Microsoft to roll out Visual Studio upgrade

Silverlight, .Net Framework also receive updates this week

Without further adieu, Microsoft will release on Monday its Visual Studio 2010 software development system and the accompanying .Net Framework 4 platform, followed later in the week by the release of the Silverlight 4 rich Internet plug-in software.

The three products are upgrades to key Microsoft technologies and have been touted by the company for some time now. The Visual Studio 2010 platform is anchored by the Visual Studio IDE and also features application lifecycle management tools.

[ InfoWorld columnist Martin Heller recently wrote about making the switch to Visual Studio 2010. ]

"We've got a huge host of great productivity features, things like multiple monitor support," enabling developers to enter code on one monitor and view the design on another, said Sean McBreen, senior director of developer marketing at Microsoft.

Visual Studio 2010 is accompanied by .Net Framework 4. Among other highlights of Visual Studio 2010 is a new editor based on WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), providing what Microsoft described as a more flexible, feature-rich environment.

"[Visual Studio 2010 is] completely redesigned, it's now built on top of WPF," said Gill Cleeren, a .Net architect at consulting and software development firm Ordina, which is a Microsoft business partner.

"It's a complete new interface that you're getting," said Cleeren, a beta user of Visual Studio 2010 and a leader of the Belgian Visual Studio User Group. He added the performance issues that had beset Visual Studio several months ago have been fixed.

Other features in the 2010 release include capabilities for SharePoint application development via dashboards, as well as support for Windows 7 multitouch and ribbon interfaces. Tools also are offered for building applications for the Windows Azure cloud computing platform.

An IntelliTrace capability for developers and testers enables reproduction of bugs, so they can be eliminated.

"What IntelliTrace brings is the ability to record a video of your application," said John Robbins, a Visual Studio 2010 beta tester at Microsoft partner Wintellect. IntelliTrace, he said, makes debugging much faster.

Version 2010 also includes support for Web development via ASP.Net Model View Controller. Integrated phone design surfaces are offered for building Windows Phone 7 applications.

Visual Studio 2010 includes the Professional, Premium, and Ultimate editions of the platform, as well as the new Visual Studio Test Professional 2010 tool for application testers.

"There's just all sorts of excitement around the testing tools," said Windows application developer Dave Zimmerman, administrator of the Minnesota Visual Studio User Group. Testing capabilities make it easier to automate test scripts for a larger variety of applications said Zimmerman, who manages projects at Microsoft partner Intertech.

The new version of Team Foundation Server, Microsoft's application lifecycle management server, features agile project planning capabilities via workbooks.

"We've done a huge amount to provide more insight into how a project's going," McBreen said.

Microsoft also will announce on Monday availability of the Microsoft-branded version of Team Explorer Everywhere, enabling Eclipse IDE users to use Microsoft's TFS as a back-end ALM server for software development projects.

.Net Framework 4 features capabilities for parallel programming.

"Parallel programming is an incredibly hard thing to do, so we provide a set of APIs to greatly simplify the models that you can think about," said McBreen. "We abstract a lot of that underlying complexity for the developer."

"The ability to do multithreaded applications [is] much easier" with .Net Framework 4, Zimmerman said.

Additionally, the client footprint in version 4 has been decreased by more than 80 percent, making it easier to get applications up and running faster, Microsoft said.

Version 4 also offers additional support for industry standards and increases language choice. The Dynamic Language Runtime in .Net Framework 4 lets developers choose between functional languages, such as C#, VB.Net, and F# and dynamic languages, including IronPython and IronRuby.

The framework can be installed side-by-side with .Net Framework 3.5, so existing applications will not break when developers install .Net Framework 4.

Silverlight 4, the latest version of Microsoft's rich Internet browser plug-in, adds capabilities such as extended out-of-browser capabilities and printing and webcam support.

"You can run an application directly from an icon on your desktop," said McBreen.

It also offers more than 60 customizable controls for building rich, interactive applications, Microsoft said. Charting capabilities are featured.

Silverlight 4 will be released to the Web later this week.

In a blog post late last week, Microsoft's S. Somasegar, senior vice president of the Microsoft developer division, stressed Microsoft's own use of Visual Studio 2010 technologies internally.

"One of the things that stands out clearly for me is our practice of dogfooding the various pieces of Visual Studio throughout the product cycle," Somasegar said." Here at Microsoft, we use the term 'dogfooding" to refer to the internal use of a pre-release product in our daily work -- after all, until our product is good enough for us to use every day, it's not good enough for the rest of the world either!"

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