Mink Machine

Visual Studio 2012 impressions

After using the latest version of Visual Studio for a while, I’ve grown to both like and dislike some of its features.

The first Visual Studio incarnation I used was Visual Studio 6.0 (Aspen) back in 1998. In 2001 I had my first look at Visual Studio .NET (Rainier), which was the first environment for using the “brand new .NET thing”. Then I upgraded to Visual Studio 2003 (Everett), Visual Studio 2005 (Whidbey), Visual Studio 2008 (Orcas) and Visual Studio 2010 during a decade of coding.

Visual Studio 2012 was released in September 2012. It is also the largest release with a whopping 8 GB. The installation of this kind of software should be smoother than silk after all those years of continuous improvements, but I don’t think I’ve ever had as much problem with a Windows software installation. It just failed repeatedly in a multitude of ways with less than stellar error messages. Fail on that one.

Moving on. The first thing you see is the IDE, which is quite monochrome in color. Unfortunately the lack of color makes all the icons look similar, which makes it harder to distinguish between them. The “flattened” look is coming from the new Microsoft UI (formerly known as Metro) which is apparent in their latest baby Windows 8. It was no coincidence that they released .NET 4.5 on the same day.

For the first time ever, a dark color theme is available out of the box. Microsoft tried a dark color approach in their Expression suite back in 2006, their only step in that direction as far as I know. But this time they’re probably inspired by Adobe’s Creative Suite 6. I’ve actually come to like the dark colors, once I got used to them. It is probably the first time since 1993 that I use a light-on-dark setting for my main code editor! There are also several additional themes available on the web, including a “Visual Studio 2010” theme if you would feel the retro urges.

On the topic of UI, one of the oddest things is that the main drop-down menu is all in caps. WTF?

There is a simulator for creating “Windows Store” apps, some kind of remote session into your localhost machine. I found it amusing that Visual C++ is hotter than its been in over a decade, since native code is back on the field.

There are also tons of other stuff that I haven’t looked into, such as Team Foundation features, code analysis tool, LightSwitch (database model-driven code generator) and much more. For most .NET developers, this release is a required beast.

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