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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I'll give you the short pricing summary. If you buy from the Microsoft Store you'll see prices ranging from $299 for an upgrade to Visual Studio 2013 Professional to $13,299 for a new full copy of Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 with MSDN, the product I reviewed here.

Professional is for independent developers. Premium is for developers and architects in teams. Test Professional is for testers in teams. Ultimate is the kitchen sink. If you want one of the high-end SKUs with MSDN, see the comparison on the MSDN site. Visual Studio Professional is the only Visual Studio product available without an MSDN subscription.

In summary, Visual Studio 2013 improves a developer's productivity in many ways, as compared to its predecessor: in the editors, in the debuggers, in the frameworks, in the wizards, and in the performance and diagnostics tools. Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate goes beyond development to unit testing, smoke testing, load testing, and all the way to continuous builds and release management.

Visual Studio 2013 installs side by side with Visual Studio 2012, and the projects and solutions are largely interchangeable. Upgrading from Visual Studio 2012 Professional to Visual Studio 2013 Professional costs a mere $99 until the end of January, and upgrading any other edition is just a matter of renewing your MSDN subscription. I'd suggest that, unless you discover incompatibilities between compiler versions that affect your code, upgrading is a no-brainer.

Visual Studio 2013 at a glance

  • Big improvements to the application lifecycle management portion of the product, including the introduction of a hosted Team Foundation Service that allows you to build, test, and even deploy in the cloud
  • Incorporation of InRelease, a release management product, into TFS
  • Vastly improved tooling for Web development, including a single ASP.Net project wizard that allows you to combine the different Microsoft Web technologies easily
  • Improved code editing and browsing, including a Peek Definition action that allows you to look up code definitions without disturbing your underlying edit window
  • Monitoring agents have become lightweight enough for continuous monitoring of production ASP.Net sites, and IntelliTrace lets you go to the code that caused a fault in production using the dump file
  • Better support of JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Python editing and debugging
  • JavaScript editing is slightly behind C# editing in that it lacks the Peek Definition action
  • With so many actions in Visual Studio and TFS, so many documents in MSDN, so many samples, and so many videos to view, the learning curve for a new developer can appear to be overwhelming
  • Visual Studio 2013 has three color schemes, all of which are ugly and have top-level menu items ALL IN CAPS
CostSame pricing as Visual Studio 2012. Ranges from free for Visual Studio 2013 Express SKUs to $13,299 ($4,249 annual renewal) for Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate with MSDN. Upgrade from Visual Studio 2012 Professional retail to Visual Studio 2013 Professional costs $99 through January 2014.

This story, "Review: Visual Studio 2013 reaches beyond the IDE," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in Windows and application development at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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