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Visual Studio 2017 Update Brings Cutting-Edge Features to the Forefront

Howdy readers, Lafe here. About once a month, my partner in crime, Rich Seeley, will be doing technical takeovers of this blog. Here's his look at some of the new features in Visual Studio 2017.

Microsoft filled hours of YouTube space this month with the launch of Visual Studio 2017 including this kickoff by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who touted the release as designed to empower developers to build any app on any platform.

"We can’t wait to see what developers do with it," he said.

Once you get past the all-things-for-all developers hoopla, there are some cool cutting-edge features in this Visual Studio update. Not surprisingly, some of the demos that got the most applause from developers at the launch event were automations that speed up coding and debugging.

As a Visual Studio Magazine article pointed out in covering this month’s launch "much of what's new has to do with updates to tools that aim to increase developer productivity and performance and the current state of several VS iterations, including the Mac and Mobile Center previews...improvements to startup (new Start page) and project loading (also, project loading without the need to have a solution loaded); enhanced navigation, with a host of Go To shortcut keys for grouping, sorting, filtering and searching of references in a Results window; IntelliSense filtering; improved refactoring, style analyzers, and other C# language improvements; support for CMake and Linux (via extension) in Visual C++; live unit testing; new Run to Click in lieu of temporary breakpoints and exception helpers in a non-modal dialog for debugging; and a new, streamlined installer."

As Michael Domingo pointed out in this Visual Studio Magazine post, getting an overview of what’s new in the Visual Studio update can be difficult with so many features being touted in the two-day launch event. But he pointed readers to a poster created by the VS team at Microsoft to show all the new features including Advanced IntelliSense, Live Code Analysis, new shortcut keys for faster development, links to pages for extensions, and a mini-graphic of the many layers of .NET, and language-specific changes. When you spot the new goodies that apply to your work, you can dive into the release notes to get the details.

The Big Picture

While it is tempting to cut-and-paste into this blog the entire release notes, which cover everything from the "new installation experience" to workarounds for things like VS Team Explorer that didn’t make this month's Visual Studio update, there isn't much point since it's easy to scan the notes and find the items you're going to be using for your projects. Here are a few highlights focused on speeding coding, debugging and testing, as well as improving app performance:

  • Visual Studio IDE - A broad range of enhancements in Visual Studio 2017, including reduction in startup and solution load times, sign in and identity improvements, improved code navigation, open folder view, and connected services to enable connections between your app and any service on-premises or in the cloud.
  • Debugging and Diagnostics - Overhaul of the Exception Helper and faster code navigation with Run to Click. Plus, a new summary of your application events in the Diagnostic Tools window and several improvements to the CPU Tool.
  • Live Unit Testing - Visualize unit testing results and code coverage live in the editor.
  • Testing Tools - Associate automation with test case work items using the Test Explorer.

Visual Basic Developers Not Forgotten (Sort of)

You can scan the release notes to find out specifics for the language you use. For example, Visual Basic developers will find these updates:

  • Value tuples introduce language support for using tuples to temporarily group a set of typed values: Dim point As (x As Integer, y As Integer) = GetOffset().
  • ByRef return consumption extends the language to support consumption of functions and properties from libraries which have ByRef returns.
  • Binary literals and digit group separators allow native representation of binary numbers. This is super convenient for bitmasks and flags enumerations: &B1001_0011.

Of course, the Visual Studio update couldn't have everything or please everyone. An article on the ADTmag site noted that despite persistent requests from Visual Basic developers for more support for their language, ADT reported:

Microsoft also stamped DECLINED on:

  • Visual Basic for Developing Universal Windows Application
  • Provide a Visual Basic 6 Community edition - to allow free download of the VB6 programming language
  • VB6 Programming - Create a utility to convert VB.Net to VB6
  • Re-open the 'Bring back Classic Visual Basic' suggestion for VB6 Programming

There Will Be Bugs

As a reminder that any software release is more of a work in progress than a final product, an article on the Visual Studio magazine website, points to this irony: "Even with Team Foundation Server 2017 now out with the release of Visual Studio 2017, the VS team continues to work on TFS 2015 improvements. Just last week, the group released a TFS 2015 Update 4 preview that rolls up with a slew of bug fixes."

So enjoy the Visual Studio 2017 update. And stay tuned.

Posted by Lafe Low on 03/27/2017 at 2:03 PM


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