The other week I had an idea on the Underground whilst crammed in during rush hour. I was face-to-face with a stinker of some fella’s armpit and my brain decided to change the subject.

I started thinking of Umbraco package ideas.

Just to be clear, my inner monologue doesn’t always go “Visual Studio! To the bat cave!” when faced with a mass of people – I have an excuse: I’m working on a Microsoft project at the moment, and the goal is to help the Umbraco community by working on some specific free packages. Every chance I’ve had, I’ve been thinking of exactly what I’d like to do to extend Umbraco with Microsoft products, especially with the focus of giving some useful tools to developers and end-users.

Not all of these ideas were any good, of course. And one was for Wordpress, so that was out. Awkward. Some of them were also a little out of scope too, focussing on Microsoft products that are already selling just fine for example. But it has definitely been refreshing to take a step back from 4.1 and start thinking around package development and “products”.

The thing is, some of those ideas that were out of scope still have legs even if there isn’t yet a budget. So in my spare time I thought I’d get stuck into my favourite.

I’ve started work on a Visual Studio 2008/2010 add-in which allows developers to configure Umbraco from within the IDE.

In particular, it will allow for the creation and editing of the document type structure, without switching into the browser. It’s coming on quicker than I thought and I should have something in March to release as a first beta.

With a bit of luck I’ll be able to get some MS help one way or the other, and I know Benjamin is keen on collaborating too as he’s been thinking along similar lines, so watch this space – Umbraco could be about to get even quicker from 0 to website.

I still reckon that Wordpress idea was cool though: “a plugin to replace all of Wordpress with basically something else”. Cracker.