If you like to “tinker” with the web Microsoft’s WebMatrix tool just might be for you.
I’ve wanted to set up a development copy of the IndyScan.com blog at home but standing up a Linux server with PHP and all the other tools to make it work just seemed like to much work (I’ll admit I’m lazy sometimes). Enter WebMatrix. With this tool you can run a “virtual” web server inside of an application on your desktop. It reminds me of the old days when I used to edit IndyScan.com offline with Dream Weaver and “publish” the changes via FTP at the end of each editing session.
I’m using a virtual machine to do this but you can just as easily install the application on your primary machine. Once you install the WebMatrix application you can choose from dozens of open source content management and blogging tools. It’s as simple as downloading the tool and walking through a wizard to set the base site up (including SQL databases). You also have the option to develop the site from scratch (old school) and publish to your web server.
Once I installed WebMatrix I activated the WordPress package, exported my live site, and imported the XML file into the WebMatrix site. within 10 minutes I had a fully functional clone of my production site. Pretty cool!
So far I’ve had a lot of fun playing with alternatives to WordPress and seeing if my HTML/PHP coding skills are still up to par. If you are looking for an inexpensive (free) development platform be sure to check out WebMatrix.