Courtesy Ondrej Balas, VisualStudioMagazine.com
With the release of Visual Studio 2013, there are plenty of new things to try out. In this article, I’ve highlighted the eight features which I consider to be the most helpful all around. Whether you work by yourself or on a team, these new features can save you time and improve your development experience. Note that there may be slight discrepancies between what you see in this article and what you see in Visual Studio 2013, as this article was written based on the latest release candidate (RC) of Visual Studio 2013, which became available in October 2013.
1: Prototyping and Throw-Away Applications One of the first things you may notice when starting Visual Studio 2013 is that the “New Project” window looks a bit different, as shown in Figure 1. When creating a new project, the location and name of the solution no longer have to be set immediately. In previous versions, the project’s name and location had to be set before it was created, even if you were just testing something out and planned to delete it right away. For those who create many new projects, that meant either an extra step to delete the project or having a cluttered project directory.
Visual Studio now works more like Microsoft Office applications, allowing you to create a project and start coding, and defer the decision of if/where to save it.
2: Peek Definitions Peek Definitions lets you take a quick peek at a class or method definition without opening the file. You may be accustomed to hitting F12 to go to an object’s definition, but now if you hit Alt+F12 instead, you will be able to take a peek at the definition just below its usage. As shown in Figure 2, I had my cursor on “prod.Name” when I hit Alt+F12, bringing up the definition of the Product class right inside my code window.
3: Improved Navigation and Search Along the lines of Peek Definitions, you can also try hitting CTRL+, which will behave differently depending on the position of your cursor. If the cursor is on a blank line, you can just start typing anything and it will begin searching for what you’re typing. If the cursor is on some code, that object will be automatically typed into the search box to get you started. See Figure 3 for a look at what that search function looks like. You can then use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate to any of the results of the search.
4: CodeLens CodeLens is a feature that will be available only in Visual Studio Ultimate edition (more on the controversy here), but adds some very useful behavior to the editor. By default, the number of times a property or method is referenced by your code is shown above that property or method. This information can be helpful when changing existing code, since you’ll know if the method is called from many places or just a handful. In larger projects, especially ones where you’re not familiar with the entire codebase, this can be a big time saver. The number of references is shown in a small font above each property or method on your class, as shown in Figure 4. Clicking on the number of references will show you all of the methods that call it, making it easy to find and navigate to those sections of your code.
While not shown here, CodeLens also has some nice Team Foundation Server (TFS) integration. If you’re using TFS, it will allow you to see commit history and unit tests targeting the code in question.
5: Scroll Bar Customization In Visual Studio 2013, the scroll bar can now be customized to give you a better overview of large files. It can be set to show various annotations, such as changes, errors, breakpoints and more. Optionally, it can be set to “map mode,” which will give you a zoomed-out representation of your code right on the scroll bar itself. The difference between bar mode (the default) and map mode can be seen in Figure 5.
The options screen, as shown in Figure 6, is accessible by going to Tools > Options > Text Editor > All Languages > Scroll Bars.
6-8: Minor Tweaks One of the smaller tweaks to Visual Studio is in the options screen itself. Take a look at Figure 7. Do you recognize that screen? The options screen not being resizable has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time, and I’m elated to know that it’s now resizable.
In the code window, you can also now easily move lines or blocks of code up or down. Try highlighting an entire line of code, and press ALT+UP or ALT+DOWN. The entire line will be shifted up or down — another great time saver.
Finally, if you code from multiple machines, the new synchronization features can be of great benefit. If you choose to sign in with your Microsoft account when using Visual Studio, and you sign in from multiple computers, your environment settings — like keyboard shortcuts and theme — will be synchronized between instances automatically.
What Are Your Favorite Changes? Microsoft continues to make Visual Studio the best (in my opinion) development IDE out there. The changes in Visual Studio 2013 really show that Microsoft cares about making the developer experience better with each release, even in relatively insignificant areas like the options screen. Take some time to try out the new features, and hopefully use them to make writing code more enjoyable. Let me know which ones you like best in the comments below.
Courtesy Adrian Bridgwater, Dr. Dobbs
Microsoft this week informs developers that access is open to the Release Candidate (RC) for Visual Studio 2013. The company also announced that Windows 8.1 RTM (release to manufacturing) and Windows Server 2012 R2 RTM are now available to the developer community via MSDN and TechNet.
The invitation here from Redmond is, build and test your apps for Windows 8.1 now in advance of Windows 8.1 general availability in October. However, given the subtle differences between Windows 8.0 and Windows 8.1 with its pseudo-START button (that isn’t really a start button), one has to question whether developers will radically reshape any plans already in motion at this stage, however positive the overall release of 8.1 may be.
Microsoft unsurprisingly turns on the "touchy-feely" spin here and says that it is confident these pre-release versions will enable developers to prepare and test their applications and infrastructure for the next release of Windows and Windows Server.
NOTE: Although developers now have all the tools they need to build and test their Windows 8.1 apps, they will need the final versions of Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Visual Studio 2013 to onboard their apps to the Windows Store, starting October 18 2013.
New features in Visual Studio 2013 RC include Office 365 Cloud Business app development so that programmers can create business applications that extend Office 365 to help users interact with business processes, artifacts, and other systems. Office 365 Cloud Business Apps run in the cloud and are available to run on a "myriad of devices" (says Microsoft) to aggregate data and services from in and out of an enterprise, plus help integrate user identities and social graphs.
NOTE: These applications integrate with the application lifecycle management capabilities of Visual Studio — and this is, in effect, a play from Microsoft to bridge the worlds of the business application developer with IT operations.
Work Item Charting has also been included to help programmers create a variety of charts to visualize data based from work item queries, such as bugs, user stories, and tasks. As a work item data changes, simply refresh your charts to reflect the latest information says Microsoft.
In separate blog posts from executives S. Somasegar and Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft invited developers to download and try the many new features in Visual Studio 2013 RC — the latest version of Microsoft’s developer tools — in order to provide feedback for the final release.
Courtesy Keith Ward, VisualStudioMagazine
Microsoft announced preview editions of two of its most important developer-related products at today’s Build conference in San Francisco: Visual Studio 2013 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.1.
The preview of Visual Studio 2013 isn’t a surprise, as Microsoft announced earlier this month at TechEd that it was coming. Microsoft said at that time that it was looking at a fall time frame for an official release, and didn’t offer any different schedule at Build. The update of the .NET Framework, however, was a surprise, as it hadn’t been hinted at at all.
Previously, Microsoft Corporate VP of the Developer Division S. Somasegar noted in a blog post that Visual Studio 2013 focuses on "business agility, quality enablement and DevOps." Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry has written before on application lifecycle workflow changes in Visual Studio 2013, including numerous enhancements such as agile portfolio management, version control, coding, testing, release management and team collaboration.
It’s unusual for Microsoft to do major updates to a key product two years in a row, but it does fall in line with CEO Steve Ballmer’s emphasis during his keynote about "rapid release." It was a theme Ballmer turned to repeatedly throughout his speech.
The .NET Framework 4.5.1 update has many changes, somewhat surprising for an incremental upgrade. Somasegar detailed the upgrades to both products in a long blog entry today. He called .NET 4.5.1 "a highly compatible, in-place update for .NET 4.5" that’s bundled with Visual Studio 2013 Preview and Windows 8.1 Preview. It can also be installed with Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and the corresponding Windows Server releases.
A big focus of the latest version of the .NET Framework, according to Somasegar, is debugging and diagnostics. He pointed to the example of viewing method return values in the debugger, which is now built into both .NET 4.5.1 and Visual Studio 2013. Another example is the ability to "Edit and Continue" in 64-bit processes. It enables developers to alter running .NET code while stopped at a breakpoint in the debugger, without the need to stop and restart.
One of the improvements in Visual Studio 2013 that got the biggest applause during the keynote was the addition of "call context." Somasegar explained the details in his blog:
Previously, it could be very difficult for a developer stopped at a breakpoint to know the asynchronous sequence of calls that brought them to the current location. Now in Visual Studio 2013, the Call Stack window surfaces this information, factoring in new diagnostics information provided by the runtime. Further, when an application stops making visible forward progress, it’s often difficult to diagnose and to understand what asynchronous operations are currently in flight such that their lack of completion might be causing the app to hang. In Visual Studio 2013, the Tasks window (formerly called Parallel Tasks in Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Studio 2012) now includes details on these async operations so that you can break into your app in the debugger and easily see and navigate to everything that’s in flight.
Microsoft Technical Fellow Harry said in a blog entry that Visual Studio 2013 Preview — which includes the .NET Framework 4.5.1 Preview — is a "go-live" version, meaning that Microsoft will provide support for use in production environments. Be forewarned, though: "I do expect there are some bugs," he said. He also mentioned that Visual Studio 2013 is a side-by-side install, so it should be safe to install and use with another version of Visual Studio on the same computer.
The Visual Studio 2013 and .NET Framework 4.5.1 downloads are available here.
Courtesy Keith Ward, VisualStudioMagazine
Now that Microsoft has moved to completely Agile methodologies with its flagship development product, Visual Studio, it has to deal with a new sort of problem: backward compatibility, and the ability to load projects from older versions onto newer iterations of the IDE.
That issue has become even more acute since the announcement of Visual Studio 2013 at the recent TechEd conference. Microsoft’s answer is "round-tripping," and it’s been enhanced in Visual Studio 2013, according to Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry. "That was a huge customer ask and I’ve heard a lot of feedback since then that customers rely on it," Harry wrote on his blog. Specifically, Harry said that Visual Studio 2013 will support round-tripping with Visual Studio 2012, and Visual Studio 2010 as well.
Not all projects are eligible, he said. "There will likely be some exceptions of project types that require one-way migration or some such but the majority of project types will round-trip seamlessly." He added that round-tripping will be available in the preview version of Visual Studio 2013, which will be released at this month’s Build conference.
The importance of round-tripping to some developers was pointed out in comments following the blog, as someone identifying as "Phil Barila" stated: "If it wasn’t for the round-trip in Visual Studio 2012, I wouldn’t be using it. If it won’t round-trip with 2010, I won’t be using Visual Studio 2013."
Also in the comments, Harry mentioned that Visual Studio 2013 can be installed on a development machine side-by-side with Visual Studio 2012.
The most recent version of Visual Studio is Visual Studio 2012.3, which is at Release Candidate(RC2) stage. Updates to Visual Studio have been coming out on a monthly basis in 2013.
Courtesy Katrina Carrasco, VisualStudioMagazine
In his TechEd keynote demo on Monday, Microsoft’s Brian Harry announced the upcoming release of Visual Studio 2013 and Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2013.
Harry, a Microsoft Technical Fellow and the product unit manager for Team Foundation Server, emphasized the application lifecycle management (ALM) focus of the two products, which will be available "later this year." During his demo, he activated some of the TFS 2013 features in the cloud-based Team Foundation Service; developers can now try out the enabled features. Harry also announced that a preview build of Visual Studio 2013 will be made publicly available at the Microsoft Build conference later this month.
Microsoft Corporate VP of the Developer Division S. Somasegar noted in a blog post about the announcements that the new 2013 releases focus on "business agility, quality enablement and DevOps."
In a post-demo blog post of his own, Harry focused on the application lifecycle workflow changes in Visual Studio 2013, and provided details on the following list of improvements: agile portfolio management, version control, coding, testing, release management and team collaboration.
Describing some of the agile project management changes, Harry wrote: "Different levels in the organization care about different levels of granularity. With TFS 2013, we are addressing this situation by introducing the notion of different levels of backlog." In TFS 2013, developers can sort backlogs by level and map the relationships between backlogs. These agile improvements are among the features Harry enabled on Monday in Team Foundation Service.
Version control changes include an updated Team Explorer homepage, inline code commenting and new pop-out Team Explorer pages. "We heard the feedback loud and clear that [the new Team Explorer] was too cramped for pending changes, and you want to be able to see pending changes at the same time as other Team Explorer windows," Harry wrote in his blog. "If you are one of those manypeople who prefer a separate pending-changes window, you can click that little arrow on the upper right of Team Explorer and pop-out the page … and dock the pending changes window anywhere you want."
Among the coding and testing improvements are memory diagnostics, which are intended to help "you find memory leaks in production," Harry wrote. Test case management, test execution and test editing capabilities have all been enhanced in Visual Studio 2013. Harry also announced the preview of a new service called Cloud Load Testing. "With our new Team Foundation Service-based load test solution, you can now load test your apps without configuring any infrastructure," Harry explained on his blog. "Just use Visual Studio Ultimate Edition to create a load test and point it at Team Foundation Service and say Go! And soon you have load test results for your application." (He noted that the service requires the Visual Studio 2013 preview build, so developers can’t use the service until they download the Visual Studio 2013 preview.)
Harry’s release management announcement focused on Microsoft’s acquisition of InCycle Software Inc.’s InRelease release-management offering, which "allows you to manage all of your in-flight releases," he wrote. Somasegar, in his blog, noted that the InRelease acquisition is intended to strengthen the DevOps component of Visual Studio, enabling developers to "develop and deploy quality applications at a faster pace."
Finally, Harry explained the new addition of "Team Rooms" in Visual Studio 2013. "A Team Room is a durable collaboration space that records everything happening in your team," he wrote. "You can configure notifications — check-ins, builds, code reviews, etc., to go into the Team Room, and it becomes a living record of the activity in the project. You can also have conversations with the rest of your team in the room." Harry noted that the Team Room capabilities were enabled on Monday on Team Foundation Service; once the Visual Studio 2013 preview build is made available, developers can bring Team Rooms into their on-premises TFS, as well.
More information about the new features coming in Visual Studio 2013 and TFS 2013 will be announced at the Build conference, which will be held in San Francisco from June 26-28.