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Microsoft Releases Visual Studio 2013 Update 2

ASP.NET vNEXT, Apache Cordova tooling also announced.

Microsoft has released the finished version of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2, which updates the flagship integrated development environment (IDE) with fixes and new features, including a preview of tooling support for Apache Cordova and the introduction of universal Windows apps.

The announcement came this morning at TechEd North America 2014 in Houston. The last iteration of Update 2 was community technology preview (CTP) 2, released last February. Update 1 hit general availability in January, in line with Microsoft's vision of frequent smaller rollouts, instead of huge service pack-type updates.

Perhaps the biggest news in Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 is the ability for developers to create "universal Windows apps" that can be built once and run on any Windows device. Universal Windows apps were first discussed by Microsoft at its Build 2014 conference in San Francisco last month. It enables creation of apps in C#, JavaScript or C++ that will run on Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 and, eventually, Xbox One.

Another major announcement extends those platforms beyond Windows. Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 now supports Apache Cordova, which many know as PhoneGap. Cordova is an open source project that enables developers to build a single project with JavaScript, CSS and HTML 5, and target most mobile OSes, including iOS, Android, Windows Store and Windows Phone. Microsoft Open Technologies, which works closely with the open source community, announced Cordova support earlier today via a blog posting by Olivier Bloch. It includes project templates for JavaScript and TypeScript, Microsoft's superset of JavaScript for building larger applications, along with a blank starter project. Apps can be debugged using numerous device emulators and mobile simulators, according to S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Microsoft's Developer Division.

Front end JavaScript frameworks like Angular, WinJS, BootStrap, Backbone and Underscore  are supported with the release, which is formally known as the Multi-Device Hybrid apps for Visual Studio extension.

Cordova is similar to Xamarin in that it targets multiple platforms; but Xamarin uses C#/XAML as the language and framework.

Web developers using ASP.NET weren't forgotten with Update 2. Microsoft introduced "ASP.NET vNext," which Somasegar called an "evolution" of the existing framework. The new version will make it easier to create cloud-optimized apps.

ASP.NET vNext is built on a composable framework from a collection of packages. Each application describes its dependencies: some examples from Somasegar's blog include Microsoft.AspNet.Abstractions; Microsoft.AspNet.Server.WebListener; and Microsoft.AspNet.Hosting. As part of the improvements, developers can make changes to a Web app and view them with a simple browser refresh, instead of going through a recompile step.

Somasegar was careful to point out that no current ASP.NET apps will be affected in any way by the new version: "Everything you know today about ASP.NET will apply to ASP.NET vNext. You can use the existing libraries or the new versions for those libraries in .NET vNext and get immediate benefits," he said.

Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 can be downloaded here.

TechEd North America kicked off today, and runs through Thursday in Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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