Microsoft has open sourced their entire .Net platform. This is huge since it opens up the .Net framework to a lot of new users who were previously blocked by the “Windows only” policy. As part of this effort Microsoft also released a new editor called Visual Studio Code. In this post I will summarize some of my experiences from taking the new editor for a quick spin.
I've been a .Net developer since the beta days of .Net 1.0, but find myself doing less and less .Net related work these days. I also do most of my work on a Mac, so lately it's been hard to fit .Net into my technology stack. However, the new platform agnostic strategy from Microsoft may encourage me to once again start doing some .Net work from time to time. At the very least I wanted to do a quick POC using Visual Studio Code to see how feasible it is to code .Net on a Mac.
I have to admit I needed two attempts before I was willing to embrace Visual Studio Code. After downloading it the first time my impression was that it was very bare bones and nothing more than a plain editor with very little added value. I also concluded that the name “Visual Studio Code” was deceiving and perhaps even part of a brand recognition ploy from Microsoft. Basically there was little or no similarity to Visual Studio proper – not even the Express version.
One month later I decided to give it another go and put a little more effort into it and work towards a goal of building something and releasing it to Azure. By now the documentation had improved drastically and I had very little trouble getting a quick application off the ground. Still, not much had really changed in the editor itself though. My coding was very dependent on external tools outside the editor (scaffolding, web server etc). It was also a bit annoying that the editor incorrectly underlines code in red to indicate missing references that are not missing. Visual Studio Code does not currently offer many typical IDE features, but I was excited to learn that there will eventually be support for Asp.Net debugging.
Limitations of Visual Studio Code aside – Complaining about lack of IDE features might seem unfair since Microsoft has already solved all the really hard problems by providing a platform independent version of .Net. Perhaps it would even be fair to argue that this is an opportunity for third party vendors (Jetbrains or similar) to create more comprehensive IDE experiences than Visual Studio Code.
It will be very interesting to see how much .Net adaptation we will see outside the regular Windows environment, but I see this as a perfect opportunity for Microsoft – especially when it comes to great products like MVC/Web Api. Sadly a lot of non Windows developers are still influenced by impressions from working with earlier versions of Asp.Net. By “earlier” I am of course describing the dark ages of .Net development when WebForms was the prevailing platform.
Despite short comings of Visual Studio Code I definitely think it's a great step in the right direction, but as I stated earlier, it would be great to get access to a more full fledge IDE. Anyway, perhaps I'm just spoiled from having worked with great IDEs like Visual Studio proper and WebStorm :-).