New Goodies from Microsoft – Microsoft Answers and Web Spark

Here are a couple of nifty resources that you should bookmark.

Microsoft Answers

Join the conversation as a community leader through a new, fast-growing Microsoft site called Microsoft Answers.  The site currently focuses on Microsoft’s consumer products starting with Windows Vista.  Throughout the fall (actually, starting on September 28th), Microsoft began to add forums for Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows Live Services (in English, with other languages to follow starting back in October). Forums for Office will also be added later, with more consumer products to be added as the Microsoft Answers community grows.

Microsoft Answers is already live in the English language– go to to view the existing forums. On September 28 (PST), Microsoft Answers will also offer community forums around Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Live Services.

You’ll need to register, but if you are currently registered with MSDN and/or TechNet, your credentials and user profile will automatically be recognized by the Microsoft Answers site via your Windows Live ID).  If you want to tweet about this, use the #MSAnswers hashtag.

WebSite Spark and Web Application Tool Kits

Microsoft has also announced WebsiteSpark featuring a number of Web Application Toolkits to the Web. Web Application Toolkits are designed to enable Web Developers to extend their web application capabilities simply and easily by providing them with a packaged set of running samples, templates and documentation – all in a consistent packaged format that is easy to download and run in a very short period of time.

One of the key criteria that I really like about the Web Application Toolkits is that they’re designed to enable Web Developers to get to an F5 (Run) experience very quickly and ensure that this is the right solution for their problem.  I’ve always felt that coders are much more like artists than they are like engineers.  And every good artists knows that they key to a great piece of art is the initial sketch.  Unfortunately, our application development tools frequently constrain us from making a sketch in code, running it, and then refining it.  After all, how many times have you heard about or been the developer who spent hours getting a sample to work, only to find it does not do the expected?

Microsoft WebsiteSpark includes 7 Web Application Toolkits (at the time of launch, maybe there are more now?), together with an introduction to the Web Application Toolkits on Channel9 by James Senior and Jonathan Carter.  Me likey the Channel9.  The example scenarios were selected based on feedback from community developers with the first 7 being detailed below:

  1. Web Application Toolkit for Internet Explorer 8 Extensibility. Check out the accompanying screencast.
  2. Web Application Toolkit for Bing Search. Check out the accompanying screencast.
  3. Web Application Toolkit for REST Services.  Check out the accompanying screencast.
  4. Web Application Toolkit for Mobile Web Applications. Check out the accompanying screencast.
  5. Web Application Toolkit for Template-Driven Email.  Check out the accompanying screencast.
  6. Web Application Toolkit for making Your Web Site Social. Check out the accompanying screencast.
  7. Web Application Toolkit for FAQs. Check out the accompanying screencast.

You can find the complete list of Web Application Toolkits here.   Microsoft plans for several more and are exploring additional ways to make it easier for Web Developers to find and reuse this content.

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