Faster, Leaner Future for Visual Studio Development

From Visual Studio Live! Austin: Microsoft's Tarek Madkour reveals the current state of the Visual Studio union, with a good view of the latest on .NET and .NET Core.

There have been a handful of announcements around Visual Studio lately. New enhancements, new extensions, the forthcoming Visual Studio 15 release; there's a lot happening in the Visual Studio world. Microsoft's Tarek Madkour gave the audience at Visual Studio Live! in Austin, TX, a look at what's on the way. Speaking at the Tuesday morning opening keynote, Madkour gave an overview of what's coming in the next release of Visual Studio and recent advancements to .NET and .NET Core.

The success of the current release of Visual Studio is informing how Microsoft is enhancing the next release. When Madkour asked the assembled crowd, "How many of you are using Visual Studio 2015 already?" about 75 percent raised their hands. Most of the rest are using 2012, although a few were still using 2010 and even 2008.

"Visual Studio 2015 has been amazing release," he says. "It has broken all our records. There have been 13 million downloads of Visual Studio 2015. There are more than 6,000 extensions in the gallery. I love the extension because they round out our story. We're nearing 1,000 downloads per month for extensions. We're going to stress extensions to target all other platforms."

Then he moved into the main portion of his presentation, during which he spoke of what's coming in the next release of Visual Studio. First, he cleared up the naming convention. "This will be called Visual Studio 15, not 2015, but Visual Studio 15," he says.

The size of the download has been one issue Microsoft has heard from developers, so Visual Studio 15 will come in two flavors—the full 40 GB Visual Studio Enterprise or the preview version with the new installer. "We have a new concept called workloads," he says. "Based on discussions with developers, and developer behavior, we can now pick workloads up front. The core Visual Studio shell includes the editing, building and debugging. It just doesn't include specific languages. You can add those as workloads."

Madkour said that as a stress test for the new installer, he installed it on a plane as he traveled to Austin for Visual Studio Live! "My apologies to anyone who was on the Seattle to Austin flight yesterday," he says. "I hogged all the bandwidth, but it worked."

The goal with the new installer is lightweight, he says. "It takes MBs, not GBs. It's optimized for the scenario you want. We picked the tools we see most people using."

After installing the preview on stage, he started showing some of the new features. "One of the new things we added is ability to open folder, not just project," he says. "If you see something interesting on Github, you just want to clone it and get working quickly."

The core inner loop is where developers spend most of their time. "Edit, build, debug. Edit, build, debug." says Madkour. "Our goal is for those repeated things to be much faster. For building, our goal is for compilation to take no time. For diagnostics, it's all about the tools to zero in on bugs as fast as you can. Finally, we want to bring in testing as part of diagnostics experience."

Madkour also described many of the recent changes to .NET. "One of new things we've added is the ability to have coding styles," he says. "You have the ability to enforce those coding styles, enforce certain conventions, and enforce where braces are. This is pretty rich in terms of analysis."

Much like Visual Studio, the direction Microsoft has taken .NET is to extend it to target many devices and platforms. "We have the .NET framework, which runs on Windows. Then we have Xamarin, so you can take the beauty of .NET and go cross platform to iOS or Android. Lately, we added .NET Core -- our version of .NET that is open source and goes across all platforms."

Madkour stressed that while .NET now is open source, any code contributed has to go through a rigorous process. And it's supported by Microsoft. "We have more than 4,000 contributing to the code," he says. "We have had beautiful discussions in the community."

The next Visual Studio Live! event takes place in Boston on June 13-16 at the Cambridge Hyatt Regency. Visit for more details.

Editor's Note: To view a video replay of Tarek Madkour's talk, go here.

About the Author

Lafe Low has been a technology editor and writer for more than 25 years. Most recently, he was the editor in chief of TechNet magazine. He has also held various editorial positions with Redmond magazine, CIO magazine and InfoWorld. He also launched his own magazine entitled Explore New England, and has published four editions of his guidebook The Best in Tent Camping: New England.

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