Over the past year, I have become an avid reader of Redmond Developer News. They talk about a lot of new things coming from Microsoft. I just subscribed to Visual Studio Magazine (VSM). Now I read that they are combining both magazines into one later this year. There is a lot of consolidation in the computer magazine space.

This month's issue of VSM discussed the state of the SharePoint business. And it is definitely growing even though times are tough economically. SharePoint development differs from normal .NET development in that you will be interacting with the customer a whole lot more. The SharePoint developer on our team actually spends most of his time with the customer.

There have been some criticisms of SharePoint offerings for developers. The Visual Studio extensions for SharePoint have been called "weak" by some. They are not well suited for enterprise development. You also have to align your development with the implicit design patterns in SharePoint, which may take some learning for regular .NET developers.

Between Microsoft and 3rd party vendors, there are a number of free tools available for SharePoint. I have mentioned the Visual Studio extensions. There is also STSDev which helps you build components (web parts). There is also SPDisposeCheck which ensures resources are properly disposed of. CAML Query Builder lets you visually build queries even if you do not know CAML very well. And there are more tools which I may cover in future posts.