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Inside The Visual Studio 11 Product Lineup

The Visual Studio developer blogger team has shared some insider insight into the product lineup and specifications we can expect to see in the final release of Visual Studio 11. Detailing both system requirements and platform details, there is also now news of Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone as the "Visual Studio family" looks to straddle Windows 8, Windows Phone, Windows Azure, and the Web.

Microsoft has provided multiple support for platform-specific languages in each product area. So for example, the Express edition for Windows 8 allows developers to use C#, Visual Basic, C++, and JavaScript. Plus — very logically — Metro style app tools have also been provided.

Microsoft is clearly trying to bring its toolbox into some semblance of order as it looks to future developer needs. The company will release Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone with the next release of Windows Phone — and, similarly, Windows Azure tooling will be available in conjunction with the next Windows Azure update. Until that time, says Microsoft, you can continue to use Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone to create Windows Phone apps, and Windows Azure SDK for .NET (with Visual Studio 2010) to create Windows Azure cloud services.

Also of note here is LightSwitch, which is now officially part of the Visual Studio 11 core product family. Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 is the firm's latest development tool designed for rapid application development tasks in the "line-of-business" (LOB) software category. The message being that LightSwitch will allow users to create "professional-quality" business applications, regardless of development skills. LightSwitch features will be available through Visual Studio 11 Professional, Premium, and Ultimate editions.

NOTE: It appears that Visual Studio 11 hardware requirements will be the same as Visual Studio 2010.

According to Microsoft, "To help you take advantage of the latest features, the default target for applications created with Visual Studio 11 will be set to .NET Framework 4.5 (for managed apps) and the VC11 toolset (for native apps). Both will allow your apps to run on Windows Vista and higher. However, if your app needs to run on Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, you can still use multi-targeting to make sure your application will run on those platforms too."

Multi-targeting cont…

Managed developers will be able to target both new and existing applications to .NET Framework 4 or the .NET Framework 4 Client Profile, both of which have the ability to run on Windows XP or Windows Server 2003.

NOTE: This will also work for earlier versions of the .NET Framework, such as .NET 2.0, .NET 3.0, and .NET 3.5 — but developers may also note that when they update an app to target .NET Framework 4, they can continue using the new Async features by installing the Async Targeting Pack for Visual Studio 11, which enables projects targeting .NET Framework 4.0 or Silverlight 5 to use the Async language feature in C# 5 and Visual Basic 11.

NB: This pack requires Visual Studio 11 and will not work with Visual Studio 2010.

Tooling innovations all work for .NET Framework 4 including:

  • new designers for desktop applications
  • enhanced support for HTML5
  • JavaScript
  • advanced tools such as Page Inspector for web development

"C++ developers can also use the multi-targeting capability included in Visual Studio 11 to continue using the compilers and libraries included in Visual Studio 2010 to target Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Multi-targeting for C++ applications currently requires a side-by-side installation of Visual Studio 2010," says Microsoft.

The company confirms that it is still "evaluating options" for C++ that would enable developers to directly target XP without requiring a side-by-side installation of Visual Studio 2010. If this update occurs, it is thought to be scheduled after the main product sees its RTM (or release to manufacturing) distribution.

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