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Expert asks if Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 is too feature rich

Jack Vaughan

As the latest version of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 goes to manufacturing, an important voice in Windows programming has gone on the record suggesting that Visual Studio may have become too rich in productivity features. Author Charles Petzold has championed the benefits of bare bones command-line programming at the same time that he is challenging some of the basic concepts behind Visual Studio advances.

Author of "Programming Windows," "Windows with Visual Basic .NET" and other books, Petzold is presently working on a book covering the Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly known as Avalon). He spoke last week at a meeting of the New York City .NET Developers Group.

In a speech entitled "Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind?" Petzold decried Visual Studio's "insistence on writing code" for developers and criticized the programming practices it perpetuates.

IntelliSense came in for special attention. "Like other addictive technologies, I have a love/hate relationship with IntelliSense," said Petzold, "and the more I despise it, the more I use it, and the more I use it, the more disgusted I am at how addicted I've gotten, and the more addicted I get, the more I wish it had never been invented."

Said Petzold: "Life without Visual Studio is unimaginable, and yet, no less than PowerPoint, Visual Studio causes us to do our jobs in various predefined ways, and I for one, would be much happier if Visual Studio did much less that what it does."

Although provocatively titled, Petzold's presentation was not without some fun. He prefaced his major broadsides with an amused review of the idea of "information at your fingertips" through time, touching on films such as Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the Katherine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy film "Desk Set" in the process.

Yet, Petzold's overall message was harsh. "Certain features in Visual Studio are supposed to make us more productive, and yet for me," said Petzold, "they seem to denigrate and degrade the programming experience."

He criticized aspects of Visual Studio C# code generation. Yet he tentatively welcomed XAML code generation anticipated to ship with future versions of Microsoft's tool set. For its part, VisualStudio 2005 is scheduled to ship November 7.

Petzold's comments follow a long tradition. The idea of pedal-to-the-metal coding closely attached to clever algorithms has long been popular with groups of C programmers. Even before C, assembler programmers similarly contented that higher levels of abstraction added overhead and sapped creativity out of programming.

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Transcript: DoesVisualStudioRotTheMind?
-ChalesPetzold.com


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