Visual Studio 2012 Review

The latest release of the Microsoft IDE delivers its new functionality and features in a spectrum of different (possibly as many as 50) shades of grey. The newly drab interface has been designed to avoid distracting the user, and following an overwhelmingly poor feedback from the consumer, Microsoft relied with a minor splash of colour. This however is easily overlooked when we take into consideration the improved performance and features.

The new iteration seems geared towards the development of apps for the new Windows 8 marketplace, with a host of tools to aid in this process. UIs can now be developed in XML, XAML and HTML, with the XAML option offering the ability to either edit in code or visually. Apps can be debugged locally, in a simulator or on a remote device. The simulator allows you to test multi-touch features and capture screen shots. Apps can be published direct to the marketplace, once finished they are subject to manual or automatic testing, and then Microsoft signs them off and releases them. This can take as few as 5 days.

visual studio

Following the trend of previous versions, you will be able to choose from various free downloads, and more feature-rich paid versions. The top of the tree would be the Ultimate edition, with more tools, documentation and libraries than you could use in a long and busy life. There are tools for HTML5, Javascript, CSS, ASP.Net, Windows 8 apps, C#, C++ and all the .Net languages. The slimmed down versions are aimed at web developers and Windows 8 app development.

The help function in 2012 is the best version so far. Older versions have been a bit hit and miss, but Microsoft has definitely got it right this time. The context-sensitive help delivers documentation from local sources and from the web. It is fast and you can choose what content is downloaded.

C++ development has had a bunch of upgrades. A predictive system now displays a list of available methods when you type in a class name. More robust loops can now be written for use with arrays, Windows runtime collections and STL containers. Memory resource usage has been optimized by shrinking containers, for example, std::vector is now 12 byes, in 2010 it was 16 bytes.

The handy LightSwitch tool enables you to create a database and the build an app on top of it, using code snippets and metadata. Apps can be developed with a minimal amount of coding; in fact, the only coding required is the business logic. Themes, custom controls and built in business types help you to choose a layout and features of an app without coding them. Formatting the UI is all you need to do to customize an app.

If you want to develop for Windows 8, then Visual Studio 2012 can’t be beat, and even if you are targeting different platforms, it is still a rich and versatile IDE with a dazzling set of tools and features.

James Rowland is a writer who focuses on technology and everything to do with digital marketing.