REVIEW: MonoDevelop 2.2 Looks Good on Windows

Although it lacks some of the features of Visual Studio, MonoDevelop 2.2, which-finally-supports Windows, doesn't disappoint.

When I first reviewed MonoDevelop in June of 2009, I focused on the IDE running under Ubuntu Linux. At the time, some developers had been working on porting MonoDevelop to Windows, but the project wasn't complete.

But now it is. With the release of Version 2.2, MonoDevelop is now officially supported on Windows. And it looks and works great.

For a look at MonoDevelop 2.2 in action, click here.

The GUI is tight. It's fast and easy to get around in. The code editor is excellent, including everything you'd expect in a modern code editor, such as full syntax highlighting and a code completion menu that pops up. The code completion pop-up includes functions, variables and members from your own code (which means the code completion is accurately parsing your code).

There's a Solution window that shows all the files in your project, as well as a complete debugger that features all the usual suspects: breakpoints, inspectors and so on. (The debugger even lets you put expressions in the watch window, which can result in side effects, as the expressions in your code actually get called if you use them in the watch window. In other words, if you write a property accessor, for example, and use the accessor in the watch window and if your accessor has side effects, such side effects will happen as a result of the watch window calling the accessor code. But used carefully with well-written code that avoids side effects, this can be a powerful feature in a debugger such as this one.)

Does It Match Visual Studio?

Certainly, different people reading this review will have different expectations of a product like MonoDevelop. Some might be looking for a complete replacement for Visual Studio. Those people might be disappointed; Visual Studio has some fantastic features that aren't yet available in MonoDevelop, such as direct access to SQL Server, including the ability to edit table schemas, table data and stored procedures right within the IDE. So in this regard, if you're looking for a free drop-in replacement for Visual Studio, you won't find it. (In that case, you'll want to instead explore the Visual Studio Express editions, which are free-but are also limited and don't have the full Visual Studio features.)

But if, instead, what you're looking for is a pretty sweet IDE for developing .NET software that can target the GTK framework, Mono, and from there port to other operating systems, then you'll be pleased. And while at it, you can target the .NET framework itself without requiring your end users to install Mono. That's not so bad either. If that's what you're looking for, MonoDevelop will certainly deliver.