Although not without problems, Microsoft Visual Studio is the premier IDE for developing applications with the Microsoft .Net Framework and at least a contender for the best Windows-hosted C/C++ IDE.

Judging by this beta, Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 is a promising update.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010: Improved UI

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 has a revamped user interface that looks much cleaner than previous versions of Visual Studio, and uses Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) rather than Windows Forms.

We like the way this works, at least on a computer with plenty of RAM and a good graphics board. We give the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 UI a big thumbs-up, and it also supports multiple monitors.

Not surprisingly, the WPF designer is even smoother than before. Additionally, you can now generate data-bound WPF controls by dragging items from the Data Sources window to the WPF designer. Even better, the XAML designer for Silverlight achieves parity with the WPF designer; you no longer need to switch out of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 to Expression Blend to work on a XAML design visually.

The new code browsing features are another win. Once you've learned to use Ctrl-Scroll to zoom in and out on the screen, you don't even think about it. Once you've learned the Navigate To shortcut (Ctrl-Comma) and the Call Hierarchy navigation, you'll wonder how you got around your projects before.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010: Debugging and TDD

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 has much improved thread debugging; given the increased support for multithreading and parallelism, this is a necessity.

Toolboxes and IntelliSense are now sensitive to the Framework version of your target project, so you don't have to wait until compile or runtime to discover that you've used a feature unsupported by your target. Again, given the increased number of possible targets, this is a necessity.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 has supported test-driven development for years, but it was always awkward to create new stubs and to synchronise IntelliSense if you actually wrote the tests first. Now you can switch into consume-first mode to keep IntelliSense from running amok, and you can generate stubs from their usage.

NEXT PAGE: .Net languages

Although not without problems, Microsoft Visual Studio is the premier IDE for developing applications with the Microsoft .Net Framework and at least a contender for the best Windows-hosted C/C++ IDE.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010: .Net languages

The Visual Basic and C# languages have both evolved in nice ways and nearly achieved feature parity. Visual Basic now has lambda expressions and implicit line continuations; C# now has simplified COM calling and dynamic language support.

Both have a new feature called type equivalence that simplifies deployment against different versions of an assembly, which is especially useful when trying to program against the Microsoft Office APIs. (Lambda expressions are anonymous inline functions or methods; in the .Net Framework they are used as a concise way to define delegates, and they're very useful when writing LINQ queries.)

F# is a functional programming language based on ML and OCAML, which uses the .Net Framework and interoperates with other .Net languages. F# was previously a research project; it's very nice to see it as part of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.

One of our constant annoyances with Visual Studio 2008 has been its half-baked JavaScript parsing and IntelliSense. More times than we could count, it "helpfully" completed code with irrelevant nonsense. Microsoft calls the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 version "dramatically improved" and "2 to 5 times faster".

That isn't actually saying much, considering how bad IntelliSense for JavaScript was before, but the improvement is certainly welcome, and in fact the JavaScript support is pretty good.

When working with big Visual C++ projects, we used to dread making changes to core header files; it would nearly always force us to take a break while the IDE caught up. The IDE is now smarter about parsing files in the background.

The Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 C++ compiler now supports the lambda expressions, rvalue references, compile-time assertions, expression type discovery, and automatic type deduction features of the C++0x standard. Another piece of good news is that the VS2010 C++ compiler has a mode that is backward-compatible with the Visual Studio 2008 tools and libraries. This will make it easier for individual developers to upgrade even if the rest of the team doesn't want to switch over.

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Microsoft Visual Studio 2010: Web deployment and parallel programming

Web deployment hasn't historically been one of Visual Studio's great strengths. All too often, we found ourselves switching to an FTP client for deployment instead of using the deployment tools in Visual Studio 2008. The one-click publishing feature of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 may well change that, although we have yet to work up the courage to use it on a production site.

The biggest new features of VS2010 have to do with parallel programming. We're not sure we've completely grasped the power of the new .Net Framework and native C++ support for task and data parallelism in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, but what we've seen so far is impressive. A bunch of interesting parallel programming samples have recently been posted on CodePlex; we think they're worth checking out.

The Architecture Explorer is a client-side feature of Team System. Microsoft is now serious about UML modeling, and there are many features useful to programmers as well as architects.

NEXT PAGE: beta bugs and omissions >>

Although not without problems, Microsoft Visual Studio is the premier IDE for developing applications with the Microsoft .Net Framework and at least a contender for the best Windows-hosted C/C++ IDE.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010: Beta bugs and omissions

It wouldn't be fair to completely gloss over the deficiencies of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 just because it's still a beta. We want you to know what to expect - and what not to expect - should you download and test the beta 1 product.

First of all, don't waste any time looking for the MSDN library for this beta. There is no local version; it's entirely online. We don't actually mind this; if your internet connection is down, you work for long anyway.

ASP.Net MVC is not yet supported; neither are smart devices nor the .Net Micro Framework. You can download Azure, Silverlight, IronRuby, and IronPython support.

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If you're installing on Windows 7, as we did, the SQL Server installer built into the Visual Studio installer will fail. What you can do is to download and install SQL Server 2008 with SP1 separately. You can safely install either or both of the Express and Developer versions of the database.

We have encountered only one bug in this beta that has yet to be resolved. For some reason, after we installed the Silverlight 2.0 runtime and SDK, we could not debug the Silverlight projects. We're not sure if this is a 64-bit issue or an installation problem; we expect that the problem will go away at some point, probably when we install a newer version of the Silverlight tools.

In any case, ww're looking forward to the incremental drops of add-ons to the Visual Studio 2010 beta and to the next beta. It's good now; we expect that it's going to be great by the time it ships.

NEXT PAGE: our expert verdict >>

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010: Specs

  • 1.6GHz or faster processor
  • Windows Vista (x86 or x64), all editions except Starter Edition
  • Windows XP (x86 or x64), Service Pack 2 or later, all editions except Starter Edition
  • Windows Server 2003 (x86 or x64), Service Pack 1 or later/Windows Server 2003 R2 or later (x86 or x64), all editions/Windows Server 2008 (x86 and x64) or later (all editions)/Windows Server 2008 R2 RC (x64) Enterprise Edition/Windows 7 RC (x86 and x64) Ultimate Edition
  • 1024MB RAM
  • 3GB of available hard disk space
  • 5400rpm hard disk drive
  • DirectX 9-capable video card that runs at 1280 x 1024 or higher display resolution
  • 1.6GHz or faster processor
  • Windows Vista (x86 or x64), all editions except Starter Edition
  • Windows XP (x86 or x64), Service Pack 2 or later, all editions except Starter Edition
  • Windows Server 2003 (x86 or x64), Service Pack 1 or later/Windows Server 2003 R2 or later (x86 or x64), all editions/Windows Server 2008 (x86 and x64) or later (all editions)/Windows Server 2008 R2 RC (x64) Enterprise Edition/Windows 7 RC (x86 and x64) Ultimate Edition
  • 1024MB RAM
  • 3GB of available hard disk space
  • 5400rpm hard disk drive
  • DirectX 9-capable video card that runs at 1280 x 1024 or higher display resolution

OUR VERDICT

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 is a very promising upgrade to the premier IDE for .Net development. It improves the UI, IntelliSense, and Designers; supports parallel programming; and improves support for test-driven development. It's still missing support for ASP.Net MVC and smart devices.

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