Review: Visual Studio 2013 reaches beyond the IDE

Microsoft delivers editing, debugging, deployment, project architecture, and ALM improvements stretching from Windows to Web development, from mobile devices to clouds

Review: Visual Studio 2013 looks beyond the IDE

What do you do when you have a market-dominating product built from more than 50 million lines of code with a loyal customer base of subscribers who use it all day, every day, and you want to keep them happy? You upgrade it for free at incremental releases to address the pain points, and at a nominal charge at a full release to address new technologies and to make major enhancements. That's exactly what Microsoft has done with service packs to Visual Studio 2012 and now with the release of Visual Studio 2013.

Visual Studio users can fall into a range of categories (developers, testers, architects, and so on) and use a range of technologies (desktop, Web, cloud, Windows store, services, databases, and more). While there are competitors for almost every area where Visual Studio provides a solution, no single product competes with Visual Studio in all fields. The closest I can think of would be Embarcadero All-Access XE, which is more of a suite than a unified product.

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The new release sports big improvements in application lifecycle management (ALM), including the ability to build, test, and deploy in the cloud via the new Team Foundation Service and integration with Windows Azure. You'll also find significantly better tooling for Web development with ASP.Net, as well as better support for JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Python editing and debugging.

In short, Visual Studio 2013 brings not only a number of big improvements tailored to development teams, but also many smaller ones that will actually matter to working developers.

Team Foundation Service

Let's start with the new ALM features in Visual Studio 2013, which is where we thought we'd see the focus of this release back in June. The biggest ALM win from my point of view is that Visual Studio now supports Git in addition to Team Foundation Server's native version control. (Clearly, the Microsoft that added Git support to Visual Studio is not your father's Microsoft; ditto for support of Python, JavaScript, and jQuery. What's next, open sourcing the .Net Framework? Oh, wait -- that happened years ago, at least for the base libraries.)

One thing I don't like about Team Foundation Server is setting it up for a geographically distributed group. Performance can be a big issue, especially when the group spans the globe, as outsourced projects often do. There's an all-Microsoft solution for that: Team Foundation Service. As you might expect, it runs in the Azure cloud. As you might not expect, it's free for teams of five or fewer, and larger installations are included in the higher-end Visual Studio with MSDN subscriptions at no additional charge.

By the way, Microsoft maintains a release archive for Team Foundation Service that shows when certain updates appeared in the Service and the Server. From here on, when I refer to TFS, I mean both Team Foundation Server and Team Foundation Service. The capabilities are available in both the product and the service.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Capability (40.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Usability (30.0%)
Documentation (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate 10.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.4
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