I have been a closet developer for several years now. At my previous job, I spent a lot of time developing document automation solutions using Microsoft Word and Visual Basic for Applications. Those solutions used data from several internal systems to create completely automated, data-driven documents. I had a lot of fun working on those projects, and hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity to use those skills again some day.
Lately, I have been struggling with deciding which direction I should go in pursuing new web development skills. On one side, there’s PHP and MySQL. They’re free, hosting plans are relatively inexpensive, and they’re cross-platform so I can use my Mac or Windows PC to develop. On the other side, there’s ASP.NET. Microsoft is providing Visual Web Developer and SQL Server 2005 Express at no cost for a year, hosting plans are slightly more expensive, and I would be limited to using my Windows PC to develop.
I am currently leaning towards ASP.NET because of my previous experience using Visual Basic. Visual Web Developer provides a familiar environment, and it makes it very easy to connect to data sources. Microsoft has also come a long way in supporting XHTML and CSS standards with this release.
I’m still torn every time I sit down at my Mac, though, because I do prefer Mac OS X to Windows XP, but which technology will provide the most opportunities in the long run? In either case, I have a lot to learn. Decisions, decisions . .