What is New in the Recent Release of Visual Studio 2015

Windows Mobile
Posted 7/24/2015 7:15:09 PM by RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

What is New in the Recent Release of Visual Studio 2015
Microsoft just released the highly anticipated Visual Studio 2015 just in advance of the impending Microsoft 10 release. Here is a rundown on what’s new for VS 2015:

Cross-platform mobile device support - Android, iOS, and Windows
Out of the box, Visual Studio allows developers to use web technologies to build production quality mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows using Apache Cordova, as well as with C++ and Xamarin. When selecting the items during setup, Visual Studio 2015 will install all the tools needed including the Android Developer Kit, the Java Developer Kit, and the Native Developer Kit and the Visual Studio Emulator for Android, and can start creating apps for Android, iOS, and Windows from File/New.

Additionally there is collaboration between Angular and TypeScript, integration of Clang and LLVM for C++ development, and VS2015 emulator for Android. Combined with Microsoft’s partnership with Xamarin for C# development and new APIs in .NET Framework 4.6, Visual Studio 2015 supports a full toolset that enables developers to target Android, iOS, and Windows.

Improvements in C++
Visual Studio 2015 offers a number of C++11, C++14 and C++17 features to make it easier for developers to write cleaner, better, and more compatible code. Cross-platform mobile developers can use Visual Studio 2015 to generate dynamic/static libraries, native-library applications, and Xamarin native applications targeting the Android platform. There is also the ability to write C++ code targeting the iOS platform while taking advantage of advanced code authoring features including code sharing, cross-platform IntelliSense, refactoring, peek definition and other features. 

Productivity enhancements in the IDE
This release saw both minor and major enhancements to productivity in the IDE. Some of these productivity highlights include new Light Bulbs (which replace smart tags) and provide suggestions for how to complete and correct code. The IDE now provides templates to create shared projects for VB, C#, and JavaScript, that now makes it easy to reference by several project types. 

New in the debugger and diagnostics space
Visual Studio 2015 offers improved lambda debugging, Edit and Continue (EnC) improvements, child-process debugging, and revamps the breakpoint configuration as well as introducing a new Exceptions Settings tool window. There is integrated performance tooling into the debugger with PerfTips and a new Diagnostic Tools window, which includes the Memory Usage tool and the redesigned IntelliTrace for historical debugging. Improvements to the UI debugging tools in XAML like the live visual tree that helps visualize the entire application during a debug session. The new Network Diagnostics Tool helps diagnose network-related issues when building Windows Store apps.

Blend for Visual Studio 2015
Microsoft redesigned Blend for Visual Studio 2015 to provide an improved user interface development experience for creating XAML apps. Blend has a new look consistent with Visual Studio, support for Solution and Team Explorer, and an enriched file reload experience to facilitate a better workflow between Blend and Visual Studio. Developers can now write XAML more efficiently using XAML IntelliSense, which provides statement completion and navigation to source. Finding and fixing UI issues in a running app is now easier using UI tools for XAML debugging, which enable the ability to inspect the live visual tree and the properties of any elements in the tree. 

Microsoft replaced the Animation Workspace feature with the more powerful Synchronized Layouts feature that can be used to create many different window layouts and roam them across machines. With NuGet support added, developers can now manage NuGet packages in Blend. For power users that would rather use their keyboard instead of mouse, the Blend designer panes are now fully keyboard accessible. 

Node.js Tools for Visual Studio
The latest version of Node.js Tools 1.1 RC for Visual Studio features improved performance, a new perf-friendly "Quick" IntelliSense mode, and options to make it easier to work with browser-side code. NTVS also has a more consistent debug-attach experience, and better support for TypeScript project configuration options. The new configuration options for mocha and increased logging options make it easy to track down issues with unit tests. Other improvements in this version of NTVS include “Open Documentation” command to explore npm package documentation, and a Linux-based dockerfile template that makes it easier to deploy an app.

Improvements to the connected experiences
Whether signing into VS, connect to Azure, integrate an application with Office 365 or check in code to Visual Studio Online, VS 2015 has centralized the users accounts used across these services to reduce unneeded prompts for credentials. The account manager makes the user accounts used available throughout the IDE. And user settings roam so to get up and running quickly on a new device.

Support for game development
Earlier this year Microsoft announced Visual Studio partnerships with gaming engine providers including Unity Technologies, Epic Games, and Chukong Technologies. With these partnerships, developers can create games in Visual Studio targeting these three platforms. Visual Studio 2015 Tools for Unity 2.0 for example is a free extension for Visual Studio that enables rich programming and debugging experiences when creating games targeted at Unity.

Packages and Tasks
In addition to the NuGet package manager, VS 2015 now fully supports both Bower and npm. Developers can use these two new package managers in web and Apache Cordova projects to bring in client-side packages as well as custom node.js based tooling such as Grunt and Gulp. The Solution Explorer integration with these new package managers makes them easier than ever to work with. 

Additionally, the new Task Runner Explorer tool window allows for customization and execution of tasks from Grunt and Gulp. These tasks improve the workflow for client-side asset handling such as JavaScript and CSS bundling/minification and help compile CoffeeScript, TypeScript, Sass, LESS and more. Don’t use Grunt or Gulp? There is the ability to extend the Task Runner Explorer to support any type of task runner, such as npm scripts.

New in .NET 2015
With the .NET Framework 4.6, developers will experience better performance with the new 64-bit "RyuJIT" JIT and high DPI support for WPF and Windows Forms. ASP.NET provides HTTP/2 support when running on Windows 10 and has more async task-returning APIs. There are also major updates in Visual Studio 2015 for .NET developers, many of which are built on top of the new Roslyn compiler framework. There are updates to .NET languages, C# 6, F# 4, VB 15. 

Microsoft is also introducing updates to .NET Core and ASP.NET 5, both recently released as beta 5 and included in Visual Studio 2015. The .NET tools for Windows 10 UWP app development, including .NET Native, will be shipping on 7/29. 

VS Enterprise and VS Community
Microsoft pared down the VS 2015 product lineup, going from 3 paid SKUs (Professional, Premium, and Ultimate) down to two, Professional and Enterprise. 
The company also introduced Visual Studio Community 2015 which brings together all the free Express SKUs into a single product capable of desktop development to mobile development to Azure and ASP.NET development. It also includes full extensibility. VS Community is for open source developers, startups, students, and hobbyists.

VS Code
Visual Studio Code is the most recent introduction to the VS family. It is a free, light-weight code editor that runs on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux, that offers many mainstream features from Visual Studio such as IntelliSense, Debugging, Peek, and Code Navigation.

GitHub and Visual Studio
Microsoft has smoothed the integration between Visual Studio and GitHub. Some examples include GitHub Enterprise on Azure, the GitHub extension for Visual Studio (which integrates Team Explorer directly to GitHub) that GitHub recently open sourced, the GitHub integration in Developer Assistant, and GitHub integration into the VS Gallery.

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About the author: RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

As the Publisher and Editor for App Developer Magazine, Richard has several industry recognitions and endorsements from tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google for accomplishments in the mobile market. He was part of the early Google AFMA program, and also involved in the foundation of Google TV. He has been developing for mobile since 2003 and serves as CEO of Moonbeam Development, a mobile app company with 200 published titles in various markets throughout the world. Richard is also the founder of LunarAds, a mobile cross-promotion and self-serv mediation network for developers. He has been a featured presenter at trade-shows and conferences, and stays active with new projects relating to mobile development.

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