I am always checking out pre-release versions of software when I can, companies like Microsoft are always improving their tools and I like to look to see if there is anything to look forward to with the next release. Recently, I grabbed a preview of Visual Studio 2013 and one feature I was excited to see because I’ve looked for 3rd party tools to do something similar and even thought of doing it myself. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see that Microsoft has added a profile login option to Visual Studio.
Now your first response may be “why would I want to log in to use Visual Studio?” but I was intrigued so I investigated exactly what you get with this. You log in with any Microsoft ID (formerly Live ID) or Office 365 ID and you are able to store personal settings/profiles in the cloud.
This may not seem like much but if you live in Visual Studio all day long like me you can get very used to exactly how you have things setup (editor settings, custom toolbar items, etc.). This means when you cut over to a new computer, you wouldn’t need to worry about losing the setup that you’ve spent the last couple years configuring. It may not seem like much but it is one of those things that I dread when I get a new machine because I never remember exactly what I changed where.
But the real benefit to developers like me is if you have more than one development machine. At the time of writing this, I have three development machines that I use regularly (Work Laptop, Test Tablet, and Client Laptop). If I had this cloud profile available to each machine, that would mean I can tweak the interface on one machine and it will propagate to the others, and when I turn in this client’s laptop and roll onto the next project with a new laptop for that client, I will not need to start from scratch configuring everything.
This is still clearly a preview feature, as you can see from the screenshot below when I took it, the account information was unavailable and was asking me to sign in again, but this sort of roaming profile built into Visual Studio has a lot of potential.
Obviously like anything like this, you need to be careful about what information roams up to the cloud. It would be very easy for Microsoft to collect information they should not (the “Big Brother is watching” concept), I highly doubt Microsoft will do anything they shouldn’t but it is something to watch out for with any cloud platform.
All in all, I think this is an exciting feature and I am looking forward to the actual release of 2013 when I can actually start using this on multiple machines to see how it works. I obviously would never recommend using any preview product for a real project but I highly recommend you check it out for yourself if you are interested, you can install it cleanly next to previous installations of Visual Studio just like you are used to.