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Preview of Visual Studio 11: New IDE Features

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As Microsoft reveals details of the forthcoming Visual Studio 11, language enhancements are not the only improvements being made. The IDE itself will be receiving its own set of new and improved features as discussed recently by S. Somasegar, Vice President of Microsoft's Developer Division.

Improved search/find

Microsoft feels that developers are frequently searching for assemblies, controls, and other common items, and that they could make it easier for these searches to occur. Routine search tasks can now be performed through a search box that has been added throughout the IDE. Developers will be able to use this new control when searching for assembly references, and for commands in Quick Launch dialogs. Keyboard shortcut keys appear next to search results for commands, so that over time a developer may be able to remember how to access commonly used commands directly.

The compilation Error List Window and the Solution Explorer will also include a built-in search box. Besides improving ease-of-use, this focus on search also intends to increase productivity. For example, debugging multithreaded code with the Parallel Watch dialog benefits from the search enhancements as it allows the developer to focus on specific threads by filtering with Boolean expressions.

The push to reduce the number of dialogs onscreen extends to the “Find” functionality. Upon calling Find, an integrated control appears in the editor window and immediately begins highlighting text that matches the search criteria in real-time. The use of regular expressions in this control is also supported allowing for more advanced search requests.

Project round-tripping

A feature of particular importance to development teams that are working in a cost-conscious or mixed-generation Visual Studio environment is the inclusion of a feature called “project round-tripping”. This is Microsoft's term for Visual Studio 11's ability to open a software project created under Visual Studio 2010 SP1, make changes under Visual Studio 11, and then reopen the project in Visual Studio 2010 SP1. This allows developers to take advantage of the new IDE features of Visual Studio 11 without harming legacy interoperability with developers unable or unwilling to upgrade from Visual Studio 2010 SP1. Note that maintaining this compatibility requires developers using Visual Studio 11 to not incorporate any new language features into the project. For example, if a legacy C# project is retargeted to use .NET Framework 4.5, project compatibility with Visual Studio 2010 SP1 will be lost.

Language specific IDE improvements

Visual Studio 11 will include enhanced language support for all top tier languages in an effort to provide developers with all that the IDE offers regardless of the language used. Visual Studio 2010 gave C# and Visual Basic developers the capability of reference highlighting in the editor. Visual Studio 11 now extends that benefit to C++. Meanwhile Visual Basic will receive support for its own Call Hierarchy window. Previously available in Visual Studio 2011 for only C++/C#, Call Hierarchy allows developers to “...see the calls to and from any selected method, property, or constructor”. This improves the navigation of large projects and makes it easier to understand how a method/property/constructor is used throughout a project.

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