Visual Studio 2012 Delivers Rich Toolset for Windows 8, Web Development

By Jeff Cogswell  |  Posted 2012-12-04 Print this article Print

People like me who have worked in the Web development world are aware that there are two overlapping professions: Programmers who develop applications that run in the Web browser and Web designers who build Websites. Both have their place (and both find plenty of paying clients). The difference between Visual Studio and Blend seems to accommodate these two groups of people; Visual Studio is more geared toward Web application developers, while Blend is more geared toward designers.

Visual Studio Also Includes LightSwitch

You might remember some hoopla a couple years ago about something called LightSwitch, which lets you rapidly create database applications and is now fully integrated into Visual Studio. The idea is similar to such products as Alpha Five, or Filemaker Pro.

In fact, I suspected that the creation of LightSwitch was partly due to the failure of Microsoft to deliver a true Web-development version of Access, which resulted in a lot of people moving to competing tools, such as the aforementioned Alpha Five.

LightSwitch, unlike Access-based applications, lets you run your final app in a Web browser. Although LightSwitch hasn't really been embraced much by the developer community, there are some new features that might help it gain acceptance.

For example, the latest version, with the HTML Client, lets you finally ditch Silverlight and use HTML5 instead. That means you can release your apps to a browser without requiring the users to install Silverlight. You can also easily connect to remote data sources using Microsoft's Open Data protocol. This may or may not prove to be an important product for Microsoft with these new changes. As such, I'll provide a full review of these new LightSwitch features next month here on eWEEK.

Windows 8 Development

By far the biggest update with Visual Studio 2012 is the ability to create Windows 8 applications, particularly apps that you can distribute through the Windows Store. You can use several different languages for building these apps. I already mentioned JavaScript. Additionally, you can use C#, Visual Basic or Visual C++.

One thing I found, however, is that developing for Windows 8 is very different from previous tools used to build earlier versions of Windows. But there is a caveat: You can still develop traditional desktop-style applications as you always could, and you can still run Windows 8 in desktop mode without using the new interface. But to develop for the new interface, you take a different approach, even if you use C# instead of JavaScript. There's a new set of APIs, new controls, new event structures.

If you create a Windows 8 application in C# or VB.NET, you get an XAML-based application. Since it's XAML, you can use the visual designer to create your forms. This is very similar to developing for Silverlight, except you're developing for the Windows 8 interface.

In addition to including the latest Microsoft Foundation Classes (they still make that thing?), Visual Studio also includes support for several different languages such as F# built right in. And optionally, you can add on other languages, including Python support.


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