Microsoft Delivers Final Version of Visual Studio 2013 Update 3

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-08-04
Visual Studio 2013 Update 3

Microsoft Delivers Final Version of Visual Studio 2013 Update 3

Microsoft has released the final versions of Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 and Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2013 Update 3.

Microsoft has been on a quarterly release cycle for its flagship integrated development environment since 2012 and already is working on Visual Studio 2013 Update 4, said Brian Harry, a Microsoft corporate vice president and technical fellow, in an interview with eWEEK.

"There are a few things I'm excited about in this release," Harry said. "One of them is that we now provide CodeLens support for Git. CodeLens gives you this heads-up display overlay of your code. We introduced it as TFS version control support. We also introduced Git support. In update 3 we are bringing Git support up to parity with everything you can do with version control. There are still some things you can't do yet. You can't yet do code review with Git, but you can do it with TFS. However, CodeLens is a pretty big step for us."

Another fairly big thing in Update 3 is Application Insights tooling. Application Insights allows you to track application telemetry and Microsoft has introduced an SDK to enable developers to instrument their applications. That SDK is now included in VS 2013 Update 3.

Microsoft also continues to build out its release management capability, particularly since its acquisition of InRelease. "We've been integrating on that. We're converging the release management capability with other stuff," Harry said. "This one has support for PowerShell desired state configurations. The latest way to do reliable distributed app deployment."

The company also added integration with Chef, which, next to Puppet, is the most popular non-Windows deployment automation solution out there. "The big thing Chef gives Microsoft is a good story for non-Windows platforms. Now you can use Microsoft's release management software to also do deployments to apps on any platforms—on Linux, on Macs or any platforms," Harry said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has also been working on is its test case management capabilities.

"We've been gradually iterating our customer feedback and addressing the most common requests," Harry said. "And we're doing a big one in Update 3. One of the big ones has been the ability to do test suite and plan customization so you don't have to use the out-of-the-box testing methodology, but that you can customize it to the testing methodology that you use. And along with that came a lot of things like better test cases, test case auditing so you could understand who made what changes to you test plans."

Harry said the most requested enhancement in Update 3 is related to the user interface (UI). Microsoft has received complaints about the Visual Studio UI ever since it made changes in 2012. "As you probably heard we got a lot of feedback on the UI since it shipped in 2012 regarding color schemes and the menus that were all caps; all uppercase," he said. "There's a set of our developers who just don't like that. As funny as it sounds, it is our number one request on UserVoice. It is the number one complaint. So in update 3 we made the menus configurable, so users can choose whether they like uppercase or lowercase. That got quite a reception when I first blogged about it."

Microsoft also made a set of improvements to its Agile tooling—the Scrum tooling in the TFS Web UI. "That's one where we're taking an iterative approach. We're trying to make it better."

At TechEd 2014, Microsoft provided support for Apache Cordova in Visual Studio in the way of a Community Technology Preview (CTP). The CTP of the Cordova tooling was so that developers can build cross-platform HTML apps that will run on Windows, iOS, Android and more. Microsoft is now releasing a new CTP of the Cordova tooling.

Microsoft Delivers Final Version of Visual Studio 2013 Update 3

"The most exciting thing about that is we now have Windows 7 support for Cordova tooling," Harry said. "It used to be that you needed a Windows 8 machine to build Cordova apps using Visual Studio, but now we support using Windows 7 and Windows 8. That was a very common user request. And that was the number one blocker for people trying the Cordova CTP – trying to install it on Windows 7 and running into a stumbling block."

Moreover, Microsoft has made moves to shore up its support for the desktop, Harry said.

"We've got a lot of different platforms and one thing I hear is we have an anxiety against the desktop and are walking away from the desktop," he said. Yet, that is not true. "We are continuing to invest in the desktop and in Update 3 we have a nice improvement coming specifically for desktop development," he said. "We have a capability in Visual Studio called a memory profile that allows you to find out where your app is using memory, if it's leaking memory how much is it leaking, where is it leaking. And in Update 3 we are adding support for WPF and all Win32 applications for that memory profile. That's darn handy for tracking down locations that are leaking memory."

In addition to those being among the major enhancements in the update, Microsoft "fixed many, many dozen bugs" in this update, Harry said. "Our goal is to make it so that everyone is just happy they installed the update." He said generally within a month of an update being available, most users move to the newer one.

Meanwhile, work continues apace on Visual Studio Online (VSO), which Microsoft announced last November. VSO runs on a different cadence; it ships every three weeks. Microsoft has been working on some new things regarding Visual Studio Online. The single biggest thing is Active Directory support, so enterprises can hook up their corporate directory to Visual Studio Online.

"I can also hook to Office 365," Harry said. "So if I'm an Office 365 customer I can sign in with my Office 365 credentials into VS Online and have single sign-in across Azure, VS Online, Office 365 and my corporate network. That's a major step forward for corporations wanting to use VS Online to host their web development stuff."

In addition, Microsoft has had a pretty big push to have internal people move to VS Online. And the company now has some very large teams on VSO. The largest has 12,600 active users using VS Online in a single account. That's more than an order of magnitude bigger than some of Microsoft's largest external VSO customers.

"Our method is to dogfood first," Harry said, referring to Microsoft's practice of using its own technology or "eating its own dogfood," as the company describes it. "In total at Microsoft we now have a total of 25,000 or more people using it in some form or other. This week we had an event known as OneWeek and we encouraged people to use VSO for the hackathon. That ended up bringing in thousands of more people to use VS Online for the hackathon."

Harry said Microsoft also is working on providing Git tooling for Visual Studio Online and has introduced pull requests for VSO, which provides an open-source style workflow. Pull requests are used to submit contributions to open development projects.

Meanwhile, "I suspect we’ll ship the first CTP of Update 4 in a couple of months," Harry said in a blog post. Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 can be downloaded here.

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