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What to Know About Visual Studio 2005...The Products

  • November 7, 2005
  • By Bradley L. Jones
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Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 is now a final product. The bits have been baked and the product is officially released.

Although Visual Studio 2005 was initially planned to release in the first half of 2005, the ambitions of the product caused a few delays to help ensure a product that was solid enough for production use. This new version of Visual Studio follows well over two-and-a-half years after the last release, which occurred in April of 2003. So, with so much time in the making, what is there to know about this new version of Microsoft's development environment? Is this new version worth the hype, or is it more like Visual Studio .NET 2003 that was really a point release rather than a full version?

If you are one of the hundreds of thousands who have played with the alphas, betas, community technology previews (CTPs), or other pre-releases, you may already know the answer. If not, you'll have to decide based on the features of the new product.

A single book would not be adequate to cover all of the features of the product. As such, a single article—or even a series of articles—is even more inadequate. In this article, however, I start presenting some of the fundamental items that you will want to know or find interesting about the new product. From this, you will hopefully have a starting point for moving forward with the product.

Visual Studio 2005 Versions Out the Ying Yang

If you go to the local retail store that sells developer tools and ask for a copy of Visual Studio 2005, the response will be a question of "which version?" A search on Amazon.com within the software section returns 19 different results. Granted, a number of these are upgrade versions versus full versions, but that still leaves a lot of versions to have to pick from.

With VS 2005, Microsoft has extended the Visual Studio Developer tool both up and down.

Extending Down to the Express Editions

Extending down, Microsoft has added a line of Express Edition SKUs that are aimed at the entry-level person who is a hobbyist, non-professional developer, or student. These are highly focused tools that aim at one specific topic. Additionally, they have streamlined interfaces that make it easy to begin working with the products. There are six Express Editions:

Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition

Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition is a tool focused for building Web applications with ASP.NET 2.0. It allows the user to choose between Visual Basic, C#, or J#; however, you can only build Web-based solutions.

Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 Express Editions
Microsoft Visual C# 2005 Express Edition
Microsoft Visual J# 2005 Express Edition

Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 Express Editions, along with the C# and J# Express Editions, are tools for perfect for the person wanting to try development for the first time. These tools are similar in that they each focus on allowing the user to build desktop applications (Windows forms) using the given language.

Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition

Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition is for the person wanting to use a more powerful programming language—C++. It too is focused for building Windows desktop applications.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is an entry-level database application that works with the other Express Editions. Additionally, this database is a replacement for the Microsoft Desktop Engine (MSDE) that many developers have used in the past. SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is a scaled-down version of the SQL Server 2005 database released by Microsoft. It includes many of the basic features of the enterprise database, including some Reporting Services.

All of the Express editions are easy to install and take up a minimal amount of computer resources when compared to the other Visual Studio editions. The distributions for the Express editions are each under 100 MB in size. Whereas SQL Server Express edition is free, the other versions are expected to list at $49; however, Microsoft is initially letting people download them for free.

Maintaining the Core Grounds

Like past releases of Visual Studio, Microsoft will be offering the standard editions aimed at most developers. The standard editions of Visual Studio are:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office

The Standard Edition is the entry-level professional developer product. It has been stated that this product is best for entry-level developers, Web developers, and Visual Basic 6 developers looking to move into .NET. It includes many of the key features of Visual Studio .NET, including Intellisense, the code editor, code snippets, all of the programming languages (unlike the Express language editions, which only have one language), the Web form designer, mobile device support, database design tools, the class designer, support for XML/XSLT, and more. It supports ClickOnce for deployment and for reporting services it has SQL Server Reporting Services. For help support, it has the MSDN.

There are a few areas that are missing when compared to some of the other editions. There is no support for Office development. There is also a streamlined user interface. In the Professional Edition, there is also Crystal Reports included. Additionally, the Professional edition includes additional deployment tools and full support for extensibility. Other differences are that the Standard edition will only allow for local debugging whereas the professional will also do remote debugging.

SQL Server is not integrated into the standard edition, nor is there support for 64-bit compilation. Both are in the Pro edition. The Pro edition includes a copy of the Windows 2004 Server Developer Edition and SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition. The standard edition does not.

There are other differences between the two editions as well.

Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) is similar to the Professional Edition. The primary differences are that there is no support for mobile development in VSTO and that there is obviously support for developing applications with Microsoft Excel 2003, Word 2004, InfoPath 2003, and Outlook. Additionally, VSTO only supports VB and Visual C#.

You can find details on the Standard and Express Editions at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/howtobuy/vs2005/editions/stdexp/

You can find more on the Professional edition features at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/howtobuy/vs2005/editions/pro/

For a chart showing the differences, you can check out http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/products/compare/default.aspx

Extending Up to Visual Studio Team System (VSTS)

The most exciting change in Visual Studio is the changes aimed at Development Organizations. For developers working in team environments working on large-scale projects, there are now the Visual Studio 2005 Team System editions. These go beyond what the prior Enterprise and Architect editions offered. VSTS is more than just the IDE for developers. It is a set of tools that integrates a team with a solution across the entire development cycle of a project. It doesn't focus just on the coding or development phases, but rather goes way beyond.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System is not a product. Rather, it is the following products:

  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Architects
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Developers
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Testers
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server

The Team Editions of Visual Studio 2005 include a number of additional tools and features. These include tools for code profiling, doing static analysis, unit testing, determining code coverage, project management, test case management, and more. Which of these tools or features is included depends on the specific edition. Figure 1 presents an overview of VSTS and what is in each of the three Team Editions.

Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server (TFS) is a team collaboration server that helps in the management of team projects. More specifically, it provides the back-end database and services to enable collaboration amount a team. It handles the sharing of work items and it manages source code. Team Foundation Server is what will help connect all of the members of a team.

You can find more on the Team System Editions at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/howtobuy/vs2005/editions/team/

Thirteen Products and Counting

Up to this point, I've mentioned thirteen different products. There is also a Team Suite that can be obtained; it has a version of each of the Team System products included. Combine this with Full versions versus upgrades and you nearly double the number of products you choose from.

But there is another twist. Most people buy the higher-end Visual Studio products as part of an MSDN subscription. There are now various levels of MSDN subscriptions that you can combine with the individual Visual Studio products. These include standard, Professional, and Premium subscriptions. You can find more information on what products are included within each MSDN subscription at http://msdn.microsoft.com/howtobuy/vs2005/subscriptions/

Losing Count of The Number of Products

So, with the Express, Standard, Professional, and Team Editions along with the upgrades versus full editions, you have a lot of SKUs. Add to that the MSDN versions flavors and the number of products begins to get out of hand. On the positive side, you should easily be able to find a product that meets the needs you have.

Now that you know what the different editions are, the next thing to check out are the multitude of designers within the tools. But that, unfortunately, is another article!

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