By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2005-12-05 Print this article Print

Core capabilities

Some things, though, cant be fixed with mere customization capabilities—and if Microsoft werent so focused on its platform goals, it might put more energy into strengthening Visual Studios fundamentals in areas such as the editing of large text files. A massive data dump, debugging trace or other large file ought to be opened as easily by the editor in Visual Studio as by any other full-strength programmers editor, but we found that this was not the case.

We challenged the Visual Studio 2005 editor with a 400MB text file that we recently had to repair here, following a Windows crash that corrupted an e-mail folder hierarchy. After gnawing at the edges for about 2 minutes, the Visual Studio 2005 editor gave up with a complaint that there was insufficient storage space to complete the task. SlickEdit Inc.s SlickEdit 10.0, the latest release of a long-standing eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice honoree for program editing tools, had that 7-million-line file open and ready for work in less than half a minute on the same (Windows XP, 1GB RAM) machine.

This demonstrates why its unwise for a developer to allow any all-singing, all-dancing integrated tool to become the only one that team members know and use. The limits of ones tools have a nasty way of redefining the problem. To put it another way, multiple tools invite multiple viewpoints, not only on how to do something but also on what should be done.

Code-editing capabilities in Visual Studio 2005 are at least strengthened with long-overdue refactoring facilities. Especially welcome is much-needed renaming in Visual Basic, something weve urged since Version 1.0 of that language appeared in 1991. Finally, its possible to lay out an application quickly and then go back and rename user interface elements and other components more descriptively, without manually tracking down every use of their initial default designations.

Visual Studios continued status as the alpha tool set of PC development also makes it an attractive target for plug-ins and extensions from third parties, whose upgrade announcements flew thick and fast in the week of the Visual Studio 2005 launch. One should note, however, that the Eclipse and NetBeans platforms are also becoming ever-more-popular targets of third-party improvement. Current users of Visual Studio .Net should give these alternate ecosystems an objective look before making an automatic upgrade—although neither Eclipse nor NetBeans could open that massive text file, either.

Next Page: Coding in context.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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