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Microsoft Releases Previews of Visual Studio 2013, .NET Framework 4.5.1

The products are "go-live," so Microsoft will support them in production.

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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.

Other Visual Studio 2013 improvements include standards support in C++11; performance jumps for XAML in Windows Store apps; better async debugging of JavaScript; IntelliSense support in DOM Explorer; and enhancements to the JavaScript Console.

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.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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