Review: Iron Speed Designer

Iron Speed Designer 1.4.3b
Iron Speed
Mountain View, California
(650) 215-2200

Iron Speed Designer is an application generator for .NET. More specifically, it is designed to build VB .NET and ASP.NET code from your database, so you can quickly bring database applications to the Web.

The two inputs to the process are your database (this is not a database editing tool; you'll need to model and create your database using some other tool such as Visio Enterprise Architect) and a special set of HTML "layout pages". These are HTML pages with special tags that tell Iron Speed Designer what to do. You go through a process of binding database fields to tags, then click a button, and Iron Speed generates both a presentation layer and an application layer, as well as SQL queries and stored procedures for the data layer.

Interestingly enough, Iron Speed Designer is itself an ASP.NET application, rather than a Windows Forms one. This means you'll need to have an IIS server to install it on, but since you're building ASP.NET applications yourself, that shouldn't be much of a hurdle. The interface is very rich for a Web application and flows well, and the supporting help file (also available as a PDF manual) is excellent as well.

The generated files are designed to be completely re-entrant. That is, you can generate your application, make custom changes, then change something in the Iron Speed Designer interface and regenerate -- and not lose any of your custom changes. Iron Speed accomplishes this by using base and inherited classes for everything, and marking clearly which parts you can safely change. The help file includes quite a few examples of customizing generated applications, along with information on the overall architecture, right down to which files are built in which directories. This re-entrancy sets them apart from simpler generators which do not allow you to repeat the process multiple times.

Using Iron Speed, I was able to take a moderately complex database (a couple of dozen tables) and Web-enable it in half a day. Though there is a lot of complexity under the hood here, it's pretty easy to get started. If you want to customize the generated application, though, you'll need to build some time into your schedule to actually learn the ins and outs of the product and its architecture. For any sort of complex Web application, you'll probably find that an excellent investment of time.

If this sounds like a potential match for your needs, you can download a 15-day fully-functional evaluation copy from their Web site. The eval even includes full tech support, and I found them responsive and helpful.


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About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.