Software Development

Initial impressions of Visual Studio 2008

Tony Patton shares his first impressions of Visual Studio 2008 and reveals his favorite feature of the new IDE.

Visual Studio 2008 was recently released to MSDN subscribers, and it's slated to be available to the general public soon. These recent developments spurred me to take a closer look at the latest version of Microsoft's flagship IDE.

In this overview of Visual Studio 2008, I'll start out by outlining the various versions, and then I'll focus on new features and how the IDE may help you be more productive. Find out my initial impressions of Visual Studio 2008.

Versions of Visual Studio 2008

There are Express Editions that offer a pared down version of the IDE with a focus on specific languages like C#, Visual Basic, and C++, as well as the Visual Web Developer Express Edition.

The next step up is the Standard Edition, which offers a full-featured IDE that allows you to use the language of your choice.

The spectrum ends with the collaborative tools that feature the Team System, which allows multiple developers to work together on .NET projects.

Visit MSDN for more information on the various versions.

New features

The major change with Visual Studio 2008 is the use of .NET Framework 3.5 and its many new features such as enhanced support for Web developers and new technologies such as Language Integrated Query (LINQ). The IDE adds support for: targeting multiple .NET versions, increased AJAX support, LINQ integration, and built-in unit testing.

My favorite Visual Studio 2008 feature by far is the ability to develop applications that target other versions of the .NET Framework. This means you can use the new IDE without upgrading existing projects to the latest version of the .NET Framework. You can maintain these applications while building new applications that take advantage of the new features. This is a major shift from previous Visual Studio versions, which are bound to specific .NET versions (e.g., .NET 1.x with Visual Studio 2003 and .NET 2.x with Visual Studio 2005).

The feature is easy to use, as the .NET version is selected via a drop-down menu when creating a new project within the IDE. The list of available templates changes automatically to reflect the .NET version selected. Another benefit is that I can use one version of Visual Studio as opposed to switching to a different version to reflect the version of .NET I am using.

Even if you aren't using the latest version of the .NET Framework, you can use the new features of the Visual Studio 2008 IDE regardless of the target .NET version.

Increase developer productivity

Visual Studio 2008 adds many features that can help you make better use of your time while coding. A good example is JavaScript Intellisense support, which allows you to get JavaScript syntax help on-the-fly as you code -- this means no more time looking in books or conducting Google searches for help. There's also enhanced JavaScript debugging support, which makes it easier to debug your client-side code.

CSS design support has been improved with a better editor, and a WYSIWIG designer that provides instant feedback of your work. In addition, AJAX is now a standard part of the .NET Framework with improvements including three new controls.

Note: Most of the feedback I've read is positive about the improved performance of the ASP.NET page designer in Visual Studio 2008, but I haven't worked with the IDE enough to gauge the merits of this claim.

Unit testing

Unit testing and Visual Studio have not always been a good marriage, but Microsoft seems to get better with each Visual Studio release. With Visual Studio 2008, unit testing features have been added to the Professional Edition. A new context-sensitive menu option (Run Tests) makes it easier to use the feature once it is set up; this allows you to run a single test with one mouse click. Also, you can right-click on Class and run all tests in the class.

Working with data

One of the more publicized additions to .NET Framework 3.5 and subsequently Visual Studio 2008 is LINQ. LINQ is a new declarative paradigm for querying data sources in a consistent manner regardless of the data source albeit in memory, SQL backend, XML, and so forth. LINQ is fully extensible, so the possibilities are endless.

Do you plan to use Visual Studio 2008 soon?

In the coming year, I will continue to explore the many features of Visual Studio 2008 with projects both old and new. I'll also highlight additional improvements for mobile development and testing and Microsoft Office development.

Are you planning on using this new version of Visual Studio within the next few months? If you're already using Visual Studio 2008, share your thoughts about usage and its new features with the .NET community.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Get weekly .NET tips in your inbox TechRepublic’s free Visual Studio Developer newsletter, delivered each Wednesday, contains useful tips and coding examples on topics such as ASP.NET, ADO.NET, and Visual Studio .NET.Automatically subscribe today!

About

Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...

19 comments
DamonCarr
DamonCarr

You missed by far the most revolutionary development in the PRODUCT and the PHILOSOPHY I think... 1) Factory Items (like the DSL) are now part of the SDK/VSX. MASSIVE as that is likely the only thing in our lifetime that on a large scale will come close to fixing the software disaster. 2) An average team lead can now write 'tools that write tools', add-ins, wizards, controls, etc. The IDE is now a fundamental (and likely only) hope for true reuse across our broken, reinvent it every time industry... Thanks, Damon Wilder Carr

programit
programit

I like the ability to target framework versions and improved intellisense but have noticed a significant drop in performance overall. The WPF editors are also sub standard and like the LINQ and other so-called new features - are more of a gimmick! It feels more like a beta than a full product. I'll be sticking to 2005 for primary development but may use 2008 for experimenting and compatibility testing.

rthomas
rthomas

I really like Visual Studio 2008, with one big exception: creating a new WPF application causes the WPF designer to crash with an exception. So far, I've not found anyone who can tell me how to fix the problem.

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

I'd like to see Microsoft integrate the Enterprise Library into the .NET Framework so you get it all in one shot. I'd like to know the decision behind not doing it (or even if they have or haven't thought about it).

mark
mark

I'm VERY disappointed that .NET Framework 3.5 and all the editions of VS2008, including Visual Web Dev. Express 2008 cannot be installed in a Win2000 Professional box. Could anyone enlighten me why this is the case? Is Microsoft discontinuing support for Win2000 Prof./Server?

kris860911
kris860911

Hmmm. Microsoft employee? Seems a bit one-sided

Justin James
Justin James

I installed VS2008 the day it went gold, but did nothing more than load an existing project in it to run it form debug mode... hardly enough information to form an opinion. Thanks for the details! It really annoyed me that until VS 2008, Microsoft "forgot" that they upgraded .Net beyond 2.0, introduced Vista, and the WinFX stuff for that matter. The way they handled this latest upgrade cycle was a mess, and it is good to see them finally get the tools out there. J.Ja

rogerbalakrishnan
rogerbalakrishnan

How does it compare with eclipse ? My thoughts on using the (c++) express edition are that this is a lot better than previous versions. There always seemed to be project compatibility problems etc in the previous versions, this versions project conversion wizard seemed to work. The layout is a bit busy and they need more context sensitive help. Compiling is fast as compared to eclipse. I don't see a reason to use it over eclipse especially since it wont export makefiles so you are locked in to it.

Jordan.Martz
Jordan.Martz

I love it. I'm still playing around with the suite, but it's smart and slick. For a initial release, Microsoft has done a fantastic job.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. [b][i]"...Is Microsoft discontinuing support for Win2000 Prof./Server?..."[/i][/b] Yes. Of course they are. Microsoft has made that very plain. Windows 2000 was released in 1999, eight years ago. When you run Windows, Microsoft expects you to upgrade regularly or you will be left behind. Think of these "Forced Upgrades(tm)" as just another part of the "Genuine Advantage(tm)". Good luck to you. Microsoft Support Lifecycle http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/?LN=en-us&x=12&y=19 Windows Operating System Product Support Lifecycle FAQ http://support.microsoft.com/gp/LifeWinFAQ

Justin James
Justin James

Unless a product really stinks, "initial impressions" are rarely negative in nature for ANY product. VS is a mature product, all of the major, nasty problems were ironed out years ago. As a result, I would not expect an "initial impression" to be negative. J.Ja

magillj
magillj

I've used it consistently to write on a few different types of web sites. On some of the simpler sites all of the bells and whistles like the JS and CSS support really shine through nicely. On the site I am working now, it is more of a hassle. The aspx page is pushing 2000 lines of markup. Nearly *every* time I make a change to the markup - probably about every 5 seconds without exaggeration - the IntelliSense engine kicks into gear and VS freezes for a couple of seconds before I can type again. It's incredibly annoying. I've noticed a few other issues, like not being able to hit a breakpoint within web services while debugging but I can deal with those.

edmicman1
edmicman1

Haven't tried it yet, probably won't anytime soon unless we get it in the MSDN pack and we're feeling brave. Mostly I just don't see a need for it yet. We aren't running Vista or writing anything to target Vista. Honestly, I feel like I'm still scratching the surface of the potential of .NET 2.0 and AJAX. I'm in the middle of working on an ASP.NET app and am incorporating the Microsoft AJAX tools, but I don't want to retool things against .NET 3.5. The LINQ stuff sounds good, though, as does the ability to work with all versions of .NET apps with one toolset.

Justin James
Justin James

I am not sure if I would call this an initial release. After all, Visual Studio is quite a mature product, and many of the new items in the 2008 version were available as add-ons to 2005, albeit in a really poorly implemented form. J.Ja

jusovsky
jusovsky

You can't install VS 2008 on 2000 because .Net 3.x does not support Windows 2000. Getting WPF to play nicely on Win2K would have would have been a lot of extra work, and mostly for nothing. And I say "nothing" meaning the minority of people still bent on using Windows 2000. These folks aren't going to be excited abut new technologies anyway, and you don't make money (remember, Microsoft is a business, and so are the people we all work for) by supporting legacy software for free. You can stay on Planet Pissypants to bitch and grumble that you're going to have to run a newer OS is you want the newest IDE (which you probably think you deserve for free), but I choose to accept the fact that new things incur a price and limitless backward compatibility doesn't make financial sense.

jpkoppli
jpkoppli

We do not have VS 2008 yet, but we hope to be using it in the near future. I am looking forward to the JavaScript Intellisense and improved CSS support which was mentioned above, but the feature I will enjoy most is support for nested master pages. VS2005 allowed you to use nested master pages, but the Visual Designer would not work, so everything had to be done in Source View. I enjoy writing code as much as the next guy, but it will be nice to be able to finally use Design View.

Grumman111
Grumman111

We have about five of our developers using it now in for production applications developing in both 1.1 and 2.0. One of the five developers are using the 3.0 framework to replace our implementation of IBM MQ. The rest of the developers will begin using early first quarter of next year. So far no complaints.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. Microsoft is a lost cause. They proved that by developing bloated, slow, buggy, insecure, and unsafe software whose primary objective is to serve Microsoft's enormous appetite for profit and total market domination. "Your money. Our passion(tm)." When Microsoft audaciously, arrogantly, and stupidly introduced WGA capricious de-activation in Windows Vista, that was my signal to quit Microsoft after running Windows for 15 years and paying them huge sums of money. I switched to Mac OS X and Linux workstations and servers this year. I haven't been this happy with my computers since Windows 2000 came out in 1999. Pissy? Not anymore. If you don't like people taking jabs at Microsoft, you really should send your complaints about it to Microsoft. They have brought it all on themselves and they deserve every bit of it. They are the most stupid Fortune 50 company in history. They've achieved an incredible business success and now they're blowing it with mistake after major mistake. Only Microsoft could have made me quit Microsoft. Here's some suggested reading (a gift for you): Rockin' on without Microsoft http://www.news.com/2008-1082_3-5065859.html Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...