brainer because you can start for FREE and scale as you go, without having to re-deploy anything.

For information on how to deploy to Azure see:

Mastering LightSwitch (All-day Training)

I also delivered an all day training on Saturday in Montreal. In addition to the above content, I also started with the basics of building an app from scratch beginning to end based on the Vision Clinic sample we released back with LightSwitch version 1. This is a good introduction to the development experience and a lot of the capabilities LightSwitch has to offer.

For getting started content see:

I also showed more advanced customizations you can do with LightSwitch including writing custom code, controls and extensions. I based this part of the training on the Contoso Construction advanced sample application.

For information on advanced customizations and extensions see:

Day-by-Day

Toronto

  

I started off in North Toronto on Monday, December 3rd. Luis picked me up from the airport and we headed directly to the meeting. There were about 20-25 people there that showed a lot of excitement about the HTML Client and OData services. I even showed an example of how to use Excel 2013 to do some analysis on the data coming from the service. Of course it wouldn’t be Canada without beers after the meeting – as a matter of fact, I drank a LOT of beer and ate a LOT of pizza for dinner on my trip :-)

The next day I packed two training rooms at ObjectSharp in downtown Toronto. Bruce set up a Lync meeting in the second room and broadcasted me on screen. There were about 40 people at this one. I got good feedback on the LightSwitch development experience. Folks initially thought LightSwitch wasn’t for developers at all – I reiterated to them that it is a developer tool, for developers of ALL skill levels. Although we had some hiccups with the internet, I got good ratings when I snuck a peek at the surveys at the end.

On Wednesday I took the train to the East Toronto meeting in a town called Pickering. I walked from the train station to the library and boy was it COLD! The first two days were rather warm and rainy in Toronto, but it went to freezing the third day. Good old Canada ramping me up gently into freezing my *** off. ;-)

I met Chris in the library and set up quickly. There were 36 people at this one, a good turnout for this particular group and more of them were doing web development. Again there was a lot of excitement about the HTML client. Most people were wading through the plethora of options with mobile development and the consensus was no one likes JavaScript, but we got to use it. They really liked the fact we were taking a standards-based / JQuery direction right now so that we could run on the most modern devices available. 

Some short but to the point comments :-) (read them on the Meetup site here):

  • Fantastic.
  • I agree!!

Ottawa

   

The next day I took the train to Ottawa. What a beautiful trip! I had been to Toronto many times before but this was my first time to Ottawa. It was cold & clear on the way up and it was lovely looking out the train window on what was a very comfortable ride with pretty quick WiFi.

That evening I spoke at the Microsoft office in downtown Ottawa. A lot of folks at this group worked for the government (not surprising since it’s the capital!). There were about 30 people at this group and although they also had a lot of excitement in the HTML client, they also stressed the importance of desktop clients. This is still a very necessary piece in business apps – heavy mouse & keyboard usage scenarios still need to be covered. People were very impressed about the functionality we built in so little time with so little code. I got a lot of handshakes afterwards and many people were anxious to try it out. I think I convinced a lot of people of the value of LightSwitch.

Some comments (read them on the Meetup site)

  • Beth Massi did an excellent job of presenting LightSwitch... She built and deployed a business app which consumed ODATA, and deployed it to Azure.... LightSwitch looks like an awesome tool for rapid application development... and I'm am looking forward to giving it a try...
  • Wow... LightSwitch is impressive.

Montreal

   

The next day, Friday, day Jean-Rene (JR) picked me up and we drove to Montreal - about a 2 hour drive. JR organized my speaking trip and organizes DevTeach, an intimate Canadian conference I have been speaking at for 9 years which drew about 250 attendees this time. JR has many community connections in Canada and is a good friend of mine so it was a fun road trip. We got there in the evening, grabbed some smoked meat for dinner and then headed to the hotel so he could start setting up.

The next day at the DevTeach pre-conference I delivered an all-day training from 9am to 5pm. It was the first time I have ever done an all-day training – I realize I poop out at about 4pm ;-). 38 people came who were mostly business application/ data-based developers although there were a couple web-developers. It was a good target audience for LightSwitch. Everyone had heard of LightSwitch before but only 2 people had actually built apps with it, so it was good that I had prepared introductory material. We went through a whirlwind of content (see above) and deployed the final applications we built to Azure. Then at the end of the day, Louis-Philippe got up and showed how to build a native Windows 8 application that talked to the same set of LightSwitch data services hosted in Azure.

When we wrapped up I asked how many people are going to use LightSwitch the minute they walk out the door and almost everyone raised their hand :-)

I also delivered a couple regular sessions at DevTeach – one focusing on the OData services and one on mobile development. I had about 50-60 people attend each of these sessions so it was a great turnout. In the mobile session I asked the audience if they were writing JavaScript today, no one raised their hand (or wanted to admit it). However, everyone raised their hand when I asked if they needed to learn it. I think LightSwitch will really help folks like these.

Some session comments:

  • Innovative solution to RAD projects with extensible data sources
  • good exposure to a tool/technology I never used yet.
  • Interesting topic, great possibilities to develop line of businesses applications. Speaker was knowledgeable and well spoken.
  • great presentation. Can't wait to start building applications with LightSwitch. Really looking forward to the HTML client.
  • Sounds like LightSwitch will soon make sense for us with HTML. So it was good to start learning!
  • Good overview of technology, made me interested in exploring it for eventual mobile development.
  • I like the high energy and excitement of the presenter while was presenting.

Vermont

   

On Tuesday, Roman drove me from Montreal to Vermont and we crossed the border without issues (thank you border patrol!). Although it had stormed the day before, Tuesday turned out to be relatively quiet weather day so we didn’t have a problem on the 2 hour trip. I got to the meeting at MyWebGrocer offices in Winooski about an hour before my scheduled start – plenty of time to reset my demos and publish a backup application to Azure.

Julie Lerman (Entity Framework expert and all around awesome person) runs the Vermont group and I have to say it’s a great bunch of folks in there! Julie mentioned the turnout was a lot higher than usual with about 45 people there and a lot of new faces. The group were primarily .NET developers using Visual Studio but there were also a couple SharePoint & Access developers in there as well. Again there was a lot of interest in the OData services and the HTML client as well as the deployment option to SharePoint. Although there was a Comcast problem at the end of the talk where the internet went down while publishing to Azure, it came back up and I ran my backup plan with no problems.

After the talk I asked how many people had misconceptions about LightSwitch but are looking forward to trying it now and almost everyone raised their hand, including Julie Lerman! :-)

Some comments (read them on the Meetup site)

  • Beth did an amazing job of not only showing Lightswitch potential to experienced devs, but she turned a lot of pre-conceived notions around about this topic. I think a lot of devs now have much more respect for and interest in Lightswitch. This is not Access, folks! :)
  • LightSwitch is really cool. I am looking forward to trying it.

The next day I spent the day with Julie having fun shopping in Burlington and showing me the sites. I also bought my red Nokia 920 which I LOVE LOVE LOVE! Thanks Julie for the hospitality!

Special Thanks

Thank you Jean-Rene Roy for organizing this entire trip and putting on another great show at DevTeach. Thanks to Louis-Philippe Pinsonneault for the Windows 8 demo at the end of the LightSwitch training day. Thanks to Roman Rehak for giving me a ride from Montreal to Vermont (next time on the motorcycle!) Thanks to user group leaders; Luis Duran, Bruce Johnson, Chris Dufor, Joel Hebert, Peter Richie & Julie Lerman. And special thanks to Sammy (a.k.a @GiantPuppy) for guarding my door the last couple nights of the trip. Until next time!

Happy Holidays!