VS Insider: Looking Forward
Ken Spencer, a Microsoft regional director and practice manager at Solid Quality Mentors, has worked with every beta version of Microsoft Visual Studio (and its predecessor Visual Basic), back to Visual Basic 4. He offers his take on Visual Studio 2010.
By the time you read this, the final version of Visual Studio 2010 will have been in developers' hands for about three weeks. I'd like to offer some insight into Visual Studio 2010 from the perspective of a developer who has worked with beta versions of the tooling all the way back to Visual Basic 4. In working with the Visual Basic -- and now, Visual Studio -- team to test early versions of the IDE, I've learned that Microsoft always looks for ideas from customers and industry experts on how to improve the product. It seems like those efforts are paying dividends with Visual Studio 2010.
Visual Studio 2010 represents an important milestone in the history of the IDE. It has been rewritten and redesigned, with the UI implemented mostly in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). This was big news when the changes were outlined and described at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in 2009, and it's even bigger news now that the revolutionary UI is in developers' hands.
My company started working with Visual Studio 2010 in November 2009, with the beta 2 version of the software. We were working out performance problems for a client's massive ASP.NET application, and the first thing we did after opening the application in Visual Studio 2010 was to fire up the Architect Explorer. This new feature allowed us to quickly review our application and discover how things were related. The Architect Explorer is an amazing resource that helps Visual Studio 2010 stand head and shoulders above its predecessor.
In fact, Visual Studio 2010 impressed us so much that we're now using the new IDE to completely rebuild the problem application in Silverlight and WPF. For years, WinForms developers have had great, integrated UI-design tools built into Visual Studio, while WPF and Silverlight devs have had to bounce between Visual Studio and Blend. Visual Studio 2010 ends that. The XAML/WPF UI features are top-notch. Developers can build attractive applications entirely within Visual Studio. You can view your XAML as you design it and do things like select a color on a control to see a color pane that's similar to the one in Blend.
Another new feature that won us over is Generate From Usage, which streamlines the experience of doing Test-Driven Development. Generate From Usage lets you code away and use IntelliSense on classes that don't even exist yet, and then later lets you auto-generate the stubbed-out code in order to make it all real.
Writing the new features and tests sounds like an awesome combination. For instance, in the release candidate build I entered this line:
Of course, Visual Studio put a red squiggly line under it. Double-clicking it gave me a smart tag that has a Generate From Method Stub on it. Clicking it generated this code:
private void DoThis()
This nicely stubbed-out method is ready to use now by putting in the implementation. Right-clicking an entry that's red-lined will also give you generate and refactor options. You can still right-click these methods and generate tests for them, as well.
Thinking along the Test-Driven model, you could write out a series of methods and generate tests before you ever implement a single method. This is really powerful when you consider how fast you can build testable, working applications.
And don't even get me started on the ability to create full use cases right in Visual Studio 2010 with Team Foundation Server. That's a huge win for dev shops.
As Visual Studio upgrades go, Visual Studio 2010 is a big deal. The fact that Microsoft refactored Visual Studio itself says all you need to know about the future of the IDE. I expect Microsoft will spend the next several years building on what it delivered on April 12.
Ken Spencer is a Microsoft regional director, and a practice manager in Software Development at Solid Quality Mentors in Greensboro, N.C.