Visual Studio Enterprise 2015
Some of us have come a long way with this IDE. Having worked in other IDE’s in the past, I always feel at home when using Visual Studio. While I use it every day of my life, I sometimes wonder if we really know what Visual Studio is capable of. This review will dig a little deeper under the hood and show what Visual Studio Enterprise 2015 can do for your development team.
The Visual Studio sign in functionality allows developers to have multiple accounts. This creates a seamless and expanded experience inside Visual Studio Enterprise 2015. You can now have separate accounts for work and home (having a pet project is essential for a developer). Some companies might even have multiple developers working from the same machine. Perhaps you want a separate account for developing and another for testing. The bottom line is that Visual Studio caters for these needs.
In the top right of Visual Studio, you will see the Sign in link. If you are not signed in, Visual Studio will allow you to do so by associating your Microsoft Account with Visual Studio. Take note though that if you have two-step authentication enabled for your Microsoft Account, you will need to have your Authenticator App handy. Visual Studio will then take you through the account creation process and create a new online profile for you. This profile is great as it allows you to roam. Your Visual Studio settings on your home PC will be synced to your Visual Studio instance when you sign in at work for example.
This is probably my number one favorite enhancement area of Visual Studio Enterprise. Take Intellitrace for example. It’s been around since 2010, but it has so much more relevance and use in Visual Studio Enterprise. One of the most frustrating issues to come across in development is when there is an error (think windows service or web application) that is difficult to reproduce. The option most developers use is to set breakpoints in areas where they think the exception might be occurring. Then they painfully step through the code one line at a time (or jump between methods) until the error pokes its head out. With Intellitrace, you simply run the application in Debug mode. Intellitrace is on by default and acts as a type of debugging session recorder.
While your app is running, you will see your applications events appear in the Diagnostic Tools window. When you are ready, you simply hit the Break All button and inspect the recorded data that Intellitrace collected. You now have a birds eye view of the information collected during the debug session. Exceptions are indicated by red diamond icons. To illustrate the capability of this, I have forced a silly divide by zero exception, but more complex issues will also be highlighted in the Diagnostic Tools window.
A good example of a particularly difficult exception to reproduce is one where the application crashes as a result of a specific sequence of events and combination of data read from the production database. You can then easily find these issues in your code with Intellitrace. The Diagnostic Tools then also allow you to activate Historical Debugging for the exceptions. This takes you to the specific line of code that generated the Exception at that point in time. You can then also see the value of the different variables in play at that point in time. This is the easiest way to track exceptions in your applications, and I simply love it!
Cross Platform Mobile Device Support
This is another gem in the repertoire of Visual Studio Enterprise 2015. You can now build apps for a variety of mobile platforms. These are as follows:
- Windows 10 Apps
- Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
- Windows Phone
- Universal Windows Applications
Once the project has been created you will see the solution loaded into the Visual Studio Solution Explorer window. Here are a few items we need to take note of.
Looking at the expanded solution (image below) the following is true:
- The merges folder holds platform-specific code. By default, the platform-specific code lives in the platformOverrides.js file for Android and Windows respectively.
- The res folder is used for platform-specific assets such as icons and splash screens (more on these below).
- The index.html file within the www folder is your apps default home screen.
- The taco.json file stores metadata that allows Visual Studio to create builds on non-Windows OS’
You will also notice the config.xml file in the project root. This is where you will add configuration settings for your application. If you are a Web Developer, this will all feel quite familiar.
Next, you will notice that the Solution Platforms list is set to Android. It will also use the Ripple Emulator when you debug your application using F5 (or Shift+F5 if you want to start without debugging).
If you do not see the Solution Platforms list, select the Add or Remove Buttons dropdown and check Solution Platforms from the list. You will then see the Visual Studio Screen as in the previous image with the available Solution Platforms.
Hitting F5 from here without making any changes will start the Ripple Emulator. Please note that the Apache Ripple emulators are available if you chose the Android platform and you have Chrome installed.
There is however another option too. If you have Hyper-V enabled on your machine, you can select to run the application using the Google Android Emulator.
The emulator takes a little while to start up initially. Once it has booted the OS and launched your application, you will see the default home screen of you application.
Closing the application and going to view all your applications on the Android home screen, you will see your Android application. The only problem is that it doesn’t have the icon I want to use.
Changing this is really easy to do. In the res folder (as mentioned previously) you expand your icons and screens folders. Here you will add your icon and splash screen images under the android folder.
Heading over to the config.xml file, you need to modify the settings to reflect the new image file names for each file you uploaded.
If you run your application again, you will see that the correct icon is loaded for the device you are testing within the selected emulator.
Your application will also use the images you specified as the splash screen.
There is really a lot more you can go into here. You can install several plugins from the config screen (just double click on it) and even import community plugins into your application.
Visual Studio Emulator For Android
Visual Studio Enterprise 2015 now also includes a Visual Studio Emulator for Android applications. I have to say that this is my preference, because to me it feels snappier, faster. This is obviously personal choice. Here is how you use it. From the dropdown with Android selected as the platform, change your selection to VS Emulator.
When you start your debug session, the Visual Studio for Android emulator is launched. Your common set of controls are listed on the right of the emulator.
Clicking on the application’s icon launches the application we created. I simply love the experience that the Visual Studio Emulator for Android provides me. The experience is great and it definitely feels faster to me than the others.
As you can see, Visual Studio Enterprise 2015 is a fantastic IDE. It offers developers free reign in creating applications for a wide variety of platforms. It makes the development task so much easier by integrating advanced diagnostic and debugging tools. Visual Studio Enterprise 2015 is a world-class development tool for professional developers.