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Product: Visual Studio .NET Integrated Developer Environment (IDE)
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price: See Pricing
Review By: Roy J. Salisbury

Additional Tools

Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Setup & Installation
3: Pricing & System Requirements
4: Customizable Interface

5: Code Editor & Designer
6: Help System & Debugging
7: Additional Tools
8: Conclusion

The installation of Visual Studio .NET also includes some other tools that may seldom, if ever, get used, but there are some tools that make development just that much easier. Take for example the tools that are installed on the actual “Tools” menu. Depending on the type of development you are doing, the OLE/COM Object Viewer tool can be very helpful to check out the internal interfaces of a specific COM object. However, some of the tools, like the Spy++ tool, appear to have not been updated for a very long time. These tools are not integrated into the IDE itself, and are actually self contained programs that have their own look and feel, and do not match the functionality of the IDE. Separate programs from the IDE are great, but you would expect the software getting installed from a single package to have been better integrated into the whole instead of just tacking on old programs to something new.

There are however some features in the Visual Studio .NET package that are simply nice to have, but don’t belong. Take for example the Crystal Reports addition. When I purchase a product, I don’t want other options that are added from a separate vendor unless they are included in the overall purchase price. The Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Architect version has a big price tag on it (and it is worth it), but realizing later that something you used is limited in functionality or use, or requires additional licensing on top of what you already paid does not make for a happy developer. And the deployment if you use this is not easily done. Take for example a web application. You install Visual Studio .NET on your development system, the framework on your web server, and design up a nice report to display in your web page. But wait, the Crystal Reports assemblies do not get installed with the framework you installed on the web server. To get them installed on the server, you have a lot of extra work to do. They are not a self contained install, and you can’t download them from the web. I looked on the Crystal Decisions web site and found that to add an additional 10 active users (over the 5 you get free) would cost an additional $3,000. Be sure to read the licensing agreement in the Visual Studio .NET help for the requirements.

Task Lists

This is one part of the Visual Studio .NET IDE that I am not happy with. The support that is included for commenting your code with “tasks” to be accomplished is poorly designed, lacks any real functionality, and basically is a waste of time. The IDE configuration options allow you to specify any keywords/tokens that you want, and by adding a simple comment to your code, you can get it to show up in the task list, but so what. This task list shows you the priority you assigned to it, the description, file and line number. How about who entered it (this is supposed to be a “team development” IDE). Where is the date and time it was entered? It would have been nice to have different icons for the keywords instead of the default blue diamond that is show. There are a host of other items that could have been implemented, but it appears it was once of those items that was added to fill out the feature list for comparison to the competition.

Source Control Integration

This one comes in as a tie for first place as the worst part of the Visual Studio .NET. Visual Source Safe .. Need I say more? Microsoft has updated (or so they say) the same software that shipped with Visual Studio 6.0, and included it with Visual Studio .NET. It’s slow, full of bugs, and still uses some priority format that corrupts easily with heavy use. The rumors are that Microsoft is working on a new version of SourceSafe that is based on the SQL database backend, but that is of no help now. They have released Visual Studio .NET with the same lame source control software that have had for years, and have given themselves a black eye. I have tried to get my web project’s loaded into the “tight integration of source control” in Visual Studio .NET for team development, but in all honesty, it sucks. My suggestion, find some third party source control solution that works with Visual Studio .NET instead.

Other Features

Because the Visual Studio .NET IDE has so many features and options, I can’t possible cover them all. However, you will have to trust me when I say; I have barely scratched the surface of what’s available. I have only covered a few of the major features and capabilities of this IDE, and even though I have used it for some time now, I am still finding new options that I did not know existed. Just the other day I was talking to a developer at work, and he had came across the “ALIAS” options. Aliases provide a means for entering a command into the Find/Command box or Command window by shortening the text needed to execute the command. For example, instead of entering >File.OpenFile to display the Open File dialog box, you can use the pre-defined alias >of. These types of features are not really “bullet point marketing information”, so most developers do not know about them unless you go looking for them, or someone tells you about them.  The IDE provides a number of pre-defined aliases already, and you can create more for yourself for commands that you use repeatedly.


 « Help System & Debugging Conclusion »


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