Favorite new features in Visual Studio .NET 2005

Work sent me to Microsoft’s Launch Tour 2005 on November 29th at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. It was probably the geekiest event I have yet attended. I mean I went to the AMD vendor expo a few months ago and it was no where near as geeky as this one. I’ll spare you the ugly details (like this group of gothed-out programmers talking about the new Windows Server, or the fact that I only saw 3 women at the entire event and they looked like men).

After getting my badge and goodybag I went to the vendor room and met a few of the local user groups. I didn’t know there was a .NET user group in the area but there is. When I’d accumulated enough fliers to build myself a paper V8 engine I went to check out the Web Development demonstration. Basically the guy demonstrated how to open Visual Studio, click New, Web Site, type some text and then drop a few page elements on the designer. I’ll admit there were some interesting hints about improvements in memory management from 2003 but it was all stuff I learned reading the docs when 2005 was in beta.

I left the lecture early and went down to the “Ask-The-Developers” area. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to explain what I wanted to know to some sales person but luckily the first person who came up to me had a nametag which read “.NET Web Development Team.” Turns out he had been on the development team who did the web dev module of VS2k5. Here are the answers to my questions:

Favorite Feature 1:
Abstracted event handlers. I was a little bit concerned when I generated my first new web app in 2005. All the built-in event handlers (On_Init etc) were missing. I had read about partial classes and that code could be hidden from the editor in a subclass but this was not the case. This guy from the dev team told me that all those extra event handlers have been abstracted back into the framework and are no longer visible in the interface. You are still free to overload them if you wish.

Favorite Feature 2:
Web site publishing. In 2003 I had to build my site on the test server then copy the libraries and interface files over to the production server manually. In 2005 there is a Copy Web Site option which takes the current state of your web application and copies it to another location (via UNC path, FTP, or FrontPage Extensions). This copy includes the code-behind source for each page. The other option is a new Publish Site feature which will build the application and copy only the release binaries and interface files over to the production system.

Overall Visual Studio .NET 2005 has made major improvements. Intellisense works on everything now instead of just some of the objects. The interface is much more intuitive: left/right arrows for tabs have been replaced with a dropdown menu, dragging panels around no longer involves guessing where it will land because of excellent colored drop-points. There is a new mini-IIS that gets started when you build your webapp on the test system and stops when you stop debugging. This takes the pain out of keeping IIS on my laptop when all I want is to test a simple app and then copy it to a real server. And finally, even with all these new features and pretty buttons, even though it uses more memory than 2003, it cleans up after itself beautifully.