Developers and designers who’ve been wanting more freedom in their work can rejoice: Microsoft has at long last released the final versions of two development tools that are suitable for any developer working on any platform. Earlier this week, the software company unveiled Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 4.6, which improves the .NET framework further.
Microsoft first announced the Visual Studio 2015 Preview and the .NET 2015 Preview at one of its developer conferences in New York City late last year. In the last several months, both previews have gotten a steady stream of updates and sophistications, all leading up to their grand unveiling this week. Microsoft had previously announced the release date of the final versions of both development tools last month.
The biggest takeaway from this announcement is the slew of new features that these final releases bring. Let’s take a look at all the new stuff that developers now have the freedom to do with this latest update:
Debugging and diagnostics
Developers and designers will be pleased to know that checking how their app development is coming along is easier than ever. Now, there’s just one Diagnostics Tool window for debugging and profiling and checking code corrections. The PerfTips (performance tips) feature lets you access your code’s performance information when you’re setting breakpoints and stepping with the debugger.
Code editing and refactoring
Light Bulbs is an example of the releases’ new Roslyn-based tooling. This new tooling will come in handy for C# as well as VB developers, as it suggests possible fixes or code refactoring and code analyzers to configure any suggestions and warnings that developers encounter inside the editor. To help developers navigate through code more efficiently, the new releases also come with a reinvented XAML editor that has new features.
In keeping with the theme of minimalism is better, the final releases feature simplified coding patterns. For instance, the updated versions of C# 6 and VB.NET 12 offer plenty of new language features that make it simpler to code. Developers and designers should also anticipate better support for C++ 11/14/17 together with TypeScript 1.5 and F# 4.0. Finally, there are also new tools for Python and lots of other languages.
Web and cloud development
ASP.NET 4.6 is the newest version of the web development framework from Microsoft. Thanks to these new releases, it adds support for HTTP/2, the newest C# features and the latest Entity Framework 6.1.3. Both CSS and HTML tooling have enjoyed current standards support and a far more vibrant JSON editor. The newest Azure SDK 2.6 offers one-click provisioning together with deployment to Azure for cloud services and sites. There’s also the option to use the ASP.NET 5 preview since it runs on the CoreCLR. This means that it can be deployed not only to Windows, but, as importantly, Mac and Linux, too.
This is the biggie that should have many developers and designers excited. You can now use .NET to create Universal Windows Apps that are suitable for Windows tablets, phones and PCs, not to mention the Internet of Things and HoloLens. It’s possible to use C++ to create shared components that target iOS, Android and Windows. The simultaneous integration with game engines such as Unity means that it’s also possible to build cross-platform games.
Cross-platform development deserves a more detailed exploration. Microsoft is turning its back on its policy of providing development tools that would just be suitable for its own platforms. As such, Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 4.6 truly are cross-platform tools.
Keeping old promises
According to Microsoft’s S. Somasegar, the company’s corporate vice president of the Developer Division, the purpose of these final releases is to provide more freedom to developers by letting them have access to Visual Studio’s and .NET’s productivity across all applications. It’s interesting to note that Somasegar has previously spoken about making Microsoft tools available for cross-platform purposes, but this week’s news marks the first time that the company has actually delivered on this promise.
In addition to the major updates on the features outlined above, Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 4.6 also offers developers and designers additional tools for Windows Presentation Foundation development, which refers to a Visual Diagnostics tool, a Timeline tool, and a reworked Blend designer experience. At the same time, .NET 4.6 includes significant improvements to the Windows Presentation Foundation platform. These are transparent-windows and multi-image-cursor-files support.
Anytime a huge publisher like Microsoft announces new releases, it’s part of a strategy. In Microsoft’s case, that strategy is to get developers giddy about the possibilities in store for them when using the new Visual Studio 2015. The company’s thinking is so straightforward that it’s very linear: give builders accessible tools, and they will gladly build.
The timing of this announcement is significant in and of itself. The release of Windows 10 is just around the corner, so by finally releasing these new versions of developer tools that are more powerful than ever, Microsoft is attempting to make Windows 10’s release all the more palatable. Of course, there’s never a guarantee that a new product release will be well-received by all; though offering a slew of new, powerful and cross-platform development tools is a big plus any way you look at it.