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The road ahead for VS.NET and related developer tools

What to expect from VS.NET and related developer tools in 2004.

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There's something about the end to another year that encourages reflection, and a certain amount of wonder about what the future may bring. To that end, I found myself exploring an interesting (and regularly maintained document) on the MSDN Web site entitled Microsoft Developer Tools Roadmap 2004-2005. In this surprisingly frank and factual overview, you'll find nice graphics and bullet-level coverage of upcoming major development tool releases, along with pointers to other, more detailed sections, examples and so forth.

This is the place to go to learn what Microsoft is currently saying about upcoming tool releases code named Visual Studio Whidbey, slated for release in 2004, and Visual Studio Orcas, slated for 2005. The further out things get, the hazier they become (and thus, there's less detail about Orcas than Whidbey), but it's a heck of a lot better than nothing.

On the Whidbey front, here's what we have to look forward to in 2004:

  • Language and IDE improvements will build on Visual languages Basic, C++, C#, and J#. MS will also add more and better ways to reduce code size and complexity, while providing improved access to the common language runtime (CLR) environment.
  • The .NET Framework will be extended to improve access to commonly used components such as the registry, the file system, and printers. Planned changes in Windows Forms and ASP.NET classes aim to slash code size by over half, with corresponding improvements to ASP.NET caching, page processing, reduced working set sizes, and faster startup times.
  • Improved integration for Office 2003 and SQL Server (Yukon) solutions, to help exploit advanced new XML, service, and collaboration capabilities.
  • Better code and lifecycle management capabilities, with improved project analysis and design, enhanced software configuration and deployment management, plus a better build engine.

On the Orcas front, which precedes but is tied to the forthcoming Longhorn desktop release, details are not yet available, but here's what MS is saying about this 2005-targeted technology:

  • Support for Longhorn advanced UI capabilities (codename: Avalon): "For example, Longhorn will introduce a declarative programming model (code name "XAML"), which will complement existing programming languages and Windows Forms by improving productivity when developing Longhorn-specific client UI."
  • Support for storage services (codename: WinFS): "Orcas will enable developers to take advantage of the WinFS capabilities to find, relate and act on information, including support for event-based actions and synchronization classes."
  • Support for Web services capabilities (codename: Indigo): "Indigo introduces a unified model for developing connected applications on the Windows platform that seamlessly merges remote procedure calls, messaging and remote object invocation.

Future updates to this information are also promised, but no timeframe is mentioned. Though details are still lacking, planned changes and enhancements sound interesting, and potentially valuable—especially those that help build tighter, leaner code.

Ed Tittel is a full-time writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security topics. E-mail Ed at with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review.

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