Microsoft Visual Studio 2017, Refining The Fundamentals


It is now a full 20-years since Microsoft first offered its Visual Studio software development product to the market. Still then, with a new release in 2017, the focus is very much on how the firm can provide productivity-focused refinements for the programmers who will use it to create the apps that we use every day.

“With Visual Studio 2017, we’ve invested in several key areas – refining the fundamentals,” insists Julia Liuson, in her role as corporate vice president for Visual Studio at Microsoft.

So what fundamental refinements can Microsoft make in the engine room? The updates for Visual Studio 2017 comes in the shape of improvements to code navigation to help developers work around their own code structures and, hopefully, produce cleaner programs that work better.

Also in this regard the company says it has focused on sharpening up code fixes and debugging i.e. all stuff that is essentially designed to help your app work properly, not get overloaded, security compromised or indeed just crash.

Like auto-complete, but for code

Microsoft makes much of the use of its own IntelliSense technology in Visual Studio 2017. This is a technology that works in some ways like a text auto-complete function that users might experience in a word processor or inside a smartphone app while typing. IntelliSense is code-completion in a context-aware sense so that it can speed up some coding activity and also reduce typos and other common mistakes.

Straight to cloud, if you want to

“It is easier than ever to build and deploy applications and services to [the Microsoft] Azure [cloud], directly from the IDE,” wrote Liuson, in a blog post. “We also heard loud and clear that Visual Studio needs to be faster and leaner, even as applications and projects get larger. So we built a brand-new installation experience that is lightweight and modular. We also made multiple enhancements to improve Visual Studio performance across the board. Visual Studio 2017 also has new features that allow development teams to easily adopt modern DevOps practices and collaborate to react to market changes faster and continuously.”

This notion of DevOps has already been widely discussed. It is the coming together of the Developer & Operations teams both in name and in function. Developer programmers used to be stereotyped for their proclivity to just ‘throw apps over the wall’ into the operations department (sysadmins, database admins, penetration testers and so on) with a sort of ‘just run that in production and get on wit it’ carelessness. DevOps aims to stem that approach with a wholesomeness rarely found outside spiritual self-help workgroup meetings i.e. it brings the whole software application lifecycle together.

Also polished up and made prettier (and with DevOps in mind) are Visual Studio 2017’s refactoring capabilities. In simple terms, refactoring involves changing code in a non-functional way so that it can be read more easily and can be laid down (for future generations let’s say) with less complexity.

Microsoft will achieve this (in part) by shipping Redgate’s ReadyRoll and Redgate SQL Prompt software (in the software’s Enterprise edition as opposed to its Professional edition) — both are essentially pieces of software that can help with managing data and code at its source where refactoring and reformatting can make things a whole lot better if it is carried out. It should also be noted that there are other refactoring tools in the wider scope of Visual Studio.

As Microsoft’s Liuson notes, the firm’s Enterprise DevOps Accelerator offer brings organizations everything they need to implement DevOps at scale and modernize their toolchain.

More automation intelligence, ultimately

Visual Studio for Mac Preview 4 also forms part of this month’s news in this space. Microsoft is, again, aiming to spread itself cross-platform to draw programmers of all shapes, sizes and preferences into the fold to use its wider set of tools and cloud services.

Has this release been met with the usual sardonic press comments from the often-caustic Microsoft press? Not so much, the product seems to have been received pretty well.

Most of what the firm has done in ‘refining the fundamentals’ has been focused on creating that term we use so much now in software ‘automation intelligence’ i.e. the ability to make things happen in an automated automatic format based on defined procedures and needs that systems, blocks of code, applications and/or the other programatic elements that connect to then need.

Fundamentally, this is quite a refined refinement.

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