#VSLive Austin Preview: UX/UI Design for Developers & More

We’ve all struggled with poorly designed web sites or apps before. What button do I push? Where do I enter my information? There are just too many options here. Sound familiar?

Even if you’ve developed the most amazing app the world has ever seen, it’s no good if users have trouble interacting with and using it. User experience design is critical, since it can make or break your app.

So if you’re looking to talk UX/UI design, you’ll want to talk to Billy Hollis. The always entertaining renowned UX design expert recently gave a webcast preview of the sessions he’ll be presenting at the next Visual Studio Live! event in Austin, TX. (And if you missed the webcast, you can check out the recording here.)

Here are some of the resources Billy mentions during the webcast:

Billy will also be leading several sessions at VSLive! Austin, including a general session keynote on Coding, Composition, and Combinatorics. His other sessions are:

So if you’re interested in learning more about UX design and refining your own UX design approach, Billy is clearly the man to see.

Other UX Design Resources

During his recent webcast, one of the listeners asked about any new design books he would recommend. While nothing new has recently captured his interest, he did recommend five books which cover basic fundamentals and that every UX designer should have on their bookshelf:

  1. Universal Principles of Design, by Willian Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler
  2. Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook, by Saul Greenberg, Sheelagh Carpendale, Nicolai Marquardt and Bill Buxton
  3. About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, David Cronin and Christopher Noessel
  4. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
  5. A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future, by Daniel Pink

Posted by Lafe Low on 04/18/20160 comments

4 of the Best C# Blogs We've Found

It’s good to keep your coding skills sharp, and that’s a tall order these days with the pace and scope of changes in the development landscape. There are constantly new versions of venerable development frameworks and libraries, things moving to open source, and cross-platform workarounds.

It’s definitely an exciting time to be part of the development world, and one good way to keep your finger on the pulse of these changes is through the blogosphere. After all, we already know there are some great blog-based resources for Visual Studio and AngularJS, right?

Four other blogs we've recently come across—three from Microsoft staffers and one from an independent expert—provide an excellent insider’s view to the inner workings of C#.

1. C# Developer Blog: Ravinder Singh

Ravinder Singh is a senior software engineer at Lockheed Martin; the only one mentioned here who is not actually a Microsoft employee.

One recent post covered C# CSV Library and HTTP Handlers. After looking at some original code placed in a standard ASP.NET WebForms page in the OnLoad event handler, he realized the code was better off placed in an HTTP Handler. The primary advantage of using a HTTP handler to generate the file is he could bypass the unnecessary ASP.NET WebForms page life cycle.

"The existing code was using a StringBuilder to generate the CSV string in the page OnLoad event handler. As you may imagine, this looked messy and was a pain to maintain. To abstract the CSV string creation logic, my colleague introduced me to a useful CSV library called LINQ to CSV. The project page link for this library is here and the library is available as a NuGet package."

2. Maarten Balliauw

Another impressive C# blog comes from Maarten Balliauw, who is indeed a Microsoft guy. His primary interests are ASP.NET (C#) or PHP Web apps and Microsoft Azure.

His self-titled blog has recently covered such topics as broken dependency chains that, as he put it, broke the Internet. There are also posts on disabling session affinity in Azure App Service Web Apps and working with a private npm registry in Azure Web Apps.

3. Bill Blogs in C#: Bill Wagner

Another excellent blogger, Bill Wagner just recently joined Microsoft. He’s on the .NET Core content team, focused on building learning resources for developers new to the .NET Core platform.

One of his recent posts covered a potential new feature in C#, called Local Functions. This may or may not be part of the next version of C#, and he welcomes your input and discussion. "The overall effect is a more clear expression of your design," he concludes. "It’s easier to see that a local function is scoped to its containing function. It’s easier to see that the local function and its containing method are closely related."

4. Joe Duffy

Finally (at least in this post), Joe Duffy’s blog is another to visit on a regular basis. Joe is an engineering director for compilers and languages at Microsoft. His top posts currently include The Error Model, Safe Native Code, and Asynchronous Everything.

Are there any other C# blogs you visit regularly? Comment below or email [email protected] with your suggestions!

Posted by Lafe Low on 03/31/20160 comments

The Most Helpful Visual Studio Video Tutorials We've Found

These days there are channels on cable and satellite TV for just about anything—history, cooking, cartoons, music, dogs, cats, clowns, politics (not sure what made me think of those last two in sequence), and more.

So naturally there should be some videos available for our favorite development environment, right? After all, Visual Studio is certainly rich and deep enough to warrant several seasons of binge watching.

And when it comes to Visual Studio video tutorials, Microsoft’s Channel 9 is clearly the juggernaut. However, it's not the only game in town.

Use JavaScript and Visual Studio to Build Apps for Windows 10, iOS and Android

Coding in HTML and JavaScript, Microsoft’s Polita Paulus leverages Apache Cordova, Visual Studio, and Angular to develop a simple app that uses a mobile device’s geo-location. You can follow along to recreate and deploy your app on Windows 10, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android.

Getting Started with Windows 10 Development

This entry-level video from the Windows development team is a great resource for loading and launching Windows 10 and Visual Studio for the first time. Then it leads you into developing some Universal Apps, relying on easily available online templates. Again, this is more suited to beginners, but it still gives you an idea of what else is available online—some free and some for an associated fee.

Additional Must-Watch Video Tutorials

Since this is Microsoft’s IDE we’re talking about, it's almost impossible to avoid Channel 9. And you certainly wouldn't want to, given there's a plethora of expert-level videos available on this community site:

There are a myriad other video resources for all levels of coding expertise and aspects of the Visual Studio IDE. I’ll cover more of these in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!

Posted by Lafe Low on 03/22/20160 comments

Scott Hunter: The Current State of .NET & Its Future Impact

If .NET were a country, Microsoft’s Scott Hunter would clearly be one of its senior statesmen. During his general session on Wednesday, March 9 at the Visual Studio Live! event in Las Vegas, Hunter gave an overview of the current state of .NET and the impact of having it now be open source.

He also ran through some the latest features and revisions to ASP.NET 5 and Visual Studio 2015 at his keynote address, appropriately entitled, What’s New in ASP.NET 5 and VS 2015. Hunter is the principal program manager lead for the ASP.NET team at Microsoft, and even he remains somewhat surprised at the new openness at Microsoft.

“Everything my team does these days would have seemed unthinkable to me four years ago,” he says.

Between the open sourcing of .NET and other performance enhancements, Hunter is enthusiastic about the state of the .NET framework right now. “As a .NET person, I can’t imagine a better time to be part of .NET,” he says. “Everything we’re doing now is open source. All .NET Core is open source. And the performance of .NET, 40 percent did not come from our team. It came from the open source community. I think it’s really cool we’re getting those kinds of contributions.”

He began by clarifying its new name, considering the move to open source. “We actually renamed ASP.NET 5 to ASP.NET Core,” he says, “but we’ll stick with the title for now.”

Hunter touched on several major themes during his talk. The cross platform compatibility, performance and speed, and the move to open source are certainly some of the most important aspects of the current state of .NET. “Obviously cross platform is a big thing,” he says. “For the first time ever for any device anywhere, there’s a .NET for it. You can leverage your .NET skills across all those platforms. And it’s fast, we’re in the top five; and the move to open source.”

The new ability to make a seamless transition from running apps on-premises to running them in the cloud is another factor. “One big thing is being able to transition an ASP.NET app from on-premises to the cloud, and not having to change lot of code,” he says. “We don’t want anyone to have any reason to not use .NET.”

Another forthcoming introduction will be .NET Standard. “This has a much bigger surface area,” says Hunter. “It will let you build class libraries of code to share across Xamarin, share across the desktop, and across .NET Core. The hope is to let you leverage your skills across all those platforms as you want to.”

Hunter then spent some time demonstrating what he was discussing. He worked through the step-by-step process of putting together a Web app using Visual Studio and ASP.NET Core (formerly ASP.NET 5). After walking the enthusiastic crowd through each step, Hunter concluded his demo dramatically. “So there’s ASP.NET running off a memory stick, built on a PC, running on a Mac. You can move back and forth between platforms super easy.”

Visit the VSLive! website for more details on upcoming events.

Posted by Lafe Low on 03/15/20160 comments

3 Great .NET Books for Developer Success

Everyone learns a bit differently. As a ski instructor, I was always told people learn by doing, learn by watching, or learn by thinking—doers, watchers, and thinkers. And while everyone has a dominant learning style (I am most definitely a doer), everyone also is some combination of all three.

When you’re attending sessions at Visual Studio Live!, you hear presentations and see the demos. If you like what you see, but wish you could carry some of that along when you get back to your office and back to coding on your own, fear not. Several of the Visual Studio Live! presenters, with whom you’re undoubtedly familiar, also have several leading .NET books to their credit.

.NET Test Automation Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach by James McCaffrey

Dr. McCaffrey is a veteran and venerable presenter, and his latest title is just what you need if you develop, test, or manage .NET software. McCaffrey’s book provides practical techniques to help you write test automation software in .NET, as well as API testing, interface automation, and testing SQL stored procedures.

All the examples presented in the book have been fully tested, so you can rest assured you’re not being led astray. After reading this intermediate level book, you’ll have a good handle on writing production-quality combination and permutation methods. James has several other books on software testing and C# coding as well, including Software Testing: Fundamental Principles and Essential Knowledge, Neural Networks Using C# Succinctly, and Machine Learning Using C# Succinctly.

Professional Visual Basic 2012 and .NET 4.5 Programming by Billy Hollis

Billy Hollis is a popular presenter, and fortunately he writes like he speaks—lively and engaging.

This extensive text starts off with a quick introduction to some Visual Basic 2012 and .NET 4.5 basics. It also dives into more advanced topics, including data access with ADO.NET, ASP.NET web programming with Visual Basic, Windows workflow, security, and threading. The book also covers .NET and Visual Basic features such as LINQ, WCF, exception handling, and debugging. Billy’s co-authors on Professional Visual Basic 2012 and .NET 4.5 Programming include Bill Sheldon, Rob Windsor, David McCarter, Gastón C. Hillar, and Todd Herman.

Metaprogramming in .NET by Jason Bock

This book introduces the concept of metaprogramming, getting right into core concepts like code generation and application composition. It also takes a deep dive into tools and techniques you’ll need to implement those concepts into your .NET applications. Metaprogramming in .NET. includes:

  • metaprogramming concepts in plain language
  • creating scriptable software
  • code generation techniques
  • the Dynamic Language Runtime

You should be at least comfortable with C# and the .NET framework to get the most out of this book. You don’t need any experience with metaprogramming. Jason’s coauthor for Metaprogramming in .NET is Kevin Hazzard. The book features another name you’ll likely recognize. The foreword is written by Rockford Lhotka, a Visual Studio Live! Conference Co-Chair and Jason’s boss at Magenic.

Stay tuned for more posts on books written by our talented group of expert speakers!

Posted by Lafe Low on 03/04/20160 comments

Some of the Best Visual Studio Blogs to Follow: Part 2

We continue our series on the best Visual Studio blogs we’ve found to help you navigate the sea of available Microsoft resources. Thankfully, there is a small army of bloggers out there in the Visual Studio world looking things up and sharing their findings.

Visual Studio Extensibility: Carlos Quintero

Carlos Quintero has been a Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 2004 and is a passionate specialist about Visual Studio Extensibility (VSX). A recent blog post of his discusses incorporating images into your apps to make them more consumer-friendly, resources to create high-DPI images with the new Visual Studio 2015 Image Service. He explains it’s relatively easy to become fully DPI-aware and use DPI images in your apps. He outlines and describes several of the Microsoft resources you have available.

He also points out that apparently, support for high-DPI images through a new image service was indeed present in the Visual Studio 2015 RTM release, but only recently did Microsoft publish the documentation for those services.

LockTar’s Blog: Ralph Jansen

Ralph Jansen, a developer and teacher who enjoys sharing his knowledge,  also takes us through a list of excellent resources in one of his recent posts Best Visual Studio extensions and applications. He lists extensions and NuGet packages he says he uses every day. Here are his top three in both categories:

Visual Studio Extensions

  • EnterpriseLibrary.Config: This is a handy tool for your Enterprise Library packages, and lets you can edit your config with an interface.
  • GhostDoc: This tool can generate summaries above your code. It will also generate documentation for parameters, properties, field, methods, and so on.
  • NuGet Package Manager: It ought to be quite clear what this is.

NuGet packages

  • StyleCop: This lets you create defaults about documentation and code formats.
  • StyleCop Checkin Policy: This is my own check-in policy for validating StyleCop rules.
  • Ninject:  This is an easy-to-use dependency container for fast building applications.

Marius Bancila’s Blog

And Marius Bancila, in his post Three New Features I Like in Visual Studio 2015, he outlines his favorite new features in Visual Studio 2015, starting off with the new Error Window.

One of the things that bothered me the most about the [previous] error window was the mixture of errors/warnings/messages from both MSBuild and IntelliSense,” he writes. “But I don’t usually care about the later and their presence in the error window is usually annoying me. This is now fixed and you can select to see messages from Build, IntelliSense or both.”

Next, he points out finding files in append. “I’m working with large source bases and I often need to do find in files, usually going from search to search until I find what I need. The problem was there were only two output windows for the search results and when you need to do a third you had to discard one of the previous searches while you might still needed the results.” In Visual Studio 2015, Microsoft has finally implemented an append feature. This lets you append your search results to one of the existing two windows.

Finally, he likes the new inline ability to create definition. “I’m not sure how this feature is actually called, but what it does is create a definition for a function in the source file from the declaration in the header and displays it in a boxed document inside the header document.” 

So the next time you run into something that makes you scratch your head with Visual Studio, remember you have a wealth of resources at your disposal in the blogosphere. Have a favorite blog you visit you’d like to share? Comment below!

Posted by Lafe Low on 02/22/20160 comments

4 Must-Read AngularJS Blogs

Angular has gained quite a bit of popularity as an open-source Web application development framework due to its intent to simplify application development and testing.

Given its flexible nature, there are a number of approaches and best practices for incorporating Angular into your apps. Whether you're a dabbling novice or a proficient expert, here are four content-packed, super-informative AngularJS blogs we found that are worth a read.

1. Google AngularJS Blog

Heading straight to the source is a great place to start with Angular. You’ll learn more about specific tactics for developing with Angular (or AngularJS as it’s sometimes called) and stay up-to-date on the newest releases (the Angular 2.0 Beta was just announced) on the official Google AngularJS blog.

An interesting recent post from the blog is that Google will be returning the license arrangement for AngularJS to the original MIT license. As Google states, “What we've heard from users in the Angular community is that you prefer the MIT license. It's more widely used within JavaScript projects, it's shorter, and it’s better understood.”

2. Deborah’s Developer MindScape

One of the best ways to work with Angular if you work with Microsoft technologies is to use TypeScript. TypeScript is an open source programming language that's actually a superset of JavaScript. It can transpile to plain JavaScript and provides class-based object-oriented programming techniques.

Deborah Kurata, who frequently presents at the Visual Studio Live! events, agrees TypeScript works great with Angular. “If you are developing now in Angular 1.x with an eye toward Angular 2, the best thing you can do is to write your Angular code with TypeScript,” she writes in a recent blog post. “Angular 1.x code you write in TypeScript today will look very similar to code you will write in Angular 2 tomorrow.” (Click here to visit her blog and read more about her thoughts on Angular and C# development.)

3. Adrian Mejia’s Blog

Scalability is another potential issue for application development, and Angular works well there. If you’re developing with an eye toward continuous deployment or cloud platforms, this is particularly germane. Full-stack web developer Adrian Mejia, who specializes in MEAN stack (Mongodb, Expressjs, Angularjs, Nodejs), recently blogged 12 steps to take to ensure application scalability with Angular.

Visit AdrianMejia.com to learn more about this 12-step process.

4. Jason Watmore’s Blog

Another aspect of application development for which Angular is well-suited is unit testing. And that's where Jason Watmore's blog comes in.

In one of his recent posts, Watmore specified a number of libraries he uses when developing his own unit tests. Here’s a look at some of them (most of these have various alternatives and can be used in multiple combinations):

  • Mocha—testing framework
  • Chai—assertion library
  • Sinon—spy, stub and mock library
  • ngMock—module for injecting and mocking angular services

Read more about how to use these libraries in your own unit testing, along with other topics, at JasonWatmore.com.

What’s your favorite Angular blog? Got any feedback on the ones we listed here? Leave your comments below!

Posted by Lafe Low on 02/10/20160 comments

Some of the Best Visual Studio Blogs to Follow: Part 1

Visual Studio is such a powerhouse application development platform, that there's NO shortage of expert advice available in the blogosphere these days.

To help you navigate the resource waters, we dove head-first into this information ocean to find the best Visual Studio blogs for advice and guidance. Here’s part 1 of our findings, focused on ALM, TFS and VSTS.

A Developer’s Life: Jeff Bramwell

Jeff Bramwell, a Microsoft Visual Studio ALM MVP since 2008, penned a recent blog post on discovering Visual Studio Team Services APIs. “Building on our current theme of Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) API calls, let’s take a look at discovering what APIs are available. The likely starting point for figuring out VSTS APIs is the REST API Reference for VS Team Services and TFS. Here you can view the various information and examples for the APIs currently exposed by VSTS (and TFS). The APIs are broken out into major categories with each category including links to the various resources provided by their respective APIs.”

He continues, “If you’re like me, however, you might enjoy viewing the available APIs just a little bit closer to the ‘metal.’ This is relatively simple with VSTS because Microsoft has implemented the HTTP OPTIONS method. While you wouldn’t necessarily want to use the OPTIONS method to programmatically build and call API URLs on-the-fly (you can read more about why you might not want to do this here) that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great mechanism for spelunking around a set of APIs to see what’s offered.”

Click here to check out this excellent blog.

Please Release Me: Graham Smith

Continuous delivery is a hot topic with Visual Studio application developers these days. If you want to read more about Continuous Delivery with TFS / VSTS, and Configuring a Sample Application for Git in Visual Studio 2015, then you’ll want to check out Graham Smith’s blog. He’ll take you through the process of configuring a sample application to work with Git in Visual Studio 2015. (It almost sounds as easy as filling in a form!)

“In order to start working with Git in Visual Studio there are some essential and non-essential settings to configure," Smith advises. "From the Team Explorer – Home page choose Settings > Git > Global Settings. Visual Studio will have filled in as many settings as possible. Complete the form as you see fit. The one change I make is to trim Repos from the Default Repository Location (to try and reduce max filepath issues) and then from Windows Explorer create the Source folder with child folders named GitHub, TFS and VSTS. This way I can keep repositories from the different Git hosts separate and avoid name clashes if I have a repository named the same in different hosts.”

See the rest of Graham Smith’s blog posts by visiting PleaseReleaseMe.net.

Regularly Expressing on .NET: Jesse Houwing

For a wealth of tips and tricks on TFS and ALM, you don't want to miss Jesse Houwing’s blog posts.

He recently compiled several of his older blogs posts on connecting to TFS from any version of Visual Studio into one central location. He mentions that there are three things to consider when connecting to TFS from an older version of Visual Studio:

  • The version of TFS you want to connect to
  • The version of Visual Studio you're connecting from
  • The version of Windows you're running

Stay tuned for more of the best of the best from down in the trenches with Visual Studio.

Have a favorite ALM/TFS/VSTS blog you’d like to share? Comment below!

Posted by Lafe Low on 02/03/20160 comments

NEW Content Added to the Visual Studio Live! Las Vegas Agenda

As 2015 comes to a close, it's been a great year in the Microsoft ecosystem when it comes to tools and technologies. Yet as a development team member, it can feel overwhelming when you have to keep up with all of that. As my fellow Visual Studio Live! conference co-chairs Andrew Brust and Rockford Lhotka and I started planning for the 2016 shows, we worked hard to make sure we had the right mix of cutting-edge tech, best practices, and topics you really need to know. As we did our advance planning, we left some openings in the Visual Studio Live! Las Vegas (March 7 – 11 at Bally's Hotel & Casino) agenda that we could fill later, so we could make sure we were prepared for the latest innovations coming from Microsoft and others in the industry.

This brings us to our first batch of added sessions, now available, where you'll find five of our top speakers, bringing you topics you need to know in 2016. First, there's Miguel Castro and his session, "End-to-End Dependency Injection & Writing Testable Software." Quality continues to be a hot topic in the industry and, while for some, dependency injection is old hat, many developers are still in need of a solid grip on how and when to use it, and understanding the correlation between it and increased testability/quality. Castro is an experienced software craftsman and this session will be filled with his hard-earned best practices.

Another topic that needs more attention from development teams in every organization is security. It seems we hear about security breaches almost daily, many of them rooted in bad programming practices. Naturally, the Web is one of the first lines of defense and Brian Noyes has a new session to help: "Securing Single Page Applications." In this session, Noyes will cover Angular and Aurelia -- two of the hottest JavaScript frameworks out there, while discussing security issues you need to be aware of and what you can do to mitigate them.

Jumping to the other end of most applications, we have Leonard Lobel's "Exploring T-SQL Enhancements: Windowing and More." Persistence in the data tier is the foundation of most applications, and SQL Server continues to be the go-to data store for companies who want the richest feature set on top of a rock-solid engine that's proven over and over in daily use. Lobel is an expert who works daily with SQL Server to find out how to get the most out of it. This session will bring those insights straight to you.

Continuing with the data theme, Walt Ritscher brings us a brand new session to VSLive!: "Pretty, Yet Powerful. How Data Visualization Transforms the Way We Comprehend Information." No area is hotter than data science. A critical part of that is how you present the enormous amounts of data gathered daily -- whether it's product data, customer usage data or even operational data -- to the consumers of the systems you build. Ritscher will provide you with insight on how to choose the right visualization technique for your data, in a clear and understandable fashion.

And, finally, our last session in this batch is from conference co-chair Rockford Lhotka. Lhotka is a pioneer in the Microsoft world having brought his CSLA Framework forward from its roots in Visual Basic and COM to the modern world of cross-platform .NET on the desktop, servers, and mobile devices including iOS and Android. In "Building Cross-Platform Apps Using CSLA .NET," Lhotka will show you best practices for sharing code across all the Microsoft .NET Framework stacks, how Xamarin enables you to use C# and .NET, and get reuse out of nearly 100 percent of your business-layer code.

So there you have it, just in time for the holidays, five great new sessions added to the already huge list at Visual Studio Live! Las Vegas 2016.

All of us at Visual Studio Live! wish you safe and happy holidays, and look forward to seeing you all in 2016!

Posted by Brian Randell on 12/15/20150 comments

Visual Studio Live! 2016: The Year Ahead

With so many new technologies and toolsets coming to the forefront, universal apps, collaboration, mobile apps -- you've got to stay on your toes just to keep up in the development world. There's increasing emphasis on "softer" skills like intuitive app design and drafting precision DevOps processes, as well as continued top-notch development with some of the newer tools and technologies like NoSQL, AngularJS and Roslyn. Whew -- that's a lot!

Fortunately, you'll have plenty of opportunities to catch Visual Studio Live! next year, no matter where you live or where you might want to visit. Here's a look at where and when you'll find Visual Studio Live! events in 2016:

  • Las Vegas, NV, March 7-11, Bally's Hotel & Casino
  • Austin, TX, May 16-19, Hyatt Regency
  • Boston, MA, June 13-16, Cambridge Hyatt Regency
  • Redmond, WA, Aug. 8-12, Microsoft Headquarters
  • Anaheim, CA, Sept. 26-29, Hyatt Regency
  • Washington, D.C., Oct. 3-6, Renaissance
  • Orlando, FL, Dec. 5-9, Loews Royal Pacific Resort (as part of Live! 360)

As always, if you need to find out more about Visual Studio Live! events, just check out the homepage. See you sometime next year!

Posted by Lafe Low on 11/05/20150 comments

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