Making the WPeFfort

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 will be launched on April 12th.

The basic layout looks pretty much as it did, so it is not immediately obvious on first inspection that it was completely rewritten in the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). The current VS 2008 codebase had reached the end of its life; It was getting slow to initialize and sluggish to run, and was never going to allow for multi-monitor support or easier extensibility. It can’t have been an easy decision to rewrite Visual Studio, but the gamble seems to have paid off. Although certain bugs in the betas caused some anxiety about performance, these seem to have been fixed, and the new Visual Studio is definitely faster.

In rewriting the codebase, it has been possible to make obvious improvements, such as being able to run different windows on different monitors, and you only being presented with the Toolbox controls and References that are appropriate to your target .NET version. There is also an IntelliTrace debugger, and Intellisense has been improved by virtue of separating a ‘Suggestion Mode’ and ‘Completion Mode’ (with its ‘Generate From.’ ‘Highlight References.’, and ‘Navigate to…’ features). At the same time, there has been quite a clearout; Certain features that had been tucked away in the previous versions, such as Brief or Emacs emulation support, have been dropped. (Yes, they were being used!)

There are a lot of features that didn’t require the rewrite, but are welcome. It is now easier to develop WPF applications (e.g. drag-and-drop Databinding), and there is support for Azure. There are more, and better templates and the design tools are greatly improved (e.g. Expression Web, Expression Blend, WPF Sketchflow, Silverlight designer, Document Map Margin and Inline Call Hierarchy). Sharepoint is better supported, and Office apps will benefit from C#’s support of optional and named arguments, and allowing several Office Solutions within a Deployment package.

Most importantly, it is a vote of confidence in the WPF. VS 2010 is the essential missing component that has been impeding the faster adoption of WPF. The fact that it is actually now written in WPF should now reassure the doubters, and convince more developers to make the move from WinForms to WPF. In using WPF, the developers of Visual Studio have had the clout to fix some issues which have been bothering WPF developers for some time (such as blurred text). Do you see a brighter future as a result of transferring from WinForms to WPF? I’d love to know what you think.