Microsoft offers free components via Web

Finding components to quickly build an application developed in Visual Basic may now be a bit easier with Microsoft Corp.’s launch of a Web-based code service.

Microsoft’s Code Librarian Update service offers free code components for functions such as launching routines to open Windows applications from different interfaces. The service, available via the Web at and updated monthly, is for use in the development of Microsoft Office and Visual Basic applications.

The service lets developers search for and download prewritten code samples from Microsoft applications, such as Excel and Word, and for applications from Microsoft’s independent software vendors.

Analyst Mark Driver at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said Microsoft’s code offering is on par with the developer portals of rivals IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

“A lot of developers learn by studying source code,” Driver said. “What works best is to incorporate discrete code elements into a large theme, which is much better than giving the entire application. Why throw a Bible at them when they only need a verse?”

Analyst Rob Enderle at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said developers accustomed to downloading tools from the Web could find the component offering convenient, but added that finding the right code snippet on the fly presents a challenge.

“The difficulty with small, discrete components is knowing when you need one and how to get to the one you need. You can’t spend the first two hours of the day looking for things that may or may not be there,” he said.

Enderle suggested that Microsoft look to add other services targeted more specifically to users’ needs. Microsoft estimates that its application development tools have more than 2.6 million users.

Visual Basic developer Rodney Bergren, technology coordinator at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, has downloaded code components from the Web to build applications but said he doesn’t anticipate using the new service.

“We write a lot of in-house applications, and we usually have to pay to download [the code], so we don’t do it. It may be a way to get around delays in gaining access to Visual Studio,” Bergren said.

“It’s frustrating to wait a while longer to get a hold of the technology that I want to play with tomorrow.”