I thought it was finally time to take Visual Studio 2005
for a test drive with the availability of the release candidate version and the
final product to be shipped in November. There is plenty of hype surrounding
the product’s November 7, 2005 release and its related products like versions
2.0 of the .NET Framework and ASP.NET, as well as SQL Server 2005. This week I
provide an overview of Visual Studio 2005 and its new features.

The technology

A key aspect of Visual Studio 2005 is the underlying
technology, which includes .NET Framework 2.0 as well as ASP.NET 2.0. The major
push in ASP.NET 2.0 is to increase developer productivity and enhance
application performance. Updates to the .NET Framework include performance
enhancements, many new language features, and stronger Web services support.
Both new versions of the standard framework and ASP.NET are necessary to work
with Visual Studio 2005. (The product can install them for you.)

Weekly .NET tips in your inbox

TechRepublic’s free .NET newsletter, delivered each Wednesday, contains useful tips and coding examples on topics such as Web services, ASP.NET, ADO.NET, and Visual Studio .NET.

Automatically sign up today!

New features

There has been a lot written about the new features in
Visual Studio 2005. Let’s take a quick look at some of the more sexy features
added, which include:

  • Tighter
    integration with other products (i.e., Microsoft Office System and SQL Server
    2005) allows developers to utilize their skills across a range of
    products. In addition, it allows development to be centralized within the
    Visual Studio 2005 IDE, thus switching to other tools (like SQL Server
    Query Analyzer) is not necessary.
  • Support
    for refactoring has been included for the C#
    language. This allows constant refactoring as
    code is developed rapidly and iteratively.
  • Edit
    and Continue allows developers to edit code in place and continue with
    execution. This is one feature from the Visual Basic environment that has
    been sorely missed by VB.NET developers.
  • ClickOnce installation provides a much smoother
    install process. It allows applications to be installed an updated as
    opposed to redeploying the entire application.
  • Smart Tasks
    allow easy access to information and common tasks within the IDE.
  • Line
    Revision marks allow you to see the changes you’ve made during a coding
    session. Colored lines appear down the left side of the code pane to denote
    changes and additions.
  • The
    IDE now allows its settings to be exported and imported. This is a welcome
    addition because it is troublesome to move to a new computer after getting
    Visual Studio .NET configured as you like it. With a new installation, you
    can easily import your previous settings and you are good to go.
  • Microsoft
    IntelliSense code snippets enable developers to easily create and
    distribute their own customized code libraries. It allows you to develop
    generic or template code that may easily be reused.
  • The
    new product is HTML friendly, which means you can format HTML for ASP.NET
    Web forms. All HTML formatting will be preserved. This includes carriage
    returns, tabs, spaces, and so forth. In addition, HTML formatting options
    are available within the IDE. A tag navigator lets you easily navigate
    HTML elements. Also, you can easily choose the target browser or HTML
    version for testing and validation.
  • There’s
    drag and drop support for working with data sources.
  • Expanded
    standards support for XHTML, accessibility compliance, HTML, and so forth.
  • Master
    pages allow you to create a common look and feel for the pages in an
    ASP.NET Web application.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does provide a
sampling of what to expect with the new version. Microsoft is making the move
to simplify application design and more easily work with other products in
their stable. Also, the Web development community will welcome the strong adherence
to standards. Now, let’s focus on the seemingly unending list of product versions
for the latest version of Visual Studio.

Different versions for different users

One confusing aspect of Visual Studio 2005 is the different
versions. Microsoft has broken Visual Studio into various versions to make
pricing more accessible for small businesses. In addition, a simplified MSDN
subscription has been promised. Here is a basic list of the different
versions/products that will be available:

  • Visual
    Studio Standard Edition:
    This is a streamlined version that includes the
    basic features for developing applications. This includes ClickOnce deployment, SQL Reporting services, local
    debugging, and no additional tools. It supports Visual Basic, C#, C++, and
  • Visual
    Studio Professional Edition:
    This is the standard edition plus remote
    debugging, other deployment options, Crystal Reports, and SQL Server 2005
    Developer Edition.
  • Visual
    Studio Tools for Office:
    This is the professional edition plus support for
    Excel 2003, Word 2003, and InfoPath 2003. It
    includes Access support as well but only supports C# and Visual Basic.
  • Visual
    Studio Team System:
    This is a tightly integrated and extensible set of
    lifecycle tools, and it contains features of the Professional Edition
    along with Excel 2003, Word 2003, and InfoPath
    2003 support. The system includes numerous products focused on architects,
    developers, testers, and more.
  • Express:
    The Express versions provide lightweight and simple to use and learn
    development tools focused on one language or product. The Express versions
    include: Visual Web Developer (for building Web apps with ASP.NET 2.0),
    Visual Basic Express, Visual C# Express, Visual C++ Express, Visual J#
    Express, and SQL Server Express (which is a version of SQL Server 2005
    designed to help developers build applications with SQL Server 2005; it provides
    a powerful database at no cost).

When should you upgrade?

Just when you think you are comfortable with the current
Visual Studio version, another one pops up. The good news is that it’s not
always necessary to upgrade immediately—especially since it can be a bit
overwhelming to wrap your brain around the latest version of a new product. Your existing and new projects, as well as your customers, will help guide you in deciding when the right time is to upgrade to Visual Studio 2005.

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

Miss a column?

Check out the .NET Archive, and catch up on the most recent editions of Tony Patton’s column.