Microsoft previews new features in Visual Studio 2010

VS2010 is still a bit away, but Microsoft is already putting out material to let people know what to expect. Learn about some of the new features in Visual Studio 2010, like code modeling and new tools for reporting bugs and creating tests.

Microsoft has begun sharing information about the next version of Visual Studio, which will apparently be named Visual Studio 2010. Some of the press releases and videos the company has put out are already giving us a taste of the new features in Visual Studio 2010, and they look pretty interesting.

The name "Visual Studio 2010" probably identifies an approximate time frame for its release, though it's entirely possible it will make its formal debut late in 2009, just as Visual Studio 2008 came out in November 2007.

On September 29, 2008, Microsoft began its unveiling process for Visual Studio Team Studio (VSTS) 2010, code-named "Rosario," and the .NET Framework 4.0 that will accompany that release. Microsoft PressPass offers a reasonably lengthy and detailed press release on this subject, and there's even a Web page entitled "Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework Overview" in the Visual Studio 2008 Development System pages on MSDN.

What new features in Visual Studio 2010 can we glean from this information, beyond the usual breathless hoopla that invariably accompanies this kind of "coming attractions" announcement? Basically, what emerges from this information can be summarized in two statements:

  • The shape of things to come: To generate excitement and give developers a sense of what to expect, these materials talk about "democratizing application lifecycle management," "enabling emerging trends," "inspiring developer delight" (my personal favorite), "riding the next generation platform wave" and "breakthrough departmental applications."
  • Foreshadowing of new components and capabilities within Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 2010.

From the way in which Microsoft explains itself in these various formats, and their announced plans to flesh out more details and strategy in the months ahead, it looks like the company plans to take its time and tell this story in monthly installments at a considerable level of detail. This should be interesting to follow.

The Shape of Things to Come

Catchphrases and rhetoric aside, Microsoft leavens these materials with diagrams and screenshots to show developers what some of the new features in Visual Studio 2010 will look like. There's a nifty-looking bubble diagram display called "Architecture Explorer" that is designed to permit browsing, discovery and examination of code assets and application architectures. There's also considerable discussion of testing improvements designed to help capture, document and repair bugs that are difficult to reproduce. To that end, Microsoft shows off some screen shots of tools designed to manage test cases, track test execution and file actionable bugs as part of VSTS 2010. MSDN subscribers will also get the chance to start messing with these tools right away, as Microsoft promises availability as of October 1, 2008.

Foreshadowing New Components and Capabilities

Microsoft has also prepared a set of "Visual Studio 2010 in Action" videos on Channel 9 so that interested developers can see Microsoft professionals put the new features in Visual Studio 2010 to work. Microsoft also offers three different sets of technical information about the new environment:

  • Modeling that works with code: Tools that parse existing code bases and generate architectural models and relationship graphs. Users can employ these tools to get new perspectives on existing projects and code bases. Sounds pretty interesting, as does the related Trends in Software Modeling video to which Microsoft provides access.
  • Eliminating "No-Repro" Bugs: New tools and techniques for identifying, tracking and handling bugs that are difficult or impossible to reproduce, which even includes detailed state comparisons between the build where the bug was encountered and the build a tester might use to try to reproduce that bug. This introduces the Microsoft Test Runner, a standalone tool that helps testers define, run, and document test cases.
  • Identify Test Impact: Test impact analysis and test prioritization help to identify tests that developers must run to validate code changes. The idea is to speed check-in of code and to reduce the impact of errors and failures introduced as code is changed. A Test Impact View window shows developers a list of tests to run as a result of making code changes, with the ability to toggle between Impacted Tests and Code Changes views. The ultimate goal is to run only necessary tests, and thereby speed up the development process while still making sure that changes are completely and thoroughly tested.

As I'm sure Microsoft intended, this all sounds pretty interesting. It should be equally interesting to see if the tools as described here work as desired when put into developers' hands.

Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. Email him with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!


This was first published in October 2008

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