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16 August 2012, 12:36

Visual Studio 2012 is ready

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Visual Studio logo The wait is over, at least for those who have an MSDN subscription. They can now download Microsoft's new Visual Studio 2012 development environment. In addition to providing many improvements (and "disimprovements" in terms of looks, as many developers thought after the previews and the release candidate), the new version aims to support the development of "modern applications". Its main focus is on apps for the new Windows 8 operating system and on the development of modern web applications with HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. As the complete "catalogue" of new features is very long, we will provide a brief overview of the most important ones below.

If Visual Studio 2012 is installed on a system under Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 then the new WinRT environment is supported as a platform for mobile applications and compact, "modern" apps (previously code-named Metro by Microsoft). Apps can be written in JavaScript with HTML5 and CSS, as well as XAML-based (Extensible Application Markup Language) in C++, C# and Visual Basic.

The most significant aspect in the development for WinRT is the support for asynchronous operations, with async and await keywords making it simpler to use the Task Parallel Library and create more responsive services. Internally, WinRT itself runs very close to the hardware, but it abstracts to such a degree that WinRT applications can run on Intel devices as well as ARM devices. For application development, Visual Studio 2012 offers tools and components that range from templates and debugging tools to simulators.

C++ developers mainly benefit from improvements to the editor. Highlighting, IntelliSense support and code snippets provide a significantly more pleasant working experience. The C++11 standard, which was released last year, is now also supported.

Writing JavaScript code has also become far more convenient, because JavaScript for Windows 8 apps has become a first class language in the world of Windows. The new version supports ECMAScript 5 and the HTML5 DOM with IntelliSense auto-completion, highlighting, formatting tools, jumps to definitions, and various other features. Third party libraries can also be integrated.

In terms of C# and Visual Basic, the new async feature significantly simplifies the writing of code that is to be executed asynchronously. Simpler for-each loops, iterators, call hierarchies, and global namespaces provide new "food" for the VB world.

The ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) area, which has seen steady growth in previous VS versions, has also been further extended. Backlogs, sprints and tasks can be managed through agile tools, while stakeholder and storyboard tools support the management of work teams and the integration with Microsoft Project and Project Server.

Various new features have been added for web developers who work under ASP.NET 4.5. To prevent potential mishaps, ASP.NET applications can still operate with previous versions of the .NET framework. "Classic" web forms are far from "dead"; they now offer extended data binding options and can interact with ASP.NET MVC applications, generate HTML5 and CSS3-compliant markup, and handle JavaScript files more conveniently.

The new Page Inspector offers an accurately rendered display even during the development process. The developers have also further optimised IntelliSense and highlighting, for example in the revised CSS editor, which now offers convenient features such as a colour picker. A completely new toolbox has been added with the ASP.NET Web API. It is primarily designed to provide "live" web interfaces and all kinds of devices and applications with web communication capabilities.

The table below illustrates the variants and tools that are available as part of the first release. However, the full range of components can only be downloaded by those with an "Ultimate Subscription", while the other subscriptions offer different limited ranges. Microsoft is offering the Express editions free of charge to everyone.

Product Web-
EXE Lang.-
VS 2012 Professional x x
VS 2012 Premium x x
VS 2012 Ultimate x x
VS 2012 Language Pack for all x x
VS 2012 Express for Windows 8 x x
VS 2012 Express for Web x x
VS 2012 Test Professional x x x
.NET Framework 4.5 x x
Team Foundation Server 2012 x86, x64 x x
Team Foundation Server 2012 Express x x
Team Explorer for VS 2012 x x x
Team Explorer Everywhere x86, ARM, x64 x
Feedback Client for TFS x x
VS 2012 Isolated Shell x x
VS 2012 Integrated Shell x x
VS 2012 SDK x
Remote Tools for VS 2012 x86, ARM, x64 x
Agents for VS 2012 x
Agents for VS 2012 Test Controller x
Agents for VS 2012 Test Agent x
IntelliTrace Collector for VS 2012
VS 2012 Visualizing & Modeling SDK x
Visual C++ Redistributable x86, ARM, x64 x

(Harald M. Genauck / djwm)

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