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Cool Features of Visual Studio 2008 – Part 1

Posted by Vakul Kumar More on May 23, 2008


Visual Studio 2008 promises numerous improvements for Visual Basic, a data query called the Language Integrated Query (LINQ), a new Entity Framework for ADO.NET and updated tools for ASP.NET AJAX and Office 2007 development.

This series examines the IDE’s new features . This article looks at the improvements to the IDE and the aforementioned ADO.NET Entity Framework. Also we look looks at what’s new in Visual Basic 9 and LINQ; as you will see, these two concepts are closely related. All the new features in C# 3.0 are also discussed more clearly in further parts.

Part-1 of this series covers the following topics:

  • Multi-targeting
  • N-tier application development
  • Transparent Intellisense Mode
  • CSS Style Manager
  • Split view
  • Web Designer, Editing and CSS Support
  • JavaScript debugging
  • Project Designer
  • ASP.NET AJAX and VSTO for Office 2007
  • The ADO.NET Entity Framework

 

Multi-targeting

Visual Studio 2008 is billed as the design surface for the .NET Framework 3.5, which itself is the merger of the .NET 3.0 toolset introduced earlier this year with updated versions of ASP.NET, ADO.NET, Visual Basic, C# and the CLR.

Earlier, each Visual Studio release only supported a specific version of the .NET Framework. For example, VS 2003 only works with .NET 1.1, and VS 2005 only works with .NET 2.0.

One of the major changes with VS 2008 is to provide a new feature called  “Multi-Targeting”. This means that Visual Studio will now support targeting multiple versions of the .NET Framework, and developers will be able to take advantage of the new features that Visual Studio provides without having to migrate their existing projects and deployed applications to use a new version of the .NET Framework.

Now when we open an existing project or create a new one with VS 2008, we can pick which version of the .NET Framework to work with. The IDE will update its compilers and feature-set to match the chosen .NET Framework. Features, controls, projects, item-templates, and references that do not work with the selected version of the Framework will be made unavailable or will be hidden.

Unfortunately, support has not been included to work with Framework versions 1.1 and earlier. The present release supports 2.0/3.0 and 3.5 .NET Frameworks.

Microsoft plans to continue multi-targeting support in all future releases of Visual Studio.

Now when we open an existing project or create a new one with VS 2008, we can pick which version of the .NET Framework to work with. The IDE will update its compilers and feature-set to match the chosen .NET Framework.

Features, controls, projects, item-templates, and references that do not work with the selected version of the Framework will be made unavailable or will be hidden.

Unfortunately, support has not been included to work with Framework versions 1.1 and earlier. The present release supports 2.0/3.0 and 3.5 .NET Frameworks.

Microsoft plans to continue multi-targeting support in all future releases of Visual Studio.

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N-tier application development

An n-tier application is spread among any number of different systems, typically a service layer, an access layer and a business logic layer. With such a model, it is easy to share validation logic between entities.

Unfortunately, developing such applications in Visual Studio 2005 is “pretty much impossible because a dataset and the code that connects it to a database are in the same file. The change in Visual Studio 2008 is subtle but important, as the table and the dataset now reside in different layers.

Web Designer, Editing and CSS Support

 

I think, Visual Studio 2005 designer is little more the Internet Explorer renderer turned into an editor. To improve upon this, the Visual Studio group turned to Expression, the Microsoft product suite for Web designers.

The new designer allows developers to apply styles in line, with an existing class, with a new class or with Internet Explorer. In addition to the existing views, Design view and Code view, VS 2008 brings along the Split view which allows us to view both the HTML source and the Design View at the same-time, and easily make changes in any of the views. As shown in the image below, as we select a tag in code view, the corresponding elements/controls are selected in design view.

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VS 2008 introduces a new tool inside the IDE called “Manage Styles”. This shows all of the CSS style sheets for the page. This is termed as CSS Style Manager.

VS 2008 provides a new feature which allows us to quickly make the intellisense drop-down list semi-transparent. Just hold down the “Ctrl” key while the intellisense drop-down is visible and we will be able to switch it into a transparent mode that enables us to look at the code beneath without having to escape out of Intellisense. The screenshot below depicts the same. This is termed as Transparent Intellisense Mode.

JavaScript debugging

 

One new JavaScript feature in VS 2008 is the much-improved support for JavaScript debugging. This makes debugging AJAX applications significantly easier. JavaScript debugging was made available in VS 2005 itself. However, we had to run the web application first to set the breakpoint or use the “debugger” JavaScript statement.

VS 2008 makes this much better by adding new support that allows us to set client-side JavaScript breakpoints directly within your server-side .aspx and .master source files.

We can now set both client-side JavaScript breakpoints and VB/C# server-side breakpoints at the same time on the same page and use a single debugger to step through both the server-side and client-side code in a single debug session. This feature is extremely useful for AJAX applications. The breakpoints are fully supported in external JavaScript libraries as well.

Project Designer

 

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) applications have been added to Visual Studio 2008. There are four WPF project types:

  • WinFX Windows Application
  • WinFX Web Browser Application
  • WinFX Custom Control Library
  • WinFX Service Library

When a WPF project is loaded in the IDE, the user interface of the Project Designer pages lets us specify properties specific to WPF applications.

ASP.NET AJAX and VSTO for Office 2007

 

Right now, developers aiming to build cutting edge Web applications have to download the ASP.NET AJAX framework, and those who want to develop for Office 2007 have to download Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office Second Edition.

Both ASP.NET AJAX and VSTO 2005 SE will be directly incorporated into Visual Studio Orcas. VSTO will come with a new runtime, which will run both Office 2007 and Office 2003 add-ins, while ASP.NET AJAX will come with a variety of JavaScript tools, such as IntelliSense and robust debugging.

The ADO.NET Entity Framework

 

The biggest changes to ADO.NET revolve around its Entity Framework, which, unfortunately, is now slated to be released quite a while after Visual Studio 2008. This framework consists of a conceptual layer, which fits between an application’s logical database layer and its object layer, and the Entity Data Model.

Run the Entity Data Model Wizard in Visual Studio 2008 and the output is three files — a conceptual model that talks to object classes, a logical model that the relational database talks to, and map between the conceptual and logical models.

Within the conceptual layer, one finds entity types bundled into sets, associations that define the relationship between entities, and sets of associations. The information in this layer will handle the back and forth with SQL Server without touching data access code.

Once entities have been created, developers can use the either CreateQuery or new LINQ to Entities query to retrieve entity objects, data records or anonymous types.

Visual Studio 2008 Debugger

 

The Visual Studio 2008 debugger has been enhanced with the following features:

  • Remote debugging support on Windows Vista
  • Improved support for debugging multithreaded applications
  • Debugging support for LINQ programming
  • Debugging support for Windows Communications Foundation
  • Support for script debugging, including client-side script files generated from server-side script now appear in Solution Explorer
Other features introduced in VB.NET and C# along with LINQ will be covered in part-2 and advanced features like O/R Designer, Data Synchronization Designer, Report based Applications, Test driven Approach and Code Analysis Menu will be covered in part-3. 

 

 

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3 Responses to “Cool Features of Visual Studio 2008 – Part 1”

  1. Jacquette said

    informative post, keep it up.,

  2. Sabella said

    I have loved your site for its useful and funny content and simple design.,

  3. Venkata said

    Good Site. Very useful information provided. Thanks a lot!!!!

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