Python programming language: Microsoft answers calls for Remote Development extensions in VS Code

Developers can edit code stored on remote physical and virtual machines, containers, and Windows Subsystem for Linux operating systems.

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Microsoft has updated its Visual Studio Code editor, releasing Remote Developer extensions, the top-requested feature by Python developers.

The Remote Developer extensions let developers use Visual Studio Code on their local PC to edit code stored on remote physical and virtual machines, containers, and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) operating systems.

Using these extensions will allow developers to use the many developer tools offered by VS Code, such as debugging and Intellisense code completion, to edit code stored on these remote platforms.

There are multiple reasons why developers need to edit code on a remote machine, rather than on a local PC running VS Code, as explained by Dan Taylor, principal program manager for Python developer tools at Microsoft.

"We have heard from our Python users many different reasons why they need to work in remote workspaces: in the case of SSH their code needs access to large amounts of data, compute, GPUs, or other resources; with Docker they need to be able to create and switch between development environments with complex dependencies; and with WSL they may need tools and packages that are only available in a Linux environment," he said in a blog post.

The three extensions -- Remote-SSH, Remote-Containers, and Remote-WSL -- are designed to allow developers to use VS Code on their local PC but to have the code editor work as if it were running on the remote machine.

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While VS Code's UI runs on the local machine, the editor's extensions are hosted remotely, enabling the editor to offer auto-completions, debugging, terminal access and source control for the remote machine.

Remote development may have been a top-requested feature by Python developers but the new extensions should prove useful to developers working in a wide range of languages.

The Visual Studio team have outlined the main benefits of the Remote-WSL extension as using Windows to develop in a Linux-based environment, using platform-specific toolchains and utilities, editing files located in WSL or the mounted Windows filesystem, and running and debugging your Linux-based applications on Windows.

One of the main selling points for the Remote-SSH extension -- used for connecting to remote physical and virtual machines -- is developing on larger, faster, or more specialized hardware than is available on a local machine. The VS Code team also highlight the ability for developers to quickly swap between different, remote development environments, to safely update without worrying about impacting their local machine, and to debug applications running on a customer site or in the cloud.

Finally the Remote-Containers extension will offer developers a consistent and easily reproducible tool chain -- on the same operating system they are deploying to, will provide the ability to quickly swap between different development environments without impacting their local machine, and make it easier for others to contribute to projects as they can develop, build, and test in a consistent development environment.

The new Remote-WSL, Remote-SSH, and Remote-Containers extensions are available to try in preview to those running the Insiders' test build of VS Code, who have also installed the Remote Development Extension Pack.

You can read this guide to getting started with remote development on VS Code. If you're interested in finding out more about Python, check out TechRepublic's guide to free resources for learning Python and this round-up of the best Python guides and code examples on GitHub.

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