Debugging: Visual Studio 2017 Aims To Speed Up Your Least Favorite Job

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 first contribution, focusing on debugging in Visual Studio 2017.

Debugging isn’t the favorite part of the job for most developers, but the newest version of Visual Studio is at least trying to make it faster.

The release candidate that Microsoft tells us to get used to calling it Visual Studio 2017, makes debugging “faster now and doesn't cause delays while you are editing,” according to an article on the Microsoft website.

In an earlier version of Visual Studio, Microsoft added a hosting process for WPF, Windows Forms, and Managed Console projects to make debugging faster by spinning up a process in the background to use in the next debug session.

Then the law of unintended consequences reared its ugly head.

Or as Microsoft explained: "This well-intentioned feature was causing Visual Studio to temporarily become unresponsive for a few seconds when you stopped debugging or used Visual Studio after the debug session ended."


But Microsoft's never-say-die spirit kicked in and a fix has been made to Visual Studio 2017. The hosting process has been turned off and debugging has been optimized, so it is just as fast as it was with the hosting process but now it hopefully won’t glitch out on you.

Additionally, Microsoft says debugging is even faster for projects that never used the hosting process including ASP.NET, Universal Windows, and C++.

Plus, there is a new “Run to Click” feature.

"Now, while you are debugging, you can click the icon next to a line of code to run that line,” the Microsoft article on Visual Studio 2017 says. "You no longer have to set temporary breakpoints to perform several steps to execute your code and stop on the line you want."

Extended Debugging Support

There's more debugging news in 2017 as Microsoft shows off a new software development kit that coincides with the most recent Window 10 Insider Preview, as we learn in Windows 10 Devs Can Check Out Windows 10 Creators Update SDK in Visual Studio Magazine.

The Windows 10 Creators Update SDK Preview is a test-only version that contains a slew of updates and additions to the Windows namespace as well as some extended debugging support,” writes Michael Domingo, Visual Studio Magazine Editor in Chief.

So far Windows 10 Insider Preview version of the Windows 10 OS is only available to members of the Windows Insider program, he explains. To run it, developers need to have Visual Studio 2017 RC installed.

The Visual Studio Magazine article explains that the preview SDK offers these debug enhancements:

  • Use JavaScript to extend, script WinDbg
  • Kernel-mode iHandle extension moved to debugger data model
  • Debugger data model now contains PEB and TEB basic information
  • Added a .dtx command for displaying extended symbolic type information when using the debugger object model


For developers working on iOS and Android apps using JavaScript, there is more Visual Studio 2017 debug news from Microsoft as it beefs up the build and debug capabilities in Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova (TACO), according to a recent article in Application Development Trends Magazine. TACO is based on the popular open source Apache Cordova technology and provides a set of utilities used by Visual Studio developers to create cross-platform hybrid mobile apps.

"In enhancing TACO for the new Visual Studio 2017 RC, Microsoft focused on two major problems it identified in discussions with Cordova developers: fast and reliable builds and faster edit-debug cycles," writes David Ramel in the ADT article.

For faster edit-debug cycles, he explained TACO gets a new simulator called Cordova Simulate.

The article quotes a Microsoft blog post touting the new features: "For those that have been using TACO for a while, Cordova Simulate replaces the Ripple emulator that we have been using for in-browser simulation of mobile apps. It provides for a local, fast, browser-based workflow that fits with modern Web developer practices that lets you do almost all your mobile development without touching an emulator or device."

Among other improvements, the team working on TACO made some bug fixes in the open source code itself, according to the ADT article. Good to know they practice what they preach as it were.

And for developers using TACO, especially those working on mobile apps where the pressure for faster and faster turnaround is growing, anything that speeds up debugging has got to be good news.

Posted by Lafe Low on 02/08/2017

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