What Is Visual Studioby James Avery, author of Visual Studio Hacks
- Visual Studio
- Visual Studio is a suite of applications created by Microsoft to give developers a compelling development environment for the Windows and .NET platforms. Visual Studio can be used to write console applications, Windows applications, Windows services, Windows Mobile applications, ASP.NET applications, and ASP.NET web services, in your choice of C++, C#, VB.NET, J#, and more. Visual Studio also includes various additional development tools, such as Visual SourceSafe; which tools are included depends greatly on the edition of Visual Studio that you are using.
Microsoft has a long history with development tools (which you know if you have seen any of the TV movies or read any of the books on its history) and Visual Studio is the natural culmination of these efforts. For a number of years, Microsoft shipped individual development tools like Visual C++ and Visual Basic, but starting in 1997 they began offering Visual Studio, which combined all of these environments into one application. (The separate applications are still available for purchase, but are far less popular.)
There have been numerous versions of Visual Studio since its inception. Visual Studio 6 coincided with the release of Visual Basic 6; Visual Studio.NET 2002 was released along with the 1.0 version of the .NET framework, and was again revised with the 1.1 version of the .NET framework, at which point it was dubbed Visual Studio .NET 2003. The next version of Visual Studio, named Visual Studio 2005, is slated for release in November of this year and will coincide with the release of the 2.0 version of the .NET framework.
What can you really do with Visual Studio? Following are some of the various applications that can be built using Visual Studio.
- Console applications: These applications run from the command line and do not include a graphical interface, but are great for small tools or anything that will be run by another application.
- Windows forms applications: These are Windows desktop applications written using the .NET framework; since they are .NET applications, they require that the .NET framework be on any computer that will run the application.
- Windows services: Services are applications that run in the background while your computer is running. These are usually applications that will have to perform scheduled tasks or handle continuous network requests.
- ASP.NET applications: ASP.NET is a powerful technology that is used to create dynamic web applications, often driven by a database. Many popular websites are written using ASP.NET, including those of e-commerce giants like Dell.
- ASP.NET web services: ASP.NET provides a complete web services model that allows you to quickly and easily create web services.
- Windows Mobile applications: Windows Mobile applications can run on devices that include the Compact framework; these include Pocket PC devices, as well as cell phones running the Microsoft Smartphone platform.
- MFC/ATL/Win32 applications: You can also still create traditional MFC, ATL, or Win32 applications using C++. These applications do not need the .NET runtime to run, but also don't include many of the benefits of working with the .NET framework.
- Visual Studio add-ins: That's right, you can use Visual Studio to write new functionality to be added into Visual Studio.
- And more: Visual Studio also includes projects to deploy your application, work with databases, create reports, and more.
Visual Studio provides an extensible model for adding new projects to Visual Studio; many other Microsoft applications now integrate directly into the IDE. Some of the most common include SQL Server Reporting Services and Visual Studio Tools for Office.
All of the above applications could be written using another IDE or some combination of freely available SDKs and your favorite text editor, so why would you pay for Visual Studio? Visual Studio is dedicated to making your development life easier through time-saving and convenient features; here are some of the most compelling of those features.
- IntelliSense: IntelliSense is the trademark feature of Visual Studio. IntelliSense simply helps you while programming by showing you the available classes and the methods and properties available on those classes. Can't remember what the name of that class, method, or property is? No worries, IntelliSense will help out.
- Designers: Visual Studio includes visual WSYIWYG designers for Windows applications, ASP.NET applications, and Windows Mobile applications. These designers make it much easier to get your application looking just right.
- Debugging: One of the most important features of Visual Studio is the ability to step through your application line by line as it is executing. Not sure why you are getting an error? Simply walk through and see exactly what is going wrong.
- Organization: Visual Studio is built for developing applications, so it provides intuitive methods for organizing your various code files into projects and your various projects into solutions.
Visual Studio includes way too many features to be listed here; even most seasoned developers don't make use of all of the various features available in Visual Studio.