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Linux Debugging Comes to Visual Studio

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Microsoft has released a preview of its new Visual Studio GDB extension, contributing to their ongoing effort to make Visual Studio support as many development environments as possible.  Microsoft's Marc Goodner has provided details of this new ability, which can be used with Visual Studio 2015 Community edition or higher.   

Once installed, this extension provides a new Project target under Visual C++ ->Cross Platform called “Makefile Project (GDB)”.  Once created, an SSH client will be needed on your local/host Windows machine to enable communication.  As Goodner explains, certificates have to be generated to enable secure communication but do note that pass phrases cannot be used at this time so it probably makes sense to generate a separate certificate just for this purpose.  You will also want to make your first connection using your SSH client outside of Visual Studio so the certificate can accepted.  Subsequent connections can then be made within Visual Studio.

Once a connection is established, your development cycle follows the following process.  First, source files are copied from your local machine (running Visual Studio) to your remote Linux machine.  The compiler present on Linux is used to compile your source code, and the output of the debugger is relayed back to Visual Studio via your freshly defined SSH tunnel. 

Goodner points out that this cycle does not require a separate machine, it is possible to define a local profile that uses the MinGW tools to provide a compiler and debugger.  In either scenario the result provides developers with a way to combine Visual Studio with development on Linux.  For those looking to get started with the extension, Goodner provides an illustrated guide in his announcement.

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