Visual Studio Code vs. Visual Studio: How to choose

Deciding between Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio may depend as much on your work style as on the language support and features you need. Here’s how to decide

Visual Studio Code vs. Visual Studio: How to choose

For decades, when I got to work in the morning, I would start Microsoft Visual Studio (or one of its predecessors, such as Visual C++ or Visual InterDev), then brew tea and possibly attend a morning meeting while it went through its laborious startup. I would keep the IDE open all day as I went through develop/test/debug cycles to avoid another startup delay. When I worked on a C++ project with ~2 million lines of code, I also jump-started each day’s work by automatically running a batch script that did a code checkout and full rebuild of the product in the wee hours.

These days, I don’t feel the need to open my code projects first thing every morning, or to keep them open all day. Visual Studio Code usually starts up quickly enough that I can be productive in a few minutes, even for large projects. I said usually, not always: Visual Studio Code itself needs a monthly update, and the many extensions I have installed often need their own updates. Still, even updating a dozen extensions in Visual Studio Code takes much less time than Visual Studio takes to rebuild the symbol tables of a large C++ project.

What is Visual Studio Code?

Visual Studio Code is a lightweight but powerful source code editor that runs on your desktop and is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It comes with built-in support for JavaScript, TypeScript, and Node.js and has a rich ecosystem of extensions for other languages (such as C++, C#, Java, Python, PHP, and Go) and runtimes (such as .Net and Unity).

Aside from the whole idea of being lightweight and starting quickly, VS Code has IntelliSense code completion for variables, methods, and imported modules; graphical debugging; linting, multi-cursor editing, parameter hints, and other powerful editing features; snazzy code navigation and refactoring; and built-in source code control including Git support. Much of this was adapted from Visual Studio technology.

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