Microsoft Build 2013: Visual Studio 2013, .NET 4.5.1 Previews Ship

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-06-26

Microsoft Build 2013: Visual Studio 2013, .NET 4.5.1 Previews Ship

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft has added a slew of new features and improvements to the latest version of its flagship developer toolset, Visual Studio 2013, which ships in preview today.

Announcing the availability of the first build preview of the upgraded integrated development  environment (IDE) here at the company's Build 2013 conference, S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, told eWEEK the new Visual Studio release may be the most comprehensive ever, partly because the opportunities for software developers are higher than ever before. And Microsoft has to cater to the needs of these individuals and teams.

As Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry told eWEEK prior to the Microsoft TechEd 2013 conference earlier this month, Microsoft would be announcing a new version of Visual Studio and focusing on the application lifecycle management (ALM) and DevOps features at TechEd. At Build, the company is focusing on the core software development capabilities of the products making Visual Studio 2013 Preview and .NET 4.5.1 Preview now available for download and as "go-live" releases.

"Go Live means customers can use it to deploy applications that they can deploy in production environments, and we'll be glad to work with them and support them in that process," Somasegar told eWEEK.

In addition to the Visual Studio 2013 and Team Foundation Server/Service support for agile portfolio management, cloud-based load testing, a team room integrated with TFS, code comments integration with TFS and Git support that Microsoft demonstrated at TechEd, at Build, Microsoft is introducing or highlighting several new programmer productivity features.

"One such feature is the CodeLens (Code Information Indicators) capability we introduced at TechEd," Somasegar said in a blog post. "This feature brings useful information about types and type members directly into the editor, information such as the references to a particular method, how many tests are referencing a method and how many of them are passing, who last checked in a change that modified a method, and how many changesets impact a method."

Somasegar told eWEEK: "Code Lens gives you insight and information about a particular piece of code as you navigate through that code in your IDE, for example, if I'm in a method and I want to know what other methods I am calling or who is calling into me. That is information that is hard to get otherwise, but we want to make it available to you right there in the IDE."

Visual Studio 2013 also has a Connected IDE feature that knows a user's identity and will roam and synchronize their settings—such as UI theme, keyboard shortcuts, text editor configuration and more—from one installation to another via back-end cloud services.

"Visual Studio 2013 also makes it much easier for you as a developer to create your own connected applications," Somasegar said in his post. "One key area of investment in this release is around Windows Azure Mobile Services and making it easy to provision, configure, develop, and deliver back-end services for your mobile apps.  From within Visual Studio, you can now easily create new Mobile Services and edit them using the full power of the Visual Studio IDE."

Moreover, another such feature meant to streamline a developer's productivity is "Peek Definition," Somasegar said. Visual Studio already supports "Go to Definition," which opens a new document window to host the file containing the definition for the referenced symbol, and as of Visual Studio 2012, supports opening this in a preview window, he added. "Now in Visual Studio 2013, Peek Definition gives developers the option of viewing inline as part of the current document the file defining the target symbol," he said.


Microsoft Build 2013: Visual Studio 2013, .NET 4.5.1 Previews Ship

Meanwhile, a lot of effort has gone into support for HTML and JavaScript in this new release of Visual Studio, including improved support for async debugging of JavaScript, but the improvements go well beyond that, Somasegar said.

"To start, the core Visual Studio experienced around JavaScript has been enhanced," Somasegar said in his post. "For example, 'Go to Definition' now supports navigating namespaces, IntelliSense includes notes about deprecated APIs, and the editor both supports identifier highlighting and includes a navigation bar that makes it easy to quickly jump around in the source."

In addition, Microsoft has made improvements to the DOM Explorer and the JavaScript Console.  For example, the DOM Explorer now supports IntelliSense, search, direct editing and inline styles, while the JavaScript Console has been augmented to support IntelliSense, object preview and visualization, and multiline function support, Somasegar said.

Also, Microsoft Blend for HTML has also been enhanced in this release and now includes a timeline for animating changes to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). And Microsoft also improved diagnostics for Windows Store apps, including but not limited to those implemented with HTML and JavaScript.

The delivery of .NET 4.5.1 brings improvements that boost development for Windows 8.1. .NET 4.5.1 is a highly compatible, in-place update for .NET 4.5 that ships as part of Windows 8.1, Somasegar said. The .NET 4.5.1 Preview installs as part of Visual Studio 2013 Preview, is included in all installations of Windows 8.1 Preview, and is also available for separate installation into Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and the corresponding Windows Server releases.

"Much of our work in this release of .NET is on improving the debugging and general diagnostics experience for developers," Somasegar said. "As just one example, .NET developers have been asking for a feature that's been available to C++ developers for a while: viewing method return values in the debugger, even if those values are never stored into any declared variable. With .NET 4.5.1 and Visual Studio 2013, this capability is now built-in. This is particularly useful when you write method invocations inline as parameters to other invocation."

.NET 4.5.1 also supports "Edit and Continue" for 64-bit, which enables developers to change their running .NET code while stopped at a breakpoint in the debugger, without having to stop and restart the process and with it the debugging experience. It also supports async debugging.

"I'm particularly excited about improvements we've made in this release to support async debugging (you need to be using Visual Studio 2013 on Windows 8.1 to get this capability, as the debugger relies in part on some new operating system support to enable it)," Somasegar wrote in his post. "Previously, it could be very difficult for a developer stopped at a breakpoint to know the asynchronous sequence of calls that brought them to the current location."

Visual Studio 2013 also features a bunch of improvements for C++ developers. Indeed, Somasegar said one of the biggest requests Microsoft had from C++ developers was for more C++11 standard support. Visual Studio 2013 includes C++11 features like delegating constructors, raw string literals, explicit conversion operators and variadic templates.

"Other improvements for C++ in Visual Studio 2013 include performance improvements to C++ AMP and the C++ auto-vectorizer; the C++ REST software development kit (SDK), which is both included in Visual Studio 2013 and available as an open-source project on CodePlex; debugging improvements, including mixed-mode debugging between JavaScript and C++ as well as the async debugging support I previously mentioned; improvements around Profile Guided Optimization; and more," Somasegar said in his post.

In addition, Microsoft added several improvements to XAML, its Extensible Application Markup Language, and added diagnostic improvements to Visual Studio 2013.

Finally, Somasegar announced that Microsoft has released Visual Studio 2012 Update 3 (VS2012.3). VS2012.3 is an incrementally smaller update than its two predecessors: It includes a few new capabilities, but is focused primarily on bug fixes, he said.


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