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InfoQ Homepage News Microsoft Takes On Eclipse with Visual Studio 2008 Shell

Microsoft Takes On Eclipse with Visual Studio 2008 Shell


For a number of years Visual Studio has supported non-Microsoft languages as plug-ins. However, the high cost of Visual Studio itself prevented it from being a platform for 3rd party language developers. This has changed with the announcement of Visual Studio 2008 Shell.

Visual Studio 2008 Shell is literally just the Visual Studio shell sans-compilers. VS Shell is completely free of licensing and royalty fees, making it a suitable platform for competing languages.

VS Shell packages can be deployed in one of two modes. Integrated mode merges the package into the standard Visual Studio environment. This should allow developers to work with traditional VS languages like C++, VB, or C# alongside newer languages like IronPython.

The second mode, known as isolated mode, is more for application development than language development. In the example on the Visual Studio Shell site , an end-user application called Fabrikam Home Automation Studio is shown. As this application is a specialized tool rather than a typical programming language, it runs with toolbars and menus customized just for it. One could think of this as a general case of Visual Studio Express, where each 'version' is isolated from the next even though they technically share the same IDE.

VS Shell does not have support for any Microsoft tools or languages built in. However, if the user also has a paid Visual Studio SKU (Standard, Professional, or Team System) then the tools and languages will be available alongside VS Shell packages deployed in integrated mode.

Developers considering using VS Shell are being asked to contact Microsoft at

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