I was thinking a while back how difficult it would be to learn how to use the .NET platform if I did not have the Visual Studio IDE interface. It go me thinking and searching for some alternatives. I did remember that you could use webmatrix www.asp.net/webmatrix I have never used Web Matrix but it seems like it would do the trick. I also just heard about another IDE for developing .NET called SharpDevelop – www.icsharpcode.net It to is a free alternative for using Visual Studio. I guess I would like to see a shootout between the 3. Visual Studio 2003, Web Matrix, and SharpDevelop. I wonder who would be the victor. I would guess visual studio, but I may be determined on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are just exclusively developing for the web maybe one of the other options would work.
One thing I often hear from new VS.NET developers is how complicated it is to use the IDE. They normally come from a Dreamweaver or Frontpage environment and only have a need to develop for web sites. They almost always complain about code behind pages (being fixed in VS2005) and how to deploy the newly developed sites. Well just some of my thoughts.