C# Dev Kit Goes GA with Same Licensing as Visual Studio Community Edition

Microsoft announced the general availability of its C# Dev Kit, a Visual Studio Code extension that adds functionality missing in an existing C# tool -- functionality that comes with for-pay licensing for organizations.

The C# Dev Kit in the VS Code marketplace has been installed more than 657,000 times, with the item description reading: "C# Dev Kit helps you manage your code with a solution explorer and test your code with integrated unit test discovery and execution, elevating your C# development experience wherever you like to develop (Windows, macOS, Linux, and even in a Codespace)."

Microsoft angered many developers when it announced a preview of the dev kit in June with different licensing from an existing C# extension (23.9 million installs) that was open source and totally free. While that tool still exists (and indeed comes bundled with the C# Dev Kit), the dev kit is now the "official C# extension from Microsoft."

The company added the for-pay licensing (free for individuals and for academia and open source development) for organizations because the new tool improves on the existing C# extension with proprietary tech borrowed from the flagship Visual Studio IDE. This includes IntelliCode -- an AI-boosted improvement upon IntelliSense-- which comes in the bundled IntelliCode for C# Dev Kit extension but which is actually an optional component that can be uninstalled.

[Click on image for larger view.] The C# Dev Kit (source: Microsoft).

Along with AI-assisted development via IntelliCode, new tooling in the kit includes:

  • C# project and solution management via an integrated solution explorer
  • Native testing environment to run and debug tests using the Test Explorer
  • Roslyn powered language service for best in-class C# language features such as code navigation, refactoring, semantic awareness, and more

While the dev kit has reached GA status, some associated tools haven't.

"The C# Dev Kit leverages the core C# language services and delivers additional productivity value to developers, Microsoft's Wendy Breiding said in this week's announcement. "While these core productivity features are now generally available, additional experiences that support .NET MAUI and Unity are still in preview, leveraging the C# Dev Kit. These extensions continue to benefit from feedback and improving your development workflows for MAUI and Unity in VS Code."

The new tool received an unusually low score (2.4 on 1-5 scale) from 79 developers who reviewed it. Most of the reviews are negative, including one posted after the GA announcement:

  • GA still need a lot of improvement, just like previous versions.
  • No external code loading.
  • No symlink support.
  • Creating launch.json still convoluted and confuse (Is .NET Core or C#).
  • A lot of errors showing in the Editor even if you project build fine on command line.
  • No NuGet manager.
  • C# and .NET are great, but the tooling is getting really bad 😢

Microsoft invites such feedback and in this week's announcement promised "we will continue to listen to your feedback and work toward improved performance, reliability, and adding features to support your C# development in VS Code with updates to the extension on a monthly cadence."

Breiding, a senior manager in product management, also revealed how such feedback has helped the dev team so far: "Since our initial preview in June, we have received both quantifiable data and invaluable community feedback that have shaped this product. Approximately 350 issues, primarily reported by our community, have been addressed. These enhancements range from quality improvements to scenario clarifications. Your active engagement has led to over 300 targeted improvements, rendering a more robust and reliable extension. This combined effort was crucial in our decision to transition from preview to general availability and to initiate official support for Visual Studio subscribers."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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