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As promised, Microsoft today launched Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 4.6. These new versions are aimed at developers targeting new platforms, including cross-platform mobile development (Android, iOS, and Windows) and game development (Unity, Unreal, Cocos, and so on).
This is easily Microsoft’s biggest development tools release yet. The goal, according to S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, is “to bring the productivity of Visual Studio and .NET to any developer working on any kind of application.”
This is not the first time that Somasegar has talked about Microsoft making its developer tools work for “any developer on any platform.” Now though, he’s happy to say the company has taken a “huge step forward on delivering on that promise.”
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To celebrate the launch, Microsoft is holding a Visual Studio 2015 Final Release Event (no registration required) today at 8:30 a.m. PDT (11:30 a.m. EDT). The company will outline the new features and technologies coming in the release, offer interactive Q&A sessions with the engineering team, and dive into technical details via more than 60 on-demand video sessions. The Visual Studio team will hold a live coding session to build an open-source project using the newest tools and technologies — developers will be able to ask questions in real time.
In November, Microsoft released Visual Studio 2015 Preview and .NET 2015 Preview at its Connect() developer event in New York City. Over the past six months, the previews have received regular updates and improvements leading up to their final launch — the full release notes are available here.
Visual Studio 2015 adds new tools for Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) development, including a Visual Diagnostics tool, a Timeline tool, and a redesigned Blend designer experience. The next version of the desktop .NET framework, .NET 4.6, includes key improvements to the WPF platform, such as support for transparent windows and multi-image cursor files. But those changes just skim the surface.
While Somasegar told us that “no new capabilities have been introduced from RC to RTM” (that’s what a release candidate is for, after all), there are a lot of new features overall. Here are the top Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 4.6 feature highlights:
- Debugging and Diagnostics: Debugging and profiling are now in a single Diagnostics Tools window so you can check code corrections and track performance of your running application during development. PerfTips give you performance information in your code as you set breakpoints and step with the debugger.
- Code Editing and Refactoring: C# and VB developers can use the new Roslyn-based tooling, including Light Bulbs that proactively suggest potential fixes or code refactorings and code analyzers to customize the warnings and suggestions delivered inside the editor. There’s also a revamped XAML editor with new features for navigating through code.
- Programming Languages: The final versions of C# 6 and VB.NET 12 bring dozens of new language features that simplify common coding patterns. You can also expect improved support for C++ 11/14/17 along with TypeScript 1.5, and F# 4.0, plus tools for Python and dozens of other languages.
- Web and Cloud Development: ASP.NET 4.6, the latest version of Microsoft’s web development framework, adds support for HTTP/2, the newest C# features, and the new Entity Framework 6.1.3. HTML and CSS tooling have gained up-to-date standards support and a much richer JSON editor. The latest Azure SDK 2.6 provides one-click provisioning and deployment to Azure for websites and cloud services. You can also use the ASP.NET 5 preview, which runs on the CoreCLR, so it can be deployed to not just Windows, but Mac and Linux as well.
- Cross-Platform Development: You can use .NET to build Universal Windows Apps that target Windows phones, tablets, and PCs, as well as Internet of Things and HoloLens. You can use C++ to build shared components that target Android, iOS, and Windows while integration with game engines like Unity means being able to build cross-platform games.
The last point deserves the most emphasis. Gone are the days when Microsoft offered development tools for just its own platforms. “Think of Visual Studio 2015 as a cross-platform tool,” Somasegar declared to VentureBeat.
If you’re wondering where Team Foundation Server 2015 is, the release has been delayed. Originally planned for July 20 as well, the final version will now arrive “next month,” Somasegar said. All those DevOps features are currently available in Team Foundation Server 2015 RC2.
Somasegar also provided some updates on the broader Visual Studio suite of products.
Visual Studio Online, which brings cloud-hosted developer services like source control and agile backlog management, was introduced two years ago. It now has more than 3.2 million registered developers.
Visual Studio Community, the free IDE for non-enterprise development, has seen more than 5 million downloads since its debut in November. That makes it the fastest adoption of a Visual Studio product to date.
Visual Studio Code, a cross-platform web and cloud development code editor available not just for Windows but for Mac and Linux too, was released in April. In the past three months, Microsoft has seen more than 500,000 downloads of Visual Studio Code — in fact, Somasegar told VentureBeat that nearly half of those downloads were on Mac and Linux.
Last but not least, Microsoft now has over 6,000 extensions in the Visual Studio gallery and has seen over 13 million downloads in the past year. Today, the company already has 84 partners shipping more than 800 extensions specifically for Visual Studio 2015.
With the launch of Visual Studio 2015, Microsoft is hoping to get developers excited about what they can do using the Visual Studio family of products. The thinking is obvious: Build the tools for the builders, and they will build.
The timing here is also not a secret: Microsoft has a brand new and more powerful set of developer tools available just before the launch of Windows 10. That alone is not enough to guarantee success, but the developer tools team at Microsoft has certainly done its part.
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