5 Visual Studio Questions with Dr. James McCaffrey

Our man from Microsoft Research who was instrumental in the development of Internet Explorer and Bing tells us what makes working with Visual Studio such a rewarding experience.

Visual Studio puts a lot of power in your hands as a developer, but it's no simple tool. It's a complex platform. People spend years working with Visual Studio and find they've barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. Navigating something as deep as Visual Studio is best done with a little help from your friends.

If you've been reading MSDN magazine over the last few years or if you've attended a Visual Studio Live! event, you've no doubt crossed paths with Dr. James McCaffrey (he's also Visual Studio Magazine's "Neural Network Lab" columnist). He's been writing about and speaking about Visual Studio for years, and takes great pleasure and pride in sharing his expertise. Lafe Low sat down with him recently to find out a little bit about what makes him tick and what drives him to keep digging deeper into Visual Studio.

1. What first got you into Visual Studio?
My area of expertise is developing algorithms and machine learning (prediction) systems using C# and Visual Studio. I don't think there was any one, single factor that led me to what I do now. Instead, my career path is the result of many thousands of small events. I suspect that's the case with most people these days. For example, I vividly remember seeing one of the very first chess playing computer programs. I was absolutely astonished. That clearly left a lasting impression.

2. What is it about Visual Studio that keeps you challenged and engaged?
My field, like many, is constantly changing. It's a challenge to keep up with new developments, but the constant evolution and creation of new ideas is what makes our work so interesting. For example, just this morning, I was exploring a new research algorithm that mimics the behavior of fireflies

3. What are some of the biggest changes or advancements you see coming in the next few years?
Like anyone, if I could predict the future of software development, I'd be rich. That said, in the short term, I suspect the trend of the growth of Cloud based systems will accelerate. Also, I think Windows phone-based applications and systems may finally start to gain significant traction and market share.

4. What would be your top priorities if you were the lead product manager for Visual Studio?
I work with Visual Studio on a daily basis. One of my pain points occurs whenever I have to work with Azure-based data. Integration between Azure and Visual Studio has improved greatly over the past year or so, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

5. What are some things that most people miss or don't get the most out of when working with Visual Studio?
When using Visual Studio, I've noticed very few of my colleagues use the built-in performance profiling tool. It's slam dunk easy. On the menu bar just click on Analyze | Performance Analysis, and then Visual Studio launches your program in debug mode, captures all kinds of useful profiling information, and generates an easy to interpret report.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.

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