Review: Iron Speed Designer
Iron Speed Designer 1.4.3b
Mountain View, California
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
For more reviews and opinions from Mike Gunderloy, click here.
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.