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Microsoft Visual Studio
The Microsoft Visual Studio logo.
Developer(s) Microsoft
Stable release 2008 SP1 (9.0.30729.1)
(August 11, 2008)[1] [+/−]
Preview release 2010 Ultimate RC
(February 08, 2010)[2] [+/−]
Written in C++
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Available in Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Russian
Type Integrated Development Environment
License Microsoft EULA
Website msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio

Microsoft Visual Studio is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) from Microsoft. It can be used to develop console and graphical user interface applications along with Windows Forms applications, web sites, web applications, and web services in both native code together with managed code for all platforms supported by Microsoft Windows, Windows Mobile, Windows CE, .NET Framework, .NET Compact Framework and Microsoft Silverlight.

Visual Studio includes a code editor supporting IntelliSense as well as code refactoring. The integrated debugger works both as a source-level debugger and a machine-level debugger. Other built-in tools include a forms designer for building GUI applications, web designer, class designer, and database schema designer. It accepts plug-ins that enhance the functionality at almost every level—including adding support for source control systems (like Subversion and Visual SourceSafe) to adding new toolsets like editors and visual designers for domain-specific languages or toolsets for other aspects of the software development lifecycle (like the Team Foundation Server client: Team Explorer).

Visual Studio supports languages by means of language services, which allow the code editor and debugger to support (to varying degrees) nearly any programming language, provided a language-specific service exists. Built-in languages include C/C++ (via Visual C++), VB.NET (via Visual Basic .NET), and C# (via Visual C#). Support for other languages such as F#, M, Python, and Ruby among others is available via language services installed separately. It also supports XML/XSLT, HTML/XHTML, JavaScript and CSS. Language-specific versions of Visual Studio also exist which provide more limited language services to the user. These individual packages are called Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual J#, Visual C#, and Visual C++.

Microsoft provides "Express" editions of its Visual Studio 2008 components Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual C++, and Visual Web Developer at no cost. Visual Studio 2008 and 2005 Professional Editions, along with language-specific versions (Visual Basic, C++, C#, J#) of Visual Studio 2005 are available for free to students as downloads via Microsoft's DreamSpark program. Visual Studio 2010 is currently in Release Candidate and can be downloaded by the general public at no cost.[3]

Contents

Architecture

Visual Studio does not support any programming language, solution or tool intrinsically. Instead, it allows various functionality to be plugged in. Specific functionality is coded as a VSPackage. When installed, the functionality is available as a Service. The IDE provides three services: SVsSolution, which provides the ability to enumerate projects and solutions; SVsUIShell, which provides windowing and UI functionality (including tabs, toolbars and tool windows); and SVsShell, which deals with registration of VSPackages. In addition, the IDE is also responsible for coordinating and enabling communication between services.[4] All editors, designers, project types and other tools are implemented as VSPackages. Visual Studio uses COM to access the VSPackages. The Visual Studio SDK also includes the Managed Package Framework (MPF), which is a set of managed wrappers around the COM-interfaces that allow the Packages to be written in .NET languages.[5] However, MPF does not provide all the functionality exposed by the Visual Studio COM interfaces.[6] The services can then be consumed for creation of other packages, which add functionality to the Visual Studio IDE.

Support for programming languages is added by using a specific VSPackage called a Language Service. A language service defines various interfaces which the VSPackage implementation can implement to add support for various functionality.[7] Functionality that can be added this way includes syntax coloring, statement completion, brace matching, parameter information tooltips, member lists and error markers for background compilation.[7] If the interface is implemented, the functionality will be available for the language. Language services are to be implemented on a per-language basis. The implementations can reuse code from the parser or the compiler for the language.[7] Language services can be implemented either in native code or managed code. For native code, either the native COM interfaces or the Babel Framework (part of Visual Studio SDK) can be used.[8] For managed code, the MPF includes wrappers for writing managed language services.[9]

Visual Studio does not include any source control support built in but it defines the MSSCCI (Microsoft Source Code Control Interface) by implementing which source control systems can integrate with the IDE.[10] MSSCCI defines a set of functions that are used to implement various source control functionality.[11] MSSCCI was first used to integrate Visual SourceSafe with Visual Studio 6.0 but was later opened up via the Visual Studio SDK. Visual Studio .NET 2002 used MSSCCI 1.1, and Visual Studio .NET 2003 used MSSCCI 1.2. Both Visual Studio 2005 and 2008 use MSSCCI Version 1.3, which adds support for rename and delete propagation as well as asynchronous opening.[10]

Visual Studio supports running multiple instances of the environment (each with its own set of VSPackages). The instances use different registry hives (see MSDN's definition of the term "registry hive" in the sense used here) to store their configuration state and are differentiated by their AppId (Application ID). The instances are launched by an AppId-specific .exe that selects the AppId, sets the root hive and launches the IDE. VSPackages registered for one AppId are integrated with other VSPackages for that AppId. The various product editions of Visual Studio are created using the different AppIds. The Visual Studio Express edition products are installed with their own AppIds, but the Standard, Professional and Team Suite products share the same AppId. Consequently, the Express editions can be installed side-by-side with other editions, unlike the other editions which update the same installation. The professional edition includes a superset of the VSPackages in the standard edition and the team suite includes a superset of the VSPackages in both other editions. The AppId system is leveraged by the Visual Studio Shell in Visual Studio 2008.[12]

Features

Code editor

The Visual Studio code editor showing IntelliSense suggestions and a docked Task List window

Visual Studio, like any other IDE, includes a code editor that supports syntax highlighting and code completion using IntelliSense for not only variables, functions and methods but also language constructs like loops and queries.[13] IntelliSense is supported for the included languages, as well as for XML and for Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript when developing web sites and web applications.[14][15] Autocomplete suggestions are popped up in a modeless list box, overlaid on top of the code editor. In Visual Studio 2008 onwards, it can be made temporarily semi-transparent to see the code obstructed by it.[13] The code editor is used for all supported languages.

The Visual Studio code editor also supports setting bookmarks in code for quick navigation. Other navigational aids include collapsing code blocks and incremental search, in addition to normal text search and regex search.[16] The code editor also includes a multi-item clipboard and a task list.[16] The code editor supports code snippets, which are saved templates for repetitive code and can be inserted into code and customized for the project being worked on. A management tool for code snippets is built in as well. These tools are surfaced as floating windows which can be set to automatically hide when unused or docked to the side of the screen. The Visual Studio code editor also supports code refactoring including parameter reordering, variable and method renaming, interface extraction and encapsulation of class members inside properties, among others.

Visual Studio features background compilation (also called incremental compilation).[17][18] As code is being written, Visual Studio compiles it in the background in order to provide feedback about syntax and compilation errors, which are flagged with a red wavy underline. Warnings are marked with a green underline. Background compilation does not generate executable code, since it requires a different compiler than the one used to generate executable code.[19] Background compilation was initially introduced with Microsoft Visual Basic but has now been expanded for all included languages.[18]

Debugger

Visual Studio includes a debugger that works both as a source-level debugger as well as machine-level debugger. It works with both managed code as well as native code and can be used for debugging applications written in any language supported by Visual Studio. In addition, it can also attach to running processes and monitor and debug those processes.[20] If source code for the running process is available, it displays the code as it is being run. If source code is not available, it can show the disassembly. The Visual Studio debugger can also create memory dumps as well as load them later for debugging.[21] Multi-threaded programs are also supported. The debugger can be configured to be launched when an application running outside the Visual Studio environment crashes.

Data tooltips in Visual Studio

The debugger allows setting breakpoints (which allow execution to be stopped temporarily at a certain position) and watches (which monitor the values of variables as the execution progresses).[22] Breakpoints can be conditional, meaning they get triggered when the condition is met. Code can be stepped over, i.e., run one line (of source code) at a time.[23] It can either step into functions to debug inside it, or step over it, i.e., the execution of the function body isn't available for manual inspection.[23] The debugger supports Edit and Continue, i.e., it allows code to be edited as it is being debugged (32 bit only; not supported in 64 bit).[24] When debugging, if any variable is hovered over by the mouse pointer, its current value is displayed in a tooltip ("data tooltips"), where it can also be modified if desired. During coding, the Visual Studio debugger lets certain functions be invoked manually from the Immediate tool window. The parameters to the method are supplied at the Immediate window.[25]

Designer

Visual Studio includes a host of visual designers to aid in the development of applications. These tools include:

Visual Studio 2005 in Designer view
The WPF Designer in Visual Studio 2008
Visual Studio Web Designer in code editor view
Visual Studio 2005 in Class Designer view
Windows Forms Designer
The Windows Forms designer is used to build GUI applications using Windows Forms. It includes a palette of UI widgets and controls (including buttons, progress bars, labels, layout containers and other controls) that can be dragged and dropped on a form surface. Layout can be controlled by housing the controls inside other containers or locking them to the side of the form. Controls that display data (like textbox, list box, grid view, etc.) can be data bound to data sources like databases or queries. The UI is linked with code using an event-driven programming model. The designer generates either C# or VB.NET code for the application.
WPF Designer
The WPF designer, codenamed Cider,[26] was introduced with Visual Studio 2008. Like the Windows Forms designer it supports uses the drag and drop metaphor. It is used to author user interfaces targeting Windows Presentation Foundation. It supports all WPF functionality including databinding and automatic layout management. It generates XAML code for the UI. The generated XAML file is compatible with Microsoft Expression Design, the designer-oriented product. The XAML code is linked with code using a code-behind model.
Web designer/development
Visual Studio also includes a web site editor and designer that allows web pages to be authored by dragging and dropping widgets. It is used for developing ASP.NET applications and supports HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It uses a code-behind model to link with ASP.NET code. From Visual Studio 2008 onwards, the layout engine used by the web designer is shared with Microsoft Expression Web. There is also ASP.NET MVC support for MVC technology as a separate download [1] and Dynamic Data project available from Microsoft [2]
Class designer
The Class Designer is used to author and edit the classes (including its members and their access) using UML modeling. The Class Designer can generate C# and VB.NET code outlines for the classes and methods. It can also generate class diagrams from hand-written classes.
Data designer
The data designer can be used to graphically edit database schemas, including typed tables, primary and foreign keys and constraints. It can also be used to design queries from the graphical view.
Mapping designer
From Visual Studio 2008 onwards, the mapping designer is used by LINQ to SQL to design the mapping between database schemas and classes that encapsulate the data. Now the new solution from ORM approach is ADO.NET Entity Framework that replace and improve the old technology.

Other tools

Open Tabs Browser
The open tabs browser is used to list all open tabs and switch between them. It is invoked using CTRL+TAB.
Open Tab Browser in Visual Studio 2008 in Windows Vista
Properties Editor
The Properties Editor tool is used to edit properties in a GUI pane inside Visual Studio. It lists all available properties (both read-only and those which can be set) for all objects including classes, forms, web pages and other items.
Open Tab Browser and Properties Editor in Windows XP
Object Browser
The Object Browser is a namespace and class library browser for Microsoft .NET. It can be used to browse the namespaces (which are arranged hierarchically) in managed assemblies. The hierarchy may or may not reflect the organization in the file system.
Solution Explorer
In Visual Studio parlance, a solution is a set of code files and other resources that are used to build an application. The files in a solution are arranged hierarchically, which might or might not reflect the organization in the file system. The Solution Explorer is used to manage and browse the files in a solution.
Team Explorer
Team Explorer is used to integrate the capabilities of Team Foundation Server, the Revision Control System into the IDE (and the basis for Microsoft's CodePlex hosting environment for open source projects). In addition to source control it provides the ability to view and manage individual work items (including bugs, tasks and other documents) and to browse TFS statistics. It is included as part of a TFS install and is also available as a download for Visual Studio 2005[27] and 2008.[28] Team Explorer is also available as a stand-alone environment solely to access TFS services.
Data Explorer
Data Explorer is used to manage databases on Microsoft SQL Server instances. It allows creation and alteration of database tables (either by issuing T-SQL commands or using the Data designer). It can also be used to create queries and stored procedures, with the latter in either T-SQL or in managed code via SQL CLR. Debugging and IntelliSense support is available as well.
Server Explorer
The Server Explorer tool is used to manage database connections on an accessible computer. It is also used to browse running Windows Services, performance counters, Windows Event Log and message queues and use them as datasource.[29]
Dotfuscator Software Services Community Edition
Visual Studio includes a free 'light' version of PreEmptive Solutions' Dotfuscator product for code obfuscation and application size reduction.[30] Starting with Visual Studio 2010, this version of Dotfuscator will include Runtime Intelligence capabilities that allow authors to gather end-user usage, performance, and stability information from their applications running in production.[31]

Extensibility

Visual Studio allows developers to write extensions for Visual Studio to extend its capabilities. These extensions "plug into" Visual Studio and extend its functionality. Extensions come in the form of macros, add-ins, and packages. Macros represent repeatable tasks and actions that developers can record programmatically for saving, replaying, and distributing. Macros, however, cannot be used to implement new commands or create tool windows. They are written using Visual Basic and are not compiled.[6] Add-Ins provide access to the Visual Studio object model and can interact with the IDE tools. Add-Ins can be used to implement new functionality and can add new tool windows. Add-Ins are plugged in to the IDE via COM and can be created in any COM-compliant languages.[6] Packages are created using the Visual Studio SDK and provide the highest level of extensibility. It is used to create designers and other tools, as well as to integrate other programming languages. The Visual Studio SDK provides both unmanaged as well as a managed API to accomplish these tasks. However, the managed API isn't as comprehensive as the unmanaged one.[6] Extensions are supported in the Standard (and higher) versions of Visual Studio 2005. Express Editions do not support hosting extensions.

Visual Studio 2008 introduced the Visual Studio Shell that allows for development of a customized version of the IDE. The Visual Studio Shell defines a set of VSPackages that provide the functionality required in any IDE. On top of that, other packages can be added to customize the installation. The Isolated mode of the shell creates a new AppId where the packages are installed. These are to be started with a different executable. It is aimed for development of custom development environments, either for a specific language or a specific scenario. The Integrated mode installs the packages into the AppId of the Professional/Standard/Team System editions, so that the tools integrate into these editions.[12] The Visual Studio Shell is available as a free download.

After the release of Visual Studio 2008, Microsoft created the Visual Studio Gallery. It serves as the central location for posting information about extensions to Visual Studio. Community developers as well as commercial developers can upload information about their extensions to Visual Studio .NET 2002 through Visual Studio 2008. Users of the site can rate and review the extensions to help assess the quality of extensions being posted. RSS feeds to notify users on updates to the site and tagging features are also planned.[32]

Supported products

Included products

Microsoft Visual C++
Microsoft Visual C++ is Microsoft's implementation of the C and C++ compiler and associated languages services and specific tools for integration with the Visual Studio IDE. It can compile either in C mode or C++ mode. For C, it follows the ISO C standard with parts of C99 spec along with MS-specific additions in the form of libraries.[33] For C++, it follows the ANSI C++ spec along with a few C++0x features.[34] It also supports the C++/CLI spec to write managed code, as well as mixed mode code (a mix of native and managed code). Microsoft positions Visual C++ for development in native code or code that contains both native as well as managed components. Visual C++ supports COM as well as the MFC library. For MFC development, it provides a set of wizards for creating and customizing MFC boilerplate code, and creating GUI applications using MFC. Visual C++ can also use the Visual Studio forms designer to design UI graphically. Visual C++ can also be used with the Windows API. It also supports the use of intrinsic functions,[35] which are functions recognized by the compiler itself and not implemented as a library. Intrinsic functions are used to expose the SSE instruction set of modern CPUs. Visual C++ also includes the OpenMP (version 2.0) spec.[36]
Microsoft Visual C#
Microsoft Visual C# is Microsoft's implementation of the C# language, that targets the .NET Framework, along with the language services that lets the Visual Studio IDE support C# projects. While the language services are a part of Visual Studio, the compiler is available separately as a part of the .NET Framework. The Visual C# 2008 compiler supports version 3.0 of the C# language specifications. Visual C# supports the Visual Studio Class designer, Forms designer, and Data designer among others.[37]
Microsoft Visual Basic
Microsoft Visual Basic is Microsoft's implementation of the VB.NET language and associated tools and language services. It was introduced with Visual Studio .NET (2002). Microsoft has positioned Visual Basic for Rapid Application Development. Visual Basic can be used to author both console applications as well as GUI applications. Like Visual C#, Visual Basic also supports the Visual Studio Class designer, Forms designer, and Data designer among others. Like C#, the VB.NET compiler also is available as a part of .NET Framework but the language services, that let VB.NET projects be developed with Visual Studio, are available as a part of the latter.
Microsoft Visual Web Developer
Microsoft Visual Web Developer is used to create web sites, web applications and web services using ASP.NET. Either C# or VB.NET languages can be used. Visual Web Developer can use the Visual Studio Web Designer to graphically design web page layouts.
Team Foundation Server
Included only with Visual Studio Team System, Team Foundation Server is intended for collaborative software development projects and acts as the server side backend providing source control, data collection, reporting, and project tracking functionality. It also includes the Team Explorer, the client tool for TFS services, which is integrated inside Visual Studio Team System.

Previous products

Visual FoxPro
Visual FoxPro is a data-centric object-oriented and procedural programming language produced by Microsoft. It is derived from FoxPro (originally known as FoxBASE) which was developed by Fox Software beginning in 1984. Visual FoxPro is tightly integrated with its own relational database engine, which extends FoxPro's xBase capabilities to support SQL query and data manipulation. Visual FoxPro is a full-featured, dynamic programming language that does not require the use of an additional general-purpose programming environment. Microsoft announced in 2007 that Visual FoxPro has been discontinued after version 9 Service Pack 2, but will remain supported until 2015.[38]
Visual SourceSafe
Microsoft Visual SourceSafe is a source control software package oriented towards small software development projects. The SourceSafe database is a multi-user, multi-process file-system database, using the Windows file system database primitives to provide locking and sharing support. All versions are multi-user, using SMB (file server) networking.[39][40][41] However, with Visual SourceSafe 2005, other client-server modes were added (Lan Booster and VSS Internet), possibly using some other protocol? Visual SourceSafe 6.0 was available as a stand alone product[42] and was included with Visual Studio 6.0, and other products such as Office Developer Edition. Visual SourceSafe 2005 was available as a stand-alone product and included with the 2005 Team Suite. Visual Studio Team System included Team Foundation Server for source control.
Microsoft Visual J++/Microsoft Visual J#
Microsoft Visual J++ was Microsoft's implementation of the Java language (with Microsoft-specific extensions) and associated language services. It was discontinued as a result of a litigation from Sun Microsystems, and the technology was recycled into Visual J#, Microsoft's Java compiler for .NET Framework. J# was available with Visual Studio 2005 but has been discontinued in Visual Studio 2008.
Visual InterDev
Visual InterDev was used to create web applications using Microsoft Active Server Pages (ASP) technologies. It supports code completion and includes database server management tools. It has been replaced with Microsoft Visual Web Developer.

Editions

Diagram showing the relationship of various Visual Studio Editions

Microsoft Visual Studio is available in the following editions:[43]

Visual Studio Express
Visual Studio Express Editions are a set of free lightweight individual IDEs which are provided as stripped-down versions of the Visual Studio IDE on a per-language basis, i.e., it installs the language services for the supported languages onto individual Visual Studio Shell AppIds. It includes only a small set of tools as compared to the other systems - devoid of remote database support for data designer, class designer and several other tools and features as well as support for plug-ins. x64 compilers are not available for the Visual Studio Express edition IDEs. Microsoft targets the Express IDEs at students and hobbyists. Express editions also do not use the full MSDN Library but use the MSDN Express Library. The languages available as part of the Express IDEs are:
  • Visual Basic Express
  • Visual C++ Express
  • Visual C# Express
  • Visual Web Developer Express
Visual Studio Standard
Visual Studio Standard Edition provides an IDE for all supported products and can support the entire MSDN library. It supports XML and XSLT editing, object test benches, and can create deployment packages that only use ClickOnce. However, it does not include tools like Server Explorer or include integration with Microsoft SQL Server. Of the three extensibility mechanisms it only supports Add-Ins. Mobile development support was included in Visual Studio 2005 Standard, however, with Visual Studio 2008, it is only available in Professional and higher editions. Remote debugging support is included in Visual Studio 2008 Professional and Team Edition only.
Visual Studio Professional
Visual Studio Professional Edition includes the tools in Visual Studio Standard and augments it with other functionality such as Microsoft SQL Server integration (which allows databases to be created from within Visual Studio) and a remote debugger (for 2005 Editions) (that allows debugging a remote system from within Visual Studio debugger provided a debugging server is running on the remote system). Visual Studio Professional accepts all three extensibility mechanisms.
Visual Studio Tools for Office
Visual Studio Tools for Office is an SDK and an add-in for Visual Studio that includes tools for developing for the Microsoft Office platform. Previously, that is, for Visual Studio .NET 2003 and Visual Studio 2005, it was a separate SKU that supported only Visual C# and Visual Basic languages or was included in the Team Suite. With Visual Studio 2008, it is no longer a separate SKU but is included with Professional and higher editions. A separate runtime is required when deploying VSTO solutions.
Visual Studio Team System
Visual Studio Team System provides a set of software development, collaboration, metrics, and reporting tools in addition to the features provided by Visual Studio Professional. VSTS offers different toolsets based on the software development role it is being used for. The role-specific flavors are:[44][45]
  • Team Explorer (basic TFS client)
  • Architecture Edition
  • Database Edition
  • Development Edition
  • Test Edition
The combined functionality of the four Team System Editions is provided in a Team Suite Edition. The Database Edition, codenamed "DataDude", was initially released as a separate edition after Visual Studio 2005's initial release. It is included with Visual Studio 2008 as a separate edition, but the functionality will be rolled into the Development Edition for the upcoming 2010 release.[46]
Along with the client SKUs, Visual Studio Team System also includes Team Foundation Server for source code control, work-item tracking, reporting and team management. Team Explorer is the TFS client, which is integrated into the VSTS IDE, with other application development functionality.

Editions feature grid[47]
Product Extensions External Tools Setup Projects MSDN Integration Class Designer Refactoring Debugging Target Native 64 bit Target Itanium Processors Visual Studio Tools for Office Windows Mobile Development
Visual Studio Express No minimal reduced functionality MSDN Express No reduced functionality reduced functionality No No No No
Visual Studio Standard Yes Yes reduced functionality Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
Visual Studio Professional Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Visual Studio Team System editions Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Version history

Visual Studio 97

Microsoft first released the Visual Studio in 1997, bundling many of its programming tools together for the first time. Visual Studio 97 was released in two editions, Professional and Enterprise. It included Visual Basic 5.0 and Visual C++ 5.0, primarily for Windows programming; Visual J++ 1.1 for Java and Windows programming; and Visual FoxPro 5.0 for database, specifically xBase programming. It introduced Visual InterDev for creating dynamically generated web sites using Active Server Pages. A snapshot of the Microsoft Developer Network library was also included.

Visual Studio 97 was Microsoft's first attempt at using the same development environment for multiple languages. Visual C++, Visual J++, InterDev, and the MSDN Library all used one environment, called Developer Studio. Visual Basic and Visual FoxPro used separate environments.[12]

Visual Studio 6.0 (1998)

The next version, version 6.0, was released in June 1998 and is the last version to run on the Windows 9x platform.[48] The version numbers of all of its constituent parts also moved to 6.0, including Visual J++ which jumped from 1.1, and Visual InterDev which was at 1.0. This version was the basis of Microsoft's development system for the next four years, as Microsoft transitioned their development focus to the .NET Framework.

Visual Studio 6.0 was the last version to include the COM-based version of Visual Basic; subsequent versions would include the version of the language based on .NET. It was also the last version to include Visual J++, which was removed as part of a settlement with Sun Microsystems that required Microsoft to stop producing programming tools that targeted the Java Virtual Machine.

Visual Basic, Visual C++, and Visual FoxPro had separate IDEs, while Visual J++ and Visual InterDev shared a common new environment. This new IDE was designed with extensibility in mind, and would go on (after several internal revisions) to become the common environment for all languages with the release of Visual Studio .NET.[12] Visual Studio 6.0 was also the last version to include Visual FoxPro.

As usual, Visual Studio 6.0 came in several editions: Standard, Professional & Enterprise. The Enterprise edition contains extra features not found in Standard or Professional edition, which includes:

  • Application Performance Explorer
  • Automation Manager
  • Microsoft Visual Modeler
  • RemAuto Connection Manager
  • Visual Studio Analyzer

Visual Studio .NET (2002)

The Microsoft Visual Studio .NET logo.

Microsoft released Visual Studio .NET, codenamed Rainier (for Washington's Mount Rainier), in February 2002 (the beta version was released via Microsoft Developer Network in 2001). The biggest change was the introduction of a managed code development environment using the .NET Framework. Programs developed using .NET are not compiled to machine language (like C++ is, for example) but instead to a format called Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) or Common Intermediate Language (CIL). When an MSIL application is executed, it is compiled while being executed into the appropriate machine language for the platform it is being executed on, thereby making code portable across several platforms. Programs compiled into MSIL can be executed only on platforms which have an implementation of Common Language Infrastructure. It is possible to run MSIL programs in Linux or Mac OS X using non-Microsoft .NET implementations like Mono and DotGNU.

This was the first version of Visual Studio to require an NT-based Windows platform.[49] The installer enforces this requirement.

Visual Studio .NET 2002 shipped in four editions: Academic, Professional, Enterprise Developer, and Enterprise Architect. Microsoft introduced C# (C-sharp), a new programming language, that targets .NET. It also introduced the successor to Visual J++ called Visual J#. Visual J# programs use Java's language syntax. However, unlike Visual J++ programs, Visual J# programs can only target the .NET Framework, not the Java Virtual Machine that all other Java tools target.

Visual Basic was drastically changed to fit the new framework, and the new version was called Visual Basic .NET. Microsoft also added extensions to C++, called Managed Extensions for C++, so that C++ programmers could create .NET programs.

Visual Studio .NET can be used to make applications targeting Windows (using Windows Forms, part of the .NET Framework), Web (using ASP.NET and Web Services) and, with an add-in, portable devices (using the .NET Compact Framework).

The Visual Studio .NET environment was rewritten to partially use .NET. All languages are unified under one environment. Compared to previous versions of Visual Studio, it has a cleaner interface and greater cohesiveness. It is also more customizable with tool windows that automatically hide when not in use. While Visual FoxPro 7 started out as part of Visual Studio 7, and early VS betas allowed debugging inside VFP-based DLLs, it was removed before release to follow its own development track.

The internal version number of Visual Studio .NET is version 7.0. Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Visual Studio .NET 2002 in March, 2005.[50]

Visual Studio .NET 2003

In April 2003, Microsoft introduced a minor upgrade to Visual Studio .NET called Visual Studio .NET 2003, codenamed Everett (for the city of the same name). It includes an upgrade to the .NET Framework, version 1.1, and is the first release to support for developing programs for mobile devices, using ASP.NET or the .NET Compact Framework. The Visual C++ compiler's standards-compliance was improved, especially in the area of partial template specialization. Visual C++ Toolkit 2003 is a free version of the same C++ compiler shipped with Visual Studio .NET 2003 without the IDE, though it is no longer available and now superseded by the Express Editions. The internal version number of Visual Studio .NET 2003 is version 7.1 while the file format version is 8.0.[51]

Visual Studio .NET 2003 shipped in four editions: Academic, Professional, Enterprise Developer, and Enterprise Architect. The Visual Studio .NET 2003 Enterprise Architect edition includes an implementation of Microsoft Visio 2002's modeling technologies, which includes tools for creating Unified Modeling Language-based visual representations of an application's architecture, and a powerful Object-Role Modeling (ORM) and logical database modeling solution. "Enterprise Templates" were also introduced, to help larger development teams standardize coding styles and enforce policies around component usage and property settings.

Service Pack 1 was released September 13, 2006.[52]

Visual Studio 2005

Visual Studio 2005, codenamed Whidbey (a reference to Whidbey Island in Puget Sound), was released online in October 2005 and to retail stores a few weeks later. Microsoft removed the ".NET" moniker from Visual Studio 2005 (as well as every other product with .NET in its name), but it still primarily targets the .NET Framework, which was upgraded to version 2.0. It is the last version available for Windows 2000. Visual Studio 2005's internal version number is 8.0 while the file format version is 9.0.[51] Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Visual Studio 2005 on 14 December 2006.[53] An additional update for Service Pack 1 that offers Windows Vista compatibility was made available on 3 June 2007.[54]

Visual Studio 2005 was upgraded to support all the new features introduced in .NET Framework 2.0, including generics and ASP.NET 2.0. The IntelliSense feature in Visual Studio was upgraded for generics and new project types were added to support ASP.NET web services. Visual Studio 2005 also includes a local web server, separate from IIS, that can be used to host ASP.NET applications during development and testing. It also supports all SQL Server 2005 databases. Database designers were upgraded to support the ADO.NET 2.0, which is included with .NET Framework 2.0. C++ also got a similar upgrade with the addition of C++/CLI which is slated to replace the use of Managed C++.[55] Other new features of Visual Studio 2005 include the "Deployment Designer" which allows application designs to be validated before deployments, an improved environment for web publishing when combined with ASP.NET 2.0 and load testing to see application performance under various sorts of user loads. Visual Studio 2005 also added extensive 64-bit support. While the development environment itself is only available as a 32-bit application, Visual C++ 2005 supports compiling for x86-64 (AMD64 and Intel 64) as well as IA-64 (Itanium).[56] The Platform SDK included 64-bit compilers and 64-bit versions of the libraries.

Microsoft also announced Visual Studio Tools for Applications as the successor to Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and VSA (Visual Studio for Applications). VSTA 1.0 was released to manufacturing along with Office 2007. It is included with Office 2007 and is also part of the Visual Studio 2005 SDK. VSTA consists of a customized IDE, based on the Visual Studio 2005 IDE, and a runtime that can be embedded in applications to expose its features via the .NET object model. Office 2007 applications continue to integrate with VBA, except for InfoPath 2007 which integrates with VSTA. The current version of VSTA (version 2.0, based on Visual Studio 2008) was released in April, 2008.[57] It is significantly different from the first version, including features such as dynamic programming and support for WPF, WCF, WF, LINQ, and .NET 3.5.

Visual Studio 2008

Visual Studio 2008 Logo

Visual Studio 2008,[58] and Visual Studio Team System 2008[59] codenamed Orcas, was released to MSDN subscribers on 19 November 2007 alongside .NET Framework 3.5. The codename Orcas is, like Whidbey, a reference to an island in Puget Sound, Orcas Island. The source code for the Visual Studio 2008 IDE will be available under a shared source license to some of Microsoft's partners and ISVs.[60] Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Visual Studio 2008 on 11 August 2008.[61] The internal version number of Visual Studio 2008 is version 9.0 while the file format version is 10.0.

Visual Studio 2008 is focused on development of Windows Vista, 2007 Office system, and Web applications. For visual design, a new Windows Presentation Foundation visual designer and a new HTML/CSS editor influenced by Microsoft Expression Web are included. J# is not included. Visual Studio 2008 requires .NET Framework 3.5 and by default configures compiled assemblies to run on .NET Framework 3.5, but it also supports multi-targeting which lets the developers choose which version of the .NET Framework (out of 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, Silverlight CoreCLR or .NET Compact Framework) the assembly runs on. Visual Studio 2008 also includes new code analysis tools, including the new Code Metrics tool (only in Team Edition and Team Suite Edition).[62] For Visual C++, Visual Studio adds a new version of Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC 9.0) that adds support for the visual styles and UI controls introduced with Windows Vista.[63] For native and managed code interoperability, Visual C++ introduces the STL/CLR, which is a port of the C++ Standard Template Library (STL) containers and algorithms to managed code. STL/CLR defines STL-like containers, iterators and algorithms that work on C++/CLI managed objects.[64][65]

Visual Studio 2008 features a XAML based designer (codenamed Cider), workflow designer, LINQ to SQL designer (for defining the type mappings and object encapsulation for SQL Server data), XSLT debugger, JavaScript Intellisense support, JavaScript Debugging support, support for UAC manifests, a concurrent build system, among others.[66] It ships with an enhanced set of UI widgets, both for Windows Forms and WPF. It also includes a multithreaded build engine (MSBuild) to compile multiple source files (and build the executable file) in a project across multiple threads simultaneously. It also includes support for compiling PNG compressed icon resources introduced in Windows Vista. An updated XML Schema designer will ship separately some time after the release of Visual Studio 2008.[67]

The Visual Studio debugger includes features targeting easier debugging of multi-threaded applications. In debugging mode, in the Threads window, which lists all the threads, hovering over a thread will display the stack trace of that thread in tooltips.[68] The threads can directly be named and flagged for easier identification from that window itself.[69] In addition, in the code window, along with indicating the location of the currently executing instruction in the current thread, the currently executing instructions in other threads are also pointed out.[69][70] The Visual Studio debugger supports integrated debugging of the .NET Framework 3.5 BCL. It can dynamically download the BCL source code and debug symbols and allow stepping into the BCL source during debugging.[71] Currently a limited subset of the BCL source is available, with more library support planned for later in the year.

Visual Studio 2010

Visual Studio 2010 features a new UI developed using WPF

The final version of Visual Studio 2010 is scheduled to be presented at the DevConnections conference on April 12–14.[72]

The Visual Studio 2010 IDE has been redesigned which, according to Microsoft, clears the UI organization and "reduces clutter and complexity."[73] The new IDE better supports multiple document windows and floating tool windows,[73] while offering better multi-monitor support. The IDE shell has been rewritten using the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF),[74] whereas the internals have been redesigned using Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) that offers more extensibility points than previous versions of the IDE that enabled add-ins to modify the behavior of the IDE.[75] The new multi-paradigm programming language ML-variant F# will be a part of Visual Studio 2010;[76] as will be M, the textual modeling language, and Quadrant, the visual model designer, which are a part of the Oslo initiative.[77]

Visual Studio 2010 will come with version 4.0 of the .NET Framework and will support developing applications targeting Windows 7.[73] It will support IBM DB2 and Oracle databases (see IBM.com and TeamFuze.net for more information), in addition to Microsoft SQL Server.[73] It will have integrated support for developing Microsoft Silverlight applications, including an interactive designer.[73] Visual Studio 2010 will offer several tools to make parallel programming simpler: in addition to the Parallel Extensions for the .NET Framework and the Parallel Patterns Library for native code, Visual Studio 2010 includes tools for debugging parallel applications. The new tools let parallel Tasks and their runtime stacks to be visualized.[78] Tools for profiling parallel applications can be used for visualization of thread wait times and thread migrations across processor cores.[79] Intel and Microsoft have jointly pledged support for a new Concurrency Runtime in Visual Studio 2010[80] and Intel has launched parallelism support in Parallel Studio as an add-on for Visual Studio.[81]

The Visual Studio 2010 code editor now highlights references; whenever a symbol is selected, all other usages of the symbol are highlighted.[82] It also offers a Quick Search feature to incrementally search across all symbols in C++, C# and VB.NET projects. Quick Search supports substring matches and camelCase searches.[82] The Call Hierarchy feature allows the developer to see all the methods that are called from a current method as well as the methods that call the current one.[82] IntelliSense in Visual Studio supports a consume-first mode, which can be opted-into by the developer. In this mode, IntelliSense will not auto-complete identifiers; this allows the developer to use undefined identifiers (like variable or method names) and define those later. Visual Studio 2010 can also help in this by automatically defining them, if it can infer their types from usage.[82]

Visual Studio Team System 2010, codenamed Rosario[83] is being positioned for application lifecycle management. It will include new modelling tools,[84] including the Architecture Explorer that graphically displays the projects and classes and the relationships between them.[85][86] It supports UML activity diagram, component diagram, (logical) class diagram, sequence diagram, and use case diagram.[86] Visual Studio Team System 2010 also includes Test Impact Analysis which provides hints on which test cases are impacted by modifications to the source code, without actually running the test cases.[87] This speeds up testing by avoiding running unneeded test cases.

Visual Studio Team System 2010 also includes a Historical Debugger. Unlike the current debugger, that records only the currently-active stack, the historical debugger records all events like prior function calls, method parameters, events, exceptions etc. This allows the code execution to be rewound in case a breakpoint wasn't set where the error occurred.[88] The historical debugger will cause the application to run slower than the current debugger, and will use more memory as additional data needs to be recorded. Microsoft allows configuration of how much data should be recorded, in effect allowing developers to balance speed of execution and resource usage. The Lab Management component of Visual Studio Team System 2010 uses virtualization to create a similar execution environment for testers and developers. The virtual machines are tagged with checkpoints which can later be investigated for issues, as well as to reproduce the issue.[89] Visual Studio Team System 2010 also includes the capability to record test runs that capture the specific state of the operating environment as well as the precise steps used to run the test. These steps can then be played back to reproduce issues.[90]

VS 2010 includes F# a functional programming language, originating from developed at Microsoft Research. Previously an optional extension, it has now graduated to a mainstream tool.[91]

Pre-installed virtual machines

Microsoft is offering virtual machines with Visual Studio Team System 2008 and 2005 pre-installed in the documented Virtual Hard Disk format for trial use.

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