Visual Basic Gets Its VB Back

Microsoft corp.

Microsoft Corp. officials said the new features in the upcoming version of Visual Basic will appease developers who have been angry since the company moved from Visual Basic 6.0 to Visual Basic .Net.

New features in the upcoming Visual Basic 9.0, such as the LINQ (Language Integrated Query) Project, are expected to enhance developer productivity and also help soothe some of the pain developers felt after the move from the VB 6.0 platform.

Microsofts phaseout of Visual Basic 6.0 and move to Visual Basic .Net in 2002 set off an uproar of dissension in the ranks of some of Microsofts most loyal developers. However, enhancements in the VB platform stand to bring some of those people back.

"I absolutely think it will because it makes .Net a more appealing proposition," said Anders Hejlsberg, a Microsoft technical fellow and father of C# and of the LINQ Project.

"We are focusing on how we make sure the VB experience comes back. The Whidbey [Visual Studio 2005] product gives VB its VB back," said Rick LaPlante, general manager of Visual Studio Team System at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.

Mike Sax, president of Sax Software Corp., which runs the site, said he thinks Visual Studio 2005 also will help allay developer concerns.

"While VS 2005 doesnt give the [developers] directly what they asked for [the old VB back in the box], I do think it addresses some of their needs and desires," Sax said. "Migration from VB 6.0 was too complex; the IDE [integrated development environment] didnt feel as snappy and productive, and the learning curve of the new framework was too steep."

"[Microsoft has] addressed that by providing more migration white papers/tool kits and pushing fusion—using COM [Component Object Model] interoperability to integrate old VB6 code in new apps, making the IDE more productive with better forms handling, improved IntelliSense and My Classes," Sax said.

At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last month, Paul Vick, Microsofts technical lead for Visual Basic, gave a rundown of many of the new features coming in Visual Basic 9.0.

Vick said VB 9.0 covers three main areas: simplifying querying data, by integrating query operations into VB and unifying the querying of object, relational and XML data; simplifying working with dynamic data, by accessing dynamic members easily and imposing structure on dynamic objects; and simplifying working with XML, by producing XML documents quickly.

Joel Spolsky, founder of Fog Creek Software, in New York, said he thinks Microsoft should keep things simple.

"My impression is that the developers who appreciated VB for its simplicity and easy learning curve have long since given up and arent going to be impressed by language featureitis and are certainly not going to be pleased by a raft of complex new language features to learn," Spolsky said. "Those who might be excited by something like LINQ are the exact kind of programmers who already switched to C# or, increasingly, Python. I fear that by adding these complex new language features, VB .Net stands to alienate whats left of its core constituency, who just want to get things done."

Karl Peterson, a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) and VB developer, said he doesnt think the new versions will help at all. "I think the noise is just becoming more distant, to the extent that it may not even be audible anymore for the Classic VB devotees," Peterson said. "What they choose to call VB 9.0 is unrecognizable, and LINQ seems to be going in another entirely different direction."

Microsofts next version focuses on 3 key areas

New features in Visual Basic 9.0

  • Query comprehensions
  • Anonymous types
  • Anonymous arrays
  • Object initializers
  • Local type inference
  • Late binding for XML
  • Dynamic interfaces
  • XML literals
  • Nullable types
  • Local functions
  • Lambda expressions
  • Extension methods
  • Expression trees
  • Relaxed delegates
  • Dynamic identifiers