It's been a long time coming since the first alphas were released privately back in September last year, but the first public beta of .NET 2.0 is finally upon us. At last we've got a fairly stable build that we can openly talk about with anyone who's got the bandwidth to download it. For me, the best part of this beta 1 release are the Express variations of Visual Studio .NET and SQL Server. There’s also a replacement for betaplace as well in the shape of the MSDN Product Development Center. Sara Williams’ blog has a nice piece on shipping it at midnight too.

In particular, it's great to see that Scott, Nikhil and the rest of the ASP.NET team have been able to carry on and learn from the Web Matrix project to bring us Visual Web Developer Express. Although it won't be completely free, it should be very cheap and looks to be as cheerful as Matrix ever was, with the added bonuses of full intellisense and a handful of other key features that Matrix was lacking all packed into 2.7MB.

Of course, in order to get the full use out of VWD (or Venus as it was called), you also need to download .NET 2.0 beta 1, MSDN Library Express beta 1, and SQL Server 2005 Express beta 1 too. At a grand total of 225MB that's about 10000% more to download than I had bargained for but hey, that's what broadband is for.

Interestingly, SQL Express doesn't install the example pubs database by default. I can hear several hundred authors crying in frustration knowing that none of their books now work out of the box because they've found the Adventure Works database staring them in the face rather than Northwind or Pubs. Looks like you'll have to earn your money for the Whidbey rewrites ladies and gentlemen.