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New VS Code Extension: 'One-Stop Shop for Data Scientists'

A Visual Studio Code extension developed by a student is receiving a lot of buzz for its intention to serve as a "one-stop shop for data scientists."

Although developed last summer by Imperial College London student Lorenzo Silvestri in conjunction with Microsoft, the extension named neuron was just announced in a blog post this week and received a lot of attention on the Hacker News site.

On that site, a reader called "greazer" reportedly from the Python VS Code extension team said the neuron extension -- available now on the VS Code Marketplace -- is apparently being reworked for integration into the popular Python VS Code extension. Or, more specifically, code from a neuron fork -- called VSNotebooks -- is being reworked for the Python extension. However, as the project is "a little rough," the forked code was redesigned and reimplemented by Microsoft with new features for integration into the Python extension.

So, after that convoluted backstory, what is neuron/VSNotebooks that provides such functionality that its reworked code is being baked in to the No. 1 VS Code extension, Python, used by more than 21 million developers?

On GitHub, it's described as an "interactive programming experience for data scientists" that "combines the power of Visual Studio Code with the interactivity of Jupyter Notebook." In his blog post published this week, Silvestri said: "The principle of neuron is dead simple. You start off with your regular Python or R code editor – the bit you type code into – inside Visual Studio Code. Alongside it, taking up the other half of the screen, is neuron. It’s a blank page at first, but as you run snippets of your code, the output gets turned into interactive cards. They can be plain text, tables, images, graphs, maps ... you name it."

It received the usual "mixed" reaction on Hacker News, though some developers were excited about it, with comments such as:

  • "I love both Jupyter and VS Code, and having both merged seems great for my use case (and anyone else doing exploratory code)."
  • "Anything that resembles RStudio for python makes me really excited to shift working from R to python for projects running in production."

Stay tuned to see what Microsoft's VS Code Python extension team says about the functionality when it's baked into an upcoming release.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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