At last week’s Microsoft Connect() developer conference (17-18 November 2016, New York), Microsoft launched exciting new products for developers and underlined the software giant’s commitment to open source.
Let’s first have a look at the announcements for what is probably your favourite Integrated Development Environment (IDE): Visual Studio.
1. Performance boost
The Visual Studio 2017 Release Candidate is now available for download . If you want to know what the final product will look like when it is production-ready next year, you should definitely download this release candidate and try it out.
Already at the install process, you will notice some improvements.
It is more flexible, so you can choose which programming languages you want to install. Visual Studio 2015 already had C++ as an optional install, but now all languages are optional installs; even C#.
This flexibility makes the install faster and, depending on your choices, less demanding on storage. Performance is also improved when running the IDE. Initial loading of solutions is much faster as a database is introduced behind the scenes, which means much less has to be loaded into memory.
Steve Carroll, Software Engineering Manager for Visual Studio at Microsoft mentions that early adopters using Visual Studio 2017RC have reported a 50 percent reduction in load time .
Fastlink, which was introduced in Visual Studio 2015, is also improved, which means link-time in the build-process is reduced.
2. Improved developer productivity
Whether your productivity will actually improve with Visual Studio 2017RC depends on yourself, but Microsoft is trying to help you with improvements in the IDE aimed to make your coding life easier.
Many features in Visual Studio work great with small code bases, but their usefulness diminishes somehow with large code bases. You probably appreciate the IntelliSense-feature in Visual Studio, although the code-completion-list of suggested keywords, methods, variables etc. often will be long if the code base is large. It will be so long that the feature is not that useful when you are typing your code.
Microsoft is trying to address this by making IntelliSense more intelligent so the list of suggestions is based on the context in which you are typing. It’s also possible to apply filters to IntelliSense. You can, for instance, choose to only see function names. Similar work is put into code navigation, e.g. Find References have more features to make it easier to use in large code bases.
3. Mobile First, Cloud First
Ever since I first heard Microsoft’s Satya Nadella’s “Mobile first, cloud first”-strategy, I have struggled with the slogan. I mean, I understand the message that Microsoft had to change its desktop/server-centric ways and focus on the future growth markets cloud and mobile, but the slogan’s logic grates my ears. Is it mobile or cloud first?
Maybe it’s aimed at quantum computing where a qubit can have 2 values? 🙂
Anyway; Visual Studio 2017RC has plenty of support for both cloud- and mobile-development. Configuring, building, debugging, packaging and deploying applications and services to Azure is part of Visual Studio 2017RC, by means of various integrated Azure-tools.
While Azure is doing fine, Microsoft’s mobile story is not that great. Windows Phone market share is minuscule, but that does not mean that Visual Studio developers shouldn’t create mobile apps.
With the acquisition of Xamarin earlier this year, Microsoft got a compelling mobile development story as Xamarin’s development tools make it possible to develop for iOS, Android and Windows. These tools are of course integrated into Visual Studio 2017RC.
4. Cross-platform Visual Studio
Further supporting the narrative about Visual Studio as a development platform for mobile apps is the announcement that Visual Studio is becoming a cross-platform IDE with the release of a new preview of Visual Studio for Mac. This provides Mac and iOS developers with an encouragement to use Visual Studio as a development environment.
Visual Studio for Mac is able to access some of the same tools and services used by the Windows version of Visual Studio, like the Roslyn compiler, the build platform and the IntelliSense code-completion system. Mikayla Hutchinson, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft and formerly Technical Product Manager at Xamarin, gives an overview of Visual Studio for Mac on this channel9-video .
5. Streamline your mobile development
The support for mobile development goes further than Visual Studio.
Microsoft supports a wide variety of different mobile development services, like the Xamarin Test Cloud, which lets developers see how their apps run on a wide variety of mobile devices, and HockeyApp, a tool for deploying beta versions of mobile apps.
Microsoft has taken all of those tools and rolled them up into the Visual Studio Mobile Center .
Visual Studio Mobile Center is a portal that is meant to help developers build, test, distribute, and monitor apps built in Objective-C, Swift, Java, Xamarin, and React Native for Android, iOS, and Windows devices. Nat Friedman, co-founder of Xamarin, has written an excellent overview of the streamlined mobile development .
There’s more news from Microsoft Connect() in my next blog post ‘3 more highlights you missed at Connect(); 2016 Conference‘. To ensure you don’t miss future posts and reports please sign-up to the Curo Bulletin below.
 Download newest Visual Studio releases https://www.visualstudio.com/downloads/
 Overview of Visual Studio 2017RC https://channel9.msdn.com/Shows/C9-GoingNative/GoingNative-54-Whats-New-In-Visual-Studio-2017-RC-and-Introduction-To-Vcpkg
 Visual Studio for Mac: https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Connect/2016/209
 Nat Friedman’s overview of Visual Studio Mobile Center https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/visualstudio/2016/11/16/visual-studio-mobile-center/
Credits: Photos courtesy of Microsoft Corporation