Striding into its third decade, dev suite is now ready to Share
It’s a big day for Microsoft developers as Visual Studio 2019 for PC and Mac emerged, blinking, into the light of General Availability.
The big Daddy of Microsoft’s PC dev tools hits v16
Having first pitched up in preview form at the end of 2018 following MSFT’s Connect(); event, Visual Studio 2019 in general availability guise(aka version 16) is more an evolution from the previous 2017 incarnation rather than anything too dramatic, with tweaks aimed at making developers more productive.
The most in-your-face change remains that “Start Window Experience” screen, which is aimed at getting developers up and running quicker. The change from the traditional New Project screen remains a little divisive and I have yet to get my own muscle memory updated to instinctively click on the appropriate big, friendly button to fire up a new project or checkout code from a repo.
However, personal greybeard whinging aside, the new start experience will benefit users new to the environment or those trying to work out how to find an undiscovered project type.
A neater change has been the rolling back of fluff around the coding window, recognising that devs are – after all – there to crank out code. Menus are now in the title bar, releasing some extra precious pixels of screen real estate. The search functionality of the IDE is also quite a bit quicker and better at handling my hamfisted attempts at spelling, although the results list does suffer from showing perhaps a bit too much detail, which reduces the count of items visible.
The IDE also gets a Document Health indicator, a click on which will drop developers into a dialog to clean up as much, or as little, as they want.
Devs playing the Microsoft drinking game will also be delighted to note that Intellisense has had the AI wand wafted over it and has additional smarts to assist with code completion in the form of IntelliCode.
IntelliCode bases its recommendations from thousands of open source projects on GitHub in order to promote common practices. It will also learn from patterns in the user’s own code.
Sadly, the opportunity to have Clippy pop-up and say “it looks like you’re trying to write ‘Hello World!’ in a new language, do you want some help with that?” has been missed this time around. Maybe in the next version.
Debugging also gets a nod with this release, with improvements such as breakpoints only happening on value changes the developer is looking for.
Sharing is caring with Live Share
Also roaring into the release is Live Share, Microsoft’s coder collaboration tech that first appeared in preview form in 2018. It is now included in Visual Studio 2019 and allows coders to share and collaboratively edit and debug code without having to faff around with cloning repos or setting up environments.
Or shuffle over to someone’s desk to snatch the mouse from them.
Support for C++ and Python has also been added and, crucially, a read-only mode implemented along with the ability for guests to start debugging sessions. Third party extensions are also present and correct with visualization tool OzCode available and CodeStream providing integrated chat during the session.
Visual Studio 2019 for Mac
The Mac version of Visual Studio was also released today, and while nowhere near on a par with its PC stablemate in terms of sheer breadth of functionality, received its own “Start Experience” and a preview version of a C# editor built on code shared with its Windows sibling.
The new editor, with all its Intellisense and code completion goodness, is opt-in at present, but as Microsoft continues to add languages to it, it is only be a matter of time before it becomes the default.
Editor aside, the General Availability version of Visual Studio 2019 for Mac enjoys improved Xamarin build and deployment times as well as a port of the Unity debugger found in Visual Studio for Windows. And, critically, multiple instances of the IDE can now be launched from macOS dock.
Overall today’s Visual Studio 2019 release is very much a “steady as she goes” update with, Start Experience aside, plenty of thoughtful if not exactly groundbreaking touches. The changes certainly make for a better experience in the PC version of the IDE unless, of course, you are a Windows Phone developer.
Unsurprisingly, while there have been upticks in speed for Xamarin and Android, Visual Studio 2019 has finally admitted defeat on the Windows 10 Mobile front.
The terse “If you need to continue working on an application for Windows 10 Mobile devices, continue to use Visual Studio 2017” message acknowledges the reality that the end is indeed nigh. ®