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

Setup & Installation

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

What good is any product, if you can't install it, or the installation fails? While I have installed my share of products in the past, to me, it is one of the most crucial aspects of using a product. What is it replacing? Will it break existing products that I have installed? And worse yet, will it leave the whole operating system in an unusable state so that nothing will work?  Unfortunately, every system is different, and not every problem can be anticipated. However, I believe the Visual Studio .NET team has done a good job of making sure that this installation goes a smooth as possible.

The installation of Visual Studio .NET starts with the "Windows Component Update". Since one of the major features of Visual Studio .NET is building projects for web development, the setup check’s to see if you have the necessary web project components installed locally (e.g.,  Internet Information Server and the FrontPage Server Extensions). This is not a requirement, and if you’re planning on developing web projects on a remote system, you can continue the installation. If you choose to develop web projects locally, and do not have the required components installed, you will need to install them manually (a list is provided on what to install). Most, if not all, of the components are available on various installation CD's, but some may require you to download the latest versions from the Microsoft web site.  This single part of the installation can be the biggest road block, however, information to help make this choice is available during the installation.

Next, the component update will install any required system updates the IDE must have to function properly. These updates will vary from system to system depending on what you already have installed. The major items include Internet Explorer 6, the Microsoft FrontPage 2000 Web Extensions Client, Setup Runtime Files and the Microsoft .NET Framework. One of the nice features during the installation is that you can set the system to log you back on automatically if a reboot is required during this phase. Since, depending on what's installed, it can take some time to complete, this is very handy.  After all this is completed, you can finally begin to install Visual Studio .NET.

The installation of the updated components for the system was just a "warm up" for the real thing. While it may have taken a few short minutes to actually update all those pieces, now would be the time to go rent a video. The next part can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to complete depending on how powerful your system is and how much you install. The default installation of Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Architect requires over 2.2 gigabytes of HD space, and that can go up even further if you add extra items to the default install (e.g., the With32 Platform SDK Tools).  The default installation is usually the right choice for most developers, but you should check the list carefully to see if you really need everything. For example, if you’re not going to need any database connectivity, or you already have a development database on your network, then why install the SQL Server Desktop Engine?

Once you have started the installation you can go watch the video you rented. Most of the time the installation goes without a hitch, but if an error does happen the setup is generally helpful in pointing out what happened, and gives you clues to help solve the problem. During the writing of this review, I have installed the product over 10 times on different systems, with varying configurations (e.g., Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional, previous beta's once installed, fresh installs of the system), and have  only encountered one problem (the one that once had beta 2 on the system). However, that was easily corrected, and the installation completed later.

There are a few things that you should note when installing Visual Studio .NET. The first is the hard drive space requirements. By default it wants to install everything on drive C.  Most developers that I know hate things installed on drive C (that’s for the operation system and the more you pack onto that drive, the slower the system can get). The second thing is, don't trust the "Estimated time remaining" status shown during installation. As with most Microsoft installations, it is only reliable under perfect circumstances, and even then its probable wrong. Another is the installation of additional tools. Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Architect comes with Microsoft Visio for Enterprise Architects. This is not installed for you, and is a separate installation process. If you also installed the SQL Server Desktop Engine, then you need to manually start the SETUP.EXE that was placed on your system to install and configure it.  All of this information is covered in the completion dialog that is displayed at the end of the setup.

At the end of the setup, you can check for any service release that has been made available. While this is a nice feature to have, only Microsoft knows if/when it will actually be used. During the beta cycle, Microsoft was actively testing their update system to make sure it worked, so hopefully they will use it.


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