Initially released in alpha at the Visual Studio 2013 Launch Event in New York as a project code-named Monaco and then tweaked and launched in preview last year at Microsoft's Build conference as Visual Studio Code, the tool can now claim two million users. Microsoft said more than 500,000 developers actively use VS Code each month.
Then, six months after its initial preview release, Microsoft delivered a beta version of VS Code at Connect(); 2015, with a full extensibility model and support in the new Visual Studio Marketplace. Microsoft also open-sourced the VS Code repository and began developing Visual Studio Code in the open.
VS Code is a free, lightweight, cross-platform code editor for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. It includes many of the familiar features of Visual Studio, such as IntelliSense, peek, code navigation and debugging, but it centers on being a keyboard-centric editor. It supports a wide range of languages with enhanced support for Node.js and ASP.NET 5.
"What started as an experiment to build a production quality editor using modern Web technologies has blossomed into a new kind of cross-platform development tool, one that focuses on core developer productivity by centering the product on rich code editing and debugging experiences," Microsoft said in a blog post by the VS Code team.
"Today, a broad range of developers from individuals and startups to Fortune 500 companies—including audiences completely new to Microsoft's tools—is more productive with a tool that fits comfortably into its current toolchain and workflow, and supports the technologies [used,] from GO and Python to React Native and C++," the VS Code team said. "With this great ecosystem in place, we're now confident in declaring our API as stable, and guaranteeing compatibility going forward."
As a coding environment for the cloud, in the cloud, VS Code complements the desktop integrated development environment (IDE) as a low-friction experience that will help developers get started, or make quick changes, to an existing cloud service. Microsoft initially made the tool available for editing Azure Websites so developers could make live edits to Azure Websites directly from the browser on modern devices.
"VS Code is a response to the rising developer interest in all things lightweight," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC. "Modern development requires a lot of in-and-out in various languages, environments and platforms, and so there has been a long-running shift toward basic, though feature-rich, editors."
Microsoft enlisted Erich Gamma to lead the original "Monaco" team. Gamma, formerly a core developer on IBM's Rational application life-cycle management (ALM) tools, also led the design of the Eclipse platform's Java Development Tools.
"We wanted to build a native development tool that developers could install and use anywhere, for any code," the VS Code team said in its post. "And, from our experience, we believed that it was important to not just have an editor, but one that could help developers accomplish their most common tasks: navigating code, debugging, and working with Git. And so, Visual Studio Code was born."
Today, the editor can be found among the most demanding global Websites— OneDrive, Visual Studio Team Services, Bing Code Search, Azure—sites used by millions of people every day, Microsoft said. It even ships to hundreds of millions of Windows desktops with the F12 tools in Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge.
Moreover, "Today we have extensions for Node.js, GO, C++, Python and PHP, as well as many more languages, linters and tools," the VS Code team said. "And VS Code is being used both by teams of developers, but also in companies such as Progressive Insurance, where VS Code is used not just by developers, but by analysts and data scientists as well."
At Microsoft's Connect(); 2015 event, Jules Kremer, technical program manager for Angular at Google, said, "many of the Google devs on the Angular core team use Visual Studio Code because it lets them work better together. The code readability and navigation features of the code editor help them be more productive and refactor code faster."
VS Code 1.0 is now available for download, and the download is under 40MB including support for nine additional languages—French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Russian.
"By all accounts, Code has been well-received, with surveys indicating that it is the most popular editor for .NET developers today," Hilwa said. "Being open source is clearly a positive attribute among developers and helped its fast adoption."