Visual Studio 2012 Guide

by Matt Nicholson

Check out our comprehensive on-line supplement for all you need to know about the 2012 version of Microsoft’s development environment.

HardCopy Issue: 58 | Published: November 1, 2012

You can read the full supplement here.

Microsoft Visual Studio has come a long way since it first appeared in 1995 as a combination of Visual Basic, Visual C++ and Visual FoxPro. No longer just a bundle of disparate languages, this latest version provides a comprehensive environment that not only covers the whole of an application’s lifecycle but also supports a comprehensive range of platforms, from smartphone through to cloud, and a wide range of languages, from old favourites such as Visual Basic and C++ to newer additions such as C# and F#.

In order to do this latest release justice we have put together a collection of nine articles that cover all its important features.

This new version not only supports the development of applications that use the Modern UI introduced with Windows 8, but also uses it for the User interface of the Visual Studio 2012 environment itself. Amongst other things this boasts considerably improved code editors for Web Documents and new tools for creating 3D graphics.

Visual Studio 2012 user interface screenshot

Visual Studio 2012’s new user interface in the ‘light’ colour theme.

A good reason to upgrade to Visual Studio 2012 is the tools that it provides for building apps that are to be deployed through the Windows Store. These make use of the Windows Runtime (WinRT), and Visual Studio 2012 includes tools for packaging and testing your app to facilitate approval for Store distribution.

Languages are obviously an important aspect of Visual Studio, and particularly significant to this version are changes that have been made to the .NET Framework to support WinRT. There is a new Portable Class Library project which enables you to select a subset of .NET classes so that your app will run not only in Windows Store but also under Silverlight, Windows Phone and Xbox 360. There are also new facilities for targeting multi-core graphic processors, such as those available from NVidia.

As you would expect, Visual Studio 2012 comes with a comprehensive range of options for Web development. ASP.NET 4.5 brings significant improvements with support for asynchronous coding, and for version 4 of the open source ASP.NET MVC (Model View Controller) framework. There is also a new tool in Visual Studio LightSwitch, a visual environment that facilitates the development of database applications.

C AMP functions screenshot

Using C AMP functions to program a multi-core graphics processor.

Also unsurprising is the extensive support for Cloud development, particularly of applications that target Windows Azure and Office 365. There are straightforward dialogs for creating and publishing to an Azure account, and for working with a database hosted on Azure. There are also facilities for creating and deploying the new Apps for SharePoint that are being introduced with SharePoint 2013 and the corresponding Office 365 update. There are new Database tools that make it easier to work with SQL Server from within the Visual Studio 2012 environment. In particular SQL Server Database Projects make it easier to move a database from one installation to another.

An important aspect of any development project is Debugging code. Significant advances here include new tools for debugging Windows Store apps with facilities for remote debugging an ARM build; the Concurrency Visualizer for working with multi-threaded applications; and the Graphics Diagnostics tools for understanding what’s happening inside a Direct 3D application.

Application Lifecycle Management has been comprehensively supported by Visual Studio for some time and is based around Team Foundation Server (TFS) which now comes not only as a standard installation but also in both a free version and in a hosted version called Team Foundation Service. Other new features include PowerPoint Storyboarding, a PowerPoint add-in for prototyping user interfaces, and more comprehensive tools for UML modelling.

And finally we take a look at the various Licensing options open to you which range from the free Express editions to the volume licences available for development teams.