Microsoft has announced that the next version of Visual Studio, previously known by the code name “Orcas,” will now be formally known as Visual Studio 2008. Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008 will become available later this summer and will include a new feature known as the Visual Studio Shell.

Visual Studio Shell is a feature that appears to be targeted squarely at the software development tools market. Essentially, it allows you to create an IDE around the tried-and-tested Visual Studio framework.

There are basically two main modes: Integrated Mode and Isolated Mode.

  • Integrated Mode basically allows you to use back the same Visual Studio IDE, but with your custom tools present alongside Visual Studio’s existing tools. I would say that this is pretty much how external tools or SDKs are integrated into Visual Studio at the moment.
  • Isolated Mode on the other hand allows partners to create a unique application instance that is separate from other versions of Visual Studio installed on the machine. This gives an incredible amount of customization over what the user sees at the end of the day.

Costing-wise, the Visual Studio Shell FAQ says:

The Visual Studio Shell will be freely available as part of the Visual Studio SDK starting with the release of Visual Studio 2008. Building and deploying applications based on the Visual Studio Shell will be royalty-free.

For more information:

Visual Studio Shell on the VSX Team Blog

Visual Studio 2008 Product Page

What kind of impact do you think Visual Studio Shell will have on the development tools segment; will it allow high quality IDEs to be quickly put together or just fragment the market? Will it have a beneficial impact on developers at the end of the day? Join the discussion.