At VSLive! in New York Microsoft previewed the upcoming 'Whidbey' release of Visual Studio .NET and announced major changes to the Visual Studio Integration Program (VSIP).
First the flashy stuff:
The roadmap for Visual Studio .NET has been updated to include information on the Visual Studio Tools for Office, Visual Studio 'Whidbey' and Visual Studio 'Orcas'.
Tools for Office
These essentially allow developers to target Office applications using managed code. Certainly a nice idea but really only of interest to those currently working on Office applications or those looking to leverage Office components in the future. These tools will be released shortly after the final version of Office 2003 later this year.
Visual Studio 'Whidbey'
Whidbey is the next release of Visual Studio .NET and will target the next version of SQL Server ('Yukon'), allowing developers to write SQL stored procedures using C# or VB.NET. Whidbey is a minor release for Visual Studio .NET that will bring together cosmetic changes based on customer feedback, updated class libraries and language enhancements.
The Whidbey demo was presented by Ari Brixhorn - previously the VB.NET Product Manager but now the Lead Product Manager for Visual Studio .NET. This means the demo was biased towards VB.NET developers and all but ignored C# and C++ developers.
For the IDE, Whidbey will bring a slew of new features (I was about to say 'improvements') based on their key design goal to reduce the number of lines of code a VB developer actually has to write. As an example, Visual Basic developers will have access to a new set of classes that wrap system components - the so called 'My' classes - which give access to system resources such as the keyboard, mouse, printer, OS etc. Less boiler plate code to write, less time and fewer mistakes made. If the developers need to recover any control they feel they've lost by using these classes they can always dip back down to the Base Class Library (BCL) and roll their own.
The new 'My' classes
Data access has also been improved to give developers "the ability to create data-bound applications without writing a single line of code".
Other improvements to VB.NET include Edit and Continue and real-time syntax checks that will use the Office style underlining to point out syntax errors. A drop-down list of suggested corrections will be provided.
Enhanced syntax error detection and correction
Also note the new XML comments in VB that are similar in function to the current C# XML comment feature.
A nice feature is the enhanced runtime error handling during debugging. Balloon windows display an error message on the appropriate line of code and provide options to help the developer resolve the issue.
Runtime errors in the debugger
VB also gains from the underlying enhancements to .NET. Generics, operator overloading, unsigned data types and partial types.
Visual C++ had it's big show in Everett so improvements to C++ are limited. C++ will gain support for .NET generics, support for Mobile development, improvements to the CRT and the MFC libraries and the new Profile Guided Optimizations (POGO). POGO allows further code optimizations based on information collected during application usage. Managed extensions will also be simplified to aid application development.
Nick Hodapp, Microsoft's C++ Product Manager stated that "MFC developers shouldn't expect a large number of grandiose new features in Whidbey, however we are planning key MFC features that keep the library up to date with innovations in Longhorn, and make it easier to incorporate the .NET Framework."
Visual C# will also get access to generics as well as language constructs that will aid in code reuse and eliminate the nedd to write boilerplate code when writing collection classes. As mentioned previously C# will also get 'partial types' that allow large code blocks to be split between files, and 'anonymous methods' that simplify delegates.
In order to take advantage of the general migration to 19" monitors the Visual Studio .NET IDE has introduced even more windows. Just kidding. Visual Studio .NET does includes some new tool windows but it also includes a new feature that makes it easier to work out where the window can be docked and in what manner. I've yet to play with this feature so I'll reserve judgment.
Docking markers indicate where a window can be docked.
One feature that was nice was a feature of the designer whereby guidelines would automatically be shown to allow you to align controls with other controls. Need to align a text box with a label? No problem - the guides automatically appear and allow you to align the elements accurately. Also added are new features that automatically resize controls when the screen resolution changes. Possibly not the most used feature in the Windows Forms menagerie but neat nonetheless.
Finally, there was a tantalising glimpse of CodeWise integrated search. CodeWise is the collective name for the top .NET online communities, authors, trainers and .NET associations. CodeProject is proud to be a founding and leading member of this community and we are working with Microsoft to bring developers closer together. We promise to bring you more details as they are finalised.
As stated above .NET will get generics and the various frameworks (Mobile, ASP.NET, ADO.NET, Windows Forms) will also get improvements to help ease the task of writing and maintaining code. As well, .NET 1.1 developers will be able to target 64 bit processors without changing a line of code.
Changes to VSIP
The Visual Studio Integration Program (VSIP) is now the Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) Program. You will no longer be repeating yourself if you say "The VSIP Program".
Previously VSIP was the program for companies looking to integrate their products with Visual Studio. Language and component vendors would be able to license the tools and libraries that would allow their product to operate seamlessly with, and within, the IDE. Entry was a hefty $10,000 and so was limited to only a small number of companies.
Microsoft has announced a change to this program that will allow more companies to take advantage of the rich extensibility model that VS.NET provides. As of this week the new levels of VSIP are:
Academics, developers and companies wishing to use the VSI SDK. Cost: Free.
Provides access to the Visual Studio Integration (VSI) SDK that will enable integration of products with VS.NET plus inclusion in the online product catalog on the Visual Studio .NET partner Web site. The VSI SDK is free subject to agreeing to an online license agreement.
|Alliance ||Developers and companies wishing to have closer technical and marketing involvement with Microsoft. Cost: $3,000 per annum.|
Provides Affiliate benefits, an MSDN subscription, use of the 'Optimized for Microsoft Visual Studio .NET' logo and joint marketing opportunities.
|Premier ||Enterpise level companies and ISVs looking to have close ties with Microsoft as well as the ability to redistribute the VS.NET IDE itself. Cost: $10,000 per annum.|
Provides Alliance benefits marketing opportunities, eligibility to license and distribute Visual Studio .NET Premier Partner Edition and enhanced marketing opportunities.
See the Program Benefits page for more details.