Microsoft today released Visual Studio 2017, the latest version of its world-class software development IDE (integrated development environment). This release also marks the 20th anniversary of Visual Studio.
“This is not the IDE from 20 years ago,” Microsoft Visual Studio & .NET Corporate Vice President Julia Liuson told me in a recent interview. “Today’s Visual Studio offers a fully-connected, service-like experience in which we can deliver fixes within days of an issue being found. It’s a new way of delivering software, and that is what our customers demand of us.”
Microsoft is highlighting a number of improvements in Visual Studio 2017. I will call out the following:
New installer. The first thing you’ll notice is the glorious new Visual Studio Installer, which takes a componentized approach to installing features. You’ll use it when you first install the IDE, but you can also use it at any time in the future to add or remove features.
Major performance improvements. Microsoft says that Visual Studio 2017 is three times faster than previous versions, with faster build performance, faster solution load times, and general responsiveness improvements across the board.
Standalone file editing. While Microsoft offers a separate Visual Studio Code editor for those who prefer to work outside an IDE and perform script- or command line-based builds, customers had asked them to allow Visual Studio to work as a standalone editor too. So now it does: You can now open any file in the VS editor, and not need to create a solution first.
Live unit testing. Now you can find out in real time if your unit tests will pass without leaving the code editor.
Xamarin Forms Previewer. The Xamarin Forms Previewer sits next to your XAML code window, rendering a live preview of a page side-by-side with your code. And it changes in real time, of course.
Connected Services. A new Connected Services experience makes it much easier to connect a mobile application to cloud services like Azure Mobile Apps data storage and authentication.
.NET Core support. Visual Studio 2017 fully supports building .NET Core 1.0 and 1.1 applications, including those based on ASP.NET Core and Entity Framework Core. Yes, this means you can target macOS and Linux, as well as Windows.
DevOps improvements. Like the performance improvements noted above, this one spans a wide range of changes, including new Git features, improvements to version control, support for DevOps capabilities on databases as well as code, and much, much more.
But I don’t need to be well versed in recent Visual Studio versions to appreciate Visual Studio 2017. For much of the past year, I’ve been using Google’s Android Studio as part of an ongoing e-learning initiative, and I can tell you that returning to the comfortable—and high performance—embrace of Visual Studio has been eye-opening. Android may be popular as a mobile platform, but Google’s developer tools are a sad joke. And I spent much of my time using the product trying to find problems that were in fact caused by Android Studio, or Java, or whatever, and not by me. The performance was just awful, and unpredictable.
You can download Visual Studio 2017 now from the Visual Studio website. It is available in Professional and Enterprise editions, plus the free (and very full-featured) Community edition, which is what I’ve been using.
If you’ve currently using Visual Studio 2015, you can install 2017 side-by-side with that version. (In fact, you can install Visual Studio 2012, Visual Studio 2013, Visual Studio 2015, and Visual Studio 2017 side-by-side if you want.) If you are using the Visual Studio 2017 RC (release candidate) or Visual Studio “15” Preview, you will need to upgrade to the final version of the product. This will happen via a new “Update” button in the Visual Studio Installer, shown above.
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