Empowering Developers with Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 19, 2007 — Microsoft today announced that Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5 have released to manufacturing (RTM) and are now available for MSDN subscribers to download. The release of these products is another important milestone on the road to the Global Launch of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 on Feb. 27, 2008, and represents the latest in a series of innovations from Microsoft targeted at developers and development teams.

Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5 are also core components of the Microsoft application platform, a set of integrated capabilities, tools and infrastructure that enables organizations to build more dynamic, connected applications and ultimately deliver better business value.

PressPass spoke with S. “Soma” Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, about these releases and how all developers – from hobbyists to smaller development shops to enterprise development teams – can benefit from the latest version of Visual Studio and the .NET Framework. Somasegar also discussed how the internal processes Microsoft used to develop Visual Studio 2008 can provide some best practices that development organizations can apply to their own processes to deliver software on budget, on target and on time.

PressPass: Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5 are available today – why should development organizations get started on these new versions?

Somasegar: The simplest answer is that Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework make it easy for development organizations and developers of all skill levels to build software and services on the latest platforms including the Web, Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Windows Server 2008. Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into building these tools and offering the right features that enable developers to be more productive, take advantage of all the latest platform advances and collaborate more effectively throughout the software lifecycle.

We put together a great document called the Top Ten Reasons to Upgrade to Visual Studio 2008, which I’d encourage developers to take a look at – and that’s really just the beginning of what this release offers. Visual Studio 2008 delivers over 250 new features, makes improvements to existing features including performance work on many areas, and we’ve made significant enhancements to every version of Visual Studio 2008, from the Express Editions to Visual Studio Team System (VSTS).

In Visual Studio Team System in particular, I’m pleased with the progress we made in scalability and performance for Team Foundation Server (TFS), which I discussed in my blog recently. As just one example, the TFS Version Control command processing was re-written to support unlimited sized operations on key commands without being memory bound on the server. In our measurements, key commands also run 10-60 percent faster, with the larger improvements associated with bigger projects.

I also believe that development organizations will find the new database tools offered in VSTS very valuable. Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition and related Microsoft Solutions Framework process guidance is fully integrated into Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Suite. This enables database developers and administrators to be more productive, increase security and drive quality, and involves them earlier in the development lifecycle.

PressPass: You mentioned Visual Studio Express Editions. What else has Microsoft delivered for hobbyist, student, and enthusiast developers?

Somasegar: Since releasing Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions we’ve seen more than 17 million downloads and we’ve continued to provide valuable resources for non-professional developers, such as the Beginner Developer Learning Center, which provides a variety of no-charge lessons and getting started videos to take the beginning developer from the basics to becoming a full-fledged developer. We’re releasing samples like the Coding4Fun Developer Toolkit that enables non-professional developers to build fun, cool peer-to-peer chat, video, and speech-enabled applications. We also introduced Popfly, which enables Web developers and Popfly users to easily add Silverlight gadgets built in Popfly to their Web pages, as well as publish HTML Web pages directly to Popfly.

PressPass: What features do you think that developers are going to get the greatest benefit from?

Somasegar: I wish that I had the time to detail all of the new features in Visual Studio 2008, but I’ll highlight some features that developers have told us they are most looking forward to and that I believe will provide great benefits for developers and teams of developers:

  • New visual designers. For over 15 years, Microsoft has delivered visual design surfaces that enable developers to graphically author even the most complex applications. Visual Studio continues Microsoft’s commitment to making its platform more accessible and developers more productive with integrated designers for .NET Framework 3.5 components such as Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF).

  • Workflow enabled services. Building connected applications is much easier with workflow-enabled services in the .NET Framework, enabling developers to build business logic for a service using WF and expose messaging from that service using WCF.

  • Multitargeting. It used to be that when using a particular version of Visual Studio developers could only target one version of the .NET Framework. In Visual Studio 2008 developers can choose to target the .NET Framework 2.0, 3.0 or 3.5. This should help you use the latest tools to maintain your existing applications even as you start building new applications using the newest advances in the .NET Framework.

  • Language Integrated Query (LINQ). With the improved data capabilities provided with LINQ, it’s now easier for individual programmers to build solutions that analyze and act on information regardless of the source of that data.

  • Office development. Visual Studio 2008 Professional now includes Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO). These built-in tools enable developers to quickly create applications that leverage the capabilities of Microsoft Office and integrate with the world’s most popular desktop productivity suite. Nearly everyone has Microsoft Office installed on their desktop. Why not build solutions that plug right into the end-user’s existing work environment?

  • Workflow with Expression Studio. Developers and designers can now share user interface assets, such as design elements and controls, with both Microsoft Expression Web (ASP.NET) and Microsoft Expression Blend (WPF).

  • Web development features. Visual Studio 2008’s general improvements to JavaScript coding (IntelliSense, syntax check, debugging) help with writing JavaScript code. This dovetails well with the inclusion of the ASP.NET AJAX library to create a first-class experience for building next-generation Web applications.

  • Code Annotations.  We’ve made some really big improvements to Team Foundation Server.  One of my favorites is Code Annotations, which I think of as sort of “revision marks” for source code.  In Word, for example, when I edit a document, I get a little bubble and color highlighting showing me what has been edited and by whom.  With this new version of Team Foundation Server, I can now determine who last changed a particular line of code and see why they changed the code as well as what Work Item that change is associated with.  This makes it much easier for me to connect with the right member of my team to better understand the source before making changes. 

  • Continuous Integration: Another big feature in Team Foundation Server is the ability to automatically generate a build whenever a programmer checks code into the source control server.  Customers have been asking us for this capability so that they can ensure that their projects continue to build after each check-in.  This sort of real time information helps programmers identify problems early on when they’re easier to fix rather than waiting for the nightly (or weekly) build to complete before learning of problems.  Towards this end, we’ve also added a check-in policy that will check the state of the build and prevent further check-ins until the build is healthy. 

Ultimately, Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5 are significant releases that help developers and development teams be more productive, take advantage of the latest platform advances, and collaborate more effectively in delivering solutions.

PressPass: What’s new for developers who develop native code applications?

Somasegar: Developers who use Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC) will be able to pick up parts of the Vista look and feel by simply recompiling their applications. Beyond that, I’m very pleased that we recently announced a series of enhancements to MFC that provide some of the most requested customer features including ribbons, complex docking and resizing and the live drag and drop of menu items and toolbar buttons. This is one of our first significant investments in MFC in a few versions and will be available in Beta in the early part of 2008. We are also delivering support for TR1, which is one of the first significant enhancements to the standard C++ library.

PressPass: What feedback have you had from customers about Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5 so far?

Somasegar: Customers have been very active in downloading the community technology previews (CTPs) and providing us feedback. I want to take the opportunity to thank the community and customers for their engagement and feedback throughout the product development phase for Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5. Their feedback has been invaluable in shaping the product and it has helped us ship a better product that delivers real value for developers.We have a number of early adopter customers who are already experiencing the benefits of Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5. For example, Xerox analysts built a more scalable version of a tool used to help customers optimize their technology environments using Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5. They found that developing the new tool took half the time and money that a Flash-based solution would have required, not to mention the new tool delivers superb graphics and will generate millions of dollars in increased productivity for Xerox.

Xcalia, a company that provides data and services intermediation software that makes it easier for enterprise businesses to build and maintain service-oriented applications, now provides LINQ support with its main product, Xcalia Intermediation Core. The team that developed Xcalia Intermediation Core also benefited from the performance and stability improvements in Visual Studio 2008 and used LINQ to simplify development. By supporting LINQ, the company offers powerful new tools to existing and potential customers developing applications on the Microsoft .NET Framework.

These are just a couple of examples. There are a number of additional case studies that highlight how our customers are experiencing the power of Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5 on our case studies Web site.

PressPass: The Developer Division used Visual Studio 2008 to
build
Visual Studio 2008 – what were some of the advantages your team discovered in that process?

Somasegar: We are huge believers of self-hosting and using our own products. As we developed Visual Studio 2008 we “dogfooded” TFS, for bug tracking, project management, source code control and so on. We really got to put TFS through its paces and make sure what we were delivering would benefit our customers. I found that the built-in reporting and analytics features of TFS provided great insight into the progress of the product at any particular time. It helped all levels of our organization to identify problem areas and shift resources as necessary to keep development on track. This meant we had a high level of predictability in the product development, so we were able to stay on track with major milestones. As a result we shipped Visual Studio 2008 on time in just 24 months. Our success has led a number of other teams at Microsoft — including SQL Server, Office and Windows — to use TFS for some of their own development, and we expect to see increasing adoption across Microsoft. In the end, this is a great thing for our customers as we continue to refine our tools to serve the needs of all development projects, small or large.

We also implemented several new development methodologies with this version of Visual Studio. One was what we called “feature crews.” Feature crews are virtual teams made up of developers, testers and program managers and they were assigned a particular feature to own. The team was responsible to work together to complete that feature, owning the design, development, testing and quality. Instead of working from a concept of “code complete” we moved to a concept of “feature complete” where the feature was not checked into the main branch until all design, code and tests were complete.

Another was “quality gates.” Before developers were allowed to check in code, that code had to pass about 17 quality gates. When you build large projects, you need to give developers tools that help them see how well it interacts with the main build before you can turn in your code. That’s how quality gates worked for us.

As all developers know, having a good methodology is important for predictable, high-quality software development. But while many of the application lifecycle management tools available on the market espouse a methodology of some kind, we took a different approach with Team System. In our case, we enable organizations to customize Team System to suit their own methodology, whatever it may be. So, even as we began to define and refine our own software development methodology, we implemented and enforced that methodology using Visual Studio Team System. As a result, we were able to spend less time fixing bugs and more time on actual feature development, all the while maintaining a level of visibility and predictability that helped us make real-time decisions about the overall project. I’m really proud of this release and I think it has enabled us to deliver one of our most solid releases of Visual Studio ever.

PressPass: Now that you’ve released Visual Studio 2008, what can we expect to hear from the Visual Studio team at the launch event on Feb. 27, 2008?

Somasegar: The Global Launch of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 on Feb. 27, 2008 will provide a great opportunity to highlight how our customers are making the most of Visual Studio 2008 and demonstrate how they can benefit from the power of the full Microsoft application platform, including Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008. You’ll also see how our partners are delivering great products that extend and enhance Visual Studio 2008.

But remember — don’t wait. Visual Studio 2008 is available right now to MSDN subscribers, and will be available soon to other customers through our various other channels.