20 Years of Visual Studio: #MyVSStory

Today Microsoft is marking the 20th anniversary of Visual Studio, their integrated development environment. To celebrate, they’ve released Visual Studio 2017! Over the last month or two, Microsoft has encouraged developers to share their Visual Studio story on social media. Here’s mine!

Microsoft Visual Studio .NET

I became interested in programming at a very early age and started playing with BASIC on our computer at home. I remember writing a program that asked you for your name and favorite color and then printed something like “Hi Name!” in that color to the screen. I’m pretty sure I tested it on my younger brother, but he was much less interested than I was. I thought it was magical.

One day I was in my Dad’s office and found a box for Visual Studio 97, the first release of the product. He let me take it home to install on our home computer and that started a long and fruitful relationship with Visual Basic. Though I started to learn other languages too, it was VB6 that I really enjoyed. When I started my software company Paramagnus back in 2000, it was VB6 that we wrote our first programs in.

While I probably did use Visual Studio 6.0, the second version that Microsoft released, it was Visual Studio .NET that came out in 2002 that really changed things. I was able to transition my VB6 knowledge into VB.NET and became smitten with the new .NET platform. I remember reading a magazine article about something called “COOL”, a new “C-like Object Oriented Language” from Microsoft that was kind of like Java. Well that became C# in Visual Studio .NET, and it wasn’t long until I switched from VB.NET to C#. It became my primary language and remains so today.

Microsoft Visual Studio .NET

In the early 2000s, I was involved with a .NET user group here in Edmonton. I remember meeting developer evangelist John Bristowe through that in 2005 when he came up from Calgary to show us “Whidbey” which would become Visual Studio 2005. I always enjoyed John’s presentations and his passion for Visual Studio, which he often called “God’s IDE”. That always stuck with me!

From 2003 until 2005, during my time at the University of Alberta, I had a side job as the Alberta Student Representative for Microsoft Canada. Part of my role was to organize and deliver presentations for students, and in 2004 I became an Academic MVP. That brought some nice perks along with it, including an MSDN subscription which meant all of a sudden I had access to everything!

Tech·Ed North America 2010
With the Channel9 guy at TechEd North America in 2010

It’s safe to say that Visual Studio has had a big impact on my life. Everything from my profession to some really rewarding personal experiences. I competed in the Imagine Cup student programming competition in 2003 and represented Canada at the worldwide competition in Spain, for instance. Along the way I’ve met some great people and learned a lot from some excellent developers.

I still use Visual Studio every day, though not always the IDE. These days there’s Visual Studio Team Services, which offers a place to store code, plan work, and test, build, and deploy software. I also use Visual Studio Code, a lightweight, cross-platform code editor. In fact, I’m writing this blog post inside Code because it is such a fantastic Markdown editor. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years bring.

Happy birthday Visual Studio!

Get ready for a major Microsoft product launch in February

Post ImageNovember of 2005 was an important month for Microsoft developers as Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 were launched. Technically BizTalk Server 2006 was part of the launch too, but it kind of took a backseat to the other two products. I doubt that will happen with the next big launch, coming in February 2008:

Microsoft announced at its partner conference on July 10 that it will launch Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 together in a single launch on February 27, 2008, in Los Angeles.

Those are three incredibly important products for Microsoft itself, and for Microsoft developers around the world. Combined with Windows Vista SP1, expected to be released alongside Windows Server 2008, it’s going to be a very exciting time. I can almost see the free copies of Visual Studio 2008 now…

The above quote comes from Mary Jo Foley’s post, titled “Microsoft plans a triple-play”. I have to admit, for a moment I half expected to read about Microsoft jumping into competition with AT&T, Verizon, and others! In telecommunications, a triple play means a bundle of high-speed Internet, television, and telephone services.

Mark your calendars!

Read: ZDNet

Ten Years of Visual Studio

Post ImageI missed this last week, but March 19th was the ten year anniversary of the release of Visual Studio 97 – the first release of the Visual Studio product. Rob Caron has written my thoughts exactly:

Visual Studio has come a long way in that 10-year period.

I remember Visual Studio 97. It was sitting around in my Dad’s office, and I asked if I could “borrow” it. Who knows why they had ordered it…they never used it! I might even have the box around someplace.

I love Visual Studio. It’s a great product. More than that, it’s a great environment…and it now forms the base environment of tools in SQL Server and BizTalk Server, among others. Combined with the expanded lineup of SKUs, you could say that Visual Studio is taking over the tools scene at Microsoft!

Despite coming a long way in ten years, there’s much more on tap. Check out the future releases page for more info.

Visual Studio Orcas

Post ImageI haven’t been keeping up on my .NET news as much as I used to, so lots of the things that Scott Guthrie mentioned in his “First Look at Orcas” post were new to me. And now I’m all excited! Here are some of the things that stick out for me:

  • Orcas will indeed bring us version 3.5 of the .NET Framework. First time I have seen a reference to 3.5.
  • Rich HTML/CSS WYSIWYG designer. Ahhhhhh. I use this daily, so I welcome any changes. I am particularly looking forward to the split-view editing mode…I could never figure out why Visual Studio didn’t have it.
  • LINQ. By all accounts, LINQ looks intense. Scott posted a video a couple weeks ago that demonstrates how it works.
  • First beta this spring, and final release this year. Bring it on!

His post contains screenshots and a link to a slide deck he presented recently. Check it out!

Read: ScottGu’s Blog

WinFX renamed .NET Framework 3.0

Post ImageIn a fairly quiet announcement, made on a blog (noteworthy all by itself!), Microsoft has decided to rename their next development platform from WinFX to the .NET Framework 3.0. While it won’t affect the average user, it has created quite a discussion for developers:

The .NET Framework has always been at the core of WinFX, but the WinFX brand didn’t convey this. The brand also created an unnatural discontinuity between previous versions of our framework and the current version.

With this in mind we have decided to rename WinFX to the .NET Framework 3.0. .NET Framework 3.0 aptly identifies the technology for exactly what it is – the next version of our developer framework.

We are confident that this change will go a long way towards reducing confusion people may have about our developer platform and the technologies in which they should invest.

.NET Framework 3.0 will include the existing .NET 2.0 components, WPF, WCF, WF, and WCS. Most people seem to think this is a bad idea (judging by the comments on these posts), and here’s why:

  1. The runtime is still at version 2.0, even in .NET 3.0 – sounds more confusing than helpful!
  2. Everything will be put into the %windir%Microsoft.NETFrameworkV3.0 directory. Again, confusing!
  3. As the release is built on .NET 2.0, it will include C# 2.0, and not C# 3.0, creating more confusion for down the road.
  4. The new stuff (W**) was never intended to be backported to Windows 2000, only Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 but .NET 2.0 fully supports all three. Presumably, this means support for Windows 2000 has been dropped.

Initially I agreed that the decision wasn’t a good one, but after thinking about it more, I think it was actually a good call on Microsoft’s part. This is about the development platform. When developing for WinFX, it’s better to think of it as a new platform, not just a superset of the old platform. Despite .NET 2.0 being at it’s core, developers are indeed using .NET 2.0 plus a bunch of other stuff when developing for WinFX. Naming the platform .NET 3.0 conveys this much more clearly.

Some of this is still confusing (such as, will .NET 2.0 be installed into both a V2 and a V3 directory, or just one of the two?) but I think in the long run this is good. It’s also the first time a lot of people will think of the .NET Framework as a product in and of itself, and when you do that, you realize it doesn’t matter what version the innards have. The other nice thing is that we’ll get a single installer now, instead of three or four.

I guess my main concern is that the size of the framework is going to start to balloon. Well, that and we have no idea what version of the framework the next release of Visual Studio, codenamed “Orcas”, will ship with. Presumably the change doesn’t affect the release date for Vista.

Get Visual Studio Express FREE

Post ImageThe official launch date for Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 was yesterday – I’ve been waiting a long time! Congrats to the teams for getting everything shipped. And there’s good news for novice, hobbyist and student programmers too – you can get the Express tools for free:

We originally announced pricing of Visual Studio Express at US$49. We are now offering Visual Studio Express for free, as a limited-in-time promotional offer, until November 6, 2006. Note that we are also offering SQL Server 2005 Express Edition as a free download, and that this offer is not limited to the same promotional pricing period as Visual Studio Express.

If you’ve ever wanted to start playing around with .NET or ASP.NET or anything else that Visual Studio can help you do, this is a great opportunity. Download sizes range from 35-70 MB (excluding SQL Server 2005 Express) and you can choose your edition here. Happy coding!

Read: Visual Studio Express

Tonight's Whidbey Event

Post ImageTonight the Edmonton .NET Wizards (don’t bother clicking, the site is horribly out of date) which Dickson and I manage hosted an event talking about Whidbey, or Visual Studio 2005. We had John Bristowe come up from Calgary to tell us all about the new changes in C#, VB.NET, the IDE, and the framework itself. The talk went very well, and it was really nice to finally meet John in person and have a chat.

The stuff I am most looking forward to is SQL Server 2005 and ClickOnce, two technologies we only had time to touch on tonight. They will probably affect my day to day development most. Hopefully we can host another talk on those topics in more detail some time in the future.

If you came to the event tonight, be sure to watch John’s Blog for more information, and check out the Visual Studio 2005 site at MSDN. And if you’re interested in the user group, rest assured we’re going to fix the website. It might be as simple as a Wiki, but it will be much easier to use and update than it is now!

Read: John Bristowe’s Blog