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

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With Browser Link set up, you can see all the browser windows reflect every edit or style update. You control the refresh from Visual Studio 2013 and it pushes the refresh to the browsers, so you don't have to touch all the browser windows manually. This can be a real timesaver. It's also a good case for having at least two monitors on your development computer.

Another new way to view Web pages from within Visual Studio 2013 is to use the Page Inspector, an internal browser that integrates with IntelliTrace, the debugger, and the code editor to help you understand the connection between your code and what is displayed.

True Web app monitoring

Unfortunately, no matter how well you set up your tests and your debugging environment, some bugs will only show up on a production system. That's true of desktop programs in the field to some extent, but it's even more common to have this problem on multi-user Web applications that use many services.

We've had IntelliTrace logs for desktop applications for years. When an error occurs, the application generates the log and typically asks the user to send it to the developers. The developers then match up the log with the symbols from the correct build and open the IntelliTrace log in Visual Studio to identify the problem.

In the past, production ASP.Net applications didn't do this, for scalability and performance reasons. Finding a bug that only occurred in production meant taking a performance hit for as long as it took to reproduce the problem, then reverting to release code once the bug was thought to be fixed.

Microsoft Monitoring Agents (MMA) changed that. Now you can run MMA on production websites full time, at least according to Microsoft. (If your site runs above 80 percent of memory or CPU utilization, I'd say all bets are off.) When an error event happens, the application will generate an IntelliTrace log file. These let you go to the code that caused the problem when you open them in Visual Studio 2013, just like they would for desktop applications.

Performance and diagnostics

The new Performance and Diagnostics hub in Visual Studio 2013 consolidates three existing tools -- the CPU Sampling tool (for .Net or C++ apps), the JavaScript Function timing tool, and the Performance Wizard (for profiling of desktop and server apps such as executables and ASP.Net applications) -- with four new tools: the Energy Consumption tool (for Windows 8.1 store apps, since they can run on low-powered tablets), the XAML UI Responsiveness tool (for XAML-based Windows Store applications), the HTML UI Responsiveness tool (for HTML/CSS/JavaScript-based Windows Store applications), and the JavaScript Memory tool (for HTML/CSS/JavaScript-based Windows Store applications). There is no Energy Consumption tool for Windows Phone applications as yet.

Visual Studio 2013 ASP.Net project wizard
Visual Studio 2013 simplifies the creation of ASP.Net projects with a single wizard that lets you mix and match Web technologies.
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